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Country Music Hall of Fame’s Class of 2022

Country Music Hall of Fame’s Class of 2022

 

Joe Galante, Jerry Lee Lewis and Keith Whitley

 

By Preshias Harris for Country Music News International

 

Country fans and members of the country music industry are congratulating the newest members-elect of the Country Music Hall of Fame. Joe Galante, Jerry Lee Lewis and the late Keith Whitley will be honored during a private, invitation-only Medallion Ceremony at the Museum in October 2022, with heartfelt testimonials and once-in-a-lifetime musical tributes.

 

Joe Galante has been described as “the man who taught Nashville how to sell records.” He had been transferred by RCA to Music City in the mid-1970s on the understanding that he could return to his native New York after two years. However, in the Ken Burns’ docuseries Country Music, Galante claimed that after sitting in on a Waylon Jennings recording session he began to understand the heart of country music.  As the company’s vice president, Galante enthusiastically got behind Alabama’s first RCA LP, My Home’s in Alabama, moving two million copies on an album not expected to top 60,000.

 

In addition to Alabama, Galante was instrumental in the success of many other acts including Dolly Parton, The Judds and Ronnie Milsap. Galante was at the forefront of proving that Nashville-based labels could be taken seriously, rather than simply being satellites for their New York head offices.  Under his leadership, RCA Records was recognized as the top-selling country music label for eleven consecutive years. He did return to New York – as RCA Records’ national president – but was soon back in Nashville as head of RLG/Nashville and was later named chairman of Sony Music Nashville.  Since retiring, Galante has devoted his efforts to numerous philanthropic organizations including the CMA Foundation.

 

Jerry Lee Lewis caught the world’s attention – and often its disapproval – with his wild, untamed pioneering of rockabilly and the emerging rock and roll of the mid-1950s. His early recordings at Sun Records, such as “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On”, “Great Balls of Fire” and “Breathless” thrilled teenagers and horrified their parents. Live at the Star Club, Hamburg, recorded in Germany in 1964, is still frequently listed as one of the best ‘live’ rock and roll albums of all times.

 

Lewis never really lost touch with his country roots, and by the late 1960s, began releasing a series of country albums and singles. Thirty of his songs have reached the Top 10 of Billboard’s Country charts and his No. 1 Country hits include “To Make Love Sweeter For You”, “There Must Be More to Love Than This” and his version of Kris Kristofferson’s “Me and Bobby McGee”.

 

When it comes to awards, Lewis has a mantle-full, including four Grammys, one of which is a Lifetime Achievement Award.  The only surviving member of the Sun Records ‘Million Dollar Quartet’ that also included Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins, Lewis is already a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. His induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame is the icing on the cake.

 

Keith Whitley, who died at the age of 34, had a comparatively short recording career, releasing only two full studio albums during his lifetime.  However, decades later his influence continues to touch today’s country artists, many of whom were not even born at the time of Whitley’s death.

 

A native of Sandy Hook, Kentucky, Whitley began his music career as a bluegrass artist, including a stint (alongside his friend Ricky Skaggs) with the famed Ralph Stanley Band before moving to Nashville in 1983. Signing a record deal with RCA Records, his vocal styling moved towards mainstream country with his first album, A Hard Act to Follow.

 

Whitley hit his stride with his second album, L.A. to Miami, released in 1985.  The album included “Miami, My Amy”, his first song to break the Top 20 on Billboard’s Country Singles chart. The album also included “On the Other Hand”, a song that would become a Number One hit for Randy Travis.

 

He had just completed the recording of his next album, I Wonder Do You Think of Me, at the time of his death, on May 9, 1939, as a result of acute alcohol poisoning, a few weeks before his 35th birthday.  I Wonder Do You Think of Me was released after his death and produced two No. 1 Country hits, the title track and “It Ain’t Nothing.”

 

Whitley is recognized as one of the main artists who defined the neotraditionalist resurgence of the 1980s. In just five years, he recorded a dozen Top Twenty solo country singles, including five consecutive No. 1 hits.  He is frequently cited by today’s country artists as a major influence on their careers.

 

The announcement of the upcoming inductions follows the induction ceremony for the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2021, held on May 1, 2022. The inductees were The Judds, Pete Drake, Eddie Bayers and Ray Charles.

 

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