The 2017 class of the Country Music Hall of Fame were announced to the media this morning at the Hall’s Rotunda in a ceremony presided over by 2007 inductee Vince Gill, and as always, the Hall will add three more members to the list this fall that represent the best in Country Music both today and yesterday – Jerry Reed (Veteran), Alan Jackson (Modern), and Don Schlitz (Songwriter).
Many in the industry have been actively campaigning for Reed to finally receive his due into the hallowed ranks of Hall members. His musical career definitely qualifies as an undeniable success story – on many levels. Born March 20, 1937 in Atlanta, Georgia, Reed told his family – and whoever would listen of his career intentions to become a popular recording artist in Nashville when he grew up. An early recording contract with Capitol Records failed to yield the singer any hits. He served a couple of years in the United States Army, and decided to give the music business another try. This time, he was considerably more successful. His first hit came while still in the service – as a writer, with Brenda Lee’s “That’s All You Got to Do.” Word of his talent soon found its’ way to RCA’s Chet Atkins, who promptly signed the singer to a recording contract.
Reed’s first chart hit for the label was 1967’s “Guitar Man,” which hit No. 53 on the Billboard charts. The record featured his unique guitar-work, which many artists of the day were fans of, including Elvis Presley, who recorded several Reed compositions. Atkins himself would record several albums with the singer, and proclaim him his favorite guitarist. As talented as Reed was, radio was slow to catch on to his style. His first top ten hit was actually on the Hot 100 – 1970’s “Amos Moses,” which narrowly missed the Country top-10. His next release, “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot,” hit the pinnacle of the Country chart, and also was a top-ten Pop hit. Throughout the 1970s, Reed maintained a popular recording career, as evidenced by his hits such as “Lord, Mr. Ford,” which also hit the top of the charts.
As the 1970s progressed, Reed’s celebrity grew thanks to his roles in several popular movies, such as Burt Reynolds’ Gator. It was another Reynolds vehicle, Smokey and the Bandit, that would make him an A-lister. Playing the role of Cledus “Snowman” Snow, Reed perfect the role of the sidekick, and worked with Reynolds on two sequels to the film. The movies also served as the inspiration behind two of his biggest hits of the era, “East Bound and Down,” and “Texas Bound and Flyin.” He also appeared in many of the era’s popular television series, such as Alice and Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?
Reed topped the chart one final time in 1982 with “She Got The Goldmine (and I Got The Shaft),” and remained on the RCA roster through 1985. He teamed up with Atkins one final time on the 1992 album Sneakin’ Around, and was part of the 1998 Old Dogs pairing with Bobby Bare, Mel Tillis, and Waylon Jennings. That same year, he also played a crazed football coach in the Adam Sandler film The Waterboy, his last major film role. A two-time CMA Instrumentalist of the Year winner, Reed died on September 1, 2008 at the age of 71.
Jackson’s induction comes as no surprise to anyone in the industry. Also a native of Georgia (Newnan), Jackson was born October 17, 1958. Growing up, he was a fan of Gospel music. He later became influenced by many of the traditional artists of the day such as Hank Williams, Jr. and George Jones. In 1985, he and his wife Denise moved to Nashville. His first job was in the mailroom at The Nashville Network, but Jackson would soon be getting mail of his own rather than sorting that of the network’s popular personalities, such as Ralph Emery.
Denise helped to connect her husband with Glen Campbell, and that connection would eventually lead to his signing with Arista Records as their flagship artist. His first single, “Blue Blooded Woman,” barely dented the charts, but his second – “Here In The Real World” took him all the way to No. 3. By 1991, he had topped the chart with “I’d Love You All Over Again” – the first of twenty-five chart toppers. Those titles read like a best-of of the past quarter-century: “Don’t Rock The Jukebox,” “Little Bitty,” “Livin’ On Love,” and “Right On The Money.” The singer won the 1995 Entertainer of the Year award from the CMA, and saw no slowdown in the new millennium. Records such as “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” and “Remember When” added to his list of chart-toppers, and he seemingly spoke to a nation during the 9/11 tragedy with his “Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning),” which helped him to several more awards – including the 2002 and 2003 Entertainer of the Year prizes from the CMA. Each of his studio albums have hit the top-five on the Country Albums chart, including his latest, 2015’s Angels and Alcohol, which topped the list.
Don Schlitz stands tall as one of Nashville’s most prolific songwriters of all time, beginning in 1978 with “The Gambler,” which Kenny Rogers took to the top. It was the beginning of one of the most successful writing careers in Music City, with trademarks including “When You Say Nothing At All,” “He Thinks He’ll Keep Her,” “One Promise Too Late,”“On The Other Hand,” and “Strong Enough To Bend.” He was voted into the Nashville Songwriter’s Hall of Fame in 1993, and the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame in New York City in 2012.
Reed, Jackson, and Schlitz will all be officially inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame during the annual Medallion Ceremony at the Hall this fall. Their inductions bring the total number of inductees to 133.