The Country Music Association announced its 2017 Country Music Hall of Fame inductees this morning (April 5):
- Modern Era: Alan Jackson
- Veteran Era: Jerry Reed
- Songwriter: Don Schlitz
Mustachioed and mulleted, Alan burst onto the country music scene in 1990 with his platinum-selling debut album, Here in the Real World. But that success—and mullet—didn’t happen overnight. To truly appreciate the heights to which this singer/songwriter has risen, it’s important to know where he stated. Born into humble beginnings in Newnan, Ga., in 1958, Alan grew up listening to the spiritual sounds of gospel music in his family’s local church. After a friend introduced him to the stylings of Gene Watson and Hank Williams Jr., Alan became hooked on the everyman lyricism of country music. When Alan was 16, his parents bought him a $50 guitar, and he made his first public performance a year later.
After graduating from high school, Alan worked a series of blue-collar jobs, started his own band, Dixie Steel, and became a frequent performer at local clubs. He scraped by on the regional circuit before landing his big break in 1986 when his wife, Denise, who was working as a flight attendant, met Glen Campbell and gave him a copy of Alan’s demo. Alan secured a songwriting gig at Glen’s publishing company, eventually becoming the first artist to sign with Arista’s new Nashville division in 1989. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Over the course of the next 27 years, Alan unleashed 35 No. 1 hits, including his 9/11 tribute “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning),” dropped more than a dozen platinum albums and earned two Grammys, 16 CMA Awards (three for Entertainer of the Year) and 18 ACM Awards. He has sold nearly 60 million albums worldwide and ranks as one of the 10 best-selling country artists of all-time.
The folkloric escapades of Alan are almost as compelling as his music, from spontaneously adding a snippet of George Jones’ “Choices” to his set at the 1999 CMA Awards to donning a fake mullet and stonewashed jeans in his 2014 artist-in-residence show at the Country Music Hall of Fame. And if it’s been a while since you’ve reveled in the awesomeness of the 1993 music video for “Chattahoochee,” stop reading right now and watch it.
“For me to say I’m honored sounds like the standard old response, but for a man who loves country music, there is no higher honor,” said Alan during his acceptance speech. “This is the mountaintop.”
Jerry “The Guitar Man” Reed was born in Atlanta on March 20, 1937, and passed away from complications of emphysema on Sept. 1, 2008, at the age of 71.
Over his storied career, the consummate entertainer racked up hits as a singer and songwriter, while mesmerizing fans with his guitar prowess and charming audiences with his down-home acting chops.
As a songwriter, Jerry penned tunes for everyone from Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash to Dean Martin and Tom Jones. As a solo artist, Jerry found his groove with hits like “Amos Moses,” “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot”—which won a Grammy Award—“Lord, Mr. Ford,” and “East Bound and Down,” which served as the theme song to 1977’s Smokey and the Bandit. In the flick, Jerry starred opposite Burt Reynolds as wily truck driver Cledus “Snowman” Snow.
Leave it to Jerry to upshift the unsavory occupation of bootlegging beer into an anthem for every truck-driving Southerner with an unquenchable thirst for adventure. When The boys are thirsty in Atlanta and there’s beer in Texarkana, the big-riggin’ Snowman will bring it back no matter what it takes.
“Thank you, CMA and Country Music Hall of Fame, for recognizing all the years of love, dedication and hard work that daddy put into his craft,” said Jerry’s daughters, Seidina Hubbard and Lottie Zavala, during their acceptance speech. “He loved country music and would be so deeply humbled and appreciative if he was here. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
Don is among the most influential and beloved songwriters in the history of country music. His chart-topping songs include “The Gambler,” “On the Other Hand,” “Forever and Ever, Amen,” “He Thinks He’ll Keep Her,” “The Greatest” and “When You Say Nothing At All.”
Don’s 50 Top 10 singles have been performed by iconic acts Mary Chapin Carpenter, Alison Krauss, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Kenny Rogers, The Judds, Randy Travis, Tanya Tucker, Keith Whitley, and many others. Don has won three CMA Song of the Year Awards, two Grammy Awards, and four consecutive ASCAP Country Songwriter of the Year trophies (1988-91).
Don was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Association Hall of Fame in 1993 and the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2012.
“I live in the parentheses,” said Don during his acceptance speech. “I’m just a small part of a wonderful process of making music. This is overwhelming and humbling.”
The formal induction ceremony for the new inductees will take place at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in the CMA Theater in October.
main photo by Jason Simanek