Jerry Lee Lewis and Keith Whitley to join the Country Hall of Fame

Jerry Lee Lewis and Keith Whitley to  join the Country Hall of Fame
Jerry Lee Lewis, (L) Keith Whitley (R) will join Country Hall of Fame (@jerryleelewis, Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum/ Twitter)

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEEE: The Country Music Hall of Fame has announced a new class of 2022 inductees. Two artists who began their careers outside of country music were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame: early rock pioneerJerry Lee Lewis and bluegrass performer-turned-country star Keith Whitley joined the ranks, as reported by Associated Press.

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Lewis, the 87-year-old musician known as "The Killer," was unable to attend the induction ceremony on Sunday in Nashville, Tennessee, due to medical advice. Hank Williams Jr and Kris Kristofferson, two of his fellow country stars, accepted and honored the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer in his place.

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During the ceremony, which featured performances by Alabama, Garth Brooks, Mickey Guyton, Chris Isaak, Kenny Chesney, and Chris Isaak, Keith Whitley's widow, fellow country music artist Lorrie Morgan, accepted the medallion on his behalf. Joe Galante, a music industry executive who played a crucial role in promoting country music to broader pop and rock audiences beginning in the 1980s, was also inducted this year. 

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Jerry Lee Lewis, a native of Ferriday, Louisiana, was raised on country music; however, Sam Phillips at Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee, transformed him into a rockabilly icon with hits like 'Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On' and 'Great Balls of Fire.'

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Hank Williams, who also assisted in Lewis' induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, recalled Lewis spending time at his house as a child and listening to his rock songs on the radio. He says that Lewis taught him that entertaining was about more than just talent. Williams stated, "Jerry Lee doesn't ask for your attention, he demands it. He doesn't take a stage, he commands it."

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The AP reports that Lewis was a member of the now-famous Million Dollar Quartet in Memphis, alongside Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash. Lewis was dropped by concert promoters for several years before making a comeback on the country charts in the late 1960s. He had No 1 hits on the Billboard Country Chart with 'There Must Be More to Love Than This,' 'Would You Take Another Chance on Me,' and 'Chantilly Lace.' His other top country singles included "What Made Milwaukee Famous (Has Made a Loser Out of Me),' 'She Even Woke Me Up to Say Goodbye,' and 'To Make Love Sweeter for You.' Lewis' career was nearly derailed by the scandal surrounding his marriage to his 13-year-old cousin, Myra, and he faced a fan backlash during a tour in England in 1958, when the crowds became combative.

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During the ceremony, Isaak performed a rousing rendition of 'Great Balls of Fire,' and 85-year-old actor and singer Kristofferson made a rare public appearance to assist in unveiling Lewis' plaque, which will be housed in the Hall of Fame rotunda.

While giving her speech, Morgan was overwhelmed with emotion as she said that her late husband would feel so undeserving of the honor. When Whitley and Ricky Skaggs began performing as teenagers in Ralph Stanley's band, the Clinch Mountain Boys, they were playing bluegrass music, which was Whitley's first musical genre. She said, "My whole family, we've all missed him together and all the fans who loved Keith and visited his gravesite all the time."

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Whitley's bluegrass background helped him stand out as a country singer in the 1980s, when he sang hits like 'When You Say Nothing at All' and 'I'm No Stranger to the Rain' with tender emotion and amazing vocal talent.

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However, his career was cut too short; he spent only four years, seven months on the Billboard charts, and died at age 34 from alcohol poisoning in 1989. However, the Kentucky native who hails from Sandy Hook continued to have an impact on a number of up-and-coming country musicians, such as Garth Brooks, who praised his authentic and pure country singing.

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Ralph Stanley, Keith's mentor, stated in his memoir from 2009 that "nobody sounded like Keith." he also wrote, "When you heard him on the radio, you knew who it was. If he had lived, he would have been one of the greatest singers Nashville ever saw. But he had something deep down inside of him that wouldn’t let him alone," as per Country Music Hall of Fame website.
 

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