Bobby Karl is a very, very happy boy today.
You see, three absolutely perfect 2012 inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame were announced this morning (3/6). In the Musician category, it’s virtuoso country piano player Hargus “Pig” Robbins. In the Veterans category, it’s the divinely gifted Connie Smith. And in the Modern Era category it’s the titanic Garth Brooks.
“Notifying the inductees is one of my favorite things I do as the CEO,” said the CMA’s Steve Moore. “They always think it’s a crank call.”
Following greetings by Moore and the Hall of Fame’s Kyle Young, Kix Brooks took the podium in the Rotunda of the Country Music Hall of Fame. “What an awesome responsibility this is,” said Kix. “When I got a chance to see these names early, what a smile I wore around the house.”
He breathlessly rattled off a list of greats Robbins has recorded with – Neil Young, Chris Young, Joan Baez, Vince, Merle, Tammy, Shania, Willie, Conway, Loretta, Dolly, Porter, k.d. lang, Roy Orbison, Keith Whitley and so many more. That rapid-fire piano attack in “White Lightning” by George Jones? That would be Pig. The keyboard parts on Bob Dylan’s masterwork Blonde on Blonde? Pig. That gorgeous rippling keyboard intro in “Behind Closed Doors” by Charlie Rich? Pig. Patsy’s “Walkin’ After Midnight” and “I Fall to Pieces?” Pig again. The distinctive tinkling figure that runs through “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” by Crystal Gayle? Pig, Pig, Pig.
Robbins acknowledged the standing ovation he received and pronounced himself “honored” to be following in the footsteps of such prior Musician honorees as Floyd Cramer, Harold Bradley and Charlie McCoy. He thanked Murray Nash, Buddy Killen, Shelby Singleton, Jerry Kennedy, Billy Sherrill, Owen Bradley, Chet Atkins and Allen Reynolds. “There have been so many people down through the years who have been kind to me,” concluded the blind keyboardist.
Kix retook the stage to remind one and all of what Dolly Parton once said, “There are really only three female singers – Barbra Streisand, Linda Ronstadt and Connie Smith – the rest of us are only pretending.”
“I’ve had a great week,” said Connie after everyone settled down from a standing ovation. “I get to be here with all my friends and peers. I also had my eighth grandbaby!
“Just to be in the same company as Miss Kitty Wells is enough,” she added. “I’m just honored.” She recalled the importance of Bill Anderson, Chet Atkins, Bob Ferguson and her husband/producer Marty Stuart to her career. The last-named was on the front row, beaming. “To be called a Veteran is kinda funny to me,” she added. “I’m still learning.
“I love the Hall of Fame. It’s always been magical and very, very spiritual to me. God has given me many blessings. And this is a very special blessing.”
“This next guy changed our town in a huge way,” said Kix in introducing Garth. With sales of 128 million, the RIAA has named Garth the Male Solo Artist of the 20th Century. “I’m convinced that half of the records we sold [as Brooks & Dunn] were people reaching for the ‘other’ Brooks.”
Garth recounted a series of people he met who changed the course of his life – Stephanie Brown, Kent Blazy, Trisha Yearwood and attendees Bob Doyle, Allen Reynolds, Mark Miller, Kerry O’Neil and Rusty Jones, plus the studio musicians and his road band. “It is truly a circle. That’s what I love about Nashville.” Garth is notable for the length and loyalty of his music associations.
“We’ve been together for 25 years,” he commented. “Bob says it feels like 50.” Songwriters, video directors, road companions, record-label execs and more were acknowledged. “There is a guilty feeling about standing here today,” Garth added. Although mentors George Strait, Merle Haggard and George Jones are in the Hall of Fame, he noted that Randy Travis, Keith Whitley and Ricky Skaggs are not. “These are the guys I cut my teeth on. I stand here in total humbleness. It’s out of order.
“It’s all about God. It’s all about love. It’s all about the songs.”
The Rotunda was full of fabulons. Recent DJ Hall of Fame inductee Eddie Stubbs, always a font of knowledge, pointed out that today is the release date of Bear Family Records’ Just For What I Am, the second boxed-set of Connie’s RCA recordings. Barry McCloud, Barry Mazor, Ed Hardy, Ed Morris, Stacy Schlitz, Jessie Schmidt, Troy Tomlinson, Vanessa Sellers, Steve Buchanan, Gary Overton, Hunter Kelly, Storme Warren and Pat Collins led the cheers.
A continental breakfast was served – muffins, pastries, fruit, coffee and juices. Most of us were too excited to eat.