Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Garth Brooks, Hargus "Pig" Robbins and Connie Smith Are Next Inductees for the Country Music Hall of Fame

Connie Smith

The 2012 class of the Country Music Hall of Fame is a terrific one- the voting class got this right on the money this year.

First inducted: Hargus "Pig" Robbins, a very famous session keyboard and piano player. Having played on records for artists such as George Jones, Bob Dylan, Ween, Alan Jackson, Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, and Conway Twitty, Robbins is a prominent session instrumentalist in Nashville. He is also blind, having lost his sight at age four due to an accident involving his father's knife.

Robbins learned to play piano at age seven, while attending the Nashville School for the Blind. He played his first session in 1957, with his first major recording being George Jones's "White Lightning". Since then, he has gone on to play piano and keyboards for several country music artists.

Between 1963 and 1979, Robbins also recorded eight studio albums: one on Time Records, three on Chart Records, and four on Elektra Records, as well as an independent live album. He was also awarded Musician of the Year by the Country Music Association in 1976 and 2000.

The second inductee: the lovely Miss Connie Smith. Connie Smith still possesses one of the most powerful, agile and recognizable voices in country music. Her exposure to audiences via recordings has been very much an on-and-off affair, but she has maintained a presence through her regular appearances on the Grand Ole Opry, of which she has been a member since 1971.

Constance June Meador was born Aug. 14, 1941, in Elkhart, Ind. One of 14 children in a poor family that moved often, she grew up in West Virginia and Ohio. She married young and was starting a family when, in 1963, she won a talent contest in Ohio that brought her to the attention of singer-songwriter Bill Anderson. Impressed by what he heard, Anderson persuaded her to come to Nashville, where RCA Records signed her the following year.

With Bob Ferguson acting as her producer, Smith cut several songs in the first RCA sessions, among them Anderson's tear-stained "Once a Day." Released as Smith's first single, "Once a Day" entered the Billboard charts on Sept. 26, 1964, and went on to seize the No. 1 spot. And there it remained for eight consecutive weeks. It would be the only chart-topper of Smith's career, but she had a string of singles that came close, including such Top 5 and Top 10 fare as "Then and Only Then," "If I Talk to Him," "Nobody but a Fool (Would Love You)," "Ain't Had No Lovin'," "The Hurtin's All Over," "Cincinnati, Ohio," "Just One Time," "If It Ain't Love (Let's Leave It Alone)" and "Ain't Love a Good Thing."

Smith was a fixture on the country charts through the 1970s (she switched from RCA to Columbia in 1973). Starting in the late 1960s, as career and family pressures mounted, she became increasingly obsessed with religion, insisting in her contract with Columbia that she be allowed to record one gospel album a year. During the 1980s, she concentrated primarily on raising her children.

However, she returned briefly to the charts (at No. 71) in 1985 on Epic Records with the single "A Far Cry From You," written by the promising young songwriter Steve Earle. She attempted another comeback in 1998 with the Warner Bros. album Connie Smith, but it attracted little notice.

In 1996, RCA released The Essential Connie Smith, a 20-cut CD that contains most of her biggest hits, plus the crowd-inciting "How Great Thou Art." She married country star Marty Stuart, her fourth husband, on July 8, 1997.

Garth Brooks
And last but not least, Garth Brooks will be third honored with induction to the Country Music Hall of Fame this year. Certified by the RIAA as the #1 selling solo artist in US history, Garth Brooks has sold in excess of 128 million albums.  He is the only solo artist in RIAA history to have 6 albums top the 10 million mark. His most recent release The Ultimate Hits has been certified 5 x platinum. This year Garth became the first artist to put out a simultaneous  edition of his latest collection for a charitable cause. November 6, 2007 saw the launch of the pink edition of The Ultimate hits available only at the Susan G Komen website. His body of work – including the groundbreaking No Fences, Ropin’ The Wind, The Hits, and Double Live – propelled country music as a genre to the front pages of newspapers worldwide and the covers of magazines, to the point where Forbes declared on its cover, “Country Conquers Rock” and featured Garth in a major music piece. According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), Garth Brooks is the top-selling solo artist of the 20th century.

CMA created the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1961 to recognize individuals for their outstanding contributions to the format. Inductees are chosen by CMA’s Hall of Fame Panels of Electors, which consist of anonymous voters appointed by the CMA Board of Directors. As of 2011, there are currently 115 members of the Country Music Hall of Fame. Inductees are celebrated and officially inducted at a special ceremony at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and presented with bronze medallions.

The Country Music Association's mission is to heighten the awareness of Country Music and support its on-going growth by recognizing excellence in the genre, serving as a repository for critical and timely information and communication, while providing a forum for industry leadership dialogue toward its goals.

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