Global entertainment icon Garth Brooks has sold more than 128 million albums since the start of his career and toured the world taking his unique brand of country music to meteoric heights.
Connie Smith, whose career began in 1964 with the mega-hit 'Once a Day' continues to dazzle nearly 50 years later with the release of last year's critically-acclaimed 'Long Line of Heartaches.'
Hargus "Pig" Robbins was one of the most prolific keyboard session players in Nashville beginning in the 1950s. His distinctive work has been heard on tracks by Bob Dylan, George Jones, Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn, among countless others.
Garth will be inducted in the Modern Era Artist category, with Connie Smith to be inducted in the Veterans Era Artist category and Robbins in the Recording and/or Touring Musician Active Prior to 1980 category, an honor awarded every third year in rotation with the Non-Performer and Songwriter categories. Their membership increases the number of Hall of Famers from 115 to 118 inductees.
"I am astounded and honored to be in the Country Music Hall of Fame," says Garth. "At the same time, I can't help but feel guilty going in when there are so many deserving artists that came before me who are yet to be inducted.
"I have always considered myself lucky, and I guess my good luck has struck again," Robbins says of his election. "I am so honored to be named one of the new members."
"I've had the privilege of participating in several Hall of Fame inductions," Connie notes. "They were all very special. But now to become a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame myself is an honor for me and my family. So touching, it's difficult to find the words to express my gratitude."
Induction ceremonies for Brooks, Robbins, and Smith will take place at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum later this year. Since 2007, the Museum's Medallion Ceremony, an annual reunion of the Hall of Fame membership, has served as the official rite of induction for new members.
Recently named the best-selling artist of the SoundScan era by Billboard magazine and the Nielsen Company, Troyal Garth Brooks on Feb. 7, 1962 in Tulsa and raised in Yukon, Okla., the youngest of six children. His father, Troyal Raymond Brooks, was a former marine who worked as a draftsman in the oil industry, and his mother was Colleen Carroll, a country singer who had recorded for Capitol Records in the 1950s and performed on the Ozark Jubilee with Red Foley. Garth played on his high school football and baseball teams but learned his first guitar chords from his father while his mother taught him to sing. Both parents introduced him to the music of Merle Haggard, George Jones, and other classic country artists. Meanwhile his older siblings exposed him to the rock music of Boston, Janis Joplin, Journey, Kiss, Townes Van Zandt and more. He found himself especially drawn to singer-songwriters such as James Taylor and Dan Fogelberg. After Garth heard 'Unwound,' the 1981 debut single from George Strait, the Texan would also become a major influence on him.
Garth, who was skilled with the javelin, earned a partial athletic scholarship to Oklahoma State University, where he majored in advertising. He began to play music seriously, first with friends in his dorm, and later as a performer in the clubs in Stillwater, Okla. where he also served as a bouncer. When he graduated from OSU in December 1984, he set his sights on Nashville, but his first trip to Music City lasted less than 24 hours. He returned to hone his craft by performing in Oklahoma clubs and married his college sweetheart, Sandy Mahl, in 1986. A year later, he returned to Nashville and began meeting songwriters and musicians.
On April 12, 1989, 'Garth Brooks,' with its debut single, 'Much Too Young (to Feel This Damn Old),' reaching the Top 10. That was followed by 'If Tomorrow Never Comes' and 'Not Counting You' (which hit No. 1 and No. 2, respectively) before his second chart-topper -- and one of his signature songs, 'The Dance.' The self-titled disc would become the top-selling country album of the 1980s, and was eventually certified Diamond for sales of more than 10 million copies.
Once Garth's second album, 'No Fences,' and its lead single, 'Friends in Low Places,' were released, Garth-mania began. A slew of industry honors, high-profile media appearances and a string of chart-topping hits followed, with the album selling more than 14 million copies, an accomplishment unheard of for country music at the time.
As a live performer, Garth distinguished himself with a show that featured both wild, energetic theatrics (with the entertainer running around on stage with his band, climbing rope ladders, etc.) and quiet, tender performances, creating an intense, intimate connection between the artist and his audience. Garth was named CMA Entertainer of the Year in 1991, 1992, 1997 and 1998, a record four wins that has only been matched by Kenny Chesney. Although he officially retired from performing in 2000, in 2009. Garth mounted a limited series of solo acoustic shows at the Encore Theater at Wynn Las Vegas, which he still continues to do for a few weeks each year. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2011.
Hargus Melvin "Pig" Robbins was born on Jan. 18, 1938 in Spring City, Tenn. He lost an eye at age two after an accident with his father's knife, and became completely blind at age four. While studying at the Nashville School for the Blind, he learned to play classical music on piano beginning at age seven. Robbins also loved Country Music, especially the songs of Tex Ritter. As he got older, he was also influenced by Nashville session pianist Floyd Cramer and legendary singer/pianist Ray Charles. It was during his time as a student that he was given the nickname "Pig." One day, he snuck out of the building through a fire escape to play. When he returned, his teacher told him he was "dirty as a pig," and the name stuck! After graduating from school, Robbins began performing as part of the Nashville club scene and making connections with fellow musicians. In 1959, he performed on his first major recording, 'White Lightning,' the first No. 1 hit for George Jones. Robbins quickly established hiimself as an integral part of became part of the Nashville "A" Team, a group of A-list studio musicians who performed on hundreds of hits recorded during the Nashville Sound era. Among the many classic tracks on which he performed were Patsy Cline's 'Walkin' After Midnight' and 'I Fall to Pieces,' and Connie Smith's 'Once A Day.' He joined several of his fellow Nashville "A" Team members in performing on Bob Dylan's legendary 1966 album, 'Blonde on Blonde,' which led to future work with folk and pop acts including Joan Baez, Rosemary Clooney, John Denver, Tom Jones, Mark Knopfler, Neil Young, and many more. In th 1970s, two of the era's biggest crossover hits, Crystal Gayle's 'Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue' and Charlie Rich's 'Behind Closed Doors' featured his playing. In demand throughout the '80s, '90s and the beginnings of the 21st century, he's played on recording sessions with Kenny Chesney, Vince Gill, the Grascals, Alan Jackson, Secret Sisters, George Strait, Shania Twain, Chris Young, among many others. A recording artist in his own right, Robbins was named CMA Instrumentalist of the Year in 1976 and won the CMA Musician of the Year honor in 2000. He and his fellow members of the Nashville "A" Team were inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame in 2007.
Country Music Hall of Fame member Dolly Parton once famously declared, "There's really only three female singers in the world: Barbra Streisand, Linda Ronstadt and Connie Smith. The rest of us are only pretending." Born Constance June Meador on August 14, 1941, in Elkhart, Ind. to Hobart and Wilma Lilly Meador, Connie's parents divorced when she was seven, and her mother married Tom Clark. Together, the Clarks raised a blended family of 14 children. Music was everywhere in the Clark home, and all of her family and step-family were musical. Also ever-present in the home were the familiar strains of the Grand Ole Opry. After a leg injury in a lawnmower accident at age 18, Connie bought an uncle's guitar for seven dollars. Her mother taught her the first chords she learned while she was recuperating. In 1961, at the age of 19, she married her first husband, Jerry Smith and gave birth to her first son, Darren Justin Smith, in 1963. That same year, the 22-year old housewife performed a version of Jean Shepard's 'I Thought of You' in a talent contest at Frontier Ranch, near Columbus, Ohio, where she was overheard by singer-songwriter Bill Anderson. A few months later in January 1964, the pair met again at a Hank Williams tribute concert, where he invited her to come to Nashville to sing on Ernest Tubb's Midnight Jamboree. She sang her first song in Nashville there on March 28, 1964. Two months later, she returned to Music City to record a demo of songs to be pitched to other artists. When Hubert Long, Bill Anderson's manager, played the demo for Chet Atkins, Chet offered Connie a deal with RCA Victor Records.
On July 16, 1964, during her first four-song recording session with producer Bob Ferguson (who would go on to produce all of her albums for RCA Victor), Connie recorded 'Once a Day,' which Bill Anderson had written especially for her. Two weeks later, it was rush-released as her first single and quickly reached No. 1 on the country chart, remaining at the top spot for eight record-setting weeks. The following year, she earned three Grammy nominations and her self-titled debut album spent seven weeks at No. 1. To date, Connie has recorded 33 songs penned by Bill Anderson. Later in 1965, she joined the Grand Ole Opry. A series of chart-topping albums and best-selling singles followed, including 'I Can't Remember,' 'If I Talk to Him,' 'Nobody But a Fool (Would Love You)' and 'Ain't Had No Lovin',' which is one of 71 songs she has recorded written by the legendary songwriter Dallas Frazier.
After her first marriage ended, Connie married guitarist Jack Watkins, and gave birth to a son, Kerry Watkins. The marriage was short-lived. In 1966, she recorded her first gospel album, 'Connie Smith Sings Great Sacred Songs,' earning another Grammy nomination. During her third marriage, to Marshall Haynes, Connie gave birth to three daughters, Jeanne, Julie and Jody Haynes. In 1971, she left RCA Records and was signed by Clive Davis to Columbia Records in 1973. She stayed with Columbia until 1976, earning more hits and receiving another Grammy nod for Best Gospel Performance. In 1977, she began recording for Monument Records, taking the more pop-country-oriented 'Smooth Sailing,' into the Top 10 and a cover of Andy Gibb's 'I Just Wanna Be Your Everything,' to No. 14 in 1978. In 1979, Connie entered semi-retirement to focus on raising her five children. She still performed on the Grand Ole Opry and occasionally recorded. One of her two singles for Epic Records in the mid-'80s was 'A Far Cry From You,' penned by a then-unknown Steve Earle with Jimbeau Hinson.
Her children grown, Connie, who was single again, decided to return to her career on a more full-time basis. She signed with Warner Bros. Records in 1996 and began working with fellow country artist Marty Stuart as her producer. Marty had enamored with Connie since meeting her more than 25 years prior when he was just twelve years old. She had come to the youngster's hometown of Philadelphia, Miss. to sing at the Choctaw Indian Fair. On the way home from the concert that evening, Marty told mother he "would marry Connie Smith some day." While working together on her album, the two fell in love and were married in 1997. Connie's second self-titled album was released in 1998, with nine of the 10 songs co-written by the newlyweds. In 2011, 'I Run to You,' a Connie-Marty duet earned Mrs. Marty Stuart her 11th Grammy nomination.
Connie has been a fixture on her husband's RFD-TV series 'The Marty Stuart Show' since its 2008 debut. The show just finished its fourth season as the No. 1-rated series on the network. Last year, Smith released her long-awaited 53rd album, 'Long Line of Heartaches,' on Sugar Hill Records. Produced by Marty, the album contains five songs written by the couple and was recorded at Nashville's historic RCA Studio B, returning the acclaimed singer full circle to the very studio where she recorded the first sessions that launched her career.
George Jones named her his favorite singer, Elvis Presley was an avowed fan who owned many of her albums and had plans to record a version of her song 'The Wonders You Perform' before he passed away in 1977, and, after being introduced to Smith, Keith Richards immediately brought his fellow Rolling Stone Ron Wood over to meet her, exclaiming "She's the real deal!"
Considered country music's highest honor, election to the Country Music Hall of Fame was created by the CMA (Country Music Association) to recognize significant contributions to the advancement of country music by individuals in both the creative and business communities.
Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams and Fred Rose were the first members elected to the Hall of Fame in 1961.
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