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Jerry Lee Lewis and Keith Whitley inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame

There are two new additions to the Country Music Hall of Fame, both of whom started their music careers in different genres, Jerry Lee Lewis, who began as a rock performer, and the late Keith Whitley, who initially got his start as a bluegrass performer .

Lewis, also known as “The Killer,” was not present at the ceremony on Sunday in Nashville, Tennessee, as he was following his doctor’s suggestions. However, country music stars Hank Williams Jr. and Kris Kristofferson were there to accept the honor on behalf of the 87-year-old Rock & Roll Hall of Famer.

Country star Lorrie Morgan, Whitley’s widow, was present at the ceremony, and accepted the award on his behalf during the ceremony, which featured performances by Garth Brooks, Mickey Guyton, Chris Isaak, Kenny Chesney, Miranda Lambert and Alabama. Whitley died in 1989.

Music executive producer Joe Galante was also inducted into the hall of fame Sunday, for his role in marketing country music to pop and rock audiences since the 1980s.

Lewis grew up listening to country music, releasing music like

Lewis grew up listening to country music, releasing music like “Great Balls of Fire” and “There Must Be More to Love Than This.”
(Jason Kempin / Getty Images)

JERRY LEE LEWIS TO BE INDUCTED INTO THE COUNTRY MUSIC HALL OF FAME

Lewis grew up listening to country music as a kid living in Ferriday, Louisiana, but once he signed with Sun Records and Sam Phillips in Memphis, Tennessee, he was given a rockabilly sound, releasing hits like “Great Balls of Fire” and “Whole Fight Shakin ‘Goin’ On. “

Aside from Williams accepting the honor on Lewis’ behalf on Sunday, they are connected through another Hall of Fame ceremony: the awards in 1986. At the time, Lewis helped induct Williams into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Lewis described listening to his music by him as a kid, and learning everything that goes into entertaining an audience from him.

“Jerry Lee doesn’t ask for your attention, he demands it,” Williams said. “He doesn’t take a stage, he commands it.”

Upon making it big in Memphis, Lewis played in shows alongside Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins and Jonny Cash as part of the famous Million Dollar Quartet. His career di lui took a bit of a hit after he married his 13-year-old cousin, Myra, resulting in combative and aggressive crowds at his shows di lui during his 1958 tour in England.

For several years after his 1958 tour, concert promoters stopped working with him, only changing their tune when he returned as a country music artist in the late 1960s. His songs, “There Must Be More to Love Than This,” “Would You Take Another Chance on Me” and “Chantilly Lace” reached number one on the Billboard Country Charts, with “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” being his other successful singles.

Joe Galante was also inducted into the Hall of Fame for his work in popularizing country music in the pop music arena, starting from the 1980s.

Joe Galante was also inducted into the Hall of Fame for his work in popularizing country music in the pop music arena, starting from the 1980s.
(Jason Kempin / Getty Images)

During the ceremony, Isaak sang a version of “Great Balls of Fire,” and in a rare appearance, 85-year-old singer Kristofferson helped unveil Lewis’ plaque, which will forever remain in the Hall of Fame rotunda.

Whitley started his music career as a bluegrass artist, starting out playing in a band, called the Clinch Mountain Boys, with Ricky Skaggs as teenagers. The late musician’s family was at the ceremony, with Morgan tearing up during her speech di lei, saying her husband would not have felt like he deserved the honor di lei.

“My whole family, we’ve all missed him together and all the fans who loved Keith and visited his gravesite all the time,” she said.

That bluegrass background made Whitley stand out as a country singer in the 1980s, when he brought tender emotion and incredible vocal range to hits including “When You Say Nothing at All” and “I’m No Stranger to the Rain.”

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After four years and seven months on the Billboard charts, Whitley’s career was cut short in 1989 when he died from alcohol poisoning at the age of 34. Although he died at a young age, his music continued to influence countless country singers who either became famous during the same time or came after him, Brooks being one of them. Brooks said his music about him showcased authenticity.

Keith Whitley's wife accepted the award on his behalf, saying he would not feel deserving of the honor.

Keith Whitley’s wife accepted the award on his behalf, saying he would not feel deserving of the honor.
(Photo by Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images)

“Truth, honesty. The guy could outsing 99% of us,” Brooks said.

Galante was the head of RCA Nashville in his 30s and both Morgan and Whitley were among the hit artists that he brought to success, including Clint Black, Kenny Chesney, Miranda Lambert, Vince Gill, The Judds, Martina McBride and more. He helped the band Alabama achieve crossover success with multi-platinum hits.

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“I was a label head, but I was a huge fan of their music,” Galante said. “And it’s all about the music at the end of the day.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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