The Country Music Hall of Fame announced its 2017 class Wednesday morning. The trio includes a guitar hero turned movie star, a songwriting legend and a honky tonk revivalist.
Inductee Jerry Reed started as one of Nashville’s top studio guitarists and songwriters before starring in the Smokey and the Bandit series. Reed, a successful artist in his own right, also composed and performed the movies' hit theme song. He died in 2008 at the age of 71 after complications from emphysema.
“Every move he made was to entertain, and make the world more fun,” Brad Paisley said in a written statement.
Songwriter Don Schlitz penned 50 top ten hits for a mile-long list of artists, but no song was bigger than the first one he ever got cut — “The Gambler” for Kenny Rogers. Schiltz is also credited with helping create the “in the round” songwriter circle format popularized by the Bluebird Cafe and is still a regular at the venue.
One of the genre’s biggest selling and most awarded artists, Alan Jackson, is known for his blue collar style and a love of traditional country that helped revive interest in honky tonk music starting in the 1990’s with hits like “Chasin’ That Neon Rainbow.”
After telling the story of how his father’s old tabletop radio was the inspiration for one of his earliest hits and was featured in a Hall of Fame exhibit, Jackson told the crowd at Wednesday’s announcement that he’s happy his statue will now join the odd collection of artifacts.
“I’ll be in the Hall of Fame with Daddy Gene’s radio, my water ski and some blue jeans with holes in them,” Jackson said to a round of laughter in the room, referencing an infamous photo of him.
All three honorees will officially be inducted into the Hall during a ceremony later this year.