The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum honored its 2022 class of inductees during Medallion Ceremony on Sunday evening (October 16). The ceremony, hosted in the museum’s CMA Theater, was packed with unforgettable performances, emotional speeches and heartfelt tributes to the new class: Joe Galante, Keith Whitley and Jerry Lee Lewis.
Galante, Whitley and Lewis became the 147th, 148th and 149th members of the Country Music Hall of Fame. Iconic country duo Brooks & Dunn revealed the inductees in a live-streamed announcement earlier this year.
Before inductions began, CEO Kyle Young took a moment to honor legendary country artist Loretta Lynn, who died at her Tennessee ranch earlier this month. She was 90. Young noted that the. Kentucky-born singer truly blazed a trail in the industry. Before Lynn, it was rare for women to write their own songs, and rare for any artist — male or female — to be as honest as Lynn was in her songwriting.
Read about each inductee — and a few memorable moments from their induction, in the order they were honored during the ceremony — below.
“Galante distinguished himself as one of country music’s most successful record executives,” reads a press release from the Country Music Hall of Fame on Monday morning (October 17). “He helped steer the careers of Alabama, Clint Black, Kenny Chesney, the Judds, Martina McBride, Brad Paisley, Keith Whitley and other best-selling artists. Born in New York, he joined RCA Records after college and moved to the label’s Nashville office in 1974. Eight years later, he became head of RCA Nashville. He rose to hold a series of key label-executive positions, including president of RCA Records’ U.S. operations, head of RLG Nashville and, finally, chairman of Sony Music Nashville until his retirement in 2010.”
Kix Brooks, one half of “Only in America” duo Brooks & Dunn, presented Galante with his medallion as he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in the non-performer category. Other beloved artists took the stage in Galante’s honor, including Alabama (performing “My Home’s in Alabama”), Miranda Lambert (“White Liar”) and Kenny Chesney (“The Good Stuff”). Chesney shared that, as he imagined his life if he'd never met Galante, “it ain’t good.”
Galante delivered a heartfelt acceptance speech, including tributes to his late parents and late wife. During his speech, Galante recalled a sweet story in which his father saved an article clipping with his son’s name in it. He’d often scanned newspaper and magazine articles in hopes of discovering his son’s name, and the now-inductee found that his parents had collected “decades” of photographs and article clippings. “I know that both my parents and Fran are smiling down right now, and very proud,” Galante said, adding as he closed his speech: “I am both honored and humbled to be here. …I can assure you, I will not need any photographs or clippings to remind me of tonight.”
“A premier vocal stylist, Keith Whitley (1954-1989) helped define country music’s new traditionalist resurgence of the 1980s,” the Country Music Hall of Fame’s press release reads. “Born near Sandy Hook, Kentucky, he proved an adept singer and guitarist as a youngster. After apprenticing in the bluegrass bands of Ralph Stanley and J. D. Crowe, he signed with RCA Records. In five years as a solo artist, he recorded a dozen Top 20 country singles, including five consecutive #1 hits. His career was cut tragically short at age 34. Five months after his death, his recording of 'I’m No Stranger to the Rain' was named CMA Single of the Year for 1989.”
Mickey Guyton delivered a heartfelt rendition of “When You Say Nothing at All” as she began the performances in honor of Whitley, who was inducted in the Modern Era Artist category. Guyton admitted she was “nervous,” but incredibly honored to pay tribute to Whitley. She shared a heartfelt message to Lorrie Morgan, fellowcountry singer and Whitley’s widow, and hugged her before exiting the stage. Hall of Fame member Ricky Skaggs — joined by Molly Tuttle and Justin Moses — delivered a performance of “Tennessee Blues,” and Garth Brooks took the stage with “Don’t Close Your Eyes” before Whitley’s induction. Brooks presented Morgan with Whitley’s medallion, saying his induction was “long overdue” for the artist he deemed one of the greatest voices to ever grace country music (and boldly predicted Morgan’s future induction).
Morgan made a tearful, appreciative speech as her late husband was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. She recalled hearing his voice for the first time on the radio. Morgan was on her way to the Grand Ole Opry on a Saturday night when she heard Whitley’s “Miami, My Amy,” and pulled over on Nashville’s Briley Parkway. “I’m in love with that man,” Morgan said she knew in that moment, though she didn’t know who it was yet. When the song ended, Morgan learned that Whitley would be at the Grand Ole Opry… and she “floored my car.” Whitley was only a few weeks away from becoming a member of the Opry when he died in 1989, and according to Morgan, he never would have predicted his Hall of Fame induction.
Jerry Lee Lewis
“An explosive rockabilly showman, Jerry Lee Lewis was also among country music’s most expressive performers, with a distinctive and dynamic style as a singer and pianist. His biggest releases on Sun Records, ‘Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On’ and ‘Great Balls of Fire,’ were country #1s as well as pop hits,” the release states. “In the late 1960s, the Louisiana native shifted from rock & roll to country recordings, invigorating his artistry. Between 1968 and 1981, he had 34 Top 20 country hits, putting his personal stamp on songs ranging from classics by Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams to newer works by Mickey Newbury and Kris Kristofferson.”
Lee Ann Womack started the tribute performances to Lewis with a stunning rendition of “Middle Age Crazy,” which Sonny Throckmorton wrote and Lewis recorded in the 1970s. The McCrary Sisters followed with a powerful performance of “My God Is Real,” which they said was worthy of being expelled from Bible school (as Lewis was, for the way he played the same hymn). Chris Isaak took the stage with an electric performance of Lewis’ iconic 1950s smash-hit, “Great Balls of Fire.”
Lewis, 87, was unable to attend the medallion ceremony in person, per his doctor’s advice, according to Young. Instead, Hank Williams Jr. read a note from Lewis as he delivered a speech in his honor and presented the medallion with Kristofferson as Lewis was inducted. Lewis wrote (and Williams read):
“Dear friends and fans in Nashville, it is with heartfelt sadness and disappointment that I write to you today from my sickbed. Rather than be able to share my thoughts in person, I tried everything I could to build up the strength to come today. I’ve looked so forward to it since I found out about it earlier this year. My sincerest apology to all of you for missing this fine event, but I hope to see you all soon. To be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame is the highest honor in country music. Through over 60 years singing music professionally, country has always been the genre where I felt the most at home, between my fellow artists, radio and the industry players. I’m honored to be going into that Hall of Fame rotunda with some of my heroes: Hank Williams Sr., Jimmie Rodgers and the like. Not to mention so many amazing friends who have been so good to me through the years. Thank you all for your support and love in electing me into the Country Music Hall of Fame. And most of all, thanks to God for allowing me to experience this honor while I’m still here. Since I could not be in person with you today, I’ve asked one of my closest and dearest friends to accept this great honor for me… the legendary Kris Kristofferson.”
Upholding tradition, the Country Music Hall of Fame closed its medallion ceremony with “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” led by country music legend and fellow Hall of Fame member Bill Anderson. Find more info about the newest class of inductees — and the full list of Hall of Fame members — from the Country Music Hall of Fame.