The Country Music Hall of Fame has announced a new group of inductees for 2022. Rock & roll pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis will be inducted in the Veteran category, neotraditionalist Keith Whitley will join the Hall in the Modern category, and former RCA Records executive will become a member in the Nonperforming category.
Brooks & Dunn handled the announcements in the Hall of Fame’s rotunda, marking the first time in two years that they’d been able to gather in person for the new Hall of Fame class. It was also an occasion that was still heavy with the recent death of 2021 Hall of Fame inductee Naomi Judd for her work in the Judds.
Louisiana native Jerry Lee Lewis initially made his impact in rockabilly and rock & roll, cutting the iconic Fifties singles like “Great Balls of Fire” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” for Sun Records in Memphis and wowing audiences with his boogie-woogie piano and flamboyant, high-octane performances. In the Sixties, he shifted to country music and found success with songs like “Another Place, Another Time,” scoring additional Number Ones with “There Must Be More to Love Than This” and “Would You Take Another Chance on Me.” His most recent studio album, 2014’s Rock & Roll Time, featured appearances by Keith Richards, Robbie Robertson, and Nils Lofgren. He’s also one of a handful of performers, like Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, and Elvis Presley, to earn dual membership in the Rock Hall and the Country Hall.
“It’s hard for me to find something to say,” Lewis said at the Hall of Fame. “But I’m here, I love you, I couldn’t have done it without you.”
Non-Performer inductee Joe Galante is a Queens native who, in 1974 relocated to Nashville to work for RCA and changed the course of the business in his time here. Among his signings during his long tenure were Alabama, Clint Black, Kenny Chesney, the Judds, Martina McBride, Carrie Underwood, and Keith Whitley. After leaving the music business, he devoted himself to mentoring young businesspeople and philanthropy. He recalled getting the notification that he was going into the Hall of Fame as one that stunned him like no other.
“I didn’t know what to say, which was very unusual,” he said. “This is an unmatched honor and I think it’s a tribute to all those people who helped me get here.”
The Modern Era performer Keith Whitley didn’t live to see the day of his induction, and in fact had a remarkably short run on the country charts — Brooks & Dunn marked it at four years, seven months, and 10 days. But that brief span before Whitley’s 1989 death resulted in some of the most indelible songs of the era, including the consecutive Number Ones “Don’t Close Your Eyes,” “When You Say Nothing at All,” and “I’m No Stranger to the Rain.” Like fellow Kentuckian Ricky Skaggs, he also brought a bluegrass background into the country mainstream, and continues to reach ears in 2021 as his 1985 hit “Miami, My Amy” makes the rounds on TikTok. He died of alcohol poisoning on May 9, 1989, at the age of 34.
Whitley’s widow, country singer Lorrie Morgan, called the induction “a dream come true.”
“Keith never knew how good he was,” she said. “He never accepted that he could have a great record deal or that he could have as much as everybody else had. That’s how humble he was.”
The new class of inductees will be formally honored at the Country Music Hall of Fame’s Medallion Ceremony, which will be held in fall.