Country Music Hall of Fame has new members

Garth Brooks, Connie Smith and session musician Hargus “Pig” Robbins have been elected as the newest members of the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Brooks, the top-selling artist of the Nielsen SoundScan era, has sold more than 128 million albums. The 50-year-old Oklahoma native’s first single, “Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old),” became a Top 10 country hit in 1989. His lengthy string of No. 1 singles began later that year with “If Tomorrow Never Comes” and includes titles such as “The Dance,” “Friends in Love Places,” “Unanswered Prayers,” “The Thunder Rolls” and many others. His 1991 album, Ropin’ the Wind, became the first album by a country artist to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard pop chart.

Smith, 70, was born in Elkhart, Ind., and discovered by Grand Ole Opry star Bill Anderson in 1963 after she won a talent contest in Ohio. Anderson urged her to come to Nashville to sing demos of his original songs to pitch to other artists. Hubert Long, Anderson’s manger, played one of the demos to RCA Records executive Chet Atkins, who signed her to the label. Written by Anderson, Smith’s debut single, “Once a Day,” spent eight weeks at the top of Billboard‘s country chart in 1964. Her other Top 10 hits include “I Can’t Remember,” “Cincinnati, Ohio,” “Burning a Hole in My Mind” and “Just One Time.” Her 53rd album, Long Line of Heartaches, was produced by her husband Marty Stuart and released last year.

Robbins, 74, is one of the most prolific session musicians in the country music history. Born in Spring City, Tenn., he lost an eye at age 2 after an accident with his father’s knife and became completely blind at age 4. As a child, he learned to play classical piano at the Nashville School for the Blind. After graduating, he began performing in Nashville clubs and gradually got work in the studios. In 1959, he performed on his first major recording, “White Lightning”, George Jones’ first No. 1 hit. In the ’50s and ’60s, Robbins performed on classic recordings such as Patsy Cline’s “Walkin’ After Midnight” and “I Fall to Pieces,” Smith’s “Once a Day,”Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde album and artists as diverse as Willi Nelson, Roy Orbison, Dolly Parton, Ray Price, Charlie Pride, Ernest Tubb, Porter Wagoner, Jerry Jeff Walker,  Joan Baez, Ray Charles, Rosemary Clooney, John Denver, Tom Jones, Mark Knopfler, Gordon Lightfoot, Peter, Paul & Mary, the Sir Douglas Quintet, Neil Young  and many others.

Brooks will be inducted in the modern era category, Smith in the veterans era division and Robbins in the recording and/or touring musician category. The official inductions will take place later this year during a medallion ceremony at the museum.

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