Class Notes: Country Hall of Fame Gets It Right
Class Notes: Country Hall of Fame Gets It Right

When it comes to his place in the modern era of country music, Garth Brooks has no peers. After all, who has sold more records or concert tickets during his time in the spotlight?

When it comes to female country performers, it could be argued that Connie Smith has few peers as well. Dolly Parton once said there were three female vocalists -- Streisand, Ronstadt, and Smith. The rest, in her words, "were only pretenders."

And, in the history of Nashville session players, few have the talent or longevity of Hargus "Pig" Robbins on the keyboards. He has won two CMA Instrumentalist / Musician of the Year awards -- some twenty plus years apart!

The trio of artists was announced Tuesday morning in Nashville as the three newest members of the Country Music Hall Of Fame.

Brooks first came to Nashville in the mid-1980s, and as the story goes, went back to his native Oklahoma rather quickly, discouraged by what he thought his chances of making it were. He returned, and soon signed to Capitol Records. He hit the top ten for the first time in the spring of 1989 with "Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)", which was the first of his 37 top ten singles on the Billboard Country Chart. Brooks has sold more records than any other artist in the format, and his energetic live show revolutionized country music, influencing nearly every artist that has come since.

Smith's one-of-a-kind vocal style has made her fans the world over -- as well as inside the genre. Artists such as Parton, George Jones, and Chely Wright have praised her vocal style, with Jones calling Smith his favorite female country singer. Wright covered Smith's "Nobody But A Fool" on her debut Woman In The Moon disc in 1994. She placed twenty singles in the top ten, with the biggest being her first hit, 1964's "Once A Day." Topping the charts for eight weeks, the Bill Anderson-penned classic was the first debut single by a female country artist to hit the top -- a feat that remained unmatched until Trisha Yearwood -- Brooks' wife -- did so with "She's In Love With The Boy" in 1991.

Robbins -- blind since age four -- is known as one of the greatest studio musicians in Nashville. His first session was in 1959, playing on George Jones' first number one hit, "White Lightning." Since then, his work has appeared on recordings by Bob Dylan, Conway Twitty, and Ray Charles. He won the CMA Award for Instrumentalist of the Year in 1976, and thanks to his work on Alan Jackson's Under The Influence album, he took home the Musician of the Year prize in 2000.

The official inductions will take place later this year during a medallion ceremony at the museum.