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Alan Jackson, Jerry Reed, Don Schlitz to Join Country Music Hall of Fame in 2017

Country Music Hall of Fame Class of 2017
CBS / Rick Diamond (2), Getty Images

The Country Music Hall of Fame has announced its three Class of 2017 inductees: the late Jerry Reed, songwriter Don Schlitz and the iconic Alan Jackson. They’ll be inducted in the Veterans Era Artist, Songwriter and Modern Era Artist categories, respectfully.

Country Music Hall of Fame Class of 2007 member Vince Gill hosted this year’s inductees announcement press conference on Wednesday morning (April 5), at the Hall of Fame in downtown Nashville. Other past inductees who attended the ceremony included Alabama, Brenda Lee, the Oak Ridge Boys and more.

Reed, legendary as a country singer, songwriter and session musician, was named the Veterans Era inductee for 2017. He moved to Nashville in 1962 to be a session guitar player, and was behind hit songs including “Guitar Man,” “East Bound and Down,” the Grammys-winning “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot” and “A Thing Called Love,” plus countless more. Reed was known for his finger-picking style, and was also one of only four people to earn the title of Certified Guitar Player, given to those who have completely mastered the guitar by Chet Atkins. Recently inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame, Reed passed away in 2008.

Reed’s daughters Seidina and Lottie spoke on behalf of their father: “This is the most wonderful day, and if Dad were here, he would be so humbled and so grateful, because music was his life,” Seidina said. “He loved this industry, he loved picking and singing and writing. It’s all he had been doing since he was 8 years old — his mama got him a guitar and he took it from there.”

Seidina added that Reed “loved people, he loved life, he loved living life. He loved picking that guitar and making music, and he loved Bobby Bare” — a comment that garnered a round of laughs. She concluded, “Lottie and I want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for this day.”

Adding to her sister’s comments, Lottie noted, “Daddy was blessed with an incredible gift and blessed to share that gift with the world for 55 years of his career.” She recalled that he told her one time, “Making music is all I love, it’s all I know. It’s hard to call it work when I have so much fun doing it.” In a lighthearted story, Lottie said that she would always go to bed hearing her father play, then wake up hearing him play and realize he hadn’t slept all night long. Reed loved music so much that his wife told Lottie, “He is still tapping his foot in his sleeping and mouthing lyrics when he sleeps.”

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Schlitz, 2017’s Songwriter inductee into the Country Music Hall of Fame, is the mastermind behind songs such as “Forever and Ever, Amen,” “The Gambler,” “When You Say Nothing at All,” “You Can’t Make Old Friends” and “The Greatest,” just to name a few. His first-ever recorded song was “The Gambler,” recorded by Kenny Rogers; it launched him into a five-decade career of songwriting.

Schlitz accepted his honor by admitting, “Well, okay, first, I was shocked.” He told the audience that on March 5, Sarah Trahern (the CEO of the Country Music Association) asked if he and his wife were free on April 5 and joked that they “both checked our calendars, and when she gave us this news, we moved some things around.”

In a beautifully-written speech, Schlitz went on to talk about all of the people he wanted to tell about this honor, but he was told that until the announcement, he couldn’t tell a soul. He named mentors Bill Anderson, Jim Rushing, Paul Overstreet, Mary Chapin Carpenter, “and near about everybody on Music Row;” he also listed musicians, singers, engineers, publishers, ASCAP pals, Chuck Flood and more as being part of his success. Schlitz recalled asking, “Can I just whisper, ‘Look what we’ve done?'” He wanted to tell country radio, his fans — so many people.

“Here’s the truth: I will never be able to believe that I deserve this unless I receive it as a representative of my family, my mentors, my collaborators, my promoters and my friends. That’s the only way I can deal with this …,” Schlitz said, “and I can finally say to all those good people in the process with me, ‘Look what we’ve done.'”

In an especially touching moment, Schlitz choked up and added, “One more thing: Mama, I know you’re home watching, and Daddy, you didn’t get to see any of this. And I know somehow you’re watching, too: Look what you’ve done.”

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Jackson receives his Country Music Hall of Fame induction as 2017’s Modern Era act. With more than 20 albums, two Grammy Awards, 60 million records sold, a spot in Nashville Songwriters of Fame and the first-ever ASCAP Heritage Award (for being the most-performed country artist in the last 200 years) to his name, Jackson is a true icon.

“It’s such an honor,” Jackson told the applauding crowd, before joking about still being in the “modern era.” “I’m so happy to be in a class with [Reed and Schlitz].”

Jackson continued, “I’m trying to think about the Hall of Fame and how it’s been a part of my career … Daddy won a radio, and he tuned it to a country show … and that was the first kind of music thing I remember.” That radio now resides in the Country Music Hall of Fame.

“Daddy loved country music and gospel music … it probably pushed me a little bit, planted those seeds in the early days,” Jackson added, before concluding, “It’s just unbelievable … People always ask me about my goals left, and I never say ‘the Country Music Hall of Fame.'” Jackson explained that not listing the Hall of Fame among his goals was in an effort to not be pretentious, but now that he has this honor, essentially all of his dreams have come true.

“This is about the last dream on the list right here,” Jackson said.

This year’s three inductees join 130 others in the Country Music Hall of Fame, which was created in 1961 by the Country Music Association. The official 2017 Country Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony will take place later this year; the Class of 2017 will be the 57th group of country music artists to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

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