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Garth Brooks, Hargus "Pig" Robbins and Connie Smith will become the newest members of the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Garth will be inducted in the Modern Era Artist category, while Connie will be inducted in the Veterans Era Artist category. Pig will be inducted in the Recording and/or Touring Musician Active Prior to 1980 category, which is awarded every third year in a rotation with the Non-Performer and Songwriter categories. Garth, Pig and Connie will increase membership in the Country Music Hall of Fame from 115 to 118 inductees.
Pig became blind at the age of 4 but went on to become one of the most accomplished session pianists/keyboardists in Nashville history. He played on George Jones' first No. 1 single, "White Lightning," in 1959 and also performed on hits by Patsy Cline, Roy Orbison, Connie Smith, Reba McEntire, Kenny Rogers and many others. "I am truly honored to become a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame," Pig told the audience, comprised of music industry executives and journalists.
Connie made country history as soon as she debuted in 1964 with her first single, "Once a Day," written by Bill Anderson, who discovered Connie and encouraged her to come to Nashville. When "Once a Day" topped the charts in November of 1964, Connie became the first female artist to hit No. 1 with a debut single. Her self-titled 1965 debut album spent seven weeks at No. 1, a rare achievement for female artists of that era. She is considered one of the all-time great vocalists in country music and Dolly Parton once commented, "You know, there's really only three female singers in the world: Barbra Streisand, Linda Ronstadt and Connie Smith. The rest of us are only pretending." Connie addressed the crowd by saying, "I'm truly honored to be here. I'm still enjoying music and I love it with all my heart. God has given me one blessing after another, and this is a very special blessing." Connie released her 53rd career album, Long Line of Heartaches, in 2011.
Garth's list of accomplishments includes 128 million albums sold, 11 Country Music Association awards, two Grammy awards and his designation as Artist of the Decade (for the 1990s) by the Academy of Country Music. He helped usher in the modern era of country music with his electrifying stage shows and willingness to tackle profound and sometimes controversial subject matter in songs such as "The Dance," "The Thunder Rolls" and others. Garth also notched a spot in music history when his 1991 album, Ropin' the Wind, debuted at No. 1 on both the Billboard Top Country Albums chart and the all-genre Billboard Top 200 albums chart, the first primarily country music album to achieve that mark. He announced his self-imposed retirement in 2000, but has played concert dates since that time and also holds a regular performing spot at the Encore Theater at the Wynn Las Vegas hotel a few weeks each year.
"This is a day of joy and a day of honor," Garth told those in attendance. "I still can't believe it." Garth also acknowledged that he felt somewhat "guilty" of going into the Hall before some of his influences, like Randy Travis and the late Keith Whitley . "There are so many deserving artists that came before me who are yet to be inducted," Garth noted. "I am astounded and honored to be in the Country Music Hall of Fame."
Garth, Connie and Pig will receive their official welcome to the Country Music Hall of Fame at the Medallion Ceremony later this year.