|Photos: Courtesy Country Music Hall of Fame And Museum|
Cramer, who died in 1998, is the first to be inducted in the new "Recording and/or Touring Musician Active Prior to 1980" category, while Smith is to be inducted in the annual "Open" category. All inductees are chosen by CMA's Hall of Fame panel of electors, consisting of more than 300 anonymous voters appointed by the CMA Board of Directors. Cramer and Smith will become the 89th and 90th members of the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Presentation to "Ten Thousand Drums" at the 1959 BMI Country Awards: Cedarwood Publishing's Dollie Denny, songwriters Carl Smith and Mel Tillis, BMI's Frances Preston, Robert Sour and Robert J. Burton
Floyd Cramer -- The sound of Country Music in the early 1960s was changing and the piano played a pivotal role. And Floyd Cramer was Middle C shouldering most of the responsibility and progressive licks. He popularized the "slip-note" technique and won acclaim for his discriminating ear -- as much for the notes he skipped as the ones he played.
Born October 27, 1933 near Shreveport, Cramer grew up in the sawmill town of Huttig, Arkansas. A self-taught piano player, he landed a job fresh out of high school in 1951 on the renowned "Louisiana Hayride" on Shreveport's radio station KWKH, where he performed with a young Elvis Presley and Hank Williams, Sr. He honed a style he referred to as a "plinking honky-tonk-type piano" and played that way on Jim Reeves' "Mexican Joe."
Cramer made his first record for Abbott Records in 1953. On the advice of Chet Atkins, Cramer moved to Nashville in 1955. Within two years, Cramer recalled that he was in "day and night" doing session work. There were many artists who wouldn't record unless Cramer was at the keys. In addition to recording with Presley and Patsy Cline, Cramer played for Eddy Arnold, Roy Orbison and The Everly Brothers.
Atkins signed Cramer to RCA Records in the late '50s as an instrumental act. Four singles into his deal, Cramer gained his first chart hit with "Last Date" (1960-1961). Atkins had encouraged him to write the song to spotlight the style Cramer incorporated on Hank Locklin's recording of "Please Help Me, I'm Falling" in 1960. In the demo, composer Don Robertson played piano sliding up into a note from the one beneath, and that was the slur technique Cramer used to develop his signature style, a cornerstone of what would be known as the "Nashville Sound." Among his awards are BMI Country, Pop and Million-Air honors for "Last Date" and a BMI Pop Award for "On The Rebound."
Cramer's biggest single came in 1961 with his No. 8 Country rendition of the Bob Wills classic "San Antonio Rose." By mid-decade, Cramer was established as an album act, recording prolifically for RCA Records while working recording sessions at a furious pace. He also toured in an act he formed with saxophonist Boots Randolph and Atkins. He continued to do sessions, play occasional concerts and make television-marketed albums until he was diagnosed with the cancer that eventually took his life at the age of 64 on December 31, 1997. Cramer left behind his longtime wife Mary and two daughters.
Carl Smith -- A top hitmaker of the 1950s and '60s, Carl Smith was known for his dynamic voice, smoldering good looks and Country love songs. Born March 15, 1927 in Maynardville, Tennessee, (the hometown of one of Smith's heroes, Roy Acuff), Smith sold flower seeds to pay for his first guitar and cut grass to pay for the lessons. Smith was a regular on Knoxville Country radio station WROL before serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II. After his four tours of duty in the Philippines in 1946, Smith returned to WROL and played guitar in the Brewster Brothers Band.
Between 1947 and 1949, Smith paid his dues performing in Asheville, North Carolina, Augusta, Georgia, and Knoxville, but his break came in 1950. While playing with Archie Campbell, Smith recorded a demo that landed in the hands of Nashville-based music publisher Troy Martin, of the powerful Peer-Southern music publishing empire. Martin set up an audition with WSM-AM program director Jack Stapp, who put him on the radio station's morning show six days a week and as a regular on the Grand Ole Opry. That sort of exposure and Smith's talents were a combination Don Law, head of Columbia Records Country Division, couldn't ignore and he signed Smith to a recording deal.
In June 1951, Smith rocketed to star status with early hits like "Let's Live a Little," "Mr. Moon" and "Let Old Mother Nature Have Her Way." He put his own band together in 1952, the Tunesmiths, and racked up a total 41 chart singles during the decade including hits such as "Are You Teasing Me," "(When You Feel Like You're in Love) Don't Just Stand There," "It's a Lovely, Lovely World," "Back Up Buddy," "Loose Talk," "There She Goes" and "Hey Joe!." He earned a BMI Country Award at the 1959 ceremony for "Ten Thousand Drums," which he co-wrote with Mel Tillis.
Smith left the Opry in 1956 to allow time to try his hand at acting. He appeared in two westerns: "The Badge of Marshal Brennan" (1957) and "Buffalo Gun" (1961 with Webb Pierce and Marty Robbins). In 1957, he joined the Philip Morris Country Music Show and then in 1959 appeared on "Ozark Jubilee" in Springfield, Missouri. In 1961, he joined Jimmy Wakely, Tex Ritter, Rex Allen and pop star Snooky Lanson as co-host of ABC-TV's "Four Star Jubilee." From 1964 to 1969, Smith hosted 190 episodes of his own "Carl Smith's Country Music Hall" on Canadian television. His singles on Columbia Records continued to chart through 1973, then he gradually gave up the life of a "Tall Country Gentleman" for that of a gentleman rancher. Smith is the father of Country Music artist Carlene Carter with his first wife, June Carter (1952-1957). In 1957 he married Country singer Goldie Hill. They have three children and live on their quarter horse ranch south of Nashville.