Friends Celebrate New Rock Hall of Famers Brenda Lee, Chet Atkins

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There were a lot of famous faces in the crowd that gathered Monday (April 22) to celebrate Brenda Lee ’s and the late Chet Atkins ’ recent induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The party was sponsored jointly by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (the Grammy Awards society) and Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI), the performance rights organization. It was held in the lobby of BMI’s Nashville headquarters.

Prominent well-wishers included radio and TV personality Ralph Emery , country bluesman Delbert McClinton, producers Tony Brown and Ron Chancey, singer Lane Brody , guitarists Harold Bradley, Ray Edenton and John Johns, director of the Country Music Foundation Kyle Young and former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts Bill Ivey.

Several of Atkins’ relatives were on hand, among them his daughter, Merle Russell, grandchildren Mandy and Jonathan Russell, sister Billie Rose Shockley and niece Megan Taylor. Lee was accompanied to the ceremonies by her husband, Ronnie Shacklett.

Nancy Shapiro, vice president of the Recording Academy’s southern region, read congratulations to the new inductees from Michael Greene, the Academy’s president and CEO. Citing Atkins’ 14 Grammy awards, Greene observed, “His real hallmark was his adventurous musical spirit.” Greene called Lee “truly one of the first artists of any age to bridge the pop and country worlds.”

Shapiro spoke affectionately of Lee, noting that “she should get the award for [being] the most normal person.” She also congratulated the diminutive performer for having “the best-looking husband in the room,” adding diplomatically that her own husband was not in attendance.

“I only wish Chet could be here for this joyous occasion,” Lee told the crowd. She singled out a long list of friends and associates in the audience and had especially warm words for the family of the late Owen Bradley , her longtime producer. Lee spotted and spoke to publishing mogul Bob Beckham, who had toured with her as a performer in the 1950s. She recalled that Beckham would point to her name at the top of the marquee and say, “You know where my name is? It’s down there where it says ’and many others.'”

Lee deftly slipped into her remarks a mention of her newly published autobiography [Little Miss Dynamite: The Life and Times of Brenda Lee ] and thanked her co-authors, Robert Oermann and daughter Julie Clay. She voiced her appreciation to the media for keeping her visible. “A lot of people thought I’d died,” she cracked. “Because of your coverage, they know I’m still around.”

Lee and Atkins are also members of the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to