Sept. 11--They were all there, in spirit if not in body: The Man in Black, The Queen of Stax, The Velvet Bulldozer, even one of the Little Green Men. A baker's dozen of music legends -- including Johnny Cash, Carla Thomas, Albert King, and Roland Janes -- were named as inductees into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame on Tuesday.
The Hall -- a project of downtown's Smithsonian-connected Rock 'n' Soul Museum -- announced its 2013 honorees during an event at Jerry Lee Lewis' Cafe and Honky-Tonk on Beale.
In addition to Thomas, Stax alums the Bar-Kays and songwriter/producer David Porter were also elected. Joining them will be folk musician and blues revival linchpin Sid Selvidge, legendary combo the Memphis Jug Band, jazz pianist Phineas Newborn Jr., gospel vocal group The Blackwood Brothers, spiritual music singer and composer Reverend W. Herbert Brewster, early '50s pop hit-maker Kay Starr, and music impresario Knox Phillips. The class will be enshrined during a Nov. 7 ceremony at the Gibson Showcase and Lounge.
A number of inductees and their families were on hand for Tuesday's event, where the Hall of Famers were presented oversized 45 records with their names on them. Several recipients made brief speeches, including the Bar-Kays' Larry Dodson and James Alexander, who thanked the audience and noted that the honor will help launch a celebration of the band's 50th anniversary next year.
Fellow Stax star Carla Thomas made an appearance as well. "I'm happy to be anywhere, anytime," joked Thomas, who has been a reclusive figure at such events in recent years.
"Memphis music has been my life," she said. "And I'm so proud." Thomas' nomination marks a second generation induction; she will join her father, Rufus Thomas, who was part of the hall's 2012 class.
The Hall of Fame candidates are chosen by a nominating committee, made up of a cross-section of music industry professionals, cultural historians and authors, and museum and foundation directors.
Last year's large inaugural class included some 25 members, among them Bluff City icons like W.C. Handy, Elvis Presley, B.B. King, Jerry Lee Lewis and Al Green, as well as lesser-known figures like jazz saxophonist George Coleman, gospel songwriter Lucie Campbell, and Booker T. Washington high school bandmaster W.T. McDaniel.
Executive director John Doyle said that there are still many other deserving Memphis musical greats that will eventually be inducted.
"We want to reiterate that we don't choose anyone over anyone else. Just as last year, we look at it like these are the inductees for 2013; there isn't a 'first class' and then a 'second class.' We don't believe that Memphis music has a second class," said Doyle.
"If someone comes in the second year or the third year or 10th year, they are not any less important. In 2020 we'll still be inducting people who are chart toppers, Grammy winners, gold record artists. That speaks to the richness, depth and credibility of Memphis music."
Doyle noted that one of the nominating committee's mandates is to try to balance bigger names like Cash and the Bar-Kays with lesser known but equally important musical contributors.
"I love the fact that they see someone like a Roland Janes or a Phineas Newborn to be so significant for induction, where the average person on the street may not know them," said Doyle. "In the end, we feel their contributions and artistry make them all worthy of this honor."
The Rock 'n' Soul Museum, which administers, funds, and will house the Hall of Fame, is in the process of establishing a physical gallery and online "virtual" hall. Doyle expects both to open by 2014. There has also been consideration given to a stand-alone location for the hall. Doyle would not comment specifically, but noted that "progress is being made" on that front.
Memphis Music Hall of Fame 2013
Induction ceremonies are at 7 p.m. Nov. 7 at the Gibson Showcase and Lounge, 145 Lt. George W. Lee. Tickets: $50 and $100. To purchase, call 901-205-2536 or go to memphismusichalloffame.com.
Memphis Jug Band
Phineas Newborn Jr.
The Blackwood Brothers
Reverend W. Herbert Brewster
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