News Column

James Brown, I.M. Pei connect Rock Hall of Fame to Augusta

August 10, 2014

By Chris Gay, The Augusta Chronicle, Ga.

Aug. 10--CLEVELAND -- It hangs from the ceiling in the museum's lobby like a bizarre blimp -- a giant hot dog.

But the concert prop used by the rock band Phish is perfectly positioned. After all, this museum is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Situated next to Lake Erie and the Cleveland Browns' FirstEnergy Stadium, the hall stands out on its own with its glass, triangular architecture reminiscent of the Louvre in Paris. The 150,000-square-foot building was designed by I.M. Pei, who designed four blocks of parking pits on Broad Street in Augusta, the top floor of the Lamar Building and James Brown Arena.

Pei is one of the connections the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has with Augusta. When you start your tour on the lower level -- one of six levels to tour -- you'll see a picture of James Brown on the entrance doors. As you begin to explore the expansive collection on the first floor, which begins with the roots of rock and continues through the decades, you'll soon come across a small poster advertising a concert in Atlantic City, N.J., featuring James Brown and Ray Charles.

In the Cities and Sounds section, a Soul exhibition contains a black jumpsuit with the word "Sex" on the front worn by Brown. In the Legends of Rock and Roll section, a special James Brown exhibit is directly across from a Michael Jackson exhibit. Pictures of Brown hang behind two suits (white and green) and a red jumpsuit.

Brown was a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's inaugural induction class in 1986, which included Charles, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, Little Richard and others in that class of 16. Brown and his associates had a great relationship with the museum, associate curator Meredith Rutledge-Borger said.

Even after Brown's death in 2006, the museum has continued to collect artifacts about him.

"When he passed away, we got a lot of items from an auction the estate had," she said. "Because he had such a long and successful career, he had a lot of stuff."

Because of the massive collection, the museum keeps some Brown items in storage -- including his "black stamps."

"They were issued by James Brown in the 1970s," Rutledge-Borger said. "They were trading stamps, kind of like S&H green stamps. It was to encourage commerce within the black community. They're really cool.

"Paper is really a fragile thing. We had them out for a quite a while. They're resting now."

Rutledge-Borger said the museum has "a lot" of James Brown artifacts, especially clothing. The hall rotates its artifacts in and out of storage about once a year.

"It's so easy to do with our James Brown collection, because it is so rich," she said.

As big as it is, the James Brown collection is just a small part of the museum.

On the lower level, you can see items ranging from dresses the Supremes once wore to green-and-pink guitars used by ZZ Top to a tuxedo worn by Bruno Mars at the 2012 Grammy Award ceremonies, and a peppermint dress Katy Perry wore on her 2011 California Dreams tour.

Among the nine sections on the lower level is an Elvis Presley exhibit that includes a 14-minute film. A Legends of Rock exhibit features items from The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who, David Bowie, the Doors and U2.

A Rapper's Delight section shows clothing from Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg and Outkast.

And that's just the first level.

On the second level, you can read about the architects of rock 'n' roll, including a large exhibit on Les Paul. There, you can listen to songs that shaped the genre and one-hit wonders.

The hall of fame's induction classes and inductees are featured on the third floor. You can watch a film with interviews and music. Signatures of the inductees are etched into glass panels.

On the fourth floor, a gigantic blue creature awaits as part of the Pink Floyd: The Wall exhibit. Also on this floor is an interactive inductees jukebox.

On the top two levels, Common Ground: The Music Festival Experience is open through Jan. 31. The exhibit explores past and present popular music festivals, including Bonnaroo, Coachella and Woodstock.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is an impressive museum, featuring something for everyone. If you plan to visit, take at least a half-day to soak in everything. With the museum's impressive display of rock 'n' roll and popular music through the years, especially the James Brown collection, it'll take that long to enjoy the sights and sounds of the hall.


(c)2014 The Augusta Chronicle (Augusta, Ga.)

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Source: Augusta Chronicle (GA)

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