ROCK & ROLL HALL OF FAME
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, located on the shore of Lake Erie in downtown Cleveland, Ohio, recognizes and archives the history of the best-known and most influential artists, producers, engineers, and other notable figures who have had some major influence on the development of rock and roll. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation was established on April 20, 1983, by Atlantic Records founder and chairman Ahmet Ertegun. In 1986, Cleveland was chosen as the Hall of Fame’s permanent home. Founder Ahmet Ertegun assembled a team that included attorney Suzan Evans, Rolling Stone magazine editor and publisher Jann S. Wenner, attorney Allen Grubman, and record executives Seymour Stein, Bob Krasnow, and Noreen Woods. The Foundation began inducting artists in 1986, but the Hall of Fame still had no home. The search committee considered several cities, including Philadelphia (home of Bill Haley and American Bandstand), Memphis (home of Sun Studios and Stax Records), Detroit (home of Motown Records), Cincinnati (home of King Records), New York City, and Cleveland. Cleveland lobbied for the museum, citing that WJW disc jockey Alan Freed both coined the term “rock and roll” and heavily promoted the new genre—and that Cleveland was the location of Freed’s Moondog Coronation Ball, the first major rock and roll concert. In addition, Cleveland cited radio station WMMS, which played a key role in breaking several major acts in the U.S. during the 1970s and 1980s, including David Bowie, who began his first U.S. tour in the city, Bruce Springsteen, Roxy Music, and Rush among many others. Cleveland was also one of the premier tour stops for most rock bands. Civic leaders in Cleveland pledged $65 million in public money to fund the construction. A petition drive was signed by 600,000 fans favoring Cleveland over Memphis, and Cleveland ranked first in a 1986 USA Today poll asking where the Hall of Fame should be located. On May 5, 1986, the Hall of Fame Foundation chose Cleveland as the permanent home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Sam Phillips of Sun Studios fame and many others were stunned and disappointed that it ended up in Cleveland. “The hall of fame should’ve been in Memphis, certainly,” wrote Peter Guralnick, author of an acclaimed two-volume Elvis Presley biography. Cleveland may also have been chosen as the organization’s site because the city offered the best financial package. As The Plain Dealer music critic Michael Norman noted, “It was $65 million… Cleveland wanted it here and put up the money.” Co-founder Jann Wenner later said, “One of the small sad things is we didn’t do it in New York in the first place,” but then added, “I am absolutely delighted that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is in Cleveland.” During early discussions on where to build the Hall of Fame and Museum, the Foundation’s board considered the Cuyahoga River. Ultimately, the chosen location was along East Ninth Street in downtown Cleveland by Lake Erie, east of Cleveland Stadium. At one point in the planning phase, when a financing gap existed, planners proposed locating the Rock Hall in the then-vacant May Company Building, but finally decided to commission architect I. M. Pei to design a new building. Initial CEO Dr. Larry R. Thompson facilitated I. M. Pei in designs for the site. Pei came up with the idea of a tower with a glass pyramid protruding from it. The museum tower was initially planned to stand 200 ft (61 m) high, but had to be cut down to 162 ft (49 m) due to its proximity to Burke Lakefront Airport. The building’s base is approximately 150,000 square feet. The groundbreaking ceremony took place on June 7, 1993. Pete Townshend, Chuck Berry, Billy Joel, Sam Phillips, Ruth Brown, Sam Moore of Sam and Dave, Carl Gardner of the Coasters and Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum all appeared at the groundbreaking. The museum was dedicated on September 1, 1995, with the ribbon being cut by an ensemble that included Yoko Ono and Little Richard, among others, before a crowd of more than 10,000 people. The following night an all-star concert was held at the stadium. It featured Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, Al Green, Jerry Lee Lewis, Aretha Franklin, Bruce Springsteen, Iggy Pop, John Fogerty, John Mellencamp, and many others. In addition to the Hall of Fame inductees, the museum documents the entire history of rock and roll, regardless of induction status. Hall of Fame inductees are honored in a special exhibit located in a wing that juts out over Lake Erie. Since 1986, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has selected new inductees. The formal induction ceremony has been held in New York City 26 times (1986–92, 1994–96, 1998–2008, 2010–11, 2014, 2016 and 2017); twice in Los Angeles (1993 and 2013); and four times in the Hall of Fame’s home in Cleveland (1997, 2009, 2012 and 2015). Beginning in 2018, the induction ceremonies will alternate each year between Cleveland and New York. The 2009 and 2012 induction weeks were made possible by a public–private partnership between the City of Cleveland, the State of Ohio, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and local foundations, corporations, civic organizations and individuals. Collectively these entities invested $5.8 million in 2009 and $7.9 million in 2012 to produce a week of events, including free concerts, a gospel celebration, exhibition openings, free admission to the museum, and induction ceremonies filled with both fans and VIPs at Public Hall.
Millions viewed the television broadcast of the Cleveland inductions; tens of thousands traveled to Ohio during induction week to participate in Induction-related events. The economic impact of the 2009 induction week activities was more than $13 million, and it provided an additional $20 million in media exposure for the region. The 2012 induction week yielded similar results. There are seven levels in the building. On the lower level is the Ahmet M. Ertegun Exhibition Hall, the museum’s main gallery. It includes exhibits on the roots of rock and roll (gospel, blues, rhythm & blues and folk, country and bluegrass). It also features exhibits on cities that have had a major impact on rock and roll: Memphis, Detroit, London and Liverpool, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and Seattle. There are exhibits about soul music, the Fifties, Sun Records, Atlantic Records, hip hop music, Cleveland’s rock and roll legacy, the music of the Midwest, rock and roll radio and dee-jays, and the many protests against rock and roll. This gallery also has exhibits that focus on individual artists, including the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix and others. Finally, the Ahmet M. Ertegun Exhibition Hall includes two theaters, one of which features a film about the roots of rock and roll and one that features films on various subjects. The first floor of the museum is the entrance level. It includes a cafe, a stage that the museum uses for various special performances and events throughout the year, and a section called “Backstage Stories.” The second floor includes several interactive kiosks that feature programs on one-hit wonders and the Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll. This level also includes a gallery with artifact-filled exhibits about Les Paul, Alan Freed, Sam Phillips and the evolution of audio technology. Visitors enter the Hall of Fame section of the museum on the third floor. This section includes “The Power of Rock Experience,” which includes one of Jonathan Demme’s final works, a film shown in the Connor Theater. The film includes musical highlights from some of the Hall’s induction ceremonies. Visitors exit the Hall of Fame section on the fourth floor. That level features the Foster Theater, a state-of-the-art 3-D theater that is used for special events and programs. Finally, the top two levels of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame feature large, temporary exhibits. Over the years, numerous exhibits have been installed on these two levels, including exhibits about Elvis Presley, hip-hop, the Supremes, the Who, U2, John Lennon, the Clash, Bruce Springsteen, Women Who Rock, and the Rolling Stones.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, established in 1983 and located in Cleveland, Ohio, United States, is dedicated to recording the history of some of the best-known and most influential musicians, bands, producers, and others that have in some major way influenced the music industry, particularly in the area of rock and roll. Originally, there were four categories of induction: performers, non-performers, early influences, and lifetime achievement. In 2000, “sidemen” was introduced as a category. The only category that has seen new inductees every single year is the performers category. Artists become eligible for induction in that category 25 years after the release of their first record. In order to be inducted, an artist must be nominated by a committee that selects anywhere from nine to a dozen candidates. Ballots are then sent to 600 “rock experts” who evaluate the candidates and vote on who should be inducted. The performers that receive the highest number of votes and more than 50 percent of the vote are inducted. In 2010, the number inducted was five. The rest of the categories are voted on by special committees. As of 2017, new inductees will be honored at an annual ceremony held alternately in New York and at the Hall of Fame in Cleveland; prior to that, the ceremonies rotated between Cleveland, New York, and Los Angeles.
The performers category is meant for recording artists and bands that have “influence and significance to the development and perpetuation of rock and roll.” Artists become eligible for induction in that category 25 years after the release of their first record. In order to be inducted, an artist must be nominated by a committee that selects anywhere from nine to a dozen candidates. Ballots are sent to 600 “rock experts” who then evaluate the candidates and vote on who should be inducted. The performers who receive the highest number of votes and more than 50 percent of the vote are inducted. Inductees: Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Simon and Garfunkel, The Who, The Mamas and The Papas, Elton John, David Bowie, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Michael Jackson, Stevie Ray Vaughan, ZZ Top, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Everly Brothers, Billy Joel, Bee Gees, Beach Boys, The Who, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Supremes, Temptations, The Four Seasons, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, Bobby Darin, Allman Brothers Band, the Band etc.
Artists inducted into the early influences category are those “whose music predated rock and roll but had an impact on the evolution of rock and roll and inspired rock’s leading artists.” Unlike the performers category, these inductees are selected by a committee. The full process is not transparent, and it is unclear who comprises this selection committee. Inductees: Jimmie Rodgers, Woody Guthrie, Hank Williams, Les Paul, Pete Seeger, LeadBelly, Mahalia Jackson, T-Bone Walker, Louis Armstrong, Bob Wills, Bill Monroe, Nat King Cole, Willie Dixon, Howlin’ Wolf, etc.
The non-performer category honors “songwriters, producers, disc jockeys, record executives, journalists and other industry professionals who have had a major influence on the development of rock and roll.” Several of the inductees in this category were in fact prominent performers as well. The inductees in this category are selected by the same committee that chooses the early influences. The full process is not transparent and it is unclear who comprises this selection committee. This category has been criticized for inducting those that have “been coming to the dinner for years and paying for their tickets” and not revealing their full criteria. In 2008, this category was renamed the “Ahmet Ertegün Award”. Inductees: Alan Freed, Sam Phillips, Dick Clark, Ahmet Ertegun, Jerry Wexler, Leo Fender, Gerry Goffin and Carole King, Leiber and Stoller, Bill Graham, George Martin, Berry Gordy Jr, Doc Pomus, etc.
Award for Musical Excellence
This category, which replaced sidemen, “honors those musicians, producers and others who have spent their careers out of the spotlight working with major artists on various parts of their recording and live careers.” Inductees: Leon Russell, Tom Dowd, Ringo Starr, E Street Band, Glyns John, etc.
Established in 2000, the sidemen category “honors those musicians who have spent their careers out of the spotlight, performing as backup musicians for major artists on recording sessions and in concert.” A separate committee, composed mainly of producers, chooses the inductees. In 2010, the category was renamed to “Award for Musical Excellence”. According to Joel Peresman, the president of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation, “This award gives us flexibility to dive into some things and recognize some people who might not ordinarily get recognized. Inductees: Scotty Moore, Chet Atkins, James Burton, King Curtis, etc.
Rocket 88 by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats, is a rhythm and blues song that was first recorded in Memphis, Tennessee, on March 3 or 5, 1951. The recording was credited to Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats, who were actually Ike Turner’s Kings of Rhythm. The record reached number one on the Billboard R&B chart. Many music writers acknowledge its importance in the development of rock and roll music, with several considering it to be the first rock and roll record. Rumble by Link Wray, is an instrumental by American group Link Wray & His Ray Men. Released in the United States in April 1958 as a single (with “The Swag” as a B-side), “Rumble” utilized the techniques of distortion and feedback, then largely unexplored in rock and roll. The piece is one of very few instrumental singles banned from the radio airwaves in the United States. It is also one of the first tunes to use the power chord, the “major modus operandi of the modern rock guitarist”. The Twist by Chubby Checker, is an American pop song written and originally released in early 1959 (having been recorded on 11/11/1958) by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters as a B-side to “Teardrops on Your Letter”. Ballard’s version was a moderate 1960 hit, peaking at number 28 on the Billboard Hot 100. Chubby Checker’s 1960 cover version of the song gave birth to the Twist dance craze. His single became a hit, reaching number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 on September 19, 1960, where it stayed for one week, and setting a record as the only song to reach number 1 in two different hit parade runs when it resurfaced and topped the popular hit parade again for two weeks starting on January 13, 1962. Louie Louie by The Kingsmen, an American rhythm and blues song written by Richard Berry in 1955 and best known for the 1963 hit version by The Kingsmen. It has become a standard in pop and rock, with hundreds of versions recorded by different artists. The song is based on the tune “El Loco Cha Cha” popularized by bandleader René Touzet and is an example of Latin influence on American popular music. “Louie Louie” tells, in simple verse–chorus form, the first-person story of a Jamaican sailor returning to the island to see his lady love. The Kingsmen’s recording was the subject of an FBI investigation about the supposed but nonexistent obscenity of the lyrics, an investigation that ended without prosecution. Born to Be Wild by Steppenwolf, is a song first performed by the band Steppenwolf, written by Mars Bonfire. The song is often invoked in both popular and counter culture to denote a biker appearance or attitude. It is sometimes described as the first heavy metal song, and the second verse lyric “heavy metal thunder” marks the first use of this term in rock music (although not as a description of a musical style).