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Memphis music makes history

By Samuel Prager
On November 28, 2012

  • B.B. King
  • Jerry Lee Lewis
  • Elvis
  • Isaac Hayes

The world of music will be "all shook up" as Memphis honors some of its most notable musicians, including Elvis, B.B. King, Jerry Lee Lewis and others.
The Memphis Music Hall of Fame, an administration of the Smithsonian-developed Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum, will have its inaugural induction at the Cannon Center for the Performing Arts tonight at 7 p.m.
"It's a salute to those individuals and to Memphis as a whole. Inductees range from early pioneers to the hay day with Sun Studio and Stax Records to more contemporary artists," John Doyle, executive director of the Rock 'n' Soul Museum and Memphis Music Hall of Fame, said. "Most of the inductees or family members of those deceased will be in attendance and honored."
A nominating committee made up of local and national music professionals chose a list of 25 initial inductees to be honored at this first ceremony, to take place yearly from now on. The committee's members included studio owners, producers, authors and historians who picked the musicians based on a variety of criteria that reflects Memphis' musical heritage and integrity.
"There's not a general rule, that's part of the beauty about it. Memphis music is an independent. It kind of breaks the rules," said David Less, member of the nominating committee and partner at Memphis International Records. "If we saw an inductee, we would know it. If we couldn't justify it to the other committee members, then they shouldn't be in it."
With ties to the origin of the blues with W.C. Handy and the integration of rock 'n' roll and mainstream radio with Elvis Presley, Memphis has served as an epicenter for music from all over the country for more than half a century.  
 "As far as one city literally producing hundreds of charting musicians through the years, it's kind of unequal," Doyle said. "This city exploded rock 'n' roll. The Memphis Music Hall of Fame was something that the city needed."
Each inductee is presented with a Memphis Music Hall of Fame statuette, handcrafted by the Tennessee Pewter Company of West Tennessee. The award features the organization's logo - a hand and vintage microphone - mounted atop a base of West Tennessee hardwood and individually inscribed for each inductee.
"Often we take these people for granted. We don't really have a concept of the huge impact they've had on music and what the city really meant and still means to music," Doyle said.
Along with the Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum, the Hall of Fame also has the cooperation and support of other respected Memphis music organizations, such as Sun Studio, Graceland and the Blues Foundation.
"The audience will see a lot of Memphis musicians playing tributes to inductees, as well as a few inductees performing themselves," Doyle said.
Musicians inducted this year come from an array of genres that have found a home in Memphis. Artists being honored at the induction range from Three 6 Mafia to ZZ Top to Booker T. and the MG's. Even some of the behind-the-scenes musicians will be inducted and saluted at the event, such as Memphis record producer Jim Dickinson.
"This first year is a heavy one. We're inducting 25 people this year. However, there are so many more," Doyle said. "We have already identified 300 names that are significant Memphis musicians, worthy of inductions. This is something that will be taking place for decades."
Other legendary musicians to be inducted tonight include Jerry Lee Lewis, B.B. King, Isaac Hayes and Otis Redding.
"Not only do we want the inductees proud and honored by the induction, more importantly, Memphians that attend or see the media the following day should have a sense of pride," Doyle said.

2012 Memphis Music Hall of Fame Inductees

Bobby Blue Bland
Booker T and the MG's
Lucie Campbell
George Coleman
Jim Dickinson
Al Green
W.C. Handy
Isaac Hayes
Howlin' Wolf
B.B. King
Jerry Lee Lewis
Jimmie Lunceford
Prof. William McDaniel
Memphis Minnie
Willie Mitchell
Dewey Phillips
Sam Phillips
Elvis Presley
Otis Redding
Staple Singers
Rufus Thomas
Three 6 Mafia
Nat D. Williams
ZZ Top
Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton

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