When Colin Escott, Martin Hawkins and I produced the three Bear Family Sun box sets that came out earlier this year, we were dealing with music history – and some pretty special history at that. For us, little was more important than Memphis music in the mid 1950s: the birth of rock & roll with Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, BB King, Howlin’ Wolf, and a host of seminal artists who cut their teeth at Sun Records.
We were faced with selecting the 250-plus tracks for each box set,choosing the photos and writing the liner notes. We were delving deep into rock and roll history, but there were also some opportunities to deal in the present tense. We could use the gala release event at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum to bring out of the shadows some of the less famous artists who were actually there when Sam Phillips was busy making music history in his tiny storefront studio on Union Avenue in Memphis.
There weren’t many chances. Most of the artists who had recorded for Sun during its Golden era were gone. But not all. The Miller Sisters recorded about a dozen titles ...
A commanding stage presence is an essential element of the rock and roll spectacle. Beyond captivating audiences with their music, artists from Abba to ZZ Top have projected their quirks, singular identities and personas via unique stage costumes. Some artists' costume choices are icons to themselves – think Michael Jackson’s gilded glove or Elvis Presley’s bejeweled jumpsuit. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio, is home to many of these iconic costumes and ground-breaking designs. Here are some of our favorites, which you can see when visiting the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum!
David Bowie's Suit, 1972 / Design by Freddie Burretti
David Bowie’s breakthrough came with The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972), a thoroughly modern album that promulgated the notion of rock star as space alien. Bowie melded rock with theater, creating the provocative character and alter ego “Ziggy Stardust." Bowie wore his lightning-bolt emblazoned suit onstage during his tour to support the album.
The Supremes' Dresses, 1969 / Design by Bob Mackie
The Supremes rose from the poverty of ...
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in partnership with Elvis Presley Enterprises will open a new Elvis Presley exhibit on Friday, November 29, 2013, in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum's Main Exhibit Hall, in Cleveland.
One of the most important artists of the 20th century and part of the first-ever class of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees in 1986 (see the complete list of 1986 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees), Presley's status as a rock and roll icon is singular. Writer Lester Bangs may have said it best when he quipped: “I can guarantee you one thing - we will never again agree on anything as we agreed on Elvis.”
More than 40 artifacts are on loan from Elvis Presley’s Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee. Highlights from the collection include a 1975 custom-made "SuperTrike" motorcycle and a selection of Presley's famous jewelry. The exhibit helps tell the Presley story, showcasing "The King" as a young man, with his official, wallet-size U.S. Army induction portrait that was taken and issued upon his arrival for basic training circa 1958; as ...
In 1960s Los Angeles, California, an elite group of studio session musicians came together and played on hits for the Beach Boys, the Byrds, Ricky Nelson, Elvis Presley, Simon and Garfunkel, Phil Spector's "Wall of Sound," Frank Sinatra, Nancy Sinatra, Sonny and Cher, Jan & Dean, the Monkees, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, 5th Dimension, Tijuana Brass and Johnny Rivers among others. From "Be My Baby" to "California Girls;" "Strangers in the Night" and "Mrs. Robinson;" "You've Lost that Lovin' Feelin'" and "Up, Up and Away;""Viva Las Vegas" to "Mr. Tambourine Man," the group dubbed "The Wrecking Crew" played on some of rock and roll's most-beloved songs. “The musicians really are the unsung heroes of all these hit records,” noted Nancy Sinatra. And now the world will know their story – if all goes to plan.
Watch + Listen: American singer, songwriter and record producer Jerry Fuller tells the story of how he wrote "Travelin' Man" for Sam Cooke, recorded it with Glen Campbell, and how the demo went in the garbage before finding its way to Ricky Nelson. (From The Wrecking Crew: The Untold Story of Rock & Roll Heroes)
Among the musicians in the "Crew" was guitarist Tommy ...
Although it originated in Ireland, the tune and melody of "Londonderry Air" is known worldwide, its flowing cadence inextricably linked to Irish heritage. When English lawyer and songwriter Frederic Weatherly was introduced to the tune in 1913, he recast lyrics he'd previously penned to match the "Londonderry" melody, giving rise to "Danny Boy,"arguably the most celebrated version of the song.
For more than a century, the stirring folk ballad has been adapted by a diverse cast of performers, including various Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees. Here, we look at versions of "Danny Boy" by Sam Cooke, Johnny Cash, Jackie Wilson, Roy Orbison, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Eric Clapton.
Cooke cut a beautifully soul-infused version of "Danny Boy" for his 1958 self-titled debut album, adding a charismatic lilt to the arrangement.
Cash recorded a hauntingly solemn version of "Danny Boy" for his 1965 Columbia Records release Orange Blossom Special, an album that included various folk and country standards as interpreted by the incomparable Man in Black.
Wilson, who could effortlessly transition from rock to blues to soul, transformed "Danny Boy" – reportedly one of his mother's favorite songs – in ...
This summer as rock and roll fans gather at musical festivals around the globe, the Rock Hall is celebrating the the greatest music festivals in history, the biggest and baddest music festivals of today and the fans who make Common Ground: The Music Festival Experience.
From June 12-15, the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival takes over Manchester, Tennessee, with a host of performances from some of the biggest names in music. Among the headlining acts and performers at Bonnaroo this year are a number of artists who also feature in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, in Cleveland, Ohio, including four Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees.
Percussionist Mickey Hart was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994 with his bandmates in the Grateful Dead. When Hart visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in 2012, he shared stories about the first time he ever saw the Grateful Dead live and the San Francisco scene in the 60s. Pictured below is his illuminated signature in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.
Bobby Womack was born in Cleveland, where he and his ...
The Godfather of Soul, James Brown, revered Little Willie John, having opened shows for John early on and later recorded an entire album of his tunes, the 1968 tribute Thinking About Little Willie John and a Few Nice Things. Brown was just but one of many artists of the day who were influenced by John's gospel-charged R&B sound. The likes of Hall of Fame Inductees Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson and Al Green all noted a musical debt to the man behind "Fever," and hits including "Sleep," "Talk To Me, Talk To Me" and "Leave My Kitten Alone" – the latter an early Beatles fave.
Spending his formative years raised in Detroit, Michigan, Little Willie John's stature belied his powerful voice. Signed to Syd Nathan's Cincinnati-based King Records in 1955, John cut the haunting, sultry "Fever" in 1956 at the tender age of 18. His smooth style presaged soul music. His delivery was passionate and dramatic, which paired with his melding of styles proved the perfect foil to such evocative lyricism.
Sadly, this polished, passionate artist suffered a sad fate: convicted of manslaughter in a post-gig fracas and sentenced to prison in 1966, he died under disputed circumstances ...
On October 26, 2013, a once-in-a-lifetime collection of musicians gathered in Cleveland, Ohio, for the Rock Hall's Music Masters tribute to the Rolling Stones. That evening's concert at the Playhouse Square State Theater was anchored by a group of top flight musicians who have performed with the Rolling Stones over their 50-year career and contributed to shaping the band’s extraordinary sound.
Grammy Award-winning drummer Steve Jordan led the house band as musical director, assembling a group of critically-acclaimed musicians, including 2012 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Ian McLagan.
McLagan had played on the Rolling Stones' Some Girls album and toured with the group in 1978, 1981 and 1982.
Among the incredible performers sharing the stage with McLagan that night was the incomparable Bobby Keys, the legendary sax player for Elvis Presley, Joe Cocker, B.B. King and others, including the Rolling Stones. Keys had been recording and touring with the Rolling Stones since 1970, appearing on Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers, Exile On Main Street, Goats Head Soup, Emotional Rescue and several live albums.
WATCH: In the clip below, Bobby Keys delivers a fiery solo during a jam on the Rolling Stones' Sticky Fingers cut ...