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Today In Rock: Tom Petty Is Born

Thursday, October 20: 2:30 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

For more than 30 years, Florida native Tom Petty has been the charismatic frontman and voice of among the most durable, resourceful, hard-working, likable, unpretentious and capable rock bands of all time. Together with the Heartbreakers – which has include bassist Ron Blair, guitarist Mike Campbell, bassist Howie Epstein, drummer Stan Lynch and keyboardist Benmont Tench – he mastered rock and roll's fundamentals and digested its history, leading a band of the people, writing of everyday struggles and frustrations – and offering redemption through tough-minded, big-hearted, tuneful songs. The 2002 Hall of Fame inductee turns 61 today.

Although they were not punk-rockers per se, Petty and the Heartbreakers did their part to revitalize rock in the mid-to-late Seventies with their first three albums: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (“Breakdown,” “American Girl”), You’re Gonna Get It! (“I Need to Know,” “Listen to Her Heart”) and Damn the Torpedoes – the latter one of the essential rock albums of the decade.

Strong from start to finish, Torpedoes contained the classic tracks “Refugee,” “Even the Losers,” “Don’t Do Me Like That” and “Here Comes My Girl.” It also revealed Petty’s depth of conviction and fighting nature. When his record company changed hands, Petty ...


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American Music Masters Moments: Fats Domino and Dave Bartholomew

Thursday, October 27: 11 a.m.
Dave Bartholomew dancing during a 2010 American Music Masters event

American Music Masters Moments: Fats Domino and Dave Bartholomew is the second installment in a series that shares stories from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's American Music Masters® events through the years. The first post in the series remembered Les Paul. Beginning in 1996 with a tribute to Woody Guthrie, the American Music Masters series has honored artists who've been instrumental in the development of rock and roll with a range of events celebrating their careers. Each AMM brings together musicians from around the world, setting the stage for special, once-in-a-lifetime moments. These are those stories.

For me, the best part of American Music Masters is hearing first-hand stories from the musicians who worked with the honoree. They tell fascinating stories about recording sessions, concerts and late-night card games. When we honored Fats Domino and Dave Bartholomew last year, we were able to bring the surviving members of their original band to town: Billy Diamond (bass), Ernest McLean (guitar), and Herb Hardesty (saxophone). It had been years since they all were together, and listening to them sitting around, reminiscing with Dave Bartholomew and Cosimo Matassa, who recorded them all at J&M Studies in New Orleans ...


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American Music Masters Moments: Solomon Burke

Monday, October 31: 3 p.m.
Posted by Jason Hanley
Wearing his custom hat, Solomon Burke performs from his throne at the 2005 AMM tribute to Sam Cooke

American Music Masters Moments: Solomon Burke is the third installment in a series that shares stories from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's American Music Masters® events through the years. The first post in the series remembered Les Paul, while the second recalled the 2010 tribute to Fats Domino and Dave Bartholomew. Beginning in 1996 with a tribute to Woody Guthrie, the American Music Masters series has honored artists who've been instrumental in the development of rock and roll with a range of events celebrating their careers. Each AMM brings together musicians from around the world, setting the stage for special, once-in-a-lifetime moments. These are those stories.

One of my favorite memories is from the 2005 American Music Masters honoring Sam Cooke. I spent four days working with legendary soul singer and 2001 Hall of Fame inductee Solomon Burke. During that time, I went to rehearsals with him, interviewed him about his music and life, ate meals with him and his family, and even went hat shopping with him. One of his classic stage moves was to wear a beautiful fedora-style hat during his performance and then toss it into the crowd at the end of his ...


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Aretha's Amazing Grace

Wednesday, November 2: 1 p.m.
Posted by Aaron Cohen
Aretha Franklin - Amazing Grace (1972)

It’s a great thrill for me to attend the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s American Music Masters conference on the Queen of Soul on Saturday, November 5, and I’m grateful for the Rock Hall providing me this opportunity to discuss my new book about Aretha Franklin's Amazing Grace.

While Amazing Grace is Franklin's most accomplished and best-selling LP, it is also an album that's frequently overlooked – even among many of Franklin’s biggest fans. None of the songs on it became pop hits, nor were they intended to be. When she made this recording in 1972, just before her 30th birthday, her voice was at its peak. Her best band backed her, including the fantastic drummer Bernard “Pretty” Purdie, who is also part of Saturday's conference and will be sitting in on drums during Saturday night's tribute concert at PlayhouseSquare's State Theater. She was collaborating with James Cleveland, leader of the Southern California Community Choir, and whose voice was as influential in gospel as Franklin's became in rock and soul. Most important, she recorded the album live, at a church in Los Angeles, and in doing so revisited the ...


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Reflections on Aretha Franklin with Melinda Doolittle

Friday, November 4: 1 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Melinda Doolittle

Melinda Doolittle has performed as a backup singer for musical legends such as Michael McDonald, Aretha Franklin and Aaron Neville, and finishd third on the sixth season of American Idol. Doolittle has also performed at the White House, the Musicians Hall of Fame, the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall, and she has shared the stage with Peter Cetera, Cyndi Lauper, the Boston Pops Orchestra and more.

Doolittle's debut album, Coming Back to You (2009), produced by Grammy-nominated Mike Mangini, garnered positive reviews from critics, including  The New York Times, which noted that the album "succeeds mightily." Doolittle recently penned an autobiography, Beyond Me (2010) and is currently in the studio writing and recording songs for the release of her next album. This week, the Rock Hall caught up with Doolite, who will perform at the Aretha Franklin tribute concert at PlayhouseSquare's State Theatre on November 5.

Rock Hall: What is your first memory of hearing Aretha Franklin's music? 

Melinda Doolittle: I remember being a young girl and my Daddy playing "Respect" for me. I loved that there was a song that made it okay to be sassy. That was the only time I was allowed to wag ...


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Reflections on Aretha Franklin with Kris Bowers

Friday, November 4: 1 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Kris Bowers

Pianist Kris Bowers has shared the stage and/or recorded with jazz artists such as Terell Stafford, Vincent Herring, Louis Hayes, Casey Benjamin and Kenneth Whalum II. He has continued performing in a number of other genres, working with Murs, Q-Tip, Josè James, Jay-Z and Kanye West. Bowers can be heard on Kanye West and Jay-Z’s latest album, Watch the Throne. He has also performed for notable individuals including Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and President Barack Obama. Bowers was the winner of the 2011 Thelonious Monk Institute International Piano Competition, where he caught the attention of judges Jason Moran, Herbie Hancock, Danilo Perez, Renee Rosnes and Ellis Marsalis. He is pursuing his Masters in Jazz Performance with a focus on film composition at Juilliard. Bowers is currently forming his own band and will be releasing his debut album on Concord Records next year. This week, the Rock Hall caught up withBowers, who will perform at the Aretha Franklin tribute concert at PlayhouseSquare's State Theater on November 5.

Rock Hall: What is your first memory of hearing Aretha Franklin's music? 

Kris Bowers: Growing up, Aretha was one of the handful of artists my parents always ...


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For The People

Sunday, November 6: 3:30 p.m.
Posted by Greg Harris
Sharing the spotlight: Bruce Springsteen performs with Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers

Recently, a few members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum board drove to Pittsburgh with me for what is now near the top of my list of rock and roll experiences. Local legends Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers hosted a special benefit show for the Greater Pittsburg Community Food Bank with special guest Bruce Springsteen. The concert was held in the 2,000-seat Soldiers and Sailors Hall near the Pitt campus. The venue is more than 100 years old and houses a museum with remarkable collection of artifacts from the Civil War to the present. The hall is stunning, with a balcony on three sides, a very low stage and the entire text of the Gettysburg Address – with 12-inch letters – etched in a formidable block of stone above the stage.

Springsteen took the stage first, noting that he was going to “warm up for Joe.” He led off solo acoustic with  an early classic from Greetings, "I Came for You,”which sent a jolt of excitement coursing through the mixed-age crowd. He stayed solo for a few more numbers, including “Land of Hope and Dreams” and an incredibly tender version of “I’ll Work for Your ...


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Hall of Fame Series with Spooner Oldham

Friday, November 11: 2:30 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Spooner Oldham

On November 2, 2011, Hall of Fame inductee Spooner Oldham spoke with and performed for a sold-out audience in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum's Foster Theater. Oldham is a linchpin of Southern Soul and the Alabama sound, a fixture of famed Muscle Shoals and FAME studios, where his keyboard playing enlivened some of the biggest rock and roll songs of the past 50 years, including Aretha Franklin's "I Never Loved a Man," Wilson Pickett's "Mustang Sally" and Percy Sledge's "When a Man Loves a Woman." Together with singer-songwriter Dan Penn, Spooner contributed a number of classics to the canon of rock, co-writing "Cry Like a Baby" by the Box Tops, "It Tears Me Up" by Percy Sledge and "I'm Your Puppet" by James and Bobby Purify. 

Born Dewey Lyndon "Spooner" Oldham in Center Star, Alabama, Oldham is one of rock's most in-demand players, appearing on records and tours with luminaries such as Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin and Neil Young, in addition to newer act Drive-By Truckers. 

During his Hall of Fame series interview with Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum director of education Jason Hanley, Oldham talked about ...


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