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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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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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Blind Boys of Alabama Live!

Tuesday, November 1: 10 a.m.
Posted by Terry Stewart
The Blind Boys of Alabama

It seems as if the Blind Boys of Alabama have always existed. Of course, given my tender age and the fact the Blind Boys began performing in 1939 when they met at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind, my observation is right on the money.

Growing up, I was fascinated by the Blind Boys of Alabama, especially given our origins in the same state, my hometown being Mobile. Being the member of an all-white Methodist church that never sang more than two songs on any Sunday and never got more rousing than "Onward, Christian Soldiers," I was taken back when I first heard the stirring screams, hoops, hollers and calls coming from this amazing singing group. It was unlike anything I had ever heard before. The Blind Boys' music was mesmerizing then, and it still is today. Songs such as 1948's "I Can See Everybody's Mother But Mine" continue to resonate among gospel, R&B and rock and roll artists. 

More than 70 years after they first formed, the Blind Boys of Alabama are still at it, having recently released Take The High Road, which pulls together a talented group of players that once again highlights the ...


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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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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: Les Paul

Wednesday, October 26: 2 p.m.
Posted by Jim Henke
Slash and Les Paul at 2008 American Music Masters® event

American Music Masters Moments: Les Paul is the first installment in a series that shares stories from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's American Music Masters® events through the years. 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. 

From their inception in 1996, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum’s American Music Masters programs have been sensational, but the one that I have the fondest memories of is the 2008 tribute to Les Paul. One of the great highlights of my job is the fact that I was lucky enough to get to know Les. In 2004, I worked with Les to put together and exhibit The New Sound: Les Paul and the Electric Guitar. When the exhibit opened, Les and his trio came to Cleveland and performed on the main stage in the museum’s lobby. That exhibit is still up on the second floor of ...


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Now this is the way to start a new year!

Thursday, January 6: 3:24 p.m.
Fats Domino with his 2010 American Music Masters Award.

My favorite Christmas present arrived by email: a photo of a smiling Antoine “Fats” Domino in his home in Louisiana, holding his 2010 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame American Music Masters Award. Domino’s daughter sent it to us in December. We wish Fats could have made it to Cleveland in November, but we all stayed in touch over the week with photos and streaming video and text messages, so it felt like Fats and his family were close by. This year’s program honoring Fats and Dave Bartholomew was a great success—it brought together all the Museum’s resources: exhibits, classes for students and adults, distance learning classes to New Orleans, interviews, a conference, and a course the great tribute concert—topped off with the Rebirth Brass Band playing in the lobby of the Palace Theater. We just couldn’t say good night too soon! You can see photos from the week and some videos from the conference here.

The New Orleans music magazine Off Beat will be honoring Dave Bartholomew with a Lifetime Achievement Award later this month, and they just published a great story on Dave and American Music Masters, written by Domino’s biographer ...


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Teachers are inspired to make change happen in the classroom during American Music Masters week

Thursday, November 18: 11:37 a.m.
Roots of Music: After-School Music Education in Post-Katrina New Orleans class at the Rock Hall

As I’ve mentioned before, this year’s 15th annual American Music Masters series honoring Fats Domino and Dave Bartholomew has been a homecoming of sorts for me – taking me back to my former hometown of New Orleans.  Last week’s Teachers Rock workshop, featuring Allison Reinhardt and Lawrence Rawlins of the acclaimed Roots of Music program, paid tribute to the musical legacy of both our AMM honorees as well as to the musical heritage of the city of New Orleans, by drawing attention to a program that works tirelessly to keep these musical traditions alive, with students who, in a very real way, are fighting themselves to survive.

As a fourth and fifth grade special education teacher for what is now known as the Recovery School District in New Orleans, I witnessed the struggles of the city’s schoolchildren first-hand.  Years of educational neglect coupled with the crippling devastation of Hurricane Katrina left its mark in every imaginable way.  The children of New Orleans deserve better.

Unfortunately, as we know all too well, when schools are struggling – financially, academically, or in this case, both – music education is one of the first things to go.  In a city like New ...


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