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Interview with Marshall Chess

Monday, October 22: 2:30 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Marshall Chess, son of Chess co-founder Leonard Chess, discusses the British Invasion

Brothers Leonard and Phil Chess were responsible for creating the preeminent blues label of the fifties and sixties. Polish immigrants who settled in Chicago, the brothers formed Aristocrat Records in 1947 before launching their eponymous label two years later. They assembled an unparalleled roster of blues, R&B and rock and roll artists, including Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Willie Dixon, Etta James, Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf. While Phil focused on jazz, Leonard honed in on roots music, making Chess the greatest repository of blues music by the late Fifties. It was under Leonard's tutelage that Muddy Waters’ electric blues fomented a revolution that led directly to rock and roll in the person of Chuck Berry. 

The reach of the label's music extended far across the Atlantic, where a band of impressionable twentysomethings billing themselves as the Rolling Stones sought to emulate the hard-driving R&B sounds they heard on songs like Waters' "I Can't Be Satisfied," Big Bill Broonzy's "Tell Me Baby" and Berry's "Around and Around" — all songs the group covered when Leonard's son Marshall Chess allowed the band to record at the label's 2120 South Michigan Avenue studio in ...


continue Categories: American Music Masters, Education, Exclusive Interviews, Event

Spotlight Exhibit: the Dells' Apollo Theater Battle of the Groups Trophy

Monday, July 2: 3:06 p.m.
Posted by Howard Kramer
The Dells

The Dells are one of the longest-lived rhythm & blues vocal groups. Their origins date back to 1952, and the group’s original lineup – lead tenor Johnny Funches, second tenor Verne Allison, lead baritone Marvin Junior, baritone Michael “Mickey” McGill and bass Chuck Barksdale – changed only when John E. Carter replaced Funches in 1959. Between 1956 and 1992, the Dells racked up an astonishing 46 R&B hits. Eight of those made the pop Top 40, including their signature songs, “Stay in My Corner” and “Oh, What a Nite.” They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.

In this clip, curatorial director Howard Kramer shares the story behind the Dells and their onstage battle against 1996 Hall of Fame inductees Gladys Knights and the Pips at the Apollo Theater in New York City. The Dells are featured in a special exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio. 


continue Categories: Inductee, Exhibit, Spotlight Exhibit

The Number One "Rocket 88"

Thursday, May 31: 4:50 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
"Rocket 88" by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats is often cited as the first rock and roll record

In June 1951, Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats had the Number One single on the Billboard R&B charts with "Rocket 88." More pointedly, the recording – along with Louis Jordan's "Saturday Night Fish Fry" (1949), Wild Bill Moore's "Rock and Roll" (1949), Fats Domino's debut single "The Fat Man" (1949) and Jimmy Preston's "Rock the Joint" (1949), among others – ranks among the first incarnations of the genre that would come to be known as rock and roll. In fact, many consider "Rocket 88" the first rock and roll record.

Born in Clarksdale, Mississippi, Jackie Brenston was a forceful singer and a capable baritone sax player. By the close of the 1940s, he had joined the Kings of Rhythm, which had formed around the nucleus of Ike Turner in Mississippi. Farther north, in Memphis, Tennessee, Sam Phillips had opened his Memphis Recording Studio alongside the Sun Records label at 706 Union Avenue at the start of 1950 (he would later change the name to Sun Studios). Although the operation would go on to record the works of B.B. King, Howlin' Wolf, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison and Jerry Lee Lewis, to name but ...


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Remembering Donald "Duck" Dunn

Monday, May 14: 2 p.m.
Donald "Duck" Dunn (11.24.41 – 5.13.12)

As one half of Booker T. and the MGs’ rhythm section, Donald "Duck" Dunn was house bass player at the legendary Stax label, where his artistry helped define one of the most distinctive and enduring sounds in popular music. Among the recordings for which Dunn laid down the bottom end: Otis Redding’s “Respect,” “Dock of the Bay” and “I've Been Loving You Too Long;” Wilson Pickett's “In the Midnight Hour” and Sam and Dave’s “Hold On I'm Coming” and “Soul Man.” He also played on sessions with such artists as Neil Young, Eric Clapton and Jerry Lee Lewis, to name but a few.

Born in Memphis on November 24, 1941, Dunn was given his nickname by his father as the two watched a Donald Duck cartoon on television. Although one of his grandfathers played fiddle, there was no music in Dunn’s immediate family. He recalled: "My father was a candy maker. He made peppermints and hard candies. He didn't want me to go into the music industry. He thought I would become a drug addict and die. Most parents in those days thought music was a pastime – something you did as a ...


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Sharing the Charts: Pop, R&B and Rock and Roll's Meteoric Rise

Tuesday, May 1: 11 a.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Little Richard

When the May 12, 1956 issue of Billboard magazine hit newsstands, its pages cataloged a monumental shift in the charts. The issue reported the chart positions for the week ending May 2, 1956, with the usual suspects of the era holding steady positions in the Top 10 of the pop charts: Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Little Richard, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers and the Platters, among them. More telling, however, was the fact that each of those five artists also had singles in the Top 10 of the R&B charts. The chart positions reflected greater sociological movements in the United States, to wit the burgeoning civil rights movement, and an emerging respect for African American culture and identity as being truly American, but there would be a backlash. 

Presley had signed with RCA Victor in 1956, and his first release under his new label was "Heartbreak Hotel." Producer Steve Sholes had worked to recapture the "Sun sound" for "Heartbreak," enlisting guitarist Scotty Moore, bassist Bill Black, drummer DJ Fontana, guitarist Chet Atkins, pianist Floyd Kramer and three members of the Jordanaires on backing vocals. On May 2, 1956, the song was at Number One on the Billboard pop ...


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Meshell Ndegeocello Live at the Rock Hall

Thursday, February 16: 4:30 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Meshell Ndegeocello

Since her debut album in 1993, songwriter, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Meshell Ndegeocello has been creating music on her own terms, simultaneously challenging and engaging listeners by deftly drawing from an eclectic songbook and delivering powerful reflections on race, love, sex, betrayal, power and religion. Her nine albums illustrate a creative versatility and singular aesthetic that has embraced everything from rock to hip hop, R&B to new wave, funk to punk, reggae to jazz. Her work has been met with critical accolades and fan acclaim, and her proficiency on the bass has brought her signature warm, fat, melodic groove not only to her own performances, but also to those of the Rolling Stones, Madonna, Alanis Morrisette, James Blood Ulmer, the Blind Boys of Alabama, Tony Allen, John Medeski, Billy Preston and Chaka Khan. Ndegeocello best characterizes her particular brand of playing: "Genres are for commercial purposes and music is a continuum like everything else. My style is explorative, searching, personal, and it grows and changes as I do."

Born Michelle Johnson in Berlin, Germany, Ndegeocello spent her formative years in Virginia, cultivating her musicality during the late Eighties while working the go-go circuit in Washington, D.C. In the ...


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Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll: "Let's Talk About Sex"

Wednesday, February 15: 3:30 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Salt-n-Pepa's "Let's Talk About Sex" is one of the Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll

On February 15, DJ Spinderella of Salt-n-Pepa will participate in an interview and lead a DJ demonstration performance as part of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum's Ladies First: Celebrating African-American Women Who Rock  programming throughout Black History Month. The event starts at 7 pm, and will be viewable via live stream here.

Back in 1988, John McCready wrote in England's New Musical Express: "After Salt-n-Pepa, women in rap don't need to act like men in reverse. They have created a space of their own and the future is wide open." They were prophetic words as more than 25 years after their debut single, "The Show Stopper," Salt-n-Pepa rank among the most successful female groups in hip-hop history. Sandy "Salt" Denton, Cheryl "Pepa" James and DJ Spinderella (Dee Dee Roper) created an impressive string of best-sellers, capped by 1991's "Let's Talk About Sex" (Blacks' Magic) – an upbeat pop-rap song that expressed surprisingly frank and thoughtful opinions about the dangers of HIV/AIDS, media censorship of sexual imagery and the complex emotions bound up with the physical act (Let's tell it how it is, and how it could be / How it ...


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Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll: "Jim Dandy"

Wednesday, February 8: 3 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
LaVern Baker's "Jim Dandy" is one of the Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll

Employing more aliases than a con artist, 1991 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee LaVern Baker was born Delores Williams in 1929. The niece of blues great Memphis Minnie, she took the name of Little Miss Sharecropper for her first professional engagements in 1946. The early Fifties found her cutting tracks as Bea Baker; finally, joining the Todd Rhodes Orchestra in 1952, she began calling herself LaVern Baker. It wasn't until the next year, however, when she joined Atlantic Records, that this exuberant belter hit her stride. Working with master Atlantic producers Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wexler, and backed by killer players like saxophonists Sam Taylor and King Curtis, guitarists Mickey Baker and Bucky Pizzarelli, drummer Connie Kay and pianist Hank Jones, she reeled off a string of sexy, high-spirited hits: "Tweedle Dee," "Bop-Ting-a-Ling," "I Cried A Tear" and her signature song "Jim Dandy." The latter tale of a gentleman given to helping ladies in trouble was penned by Lincoln Chase and given an energetic R&B punch by Baker in 1956. Initially released as a single, the song also appeared on Baker's second LP, LaVern Baker (1957). "Jim Dandy" was given a Southern rock re-working ...


continue Categories: Hall of Fame, Inductee, Exhibit, Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll
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