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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 ...


continue Categories: Hall of Fame, Inductee, Exhibit, Today in Rock

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 ...


continue Categories: Hall of Fame, Inductee, Today in Rock

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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Today In Rock: Detroit Declares "Aretha Franklin Day"

Thursday, February 16: 2 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Aretha Franklin has her day in Detroit

By February 1968, Aretha Franklin had established herself as among the world's premier recording artists, her genre-spanning recordings achieving commercial and critical acclaim, and appealing to mixed-race audiences around the world. The previous year had seen the release of I Never Loved A Man the Way I Love You, her triumphant Atlantic Records debut produced by Jerry Wexler and recorded with an ace backing band at Rick Hall's Fame Studio in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. The landmark soul recording included Franklin's righteous re-working of Otis Redding's "Respect," which rose to Number One on the Billboard Hot 100, and the inspired candor and groove of the album's title track. That same year, Wexler and engineer Tom Dowd worked with Franklin on her sophomore effort for Atlantic, Aretha Arrives, which included the hit single "Baby I Love You," peaking at Number Four on the Billboard Hot 100. Less than a year later, in January 1968, Lady Soul arrived, featuring "Chain of Fools" and "A Natural Woman (You Make Me Feel Like)," the latter written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King. Both singles charted in the Billboard Hot 100 Top 10. It was in 1968 that legendary deejay ...


continue Categories: American Music Masters, Hall of Fame, Inductee, Today in Rock

A Salute to Etta James

Friday, January 20: 12:05 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Etta James

Etta James was a pioneer. Through a career that spanned more than six decades, James' raw, unharnessed voice crossed genres, with Fifties hits such as "The Wallflower" and "Good Rockin' Daddy" cementing her role in the genesis of rock and roll alongside Chuck Berry, Ray Charles and Little Richard, and her soulful pop and blues explorations of the Sixties ranking with the works of Dinah Washington and Billie Holiday. She continued to make her mark through 2011, with a string of award-winning, critically acclaimed releases that showcased her unique style.

James was born Jamesette Hawkins in Los Angeles in 1938. Although brought up in the church singing in the gospel choir, she was drawn to rhythm and blues, and rock and roll, and by her mid-teens had formed a vocal trio named the Creolettes that worked up an answer song to Hank Ballard’s “Work With Me Annie” entitled “Roll With Me Henry.” The trio caught the attention of bandleader Johnny Otis, who arranged for the group to record “Roll With Me Henry” (retitled as “The Wallflower”) for Modern Records. Released with the group renamed the Peaches, "The Wallflower" topped the R&B chart for four weeks in 1955 ...


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10 Essential Elvis Presley Songs

Saturday, January 7: 12 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Elvis Presley

See the NEW Elvis Presley exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame! 

Elvis Presley is the undisputed King of Rock and Roll. He rose from humble circumstances to launch the rock and roll revolution with his commanding voice and charismatic stage presence. In the words of the historical marker that stands outside the house where he was born: “Presley’s career as a singer and entertainer redefined popular music.”

As far as his stature as a cultural icon, which continues to grow even in death, writer Lester Bangs said it best: “I can guarantee you one thing - we will never again agree on anything as we agreed on Elvis.”

In celebration of Presley's January 8 birthday and his contributions to rock and roll, we chose 10 essential Elvis Presley songs. Presley built arguably the most impressive catalog of recordings in rock history, so it was understandably difficult narrowing the list down to 10 essential tracks. Let us know what songs would be on your list.

10 Essential Elvis Presley Songs

1. "That’s All Right"

Released in the summer of 1954, "That's All Right" was Presley's first commercial single and a fairly faithful version of ...


continue Categories: Hall of Fame, Inductee, 10 Essential Songs

Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll: "I Heard It Through The Grapevine"

Wednesday, December 28: 12:30 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Marvin Gaye's "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" is one of the Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll

On December 14, 1968, Marvin Gaye's "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" reached Number One on the Billboard charts and stayed there for seven consecutive weeks, carrying it into the new year. "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" is Gaye's essay on salvaging not just a love affair but also the human spirit. With its fretful, self-absorbed vocal, the song distills 400 years of anguish and talking-drum gossip into three minutes and 15 seconds of soul-searching. Producer Norman Whitfield's lovingly detailed music begins with an obsessively reiterated electric piano figure. A simple drum backbeat is followed by rattlesnake tambourine. Then comes chopping guitar and soaring strings. This version of "Grapevine" is memorable even before Gaye opens his mouth. (Gladys Knight and the Pips had an earlier success with the song, Creedence Clearwater Revival a later one.) Whitfield creates a tumult of voices horns, female choruses, echo, bass-drum breakdowns, string arpeggios that serves as a gossiping community, the singer isolated but engulfed within. Gaye protests, but he knows he's trapped.

Listen to and learn the stories behind the Songs That Shaped Rock and ...


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