Born on February 19, 1940, Smokey Robinson is among the most enduring songwriters of the 1960s. He also produced great records, notably by his own group, 2012 Hall of Fame Inductees the Miracles, and by the Temptations, Mary Wells and Marvin Gaye. Finally, Robinson was a great performer, the longest-lasting aspect of his career. But performing was Robinson's least predictable talent. He couldn't really be called a soul singer. Jackie Wilson influenced every first-generation male Motown singer, but even at the Miracles' most raucous, Robinson was no belter like Wilson. His singing bore traces of doo-wop and 1950s R&B, but no gospel. He was the most controlled of the great soulsters, at his best as an unruffled ballad singer – Motown's answer to Bing Crosby, or at least Billy Eckstine. "The Tracks Of My Tears" may be Robinson's greatest record. Without disparaging his beautifully disciplined voice, its power comes from elements in the arrangement: huge drums, a lovely guitar line and sharp horns. Then there are the lyrics, with their irresistible rhymes. "My smile is my makeup I wear since my breakup with you" is tremendous not because it's profound, but because it says ...
Musician Lou Ragland was born in Cleveland in 1942. His first instrument was saxophone, his choice after rejecting his high school music teacher’s suggestion he play tuba. Inspired by everyone from Brahms to Nat “King” Cole to Ella Fitzgerald, Ragland locked onto soul at 13, when he heard Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers sing “Goody Goody.”
In the early ‘60s, Ragland sang in the storied doo-wop group the Sahibs (along with Hesitations founder Art Blakey and current Hesitation George Hendricks, who taught Ragland rudimentary guitar). He first recorded with the Bandmasters, releasing “Never Let Me Go/Party in Lester’s” on Way Out in 1965. The group waxed that 45 at Cleveland Recording on Euclid Avenue. “The Bandmasters was the music and the Sahibs were the voices, and I sang lead, ” says Ragland, who also recorded for Way Out under the name Volcanic Eruption, with George Hendricks.
“I was the first artist they produced on Way Out, but after they found out that I could engineer and play instruments, they didn’t do anymore on me,” says Ragland. “They didn’t want to lose me to the art world, they wanted me to pump out these songs.” Way Out ...
2012 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Bobby Bennett of the Famous Flames passed away on January 18, 2013, at age 74. For 15 years, the Famous Flames provided impassioned vocals and frenetic choreography alongside James Brown, helping to create among "the greatest stage shows of all time," according to former Rock Hall president and CEO Terry Stewart. Bennett – previously Brown's valet – joined the group in 1959, and along with Bobby Byrd, Johnny Terry and "Baby" Lloyd Stallworth, helped form the definitive lineup of the Famous Flames.
The Famous Flames were a vital element in Brown's success, as their electric stage presence made Brown's performances legendary. Before being dubbed the "Godfather of Soul," Brown was a Famous Flame, and it was his years with that group that made him a driving force in the world of soul music. "A lot of people didn't know that James Brown was the same as I was: a Flame," said Bennett in an April 2012 interview with the Rock Hall.
The group is audible on the 1963 classic album Live at the Apollo. Bennett and the other Famous Flames can been seen in footage from The T.A.M ...
Tuesday, January 8, 2013 would have been Elvis Presley's 78th birthday. Presley was among the first ever inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, an honor befitting his standing as the undisputed King of Rock and Roll. Presely rose from humble beginnings to launch a musical revolution, helping guide the trajectory of the rock and roll genre for deacades. But is "That's All Right" where the legend of Elvis began? What's certain is that "That's All Right" was Elvis Presley's first commercially released recording. He had previously made two private recordings, whose four songs give absolutely no hint of what was to come. Neither did two additional songs Presley tried before "That's All Right" during a faithful July 5, 1954, recording session. That Presley was recording at all is a tribute to Sam Phillips. Phillips' Memphis Recording Service was where Presley had cut his private acetate records and where he would sometimes hang out, trying to find an opening in the music business. Phillips contacted Presley after receiving a song demo he thought might suit the shy teenager. It didn't, but Phillips persevered. He called for the July 5 ...
In 1974, Elvis Presley returned to his adopted hometown and the city that gave him his start: Memphis, Tennessee. More than two decades after his first recordings at Sam Phillips' Memphis Recording Service, Presley performed five sold-out shows, the fifth and last of which was recorded and released as Elvis Recorded Live on Stage in Memphis by RCA. In this video, curatorial director Howard Kramer shares the stories behind some of the artifacts in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum's Elvis Presley exhibit in Cleveland, Ohio, including the "King of Spades" jumpsuit Presley wore and the handwritten setlist he penned for that memorable performance.
To learn more, visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum on Tuesday, January 8, 2013 – what would've been Elvis Presley's 78th birthday – when curatorial director Howard Kramer will lead a special "Gallery Talk," sharing stories behind some of the rare Presley artifacts on exhibit at the Museum. Click here for more info!
Below you’ll find a list – presented in no particular order – of my favorite rock and roll holiday songs. This was not an easy list to whittle down to a Top 20, so I encourage you to share the holiday songs that resonate most with you.
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year! Come to Cleveland and visit us at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum!
After presenting at the Rock Hall Library and Archives in Cleveland, Ohio, on August 23, 2012, RJ Smith, author of The One: The Life and Music of James Brown, visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, where he discussed discoveries made while researching The One and how James Brown influenced many rock and roll musicians, including the Rolling Stones and the Who. Here, RJ Smith talks with the Rock Hall in the Museum's Cities and Sounds exhibit, in front of the "Respect – the Sound of Soul" display containing, among other artifacts, James Brown's "Sex" jumpsuit, which he wore on stage during the 1970s.
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.