The Music Masters series began in 1996 when the museum paid tribute to Woody Guthrie with a 10-day celebration of his life and legacy. Other honorees include Aretha Franklin, Muddy Waters, Fats Domino and Dave Bartholomew, Janis Joplin, Jimmie Rodgers and more.
Above: Dr. John, Jerry Lee Lewis, Susan Tedeschi, Slash and Les Paul, Aretha Franklin and Terry Stewart. Below: Les Paul accepts his award in 2008.
Music Masters programs are designed not only to honor the individuals who contributed to rock and roll’s rise in the 1950s and 1960s but also to trace the lines of descent to contemporary popular music. Music Masters concerts include a diverse mix of artists and musical styles: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees Bruce Springsteen, Ruth Brown, B.B. King, Bonnie Raitt, the Allman Brothers Band, Robert Plant, Aretha Franklin, Elvis Costello, Santana Band's Michael Carabello and Gregg Rolie, Solomon Burke, Slash and Pete Seeger have all performed, as well as current and classic acts such as Ani DiFranco, Keb’Mo’, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Robert Lockwood Jr., Vernon Reid, Los Lobos, Peter Wolf, Gavin DeGraw, Lucinda Williams, Alison Krauss, Richie Sambora and Ms. Lauryn Hill of the Fugees.
These programs have also inspired a book, radio specials, a documentary film and even a live CD. In 1999, the book, Hard Travelin’: The Life and Legacy of Woody Guthrie (Wesleyan University Press), was published and over 250 stations nationwide picked up the multi-part radio special on Guthrie. The 1998 program on Robert Johnson generated a documentary film, Hellhounds on My Trail: The Afterlife of Robert Johnson, which was also released for commercial sale in 1999.
Through this series, the Museum further achieves its goal of increasing public knowledge and appreciation for rock and roll music and its history.