The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum


HOWARD KRAMER :: Blog

The Story Behind Inductee Pete Seeger's Donation to the Museum

Friday, February 5: 4:35 p.m.
Posted by Howard Kramer
Pete Seeger's banjo head arrived at the Rock Hall yesterday.

Curatorial Director Howard Kramer shares insight on his conversation with Seeger and why he decided to put his infamous banjo head in the Museum instead of on auction.

On Monday, my co-worker in the membership department, Linda Worden, called me to say that she had Pete Seeger on the line and he wanted to speak with me about donating something. I could hear the excitement in her voice about having a conversation with a legend like Pete. It’s a wonderful perk of working at the Rock Hall. She transferred the call to me and there was Pete, spry and warm as usual. Last fall he celebrated his 90th birthday with a sold-out all-star show in his honor at Madison Square Garden. He has been a part of our lives for so long you could easily take for granted his contributions to music and society. Pete has been a leading force in American folk music long before there was any sort of folk revival. His tireless work for social justice and environmental causes is virtually unparalleled.

Back to the phone call. Pete explains to me that he ...


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Celebrating 75 Years of Elvis

Wednesday, January 6: 8:28 p.m.
Posted by Howard Kramer
Photo of Elvis’ Jukebox currently on display at the Rock Hall courtesy of the Rock Hall/Design Photo

We’re approaching another landmark rock and roll anniversary. This Friday marks the 75th anniversary of Elvis Presley's birth. It’s one of those moments that make you wonder what would have happened had he not died so young. Several of Elvis’s contemporaries are alive and still working. What would he have done in the last three decades? Would he have finally toured outside the U.S.? Would he have gone back to making films? Would he have told his story in his own words? I mention that last one because Elvis never sat for an in-depth interview in his life.

There’s a lot of myth surrounding Elvis Presley. So much of it tends to dwell on sensationalism and the myth of myth itself. If you have any interest in finding out more I about him, I strongly urge you to read the books Last Train to Memphis and Careless Love, Peter Guralnick’s extraordinary two-volume biography of Presley. Better yet, listen again to what made Elvis the legend he is, the music. Pick up a copy of Elvis at Sun, the 2004 compilation of his seminal recordings done with Sam Phillips in Memphis between July ...


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A Look at Night #1 of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 25th Anniversary Concerts

Friday, November 6: 12 p.m.
Posted by Howard Kramer

I made a vacation out of this event. Really, I mean, I could have worked, but that meant that at some point during the concerts, I would not have been watching the performances. Not a chance. Going into this I knew that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary concerts were going to be an event for the ages.

Opening with remarks from event producer Tom Hanks, the music started with the Killer himself, Jerry Lee Lewis, a 1986 inductee, pounding out “Whole Lot of Shakin’ Going On.” He was followed by Crosby, Stills and Nash. The trio and their band were clearly psyched up for the show and hit the stage with an energetic “Woodstock.” Each of the night’s billed acts had a slate of special guests and CSN first brought out Bonnie Raitt. Possessing one of the greatest voices in rock, Raitt sang a moving “Love Has No Pride” with Crosby and Nash adding harmonies. Stills rejoined them and Raitt pulled out the bottleneck slide for a take on Gregg Allman’s “Midnight Rider.” Next up was “The Pretender” performed with its author, Jackson Browne. James Taylor was next with versions of “Mexico,” “Love the ...


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Rock Hall’s Curatorial Director Talks about Rock and Roll and “the Latin tinge”

Friday, August 28: 5:31 p.m.
Posted by Howard Kramer

Jelly Roll Morton, the self-proclaimed inventor of Jazz, spoke of “the Latin tinge” in music. It was always there, as far as he was concerned. It’s also true with rock and roll. In the Fifties in Los Angeles, Latinos there embraced early rhythm and blues and vocal group harmony. Ritchie Valens was a high school kid from the San Fernando Valley who played guitar and was crazy about Little Richard. Consider this – Valens’ professional career lasted barely six months. Here we are, more than 50 years after his untimely death, and his influence can still be felt. He was only 17 when he died. When I look at photos of Valens, I see a pudgy kid with spotty skin and a glowing smile, slinging a Stratocaster and oozing confidence. We have one of his stage outfits on display here in the Rave On case. It’s a two-piece vest and pants set with rhinestones trimming the lapel of the vest. He bought it at Nudie’s, the famous Western wear tailor in North Hollywood. Hank Williams and Elvis Presley wore clothes from Nudie. To me, that sort of encapsulates how cool Valens was. That and his enduring music, of ...


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