Sunday, September 02, 2018

Rock Hall Veterans Category (Updated 2020)

Since 2010 there have been four, yes only four, Early Influence Rock Hall inductees. And three of those, Wanda Jackson, Freddie King and Sister Rosetta Tharpe were initially on the main performer ballot. The other EI act were the "5" Royales in 2015 (who were twice on the performer ballot way back in 2002/2004).  For the 2020 class, the Nominating Committee put 16 names on the ballot.  None had released a record before 1964.  Artists nominated in other years who recorded before 1964 ? In 2019: 1, 2018: 4.  2017: 3. 2016: 1.  2015: 2.  2014: 3.  In those three years only 5 acts (Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Joan Baez, Nina Simone, Moody Blues & Sister Rosetta Tharpe) were inducted.

We know that the NomCom wants to embrace Populist acts to please music fans, HBO and the Museum itself.

But moving away from inducting the original innovators of Rock and Roll is downright criminal and frustrating for long time Hall followers.

Before 2000, the Hall was averaging two EI acts a year.  True, they had to play catch up with history, and had many legendary names to pick from.

But not everybody got included in the pre-2000 bounty.  And as the 25 year timeline continues to move forward, I fear most of the names listed below will be forgotten.

Because of this, I believe that all artists whose first record came out before 1964 should be included in a new category.  Scrap the Early Influence name and put those artists before a Veterans Committee. Similar to what Sports Hall of Fame's do with acts that were overlooked by their main voting bloc. Call it what you want, but I think good old Veterans Committee sounds about right.

My gut feeling is voters don't know much about many of the artists from the early Rock era.  When I see names like Chuck Willis, Chantels and Joe Tex on a ballot with KISS, Alice Cooper and Journey, I have an idea already who the votes will go to.  As good old Jann Wenner said in a Billboard interview in 2015 in regards to the ballot: "I loved a certain period of music, but I'm not deeply committed to knowing everything that's going on."  In other words, what Wenner is saying is, "who's got time to research Joe Tex"?

Luckily, there are still a few of us around who do care about whether Link Wray or the Clovers ever get inducted.

So, how do we set up a Veterans Committee for the Rock Hall?  I took a look at how Sports Halls honor athletes that were either passed up by the larger voting pool or slipped through the cracks by a nominators.  One of the first things I had to figure out is what might be considered the first record that started the Rock and Roll boom? I decided that "Rock Around The Clock" from 1955 was a good starting point, and dividing line among the genres.  So, I'm going with 3 eras:   1) pre-1954  2) 55-59 and 3) 60-64.  I used the Beatles American invasion from 1964 as a good year for a cutoff date, but '65 and other dates could be added in later years.

Who gets to be on a Veterans Committee?  Again, using various Sports Hall's as an example, I came up with this rough draft:  The list of up to 15 names from 3 different eras is the responsibility of at least 10 people.  It is then up to a voting group, around 20, who pick the new inductees.  An artist has to get 75% of the vote for induction (that % is up for debate, too).   As far as who these new electors and nominating people are,  I'm looking for people who aren't already on the NomCom.  People that know their musical history across various genres.  At first, this will be a yearly vote on all three genres.  Eventually the three eras could be rotated along with a Non-Performer ballot.

In the end, the only goal I'm trying to achieve with a Veterans Committee is to induct the many great artists being left behind by the Rock Hall.

Note:  I'm open to any suggestions on changing eras, number of nominees, induction %, voters, etc.

Here are some of the names I've come up with for the first ballot.  Year listed is the date of their first record (dates listed close as I could find):

Big Jay McNeely - 1948
Big Mama Thornton - 1951
Billy Ward & The Dominoes - 1951
Blind Willie Johnson - 1927
Carter Family - 1927
Charley Patton - 1929
Chuck Willis  - 1951
Clovers - 1951
Ella Fitzgerald - 1935
Esther Phillips - 1950
Frank Sinatra - 1942
George Jones - 1954
Ivory Joe Hunter - 1945
John Coltrane - 1957
Johnny Ace - 1952
Junior Parker - 1952
Kitty Wells - 1949
Lowell Fulson - 1948
Merle Travis - 1946
Mississippi John Hurt - 1928
Percy Mayfield - 1950
Roy Brown - 1948
Wynonie Harris - 1944
Screamin' Jay Hawkins - 1953
Sonny Boy Williamson II - 1951

Brook Benton - 1955
Carole King - 1958
Chantels - 1957
Chubby Checker - 1959
Connie Francis - 1955
Dick Dale - 1959
Dolly Parton - 1959
Jerry Butler - 1959
Joe Tex - 1955
Johnny Burnette and the Rock 'n Roll Trio - 1956
Lee Dorsey - 1959
Link Wray - 1958
Neil Sedaka - 1957
Patsy Cline - 1955
Slim Harpo -1957
Willie Nelson - 1957

Aaron Neville - 1960
Ben E. King -  1960
Crystals -  1961
Dionne Warwick - 1962
Gary U.S. Bonds  - 1960
Glen Campbell - 1961
Hubert Sumlin - 1964
Lesley Gore - 1963
Lou Rawls - 1962
Marvelettes  - 1961
Mary Wells - 1960
Merle Haggard - 1963
Shangri-Las  - 1963
Spinners - 1961
Tom Jones - 1964
Zombies - 1964

Notes:  What to do about artists like Glen Campbell, Carole King and the Spinners who released early 60's records, but didn't become famous until the late 60's (Campbell) and 70's (Spinners)?  Things to think about.

Non-Performers/Sidemen (Songwriters, Producers, etc.) from the pre-1964 eras have also been overlooked.  Like I said above, this ballot could be rotated with one of the above Artist eras.

Here's a few candidates:
Burt Bacharach & Hal David
Carol Kaye - (Member of "Wrecking Crew", played on tons of sessions)
Casey Kasem
Florence Steinberg
George Goldner (Record label founder, Producer, Promoter)
Gloria Stavers (16 Magazine Editor-in-Chief.  One of first women Rock journalists)
Herb Hardesty (Sax player on many Fats Domino and other New Orleans classics)
Hubert Sumlin (Guitar player on many Howlin' Wolf tracks)
James C. Bracken, Vivian Carter & Calvin Carter (Vee-Jay Records crew)
Joe Meek (British Producer, Engineer)
Lee "Scratch" Perry - (Reggae Producer, Dub Pioneer)
Lew Chudd  (Imperial Records founder)
Owen Bradley  (Country Music Producer, "Nashville Sound" architect)
Ralph Peer (American roots pioneer)
Rick Hall (Founded FAME studio, which helped define the Muscle Shoals Sound)
Rudy Toombs (R&B songwriter)
Wolfman Jack

So here's a start at righting many wrongs.  It is time the Rock Hall did what their main goal has always been.  Honoring and preserving the innovators of Rock and Roll.
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