Tomorrow evening seven new inductees to the Memphis Music Hall of Fame will be announced as the Hall unveils its fourth class.
I’ve been a proponent of the Memphis Music Hall of Fame and really like its new physical space above Lansky’s at Beale and Second. But if I had one minor criticism of the project, it’s that they’ve inducted too many people too soon. The inaugural class of 25, to my mind, should have been more like a dozen, with classes shrinking down to around five in short order. That trajectory would have ensured worthy inductees much further down the road.
I don’t know who the new class of inductees is yet, which allows me to participate, vicariously, in the parlor game. And doing so underscores the temptation for bigger classes. I had a tough time getting my own picks down to seven.
Before getting to which seven candidates would have gotten my vote this year, let’s establish who’s already in:
2012 (25): Jim Stewart & Estelle Axton, Bobby Bland, Booker T & the MGs, Lucie Campbell, George Coleman, Jim Dickinson, Al Green, W.C. Handy, Isaac Hayes, Howlin Wolf, B.B. King, Jerry Lee Lewis, Jimmie Lunceford, W.T. McDaniel, Memphis Minnie, Willie Mitchell, Dewey Phillips, Sam Phillips, Elvis Presley, Otis Redding, Staple Singers, Rufus Thomas, Three 6 Mafia, Nat D. Williams, ZZ Top.
2013 (13): The Bar-Kays, The Blackwood Brothers, Rev. Herbert Brewster, Johnny Cash, Roland Janes, Albert King, Memphis Jug Band, Phineas Newborn Jr., Knox Phillips, David Porter, Sid Selvidge, Kay Starr, Carla Thomas.
2014: (9): Lil Hardin Armstrong, Al Bell, Big Star, John Fry, Furry Lewis, Chips Moman, Ann Peebles, Carl Perkins, Jesse Winchester.
Who will make is this year? We’ll find out tomorrow, but here are my picks:
William Bell: Next in line from the Stax family. His “You Don’t Miss Your Water” was one of the label’s first big hits and still one of its most enduring songs. His The Soul of a Bell was one of Stax’s better studio albums. Also co-wrote the Albert King classic “Born Under a Bad Sign.” I’d give Bell the nod this year over other soul-era contenders and future Hall inductees such as James Carr, Eddie Floyd, O.V. Wright, Syl Johnson, Otis Clay and others.
Gus Cannon: One of the leading lights of the city’s jug band era, as leader of Cannon’s Jug Stompers, and someone who had a second life in the Sixties during the folk revival. Memphis blues is currently represented by Cannon contemporaries the Memphis Jug Band and Memphis Minnie and the post-war Kings, Albert and B.B. Another blues inductee this year is a pretty safe bet. Memphis Slim and Little Milton should also be strong contenders.
O’Landa Draper: The Grammy-winning gospel star passed too soon, but was a major figure out of Memphis in the 1990s. The Hall tends to strive for diversity of genre and era. A Draper nod would check both boxes. Another contemporary act from a lesser-represented genre that could be in this slot instead are Memphis rap pioneers Eightball & MJG.
Hi Rhythm: The third point of the triangle, with Willie Mitchell and Al Green, in that classic Hi sound. Songwriter and guitarist Teenie Hodges could also be an individual inductee, but putting the entire Hi Rhythm in together would probably make more sense.
Scotty Moore: The only current non-inductee who has an item in the Hall exhibit. Is that a hint? I’d bet so. Elvis Presley’s key sonic co-conspirator is the most likely name to be called tomorrow and deservedly so.
Dan Penn: My closest cuts were the Box Tops and James Carr. Penn produced the Box Tops' smash “The Letter” and co-wrote their hit “Cry Like a Baby.” He also co-wrote (with Hall member Chips Moman) Carr’s “The Dark End of the Street.” Carr’s performance is magnificent, but it’s the song itself that matters most. It’s a towering composition. So I’d take Penn now and circle back to the Box Tops and Carr next year.
Ike Turner: His personal failings have now overshadowed his rather subterranean but key role in the rock-and-roll revolution. It was Turner’s band whose “Rocket 88” may have really been the first rock-and-roll recording, and Turner was a key talent scout and session producer for Sam Phillips in his pre-Elvis blues period, with his fingerprints on the rise of Howlin’ Wolf.
How many of these will match the actual picks? We’ll find out tomorrow. Who would you put in?
On the Site: Hat’s off to colleague Kyle Veazey and the entire InforMemphis team for an excellent mayoral debate last night. And a special shout-out to Mayor A C Wharton for increasing my vocabulary when he reminded his councilman competitors that “Necessitous men are not free men.”
I immediately searched “necessitous” in my phone to see if it was a real word, and was delighted to find that it was. Further, the phrase seems to come from a Franklin Roosevelt address to Congress in 1944, itself, per Wikipedia, derived from an English property law case of the 1700s.
While I tend to agree with colleague David Waters that the debate was not as inspiring or ennobling as it might have been, at least it was educational.
As for the mayor, he seemed pretty weary of his challengers. The put-upon incumbent performance had more than a whiff of George Bush circa 1992. For Wharton’s sake -- I remain an undecided voter -- hopefully it will come with a different outcome.
Michael Donahue reports on a new pop-up beer garden set for Downtown this fall, from the people who brought you the Tennessee Brewery: The Revival.
Most People Are DJs: In honor of last night’s InforMemphis debate, here’s my favorite song about electoral politics, from Brinkley, Arkansas’s finest, Louis Jordan: