Friday, November 30, 2012
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The Memphis Music Hall of Fame inducted its first class Thursday with a roster of 25 music greats spanning generations, from rock 'n' roll icon Elvis Presley to Oscar-winning rap group Three 6 Mafia.
The ceremony was a musical tribute to inductees and the rich musical history of Memphis, known as a cradle of blues, soul and rock n' roll. Blues guitarist B.B. King, Sun Records founder Sam Phillips, R&B singers Otis Redding and Isaac Hayes, and influential R&B-soul-rock group Booker T. and the MGs also were inducted.
King and Priscilla Presley, who was married to Elvis, each thanked those in attendance at the Cannon Center in videotaped statements.
Redding's sons, Dexter and Otis III, performed a medley of their father's hits, including "Try a Little Tenderness" and "Hard to Handle." Redding died in a plane crash in 1967 at age 26.
"It's a pleasure and an honor to be here, to know that my father was part of this great legacy," Otis Redding III said before the show. "It's amazing to know that his career just lives on."
Sponsored by the Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum, the hall has been in the discussion and planning stages for about six years. All the inductees have recorded, taught and performed in Memphis.
Inductees Steve Cropper, guitarist for Booker T. and the MGs, and Dusty Hill of Southern rock giants ZZ Top, said it was good to see Memphis finally honor its musicians with a hall of fame.
"When we got the note in the mail, so to speak, it was like 'Oh man, that's great,'" said Hill, the bearded bassist who, along with guitarist Billy Gibbons and drummer Frank Beard, recorded albums in Memphis in the 1970s and 1980s. "This is such an honor to be inducted, but first it was, 'What took so long for a hall of fame and museum in Memphis?'"
Some inductees have ties to Presley, who lived in Memphis. They include Sam Phillips, who recorded Elvis' first song, "That's All Right" at Sun Studio in 1954, and Dewey Phillips, the force behind the "Red, Hot and Blue" music show and the first disc jockey to play Elvis songs.
Sam Phillips — no relation to Dewey — also recorded songs by inductees King, bluesmen Bobby "Blue" Bland and Howlin' Wolf, rock n' roll pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis and R&B singer Rufus Thomas at Sun Records.
Bland, who is 82, sang "Stormy Monday Blues" at the ceremony.
Several musicians have ties to the city's other prominent production studios, including Stax Records, Hi Records and Ardent Studios.
Hayes, Redding and The Staple Singers recorded at Stax Records, helping create the "Memphis Sound." Booker T. and the MGs was the house band at Stax, and also recorded the 1962 classic "Green Onions."
Cropper also performed, leading the show's house band on "In the Midnight Hour," a Stax Records hit for Wilson Pickett.
The Staple Singers and ZZ Top recorded at Ardent Studios. Representing Hi Records was Willie Mitchell, a trumpeter and bandleader who ran the studio, and soul singer Al Green.
Memphis-based Three 6 Mafia was the first rap group to take home an Academy Award for Best Original Song for their 2005 song, "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp."
Group member DJ Paul acknowledged he was the youngest of the inductees, calling himself a "sophomore."
"I feel like I'm not the only rapper," he said. "I feel Elvis was like a rapper. He wore fancy clothes, he drove a Cadillac."
The hall of fame also honored early popular music pioneers such as blues musician and songwriter W.C. Handy — known as "The Father of the Blues" — and gospel composer Lucie Campbell.
The inductees were selected by a nominating committee consisting of national authors, historians and music industry representatives. Inductions will be held annually.