Sunday, July 10, 2011

Front Man Fever

Warning: long read

In the previous entry (“Missing Members”), I made a direct point to avoid discussing those acts where the lead singer was inducted, but the rest of the group was not. This time, however, we’re going to focus on those such acts.  It was quite a common practice on the part of the Hall Of Fame in the early days.  By the time it came for Tom Petty and Elvis Costello to be inducted, however, the practice seemed to have dissipated, resurfacing now and again.  So, with that, it’s time to make a case study out of the Front Man Fever, looking at each case, and determining the level of severity of the fever.  Disclaimer: it’s basically an issue of label credit in most cases.  Understandably, the lineups on some of these backing groups may have vacillated a bit, and some groups may have been just session musicians credited as backing groups, but the principle is more the thing in this case.

Front Man: Elvis Presley
Left Behind: the Jordanaires
Temperature: 98.7.  Elvis has always been known as the King Of Rock And Roll, and while the Jordanaires were credited on an incredible number of his significant earlier recordings, it’s just not thought too much of that Presley got in alone.  And rightly so, given how much the attention was on Elvis versus the rest of the group.  It is, however, well past time to induct the Jordanaires as Side-Men.  We’ve got the main back-up band in, let’s put the harmony makers in as well.  Side-note, the Jordanaires were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall Of Fame in 2004, seemingly without Elvis Presley.  Tit for tat, I guess.

Front Man: James Brown
Left Behind: the Famous Flames
Temperature: 98.7.  Like the Jordanaires, the Famous Flames were credited on the vast majority of James Brown’s significant records; however, like Presley, the spotlight has always been on the main man himself, even going as far as to require the musicians to keep their eyes on him while playing, to keep the focus on him.  And like the Jordanaires, it’s high time to induct the Famous Flames’ members as Side-Men.

Front Man: Buddy Holly
Left Behind: the Crickets
Temperature: 98.9.  A bona fide outfit for the most part; however, as the story tends to go, the only reason we ever heard of the Crickets is because Buddy Holly was trying to skirt his contract with Coral and get his stuff released on Brunswick.  The Crickets never contributed a single thing to “That’ll Be The Day” and may have even only been assembled to support the story.  Side-Man or glaring omission?  Tough call in some ways.

Front Man: Bill Haley
Left Behind: the Comets
Temperature: 99.7.  There’s been some discrepancy in the story of whether or not the Comets actually were included with Haley.  Most sources say no.  This one’s pretty significant considering Haley was never credited as a solo artist after his days of being billed as “The Silver Yodeler.”  Also, that backbeat created by the band behind him is an absolutely essential piece in the DNA of rock ‘n’ roll   And the group meant a lot to Haley, too, particularly saxophonist Rudy Pompilli. 

Front Man: Louis Jordan
Left Behind: His Tympany Five
Temperature: 99.1.  Nope, the Early Influences aren’t exempt from the scrutiny either.  Louis Jordan was no doubt the brilliant mind that commandeered the Tympany Five, but when you consider the band is what provides the rhythms that helped make rock and roll what it began as and eventually what it became, you’re left with a feeling that, yeah, it probably would have best to include them.

Front Man: Roy Orbison
Left Behind: the Teen-Kings
Temperature: 98.6.  Hardly worth mentioning at all, and only done so because of the enthusiasm of collectors in Orbison’s formative days of the ‘50s.  Nonetheless, the career he made for himself as a solo artist is so tremendous that inducting the Teen-Kings with him would have called for a second induction of Orbison as a soloist.

Front Man: Smokey Robinson
Left Behind: the Miracles
Temperature: 103.  Let’s face it, this omission borders on the obscene.  Robinson did release records for End Records in 1958, but barring that, he would have been simply ineligible for the solo induction he received in 1987.  The Miracles are a huge piece of Motown’s legacy, and are right up there with the Four Tops, the Temptations, and the Supremes.  Seriously, Hall Of Fame, this is one that gravely needs correction.

Front Man: Hank Williams
Left Behind: His Drifting Cowboys
Temperature: 98.9.  Pretty much every said about Louis Jordan And His Tympany Five applies to Hank Williams With His Drifting Cowboys. 

Front Man: Les Paul
Left Behind: Mary Ford
Temperature: 98.6.  Yeah, it’s not really “How High The Moon” that’s considered important in rock and roll lore as much as, say, “Nola” of which he is of lone credit.

Front Man: Dion
Left Behind: the Belmonts
Temperature: 98.8.  “I Wonder Why”, “That’s My Desire” and “Teenager In Love” are all pretty well-known and loved records, but no one would say that Dion was nothing without the Belmonts behind him.  It’s one of those instances where it might not be a bad idea to induct the man a second time, this time with his group, but no one would really blame you if you didn’t, either.

Front Man: Louis Armstrong
Left Behind: His Hot Five (Seven)
Temperature: 98.6.  Satchmo was already a legend by the time he formed his first band and also had such a long run of popularity after he stopped crediting His Hot Five, His Hot Seven or His New Cotton Club Orchestra, that it’s pretty insignificant in this discussion.

Front Man: Hank Ballard
Left Behind: the Midnighters
Temperature: 101.  Major omission here.  For starters, Ballard only had two hit R&B singles without the Midnighters, and those were well after his heyday.  Secondly, they were simply known as “The Midnighters” in their formative days at the very dawn of rock and roll (well, after they changed their name from “The Royals”, that is).  Ballard may have been the main man and even the principal songwriter in the group, but the Midnighters as a rock and roll group are a seminal piece of rock and roll history.  Dick move, Hall Of Fame, dick move.

Front Man: Charlie Christian
Left Behind: the Benny Goodman Orchestra
Temperature: 97.5.  In a unique situation, we find that it’s a matter of cherry-picking one member out of an orchestra, who wasn’t even the leader, didn’t even receive label credit, and inducting that one.  Charlie Christian is a revered figure in the world of jazz guitar, but Goodman was also the man who was swing before swing became popular, and his records overall are pretty important in the continuation of jazz’s popularity, which helped to usher in the era of rock and roll.  The Hall hasn’t really recognized big band yet and most likely won’t, but if they were ever to start, Goodman and company is a prime selection.

Front Man: LaVern Baker
Left Behind: the Gliders
Temperature: 98.8.  The Gliders were on most of her early, major records like “Tweedlee Dee”, “Jim Dandy”, and “Play It Fair”.  However, given how there are many so-called music experts who aren’t that well versed in LaVern Baker, it’s a marvel alone that Baker got in, without the Gliders.

Front Man: Elmore James
Left Behind: the Broomdusters
Temperature: 98.6.  One semi-important record where they’re credited, and that was after the rock era had begun.  Since Elmore’s an Early Influence, that record doesn’t really come into play.

Front Man: Professor Longhair
Left Behind: His Blues Jumpers
Temperature: 98.7.  They’re on his lone R&B hit, “Bald Head”.  With other records like “Tipitina” in the mix, the importance of the Blues Jumpers is questionable at best.

Front Man: Ruth Brown
Left Behind: Her Rhythmakers
Temperature: 98.6.  They were on a handful of her records, and only one of them considered major.  Not a glaring omission really.

Front Man: John Lennon
Left Behind: The Plastic Ono Band
Temperature: 98.7.  While they were the credited band on a lot of the big ones for John (including the numerous name variations) their collective work is often simply referred to as “solo John”, and at times seemed more like a side project for the members’ careers, or like a revolving door for whoever happened to be there that day.

Front Man: Bob Marley
Left Behind: the Wailers
Temperature: 99.5.  “Roots, Rock, Reggae”, “Exodus”, “Buffalo Soldier,” etc.  The Wailers were pretty integral to Marley’s sound.  Plus, Peter Tosh would have had a shot at getting into the Clyde McPhatter club.

Front Man: Rod Stewart
Left Behind: Faces
Temperature: 98.8.  As a solo artist, Rod had a long a prosperous career that embraced many different styles and degrees of style, and for that alone, he’s quite deserving in his own right.  However, when the subject is brought up pertaining to his “serious rock cred”, however that becomes defined varying from conversation to conversation, it often leans more heavily on his stuff with Faces or Faces-era.  And when the Small Faces are brought into the conversation, it becomes more complicated.  So in some ways, solo Stewart is the wisest choice, but many still declare “Stay With Me” as the zenith of Rod rocking out.

Front Man: Janis Joplin
Left Behind: Big Brother And The Holding Company
Temperature: 98.8.  It’s a mixed bag, really.  Does Janis deserve the honors as a solo artist, or do we just paint her broadly to include the group’s records under the name “Janis Joplin” to sum up the woman’s overall deservingness of the honor?  It seems like the latter is what has happened; but with “Piece Of My Heart”, “Down On Me”, “Turtle Blues”, and other classics belonging to the group, it feels like maybe there’s room to induct the group still, even all these years after Janis’ solo recognition.

Front Man: Neil Young
Left Behind: Crazy Horse
Temperature: 98.8.  They’re credited on his major records sporadically. So the case for including them with Neil Young is really about as solid as the case for keeping them off.

Front Man: Frank Zappa
Left Behind: The Mothers Of Invention
Temperature: 98.8.  As with Neil Young, credited sporadically on the major records.  With Zappa, the Mothers were the body that perfunctorily carried out the commands of that weird, weird brain.

Front Man: Pete Seeger
Left Behind: the Weavers
Temperature: 102.  Pete Seeger as a soloist really isn’t an Early Influence.  His first two records as a solo artist were in 1954, which is arguably at the dawn of the Rock Era.  Plus of his seminal songs written, most were either recorded with the Weavers, or came after rock ‘n’ roll was big.  As a group, they helped set the template for folk groups as well.  Hey, all the members of the Weavers suffered under the stigma that came with McCarthyism, not just Pete.

Front Man: Bill Monroe
Left Behind: His Blue Grass Boys
Temperature: 99.0.  Monroe himself was an able fiddle player and the fiddle-playing was a strong driving force of the band, but the Blue Grass Boys were with him on “Blue Moon Of Kentucky”, “True Life Blues”, “Footprints In The Snow”, and the other major early records that not only founded bluegrass music, but helped revolutionize country music and also helped paved the way for rock ‘n’ roll.

Front Man: Jelly Roll Morton
Left Behind: His Red Hot Peppers
Temperature: 99.0.  He was the leader, composer and pianist, but listening to his records, you’d think they should have at least included clarinetist Johnny Dodds or trombonist Kid Ory, both of whom feature prominently.

Front Man: Gene Vincent
Left Behind: His Blue Caps
Temperature: 99.0.  Basically, they were always credited on his records, and while his guitars and vocals are always at the forefront, it wouldn’t have been the same without the Blue Caps behind him.

Front Man: Charles Brown
Left Behind: eponymous Trio
Temperature: 98.8.  They’re there on some of the big records, including “Trouble Blues”, and not there on other big records like “Black Night”, in which there was still a credit of “Charles Brown And His Band”.  So, you could go either way on this one.

Front Man: Paul McCartney
Left Behind: Wings
Temperature: 99.0.  It’s somewhat damaging that the records with Wings are often included in the reference to “solo Paul”, but it was the ‘70s with Wings that really establish the case for Paul’s post-Beatles induction in the first place.  Successful though Pipes Of Peace and Flowers In The Dirt were, they don’t quite stack up to At The Speed Of Sound, Venus And Mars, or Band On The Run.

Front Man: Bruce Springsteen
Left Behind: The E Street Band
Temperature: 98.8.  You hate to see such a well-oiled machine not get recognized in its entirety, but the fact is, the E Street Band just was not credited on the vast majority of the records.  At least Bruce called them up on stage to bask in the applause with him upon his induction.

Front Man: Nat “King” Cole
Left Behind: eponymous Trio
Temperature: 98.9.  Again, you could go either way.  They were together on many important records, but it was Nat solo on important later ones.  However, given that they were well-known as an outfit even before they started cranking out hit records, the fever burns a hair hotter here.

Front Man: Billie Holiday
Left Behind: Teddy Wilson And His Orchestra, Her Orchestra
Temperature: 98.4.  Teddy Wilson was the artist of credit on most of her major records, where she was often billed as “featuring the voice of”.  And her own orchestra was backing her on the majority of her major records after that.  So, it kind of balances out here, bringing the temperature almost all the way back up to normal.

Front Man: James Taylor
Left Behind: the Flying Machine
Temperature: 98.6.  Pretty inconsequential to the overall body of sweet baby James’ work.

Front Man: Prince
Left Behind: the Revolution, the New Power Generation
Temperature: 98.8.  With two separate significant backing bands, as well as a number of big records with no backing band on the label, it makes sense to only recognize Prince; however, the Revolution were on the most major songs of the career.

Front Man: Bob Seger
Left Behind: the Silver Bullet Band
Temperature: 98.8.  Again, it really depends on how inclusive you feel like being.  There were as many major records where the Silver Bullet Band was credited as there were ones where they weren’t.  Plus he also had the Last Heard and the System, so in the end, take your pick.

Front Man: Miles Davis
Left Behind: eponymous Quintet (or however many were in there at any given time)
Temperature: 98.7.  Not the worst omission, but I’m sure Herbie Hancock would have been flattered with the honor to have been included.

Front Man: Patti Smith
Left Behind: eponymous Group
Temperature: 98.9.  I think Patti herself would have preferred the group getting recognized, given how much gratitude she gave to her band members, having them play with her, and even giving the guitarist a verse on a song during her performance (the song being the one her mother liked to vacuum to, according to Smith).

Front Man: Jeff Beck
Left Behind: eponymous Group
Temperature: 98.9.  Pretty much the same thing as with Patti Smith, and hey, we could have made Rod Stewart another induction in that moment.

Front Man: Bobby Womack
Left Behind: Womack Brothers
Temperature: 98.6.  Really, they’re only mentioned so you wouldn’t think I forgot about them.  Yeah, solo Bobby’s career was so much huger.  And no, there’ll be no mention of Jack Parker with Neil Diamond…. Let’s not get too carried away here.

Front Man: Darlene Love
Left Behind: the Blossoms, Bob B. Soxx And The Blue Jeans, the Crystals(?)
Temperature: 98.8.  A tricky situation here.  There’s a prevalent argument about how without the above three “Left Behind” acts, Love isn’t deserving of the honor, and some insist that even with them included, she still isn’t worthy.  As a soloist, she had as many Hot 100 hits as the Blossoms and Bob B. Soxx And The Blue Jeans put together, and the timelessness of her performance on “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” really puts the cap on the case for her, but given a combination of “revenge upon Phil Spector” and the matter of how much the accomplishments in those other three efforts were used in promoting her case for induction (and the fact they sang songs from those efforts during her induction set list), it almost feels strange to not give the rest of them some proper recognition.  There’s still hope for the Crystals to be inducted as Performers (though don’t look for Love to be included as an inducted member if that happens), and the Blossoms may yet get in as Side-Men, if they ever decide to induct back-up singers in that category, but the late Bob B. Soxx, along with the Blue Jeans will never be on the inside of the Hall.

And so you have it.  A real Top 40, as it were.  It’s a Front Man Fever, and no amount of cowbell will cure it, since the cowbell player is most likely not the front man.


  1. Well, there's always Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two, who played a big part in giving Cash his signature sound.

  2. Good catch, Tom. Definitely at least a temperature of 98.9

    The big difference between The Famous Flames and The Jordanaires is that James Brown actually began his career as a member of The Flames...Elvis was never a member of The Jordanaires, they were always sidemen. According to group founder Bobby Byrd,interviewed on a PBS special, the group began simply as "The Famous Flames"...Brown's name wasn't put out until later.In fact, had it not been for Bobby Byrd and The Flames , the world may never have even heard of James Brown, because Bobby and his family actually sponsored Brown's release from prison and secured employment for him. Byrd said " I didn't want him in competition....I wanted him with me . That's why I worked so hard to get him over to my group". Yes,45 R&B chart hits say The Famous Flames deserve to be in.


    This was a name that the group only used to record gospel songs. As an R&B group, they recorded as THE VALENTINOS, and recorded numerous national and regional hits that were later covered by other artists..such as IT'S ALL OVER NOW (the Stones), EVERYBODY WANTS TO FALL IN LOVE (Solomon Burke),I CAN UNDERSTAND IT (New Birth),I FOUND A TRUE LOVE (Wilson Pickett), LOOKING FOR A LOVE (The J. Geils Band).all of these songs were originally recorded by The VALENTINOS.Not only were their songs taken, but an Australian Rock band even tried to take their NAME... until Bobby and his brothers threatened to sue, so that group later changed their name to "LOST VALENTINOS".Plus , several of the brothers had successful solo careers as writers and recording artists, not just Bobby.I say yes to The Valentinos .

    One of the most deserving groups not currently inducted. I say, put 'em YESTERDAY.

  4. The Crickets were a huge part of "That'll be The Day", in fact, Jerry Allison (the crickets drummer) also co-wrote it after buddy and jerry went to the movies to see a john wayne movie where the line "that'll be the day" was used. The Crickets also wrote or co-wrote Peggy Sue, Oh Boy, I Fought The Law, and many many more. Also The Crickets performed with many hall of fame artists on their albums, Paul McCartney, Waylon Jennings, Eric Clapton, The Hollies, Eddie Cochran, and The Everly Brothers just to name some. Please do not overlook The Crickets! They are a MUST, to be inducted!