Saturday, February 11, 2012

And then there were six....more

Earlier this week, we were treated to the news that there are in fact going to be six more Performer inductees this year in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  First off, I wanna give big props to Tom Lane for getting the scoop on it.  And for the cajones he writes with in his two unapologetic, post de facto blog entries.  Indeed it was a big thing.  Not just because they were inductees, but also because of who they are and what their inductions represent.  It represents the Hall's commitment to doing it right, which is always getting called into question whether it's because they don't nominate the acts that the people want most to see inducted, or because they induct a Performer nominee as an Early Influence, or because of the secretive process.  With these inductions, the Hall shows the integrity to both admit their mistakes and correct them.  It also means the curing of Front Man Fever, which I pointed out in great length (but maybe not enough, as I also forgot to mention the Rae-letts and Them), and maybe we'll see more of these in the future.  It's tough to tell sometimes.  We already saw one case being cured with the induction of the (Small) Faces, but the additions of these are certainly welcome.

But onto the actual good news of who's finally getting their dues: the Blue Caps, the Comets, the Crickets, the Famous Flames, the Midnighters, and the Miracles.  In an article about these six getting inducted, the author called it "the Rock Hall doing the right thing the wrong way."  I have to admit, that was my gut reaction to it, too.  But upon further reflection, is it really the wrong way to go about it? 

First, let's consider how they're getting inducted: as Performers.  Not Sidemen or Award For Musical Excellence, but Performers.  With the possible exception of the Famous Flames (and maybe the Blue Caps), this is absolutely the right call.  These were bands and groups that should have been included with the lead man's induction.  Second, the special committee version rather than the regular ballot.  Was it the right call?  With the possible exception of the Miracles, I would have to say absolutely yes again.  Putting these acts on the ballot next year would most likely result in dismal failure.  With the leads already inducted, there would undoubtedly be voters who felt the music and possibly the act overall already represented, perhaps symbolically with the lead, and thus didn't necessitate the rest of the group being inducted.  And since they should have been inducted with the lead in the first place, it was definitely the right decision, since putting them on a future ballot would only further serve to justify the original separations in the first place.  Lastly, it's because of who the inductees are.  Take a look:

-The Blue Caps: Gene Vincent was such a powerful frontman on the records that we can symapthize with the Hall inducting only him in 1998, but the backing rhythm section and backing vocals from the Blue Caps, added to the fact that they were always credited on the records, helped make Vincent the innovative name in rockabilly and rock'n'roll that he was.

-The Comets: Do I really need to elaborate on this one?  Just in case, YES.  Haley was a pioneer in terms of blending R&B and country together to make the sound of rock'n'roll, but in order to fine-tune that marriage, you need a band behind you to help make the sound a reality.  And with songs like "Rudy's Rock", and "The Saints Rock 'N' Roll" where Haley gives accolades to his band, there's no doubt how it should've been.  If Haley had been alive when he was inducted, I'm sure he'd have dedicated his induction to his band members, particularly to his sax player and longtime friend, Rudy Pompilli.

-The Crickets: File this one under forgivable, too.  The story of Buddy Holly's success as a rock'n'roll pioneer cannot be told without backing it against the context of his struggles with his record labels, Coral and Brunswick.  While the story varies, there's at least one telling that the Crickets only really came about because Holly couldn't have released "That'll Be The Day" under his own name via the label he wanted without landing in legal hot water, and Holly needed a band together to justify it, hence the formation of the Crickets.  Whatever the real story is, however, the Crickets were there through the thick of the heyday, and more importantly, on the majority of those records that make Holly's legacy live on.  If anything, this should have been the original joint nomination.  So a big yes for them getting in this way.

-The Famous Flames: Admittedly, I'm actually kind of on the fence with this one.  James Brown was the Godfather of Soul, not the Famous Flames as the Godfathers of Soul.  The Famous Flames were the backing vocal group, not the instrument players on the records, and since many of those records credited to James Brown and the Famous Flames didn't have any background vocals on them whatsoever, it makes their merit a little less impressive in my book.  They were there at the very beginning and helped Brown's career take off on important records like "Please, Please, Please" and "Try Me", so they probably should be in.  I would have chosen them as Award For Musical Excellence recipients, but either way, they're in, so it's a good thing.

-The Midnighters: For crying out loud, they were known as just "The Midnighters" before they were known as "Hank Ballard And The Midnighters."  Their presence was always there, Ballard's solo career is really more of a footnote of the group's legacy.  Unequivocally, yes to their inclusion.

-The Miracles: A thorny spot.  Unlike the other lead men (except Brown), the solo career of Smokey Robinson is very distinct in both terms of sound and duration.  Smokey's solo career has been a great success in its own right, and so, inducting him as a soloist isn't a bad call in itself.  It's only a bad call of sorts given that he hadn't really been performing as a soloist for 25 years before he was nominated and inducted.  His induction was pretty much based on his career as a Miracle, who were one the major powerhouse acts of Motown.  Of all six of the groups here, the Miracles are the only one I would have had go through the regular nominating process to secure their own induction.  And I think they'd have been a cinch to clinch, too.  Still, they're getting in.  So yay all around.

Which now brings us to other groups still not in with their lead.  I've pointed out how I feel about these six.  So what about others?  Should they get the special committee Performer induction?  Or something else?  For brevity's sake, I'm just going to break it up into categories and list which groups I believe belong in each, without going into excessive detail.

Since Early Influences are chosen by special committee, there's no scandal if a special committe inducts them
the Tympany Five, the Drifting Cowboys, the Hot Five/Seven, the Blue Grass Boys, the Weavers, the Benny Goodman Orchestra, the Blues Jumpers, Jelly Roll Morton's Red Hot Peppers, King Cole Trio, Charles Brown Trio, Teddy Wilson Orchestra, Billie Holiday's Orchestra

Performers who should get in via special committee
The Wailers, Miles Davis' Quintet

Performers that should go through the ballot process
The Belmonts (with Dion getting in a second time), Big Brother And The Holding Company (ditto for Joplin), the Valentinos (ditto with Womack), Them (second time for Morrison) the Blossoms (ditto with Love, but with special caveat that I'll address in a future blog)

Those that should be inducted in Sideman/Award For Musical Excellence
The Jordanaires, the Gliders, Crazy Horse, the Mothers Of Invention, the E Street Band, Wings, the Revolution, the New Power Generation, the Silver Bullet Band, Patti Smith's Group, Jeff Beck's Group, the Rae-letts/Cookies, DJ Hurricane (for the work with the Beastie Boys), the Tennessee Two

Not necessary to get around to at all
The Teen-Kings, Mary Ford, the Rhythmakers, the Broomdusters, the Flying Machine, the Plastic Ono Band

Just my thoughts on who goes where.  Lastly, I just want to say congratulations to all the groups finally getting in, and thank-you to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame people for correcting these injustices.

Oh, and P.S., I suspect that these six groups will be inducted with one speech like the songwriters were in 2010.  Since Vincent, Haley, Holly, Brown, and Ballard are all deceased, there's only one man I can think of who could rightly do the honors.  How about it Smokey?


  1. As someone who grew up during this era, and being well familiar with the rise of this group and their impact, I must say I disagree with your assessment of THE FAMOUS FLAMES. No matter WHAT James Brown went to do afterwards, or how big he got,the FACT remains that he started his career simply as a member of The Famous Flames. (even as Hank Ballard started as a Midnighter, and Smokey as a Miracle.) They were NOT even originally HIS group. They were BOBBY BYRD'S group, and had BYRD and his family not sponsored his release from prison,The world may have never even HEARD of the name JAMES BROWN . There was NO WAY that The Flames were simply sidemen for James...and , another thing. No matter how celebrated his orchestra was, The Flames were there LONG BEFORE that band ever existed. Bobby Byrd was a noted keyboard player,as was Lloyd Stallworth, and ALL of the Flames were songwriters. Now, just because James later took over the group, and then later dumped them to become a solo superstar, doesn't mean they're not deserving....not by a long shot . The fact that they didn't appear on record after a certain point was a reflection of James' incredible ego (and I'm admitting this despite the fact that no one is a bigger fan of JB & THE FF'S than me). The RRHOF made the RIGHT decision to induct the Flames as main performers.Onstage, they were very much a GROUP. Don't believe it ? Ask THE STONES. I guarantee you...they will NEVER forget who THE FAMOUS FLAMES are !!

  2. Oh, and one more thing. James Brown AND The Famous Flames had a long string of hits before Brown even THOUGHT of going solo...He KNEW it , that's why , even after they quit him around '57 or so, he asked them to come back. Some of those hits were : PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE, TRY ME, BEWILDERED, THINK, I DON'T MIND,SHOUT AND SHIMMY, OH BABY DON'T YOU WEEP, MAYBE THE LAST TIME, I'LL NEVER NEVER LET YOU GO, THIS OLD HEART (Can't Stand Much More),THREE HEARTS IN A TANGLE, LOST SOMEONE (which The Flames didn't sing on, but two of them ,Byrd and Stallworth, co-wrote with Brown, I'LL GO CRAZY, and more . These were the songs that established this group, and cemented the James Brown Legend.All of them were Major R&B hits, and several did well on the Pop Charts as well.

    The daughters of 2 of The Flames, Keisha Byrd, and Sandra Bennett, made comments about their Dads on THE FAMOUS FLAMES' site on FUTURE ROCK LEGENDS. When you get a chance , please be sure to read them. Also, when you get a chance, please listen to this album:

    ***LIVE AT THE APOLLO,1962***


    Live at the Apollo is a live album by James Brown and The Famous Flames, recorded at the Apollo Theater in Harlem and released in 1962. In 2003, the album was ranked number 24 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. In 2004, it was one of 50 recordings chosen that year by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry.

  3. Dion started out in the Belmonts, yet wouldn't you agree he was rightly inducted as a solo artist, because he was when he cut the more important songs like "Runaround Sue," "The Wanderer," etc. as a soloist? Similarly, that's kinda how I feel about James Brown. The long string of hits you mention for the Famous Flames are actually relatively minor ones, at least for the ones that you can hear them on. I don't consider "I Got You (I Feel Good)", "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag", or "Cold Sweat" as Famous Flames records because there are absolutely NO backing vocals on them. I'm sorry, but if you want to be called main performer, your contributions should be heard on the records. Of the ones that you can hear them, the only really significant ones are "Please, Please, Please" and "Try Me."

    I suppose, though, if they continued to tour live with Brown until he went solo, that might be something of an argument (as you point out with your album selection); however, growing up in a rural community where live acts never came to play, I'm inclined to dismiss the charisma and electricity of a live performance and judge solely on what's on the record. Also, imo, your album chosen isn't the best evidence because it's from 1962, before the world was really seized at the lapels by Brown, and before the MAJOR records like I Got You, Papa, Cold Sweat, etc.

    But thanks for your input. To me, the Famous Flames are like the Jordanaires... they often got credited even when their contributions weren't always audible, and I feel more suited to the AfME category. I may not fully understand or agree with your position, but enough people among the powers-that-be certainly do.

  4. I can certainly understand your position on this matter, growing up in a rural community, you were not , "in the loop", as they say. but , the name on the album's intro is the reality of the content: "James Brown and The Famous Flames".( I don't ever recall The Jordanaires getting label credit on Elvis' singles or co-starring credit on his live appearances, because, unlike James Brown,he DID NOT began his career as a member of that group and thenlater become the group's breakout star.

    And, since the album "Live at The Apollo", sold over a million copies (unprecdented for a live album at that time. especally an R&B album} , and reached #2 on Billboard's Pop Album chart, and it's live follow-up, PURE DYNAMITE: LIVE AT THE ROYAL (also by James WITH The Flames), reached the Top 10 on the Billboard Pop Album chart, I wouldn't exactly call those (minor hits).
    IMO, The Induction Committee definitely did the right thing.!_Live_at_the_Royal

  5. Oh, and one more thing, James Brown wasn't called the "Godfather Of Soul" until the 1980's. In the late 50's -early 60's he was called "Mr Dynamite", and The Hardest Working Man In Show Business".


    (Names are posted incorrectly at the bottom of the screen. Should say, L-to-R, BOBBY BENNETT, JOHNNY TERRY, BOBBY BYRD,& JAMES BROWN).

  7. For the record, the Jordanaires received label credit on roughly 60 of Elvis's Hot 100 Hits, including some pretty big ones: "(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear", "Don't", "Are You Lonesome Tonight", "Return To Sender", etc. That's pretty significant.

    Thanks for clearing up the reasons behind your position. However, I still cannot agree, however, and hopefully I'll make it clear why. First, I must flat out dismiss your logic concerning James' initial membership as a Famous Flame. No one's disputing that; however, it is irrelevant. Wilson Pickett started out as a Falcon before breaking big on his own, and Bobby Bland got his "Blue" nickname when he was in the Beale Streeters; nonetheless, they were rightly inducted as soloists, leaving behind their old groups. If Linda Ronstadt is ever inducted, the Stone Poneys will not go in with her. So too, James may have started out as a member of the Famous Flames, but it was his breakout stardom that rightly merited his solo induction. The Famous Flames aren't inherently owed anything for that alone.

    As to your comments about the live album. I concede that it's pretty significant that that got to #2 and that it was the biggest album of his career, but it still doesn't add up overwhelmingly as you believe it does. The fact is, during the '60s, ESPECIALLY the early '60s, the album charts were nowhere near as effective a barometer of the cultural scene as the singles chart. Relevance on the music scene was more accurately told by the Hot 100, rather than the Top 200. Moreover, I place more emphasis on individual songs rather than albums. After all, you can love a song without necessary knowing what album it's from, but you can't extol an album without being able to name at least a handful of the songs on it. In short, the actual singles are what matter in my opinion, and of those singles, the only significant ones that the Famous Flames were on were "Please, Please, Please", "Try Me", and maybe their version of "Think". The last song the Famous Flames were heard on was (I think) "Prisoner Of Love", and if they were in fact on that one, they weren't even the primary backup voices, as you can more easily hear the obviously female backing vocals on it. They weren't there on the major hit singles "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag" and onward, despite receiving credit up to about "Cold Sweat." The majority of the major singles of Brown's career, the Famous Flames are nowhere to be heard from. For that reason, I think Performer was the wrong call.

  8. I think you're putting too much emphasis on Pop Chart positions as being the be all and end all of an artist's success. It is a well documented fact that James Brown, initially with and later without The Famous Flames, was one of the FEW R&B artists to consistantly have million-selling hit singles on the R&B charts...BEFORE and in many cases, WITHOUT even "crossing over" to The Pop Chart. So, to simply use "Pop Chart" positions to determine an R&B artist's success, especially in James Brown's case, doesn't hold water. "Please Please Please" is a classic case of this. It sold over a million copies without EVER even reaching The Hot 100. "Try Me" was also a million seller, but only reached #48 Pop. "Think", "I'll Go Crazy","Bewildered", and "Lost Someone" ALL hit the million sales mark, without charting high on the Pop Charts,and, in the case of "I'll Go Crazy", not reaching the Pop Chart AT ALL. The Famous Flames were featured on ALL of these songs (they didn't sing on Lost Someone, but co-wrote the song with James, and Bobby Byrd played organ on the original recording.) Look at THE MIDNIGHTERS' chart history as another example. Their songs "Get It", "Work With Me Annie", "Annie Had A Baby", and "Annie's Aunt Fannie" ALL were million-selling hits ...but didn't register AT ALL on the Billboard Hot 100. Does that mean that THE MIDNIGHTERS don't deserve induction ?
    Please remember, that the music charts were a very segregated place to be in the 1950's and early 60's,a reflection of American Society itself. There were deliberate attempts made to KEEP them that way.But , that by no means meant that R&B hits weren't big sellers...nor did it mean that Whites weren't buying them too. THAT'S WHAT THE ROCK AND ROLL REVOLUTION WAS ALL ABOUT...tearing down racial ,social, and musical barriers.
    No matter WHAT James Brown went on to do in starting the Funk revolution,becoming The Godfather Of Soul, etc. etc.etc....he was first "Mr. Dynamite", and The Famous Flames were a BIG part of his success.They were a pioneering group,and to leave them out would mean cutting out a HUGE part of what made James Brown....JAMES BROWN.
    The Rock Hall Special Committee knew this...and THAT'S why The Famous Flames were inducted.

    Guess we'll just have to agree to disagree.

    (By way, The Famous Flames were also on the hit "Oh Baby Don't You Weep"in 1964...with reached #23 on the Billboard Pop Chart).



    DON'T LET IT HAPPEN TO ME (1950's)

  10. Well, my point was more the need to focus on the Singles versus the album charts, but I think you made a fair point. In my defense though, the reason I prefer the Hot 100 is mainly because of the talking point of the need to "transcend one's genre", which Brown certainly did, but very few songs where you can hear the Famous Flames' vocals actually did. And I don't mean just in the day. "Think" had a meager showing on the pop charts then, but I would say it's a very important track to the overall picture of Brown's career (the first one where we saw foreshadowing of the James Brown we remember more vividly), and one that I believe has also been sampled a time or five. In the overall scheme of Brown's career, the songs where you actually hear the Flames don't place very highly overall, were you to rank them. And the Flames' songs that are actually essential listening, bona fide classics, you can count them on one hand. Bewildered and Lost Someone don't make the cut, nor does I'll Go Crazy, though I like that one, both that version and the cover that the Buckinghams did. Again, I wouldn't keep the Flames out of the Hall, just that they fit better, imo, as Award For Musical Excellence.

  11. Put the Famous Flames onstage next to the Jordanaires (or, for that matter,ANY other group of that era...and you'll see why they got in as "PERFORMERS"....THEY PERFORMED !!!


    Was it only JAMES BROWN that influenced Michael ?

    Listen carefully to what he says at 7:40 in his interview with Oprah .

  13. "Think" was million-seller #3 for James Brown & The Famous Flames...chart position or not (something he verifies in his autobiography). And , "Bewildered" was million-seller # 4. Both feature The Famous Flames...just like million-sellers one and two ("Please Please Please" and "Try Me". Sometimes Chart Positions don't always determine sales success.They don't always tell the whole story. Sometimes it's steady sales consistency over time.The Miracles' "The Tracks Of My Tears" sold over a million copies...but got no higher than # 16 Pop. Their "City Of Angels" album went Platinum...but got no higher than # 33 on the Billboard Pop Album Chart.


    Million-seller # 4

  15. Despite the sales, "Bewildered" just isn't that important of a James Brown record. It isn't one that is well-remembered over the course of history, not even the history of James Brown. I can tell you love the song very much, but it isn't an important record. "Think" definitely is, not so much for sales, but it hinted at what James Brown was on his way to becoming, the James Brown we remember, the James Brown that cut "Out Of Sight", "I Got Ants In My Pants", "Cold Sweat", etc. "Bewildered" doesn't hint at that, and it wasn't a major stepping stone in his career the way that "Please Please Please" and "Try Me" were. Doesn't make the grade. Sorry.

  16. Well,everyone's entitled to their own opinion,and again, it's a moot point, because The Flames are inducted, and , they're in as main performers.The RRHOF has spoken.




  20. I have to agree with Anonymous about this. There's folks who are still trying to play history revisionists when it comes to the Famous Flames. I think they deserved equal billing because, along with the Orchestra/Band (or whatever James called them), they not only helped with the choreography, they also helped with harmonies (Brown was too busy conducting the band) and they made sure their show was as tight as James wanted them to. Because of this, they all stood out from the less polished groups that did their own song and dance routine. In fact the only group of singers and dancers to match the Famous Flames was Tina Turner and the Ikettes, that's how great they were. Though James did record songs of his own during the Famous Flames heyday, he didn't start to wanna be solo until "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" and "I Feel Good" and that's when he used the group less and less. Plus James didn't pay them their money and that further caused the group to decide not to do it anymore especially when James started riding on a Learjet and they were still riding the bus. The group broke up but when James' band split up in 1970, he called on Bobby to save his career. It was Bobby that helped James chart into the mid-1970s. Once Bobby left in 1973 (for good), James began cracking under pressure but not before coming out with "The Payback" and performing in Zaire before the Ali-Foreman fight but James Brown was never the same after the Famous Flames left. Sure, James earned the title "Hardest Working Man in Show Business" (I can't even call James "Soul Brother No. 1" though, that title goes to either Ray Charles or Wilson Pickett IMO) but the Famous Flames worked just as hard. So give it up for "the hardest working group in show business" for finally getting their kudos mane.

  21. Alright, Bill et al... I'm calling an end to the hijacking. You've had your say, and while midnightman brings a couple good points, I still disagree, and we'll just have to agree to disagree. This post has already pretty much run its course, but if there's any more input, I'd like it to be about the whole Special Performer inductions and who else should. This isn't an homage, altar, or any kind of pyre for the Famous Flames. I'm editing/removing any further posts that continue to beat that particular dead horse. Back on topic please.