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?