Most Rock Hall Monitors have already made their predictions for the Class of 2013’s Performer inductees. A few of us haven’t. I myself am having a particularly tough time solidifying my final five. Nonetheless, the Performers aren’t the only inductees, and if the year was 2010, they weren’t even the majority of the inductees. And if the year was 2012, the additional Performer inductees were almost as big a story to us hardcore followers as the elected six, or the pigeonholing of Freddie King (Axl’s antics kept the spotlight, of course).
Before I post my Performer predictions, I like to analyze who the top candidates are for the other categories. In some ways, particularly in the case of 2010’s Ahmet Ertegun Award recipients, or 2000’s announcement of the Sideman category’s creation, announcing the other categories’ selections can be as much of a correction of injustice as finally getting Black Sabbath, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and the Sex Pistols inducted. Some of us even have queues and pet picks for the Ahmet Ertegun Award (Non-Performer), Early Influence, or Award For Musical Excellence (Sideman… we think) inductions. Some are almost whispered as loudly among us hardcore followers as prog and metal acts are shouted. Either way, they’re a part of the celebration as well, and we should also be trying to predict them. Unlike the Performers, though, there is no nominee list that gets made public and we don’t know who the strongly contended names are for these other illustrious awards. So trying to predict them is like hunting at night: unless you’ve got some infrared inside information, you’re lucky to hit the target.
Nevertheless, we do venture guesses, and for the Ahmet Ertegun Award, a.k.a. the Non-Performer category, the biggest odds go to Don Cornelius. The man behind Soul Train passed away sometime between the induction announcements for 2012 and the induction ceremonies, and when big names like that die, they become the bouncing ball to follow for induction. It worked for Don Kirshner last year, although not as much for the songwriting duo of Ashford And Simpson, whose substantial career as recording artists may be the key hindrance in that regard. There’s still the outside chance that the Fox News prediction of Doug Morris will also come true, though Fox News predicted that would happen in 2011, and it still hasn’t happened. Still, they nailed David Geffen correctly for 2010, so Morris’s name will loom as a possibility semi-ominously for several years. Nonetheless, Cornelius is likely the only serious candidate this year.
After inducting Freddie King as an Early Influence last year, the Foundation caused some eyebrows to arch pretty severely when the NomCom named Albert King as a nominee, and with good cause, as subcommittee members are also on the NomCom. Was it just Wanda Jackson, you could call it a fluke. Freddie King, they’re pressing their luck. Albert King? Now you’ve definitely established a pattern of just shoehorning them in when they don’t get enough votes, and it badly besmirches the Foundation’s credibility. Meanwhile, the two big outcries for this category, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and the Ravens are constantly pressed up against the glass of our Monitor minds. It all depends on whether or not Albert gets enough votes to be called a Performer this year. The field’s pretty strong, and he’s not the only blues presence on the ballot. Meanwhile, it would likely be less fraudulent while simultaneously opening up a whole other can of worms if they did induct him in this category, but dropped the “Early” from the category’s name. They’ve renamed the other two categories, what’s keeping them away from this one?
Which brings us to the other major category… we think. To be honest, we’re not quite one hundred percent certain whether or not the Award For Musical Excellence really is a renaming of the Sideman category. You’d think so if you read this category’s inductees’ bios from the past two years, but we’re just really not sure still. Leon Russell was indeed a high-demand studio musician during the sixties, but he’s also quite revered for his status as a performer as well. And you’re getting into philosophy when you talk about engineers being like musicians, and big, frustrated kudos to Robbie Robertson for his such philosophical speech likening the engineers’ abilities to manipulate and control sound just as if the mixing board were an electrophonic instrument itself, a speech that sufficiently keeps us in the dark as to what the Hall’s intentions are with this category. Needless to say, it’s just as intelligent to shrug your shoulders and say “Uhono” as it is to actually try and predict this category. I’ll do both. I’m without clue, but I still maintain the best candidate to induct and still maintain this perpetually perplexing puzzle, this unnerving, annoying enigma would be Ry Cooder. It’s like this category is a hybrid of Sideman and Lifetime Achievement, even though Lifetime Achievement has always been used almost as a subset of the Non-Performer category. Sidebar, I’d also like to see DJ Hurricane and Mix Master Mike eventually get some love in this category.
Thus having briefly addressed the possibility of Lifetime Achievement inductees, we’re left with the final sub-category of sorts, and one we only address now because of what happened last year: will any other of the “left behind” groups be inducted this year as Performers by selection of special subcommittee? Last year, the Hall treated seven cases of Front Man Fever, six of them by this means (the seventh being the induction of Faces, which at the time I’d called a mild case, due to Stewart’s staggering solo career). Currently the hottest rock-era fever still untreated is the Wailers, who’d be excellent inductees, and also open the door for Peter Tosh to be a Clyde McPhatter Clubber. There’s also the ever-present murmuring of inducting the E Street Band this way, since Little Steven and Jon Landau are both NomCom members who might also be on this subcommittee, and with the big man, Clarence Clemons gone, they may want to do it before losing another cog from this pristine rock and roll machine. Other similar veins expose the possibilities of Crazy Horse and the Mothers Of Invention getting this side door Performer induction. However, none of these seem likely when you consider that all the acts from last year that this happened to were from the early years of rock ‘n’ roll. If you’re going this route, this is where to look. You might get the Jordanaires, Ray Charles’ orchestra or Rae-letts, the Tennessee Two, or the Gliders. Still, the biggest name draw would be the Belmonts, which would be a bad call because unlike Smokey Robinson, Dion’s eligibility as a solo artist was definite, and his solo career lasted longer, which gave us more hits. Still, the only Dion song inducted as a song that shaped rock ‘n’ roll is “A Teenager In Love” which was with the Belmonts. However, the best route in this case would be to nominate Dion And The Belmonts in the future and make Dion a double inductee, but with the backlog of harder rock that gets bigger every year, nominating them would irritate a lot of fans and followers, and thus probably won’t happen. Hence, it is ultimately most likely that there’ll be no inclusions in this category this year.
Which means all that’s left is the Performer nominees, and picking the inductees from that list. We’ll see if I can finally pick my five.