1st Rock and Roll Hall of Famers ► Monday Musical Appreciation

The Not Now Silly Newsroom is still waiting for the musical movers and shakers to correct a grievous oversight and FINALLY induct Harry Nilsson for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Regardless, let’s take a look back at the first field of RnRHoF inductees, announced on this date in 1986.

As everyone knows, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was built in Cleveland, Ohio — aka the mistake on the lake — because … well … err … Alan Freed! However, the decision to drop it there may have had more to do with money than because Cleveland was the location of what’s generally accepted as the first Rock and Roll concert ever: the Moondog Coronation Ball. As always, the WikiWackyWoo tells all:

Cleveland may also have been chosen as the organization’s site because the city offered the best financial package. As The Plain Dealer music critic Michael Norman noted, “It was $65 million… Cleveland wanted it here and put up the money.” Co-founder Jann Wenner later said, “One of the small sad things is we didn’t do it in New York in the first place,” but then added, “I am absolutely delighted that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is in Cleveland.”

The Rock Hall didn’t open until 1995, but the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation started inducting Rockers and Rollers in 1986, soon after it incorporated. Mike Greenblatt at Goldmine tells us:

New York, New York. By all accounts, it was a night to remember. Despite nobody yet knowing where the museum would be constructed, and Bill Graham on hand to argue long and loud that it deserved to be built in San Francisco, the First Annual Rock ’n’ roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony took place in the Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. More than 1,000 music bizzers and invited guests dined on smoked river trout and fruit sorbet, drank California wine and witnessed a glittering array of rock stars dressed up and getting down with the kind of all-star jam one could only dream about. (The Harlem Blues & Jazz Band performed during pre-show cocktails and hors d’oeuvres.)

[…] Then came the jam.

Paul Shaffer led the house band which featured saxophonist David Sanborn, guitarist Sid McGinnis, bassist Will Lee and drummer Steve Jordan. Their rousing ceremony-starting overture featured the signature tunes of all 10 inductees. At one point, towards the end of the night, Chuck Berry, Keith Richards and Hank Williams Jr. stood side-by-side wielding guitars while Billy Joel, Fats Domino and Jerry Lee Lewis shared two pianos for a balls-to-the-wall ragged-but-right jam on Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven.” “Johnny Be Goode” had Berry with John Fogerty, Neil Young, Ron Wood and Richards playing guitar. Berry took over for “Little Queenie” and even sang a duet with Julian Lennon. Joel and Steve Winwood shared a piano, Winwood switching to organ in blasting out “Gimme Some Lovin’,” the song he recorded as a teenager with The Spencer Davis Group. Berry did some blues. Chubby Checker materialized to sing and dance “The Twist.” Fogerty let loose with “Proud Mary” to close the night, the first time he played the song in public in 14 years.

The first class of inductees set the mark for the years to come:

Chuck Berry

James Brown

Ray Charles

Sam Cooke

Fats Domino

The Everly Brothers

Buddy Holly

Jerry Lee Lewis

Little Richard

Elvis Presley

Here are some of the performances and acceptance speeches from that first induction ceremony:

Rock and Roll is here to stay!!!

About Headly Westerfield

Calling himself “A liberally progressive, sarcastically cynical, iconoclastic polymath,” Headly Westerfield has been a professional writer all his adult life.