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R&B Music Hall of Fame sets big weekend to induct sophomore class featuring Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Marvin Gaye, Norm N. Nite and more
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on August 19, 2014 at 3:05 PM, updated August 19, 2014 at 5:04 PM
Going into the hall this year will be Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, the Whispers, the Sweet Inspirations, Marvin Gaye, Norm N. Nite, Joe Jackson, the Delfonics, the Funk Brothers, Gene Chandler, Chubby Checker, the Andantes, B.B. King and Macy Gray.
Jackson, the patriarch of the Jackson 5, also will receive the Rhythm & Blues Lifetime Achievement Award.
It’ll all go down in a series of events this weekend, starting with at the Soul Food Party in the Park at Canton’s Nimisilla Park from 1 to 6 p.m. Saturday, then with the pre-induction Celebrity White Party at Canton’s Cultural Center for the Arts from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday, and culminating with the red carpet and induction ceremony and concert from 5 to about 11 p.m. Sunday at the Canton Palace Theatre.
The picnic is free. Tickets to the Celebrity White Party are $20 and tickets to the induction ceremony are $60. All are available at the hall’s website, rbhalloffame.com. The party tickets are also available by phone at 216-799-6223, and induction ceremony tickets are available by phone at 330-454-8172.
Unfortunately, there’s still no physical hall – Canton and Detroit right now are vying for the structure – but there remains plenty of enthusiasm, especially from Wheatt, a member of Local 4 of the Musicians Union and the one-time trombone-playing house band leader at Cleveland’s legendary Leo’s Casino.
In that capacity, he and his band backed everyone from Stevie Wonder to the Supremes. Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Otis Redding’s last show was at Leo’s; he was killed in a plane crash flying to a gig right afterward.
The question probably most asked is why. Don’t we have a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and aren’t most of those musicians in it?
“This is a different genre of music,” Wheatt said. People have no problem with separate halls for jazz, polka, classical, country, even instrumental music, he said.
“Rhythm and blues is a genre of music that has been catered specifically for African-Americans,” he said. “All African-Americans are classified as R&B, and unless someone recognizes some of these artists, they will never be [honored].”
That’s not to say the R&B Hall of Fame is exclusively black. Nite, who is going in this year, is a white disc jockey, and Leo Frank and his partner, Jules Berger, whose club was inducted last year, were white.
“We induct everybody,” Wheatt said. “There are a number of people who’ve been very influential with this music. White, black, it doesn’t matter. We don’t discriminate like that at all.”
Two items on the hall’s website put it this way:
“More than a century ago, music called rhythm & blues began pouring into the world. Musicians of all races and backgrounds came together and, for the love of music, created a sound that changed the cultural complexion of the world forever,” said one item.
“The Official R&B Music Hall of Fame & Museum will stand as an international iconic cultural museum dedicated to the vast contributions African Americans have made in music, art and culture,” said the other.
Yes, the music is rooted in black culture, but its impact crossed all racial lines. Leo’s, which opened in 1963 and closed in 1972, was a classic example, Wheatt said.
“It was known as a black and tan club,” he said. “When everything else was being discriminated, and all that segregation was going on, it was not at Leo’s. Half the folks would be white, half would be black, sitting at the 2-x-2-foot tables together, DURING the Hough riots.
“That’s the impact of the music,” said Wheatt, who received the Musicians Union’s national Diversity Award in 2007.
The R&B Hall requires those considered for enshrinement to have R&B as their primary format, have at least 20 years in the industry and have made a significant impact.
But they don’t need to have been No. 1-selling artists. Just artists who’ve left their mark.
And unlike the Rock Hall, whose nominees come from a small committee, then are voted on by a slightly larger group that consists of music insiders, current members and select members of the press, anyone can nominate an artist.
“In part, our criteria deals with individuals,” Wheatt said. “We try to recognize those individuals who have had a real impact.” And it’s even better if they’re still kicking.
“We want to recognize them and give them their flowers while they’re living,” he said. Wheatt couldn’t give a timetable for the building of an actual R&B Hall of Fame. For the museum to be in place, it has to be where we have the political support,” Wheatt said. That didn’t happen in Cleveland, much to the disappointment of R&B Hall organizers.
“We would have loved for this to be in Cleveland, but we just didn’t get the support we needed here,” Wheatt said. “Once we get the political support, we have access to resources.
“We want to be invited.”