BLUES HALL OF FAME – ABOUT/Inductions 2018-05-18T17:41:00+00:00

Blues Hall of Fame

BHOF Inductee Sam Lay (Photo by Jay Skolnick)

Making a Mark in Blues History

The Blues Hall of Fame honors those who have made the Blues timeless through performance, documentation, and recording. Since its inception in 1980, The Blues Foundation has inducted new members annually into the Blues Hall of Fame for their historical contribution, impact, and overall influence on the Blues. Members are inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in five categories: Performers, Individuals, Classic of Blues Literature, Classic of Blues Recording (Song), and Classic of Blues Recording (Album). Since 1980, The Blues Foundation has inducted over 400 industry professionals, recordings, and literature into the Blues Hall of Fame. Of the 130 performer inductees, 120 of them are African-American.

An anonymous committee of Blues scholars and experts representing all subsets of Blues music convenes each year to review potential Blues Hall of Fame candidates. Recommendations are shared with the committee via The Blues Foundation offices, but we do not accept active campaigns for any potential inductee in order to keep this process fair, devoid of political overtones, and based upon actual contributions rather than individual popularity. Candidates selected for induction are determined exclusively on their body of work over their lifetime. Names of all inductees are released to the public each spring.  The Blues Foundation hosts a special Blues Hall of Fame Induction ceremony, held annually on the evening before The Blues Music Awards, as a ticketed event open to the public.

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The Blues Hall of Fame Museum

Opened on May 8, 2015, the Blues Hall of Fame Museum serves the community as a center for people to enjoy physical exhibits honoring the legends of Blues. Located in downtown Memphis – across the street from the National Civil Rights Museum – the museum holds the history and music of Blues greats for visitors to enjoy year-round.

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2018 Blues Hall of Fame Inductees

PERFORMERS

The Aces were a crucial band in the Chicago blues music scene. The core members were brothers Louis and Dave Myers and their longtime friend Fred Below. Louis played guitar, Dave played bass, and Below was the drummer. They first rose to prominence backing Little Walter, forming one of the most exciting blues combos of the early ’50s. While the Aces were only a unit together for a few years, the Myers brothers and Below all enjoyed lengthy careers as musicians. Their long list of credits include working with Jimmy Reed, Sonny Boy Williamson, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Otis Rush, John Lee Hooker, Louis Jordan, and Koko Taylor. Below was a major influence on Sam Lay and their inductions this year mark the first two Chicago drummers to become part of the Blues Hall of Fame.

For a detailed biography, click here.

Mamie Smith earned her place in music history with her recording of “Crazy Blues,” which caused a sensation in 1920. Its success, coupled with her extravagant stage shows, brought her fans across racial lines, which was a huge rarity in those days. A trailblazer, Smith spread the popularity of blues and gave it commercial legitimacy. She also was a pioneering artist in the so-called “race record” market. Smith continued her success through the ’20s and, after some lean years in the ’30s, found a brief second career in film during the early ’40s before her death in 1946. Her final years were shrouded in mystery; she was buried without a headstone, which was rectified a few years ago through the efforts of blues journalist Michael Cala.

For a detailed biography, click here.

Georgia Tom Dorsey was born Thomas A. Dorsey in 1899 in Georgia. He first earned the nickname “Barrelhouse Tom” as a teen playing piano in Atlanta. Moving to Chicago, he joined Ma Rainey’s band in the 1920s. Dorsey also began writing songs, penning some of the most humorous and risqué tunes of the ’20s and early ’30s. He formed a successful duo with Tampa Red from 1928 to 1932, and it was then that he started calling himself “Georgia Tom.” Dorsey subsequently devoted his career to gospel music. He wrote two of gospel music’s most famous songs, “Precious Lord” and “Peace in the Valley,” and become known as “The Father of Gospel Music.”

For a detailed biography, click here.

Roebuck “Pops” Staples was the leader of Staples Singers, formed with his children Pervis, Cleotha, Mavis, and Yvonne. Known as “the first family of gospel music,” the Staples were a rare gospel group that crossed over to fans of rock, blues, folk and soul music. This was partly due to the universal appeal of songs like “Respect Yourself,” partly to Mavis’ powerhouse singing, and partly due to Pops’ blues-style guitar playing. He grew up on Mississippi’s famous Dockery plantation, the long-time home of Charley Patton. Patton and Howlin’ Wolf (who frequently performed in the area) inspired Pops to learn the guitar and their influence permeated Pops’ “gospel” guitar work. He won the Grammy’s Contemporary Blues honors in 1994 for his final CD, Father Father.

For a detailed biography, click here.

Sam Lay is a drummer’s drummer. His career stretches back 60 years, and even now, in his early 80s, he still takes the stage on occasion. Lay’s resume reads like an all-star lineup of blues giants: Little Walter, Howlin’ Wolf, James Cotton, Muddy Waters, Magic Sam, Lightnin’ Hopkins, and the list goes on. A 2015 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Lay accompanied Bob Dylan at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival and on one Highway 61 Revisited studio session. The Chicago-based Lay also was a founding member of the fabled Paul Butterfield Blues Band, with three other members (Butterfield, Mike Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop) previously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame. Lay attributes his signature double-shuffle drumming style to the double-time rhythms he heard in church growing up in Birmingham, Alabama.

For a detailed biography, click here.

INDIVIDUALS

BUSINESS, PRODUCTION, MEDIA, or ACADEMIC

Al Benson, whose legal name was Arthur Leaner, was a famous (and sometimes infamous) figure during the heyday of Chicago blues from the late ’40s through the early ’60s, parlaying his popularity as a DJ into running a number of other lucrative businesses in Chicago’s black music scene. His fame was so great that both Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton paid tribute to him in song. Benson’s empire includes a broadcasting studio in his home, a television show, record shops, a nightclub, concert promotion and record labels. Benson’s labels released recordings by Albert King, Snooky Pryor, T-Bone Walker, J.B. Lenoir, Sunnyland Slim, and Magic Sam. He also was active in the Civil Rights movement.

For a detailed biography, click here.

CLASSICS OF BLUES LITERATURE

One of the most definitive blues biographies ever written, I Feel So Good (University of Chicago Press, 2011) is also one of the most revelatory. Following a trail that led from Chicago to Holland to a church in Arkansas and an introduction to Broonzy’s grandnieces, author Bob Riesman learned that Broonzy had reinvented himself in name, birth date and birthplace, and many other details he gave of his life. Lee Conley Bradley (Broonzy’s real name) was “capable of exquisitely contradictory behavior,” Riesman writes, but whatever misdirection Big Bill orchestrated was only a creative piece of his towering persona and did nothing to lessen his importance as a premier blues artist, influence, mentor, and spokesman in America and in Europe, all extensively documented in I Feel So Good. With the induction of I Feel So Good, Broonzy becomes the first artist to be the subject of two books in the Blues Hall of Fame. His own story, Big Bill Blues, published in 1955, was inducted in 1990 and can be appreciated in a new light thanks to Riesman’s investigations and analyses.

For additional information, click here.

CLASSICS OF BLUES RECORDING – ALBUM

B.B. King: Blues Is King becomes the third B.B. King album selected for the Blues Hall of Fame, joining Live at the Regal and Live in Cook County Jail. All three were recorded live in Chicago for the ABC label group. This album captures him performing with his band (Bobby Forte, Duke Jethro, Sonny Freeman, Kenneth Sands and Louis Satterfield) at The Club on November 5, 1966 and at the Burning Spear on November 17. The 1967 Save release was the first one put out on ABC’s BluesWay imprint. While Blues Is King didn’t achieve the initial acclaim of the prior ABC albums, it is now seen as one of King’s best. One reviewer describes King’s performance on this album as “both cathartic and awe-inspiring.”

For additional information, click here.

CLASSICS OF BLUES RECORDING: SINGLE

“Crosscut Saw,” one of Albert King’ early chart hits, was a song with a complicated evolution. Originally a downhome Delta blues recorded in 1941 by Tony Hollins and Tommy McClennan, it was later recorded as a slow B.B. King-style 45 by a Memphis group, the Binghampton Blues Boys, led by Wilroy Sanders. In the Stax studio on November 2, 1966, drummer-producer Al Jackson reworked it again for Albert King, infusing it with a snappy Latin beat, and King’s version became a standard in the repertoire of countless blues bands. A 1974 Stax version by King introduced yet another arrangement.  (All the Stax versions gave writer credit to R.G. Ford, owner of a label that released the Binghampton Blues Boys 45.) By one account, the song came to Albert via WDIA DJ A.C. “Moohah” Williams. But King, who said in an unpublished Living Blues interview that he had never heard the song, gave fellow Stax artist William Bell credit for bringing it to him; Bell in turn gives the primary credit to Jackson, and according to Stax historian Rob Bowman, Booker T. Jones and Steve Cropper of the MG’s agree.  Bell says Stax was looking for another “wood song” to follow up Eddie Floyd’s monster hit of 1966, “Knock on Wood,” and the line “I can cut your wood so easy for you” made “Crosscut Saw” a perfect choice.

“Green Onions” by Booker T. & the MG’s ranks as one of the top instrumentals in the rock, R&B and pop worlds. It reached #3 on the pop charts and #1 on the R&B charts. At its essence, however, this iconic 1962 tune was built around a 12-bar blues groove. The recording was done at Memphis’ Stax Studio by some of their best session musicians: Booker T. Jones, Steve Cropper, Lewie Steinberg and Al Jackson. While neither the tune nor the band had a name when they recorded it, when the 45 came out on Stax’s Volt subsidiary and subsequently on the hit Stax re-pressing, it was dubbed “Green Onions” by Booker T. & the MG’s.

For additional information, click here.

“I’m a Man” by Bo Diddley was released on the Checker label in 1955 as the flip side to his eponymous “Bo Diddley,” which was selected as a Blues Hall of Fame classic in 2017. Both sides of this single won over listeners. In fact, “I’m a Man” charted higher, according to Cash Box, in several Southern markets, including Memphis. Diddley recorded this song before “Bo Diddley,” using a crack band featuring Billy Boy Arnold, Otis Spann, Jerome Arnold, Willie Dixon and Clifton James.

For additional information, click here.

“Roll ’Em Pete” by Joe Turner amazingly was the first studio recording showcasing Turner’s powerful vocals and Pete Johnson’s rollicking boogie-woogie piano. Released by Vocalion, this now-classic track was recorded just a week after the two appeared at the landmark 1938 “From Spirituals to Swing” concert at Carnegie Hall. Some years later, Turner proclaimed that rock ’n’ roll was nothing more than the boogie woogie and blues he and Johnson trademarked in Kansas City. Listen to this exuberant tune and you can hear that there isn’t much of a leap to a rock ’n’ roll standard like Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Great Balls of Fire.”

For additional information, click here.

“See See Rider Blues” by Ma Rainey is the original rendition of a song that has now become a standard. Versions of the song (sometimes titled “C.C. Rider”) have found success with Chuck Willis, LaVern Baker, Bobby Powell, the Animals, and Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels. Rainey’s rendition gives a low-moaning rendition that really highlights her title as the “Mother of the Blues. Released in 1924 as the B-side of a Paramount single “Jealous Hearted Blues,” this recording features Rainey’s “Georgia Jazz Band,” which on this occasion starred Louis Armstrong on cornet, Fletcher Henderson on piano, Charlie Dixon on banjo, and horn men Buster Bailey and Charlie Green.

For additional information, click here.

Explore our 2017 Blues Hall of Fame Inductees

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