And when 82-year-old, Beale Street-bred soul-blues titan Bobby “Blue” Bland took a seat on stage and sang his classics “Goin' Down Slow” and “Stormy Monday Blues,” this alone was, as they say, worth the price of admission.
Bland's voice was worn but still graceful, with a range that went from his deep “yeah” to quavery high notes. He was helped to the stage and to a chair. When an early bit of feedback disrupted the beginning of his first song, Bland smiled and said “That's my fault.” And then he dug into “Goin' Down Slow,” adding extra gravity to the lines “Somebody please write my mother and tell her the shape I'm in/And tell her to pray for me and forgive me for all my sins.”
Bland wasn't the only inductee to perform. Be-bop saxophonist George Coleman, 77, did two selections as part of a rare homecoming performance. Booker T. & the MGs guitarist Steve Cropper lead the house band through Wilson Pickett's “In the Midnight Hour,” a song which Cropper co-wrote and which, he noted, Booker T. & the MGs backed Pickett up one, adding to the “500 million” worth of records sold that bears the band's sound, by Cropper's estimate. And ZZ Top's Dusty Hill represented the trio by singing Elvis Presley's “Jailhouse Rock” with the house band.
There was also a second-generation theme, with the children of three inductees performing.
Rufus Thomas' son Marvell and daughter Vaneese (no Carla) performed his early Stax hit “The Memphis Train.” Otis Redding's sons Dexter and Otis III did a medley of his hits, with “Hard to Handle,” “Try a Little Tenderness,” and “The Dock of the Bay.” And Jim Dickinson's sons, Luther and Cody, did a spirited take on the old man's Sun single, “Cadillac Man,” with a big assist from Dickinson acolyte Amy LaVere on bass.
An initial class of 25 inductees in all were feted, from W.C. Handy to Three 6 Mafia. You can learn more about the initial class in my recent cover story or at the Hall's new web site. An new Memphis Music Hall of Fame exhibit is set to open at the Memphis Rock-n-Soul Museum sometime in 2013.