This Thursday night, six groundbreaking artists and groups will join the Memphis Music Hall of Fame. Marguerite Piazza, John Lee Hooker, William Bell, Charles Lloyd, the Hi Rhythm Section, and Sam "The Sham" Samudio will all be inducted, bringing the total number of Memphis Music Hall of Fame members to 60. Before the induction ceremony takes place at the Cannon Center, I caught up with Memphis Music Hall of Fame Executive Director John Doyle to find out more about the selection process and what's in store this Thursday night. — Chris Shaw
The Memphis Flyer: How do you decide who enters the Hall of Fame? What are the requirements that you look for?
John Doyle: We look at an artist's presence in Memphis and how they influenced the Memphis sound — all of those different things come into play with the nominating committee. The committee is mostly out-of-towners, but there are a few locals, and the committee changes every couple of years. They normally have a few meetings in which they dwindle down the nominees. The committee will consider names that were discussed in previous years, but sometimes they will go in a completely different direction. People have asked if [a musician] has to be born in Memphis, and the answer is certainly not.
How soon after an induction ceremony are you working on next year's nominees?
This year we started in February, but I'll probably start reaching out to people in December. People have contacted us and asked for consideration of an artist, and anyone can contact me or the hall of fame. I make sure any suggestions are placed before the nominating committee. I'll ask for a justification as to why they think an artist should be considered, and I pass that info on to the committee.
I also make sure that both male and female performers and all genres are considered, just so the committee is kept aware as to where the discussions are going. The main reason we keep the number of locals down to a minimum on the committee isn't because I'm afraid of local influence. It's mostly so the local music industry isn't accused of bias.
How does this year's class showcase the diversity in the history of Memphis music?
This is the first time that opera has been recognized with the inclusion of Marguerite Piazza. You've got jazz with Charles Lloyd. You've got rock-and-roll and a Latino influence with Sam, and blues with John Lee Hooker. We also go into gospel, rap and hip-hop, and even contemporary Christian rock. We got some heat the first year when Three Six Mafia went in on year one, but, like I said from day one, it's not a popularity contest. It's an expression of Memphis music and the city's appreciation and reverence for these people. We've been doing this for 10 years, and in another 10 years we will be inducting Grammy award-winning artists, just because the list of Memphis musicians is so impressive. If we didn't live in such a music city, we could go through like five or 10 years and be finished, but we're really just getting started.
Last year's induction ceremony included an appearance by Keith Richards. How did that work out?
It's kind of one those organic things that can only happen in Memphis. Every year I reach out to about 50 different artists that have ties to who we're inducting that year. Obviously, we have to pick a date for the ceremony, and it might not work with scheduling around an artist's tours or recording schedule. It's not a thing where an artist isn't interested in coming to Memphis. It's always a scheduling thing. Last year with Keith Richards and Jimmy Fallon, Richards was a huge Scotty Moore fan, and Fallon was obviously there because of Timberlake. My first response back about Keith, I was told no, and then later I was told that he wanted to come. The show was that Saturday, and we announced Jimmy Fallon and Keith Richards that Wednesday. It's admirable that Memphis is a destination that these artists have a love affair with, and Memphians should be proud of that.
Who all will be performing this year? Any inductees?
The Sheiks and Jack Oblivian. Cat Power might be coming. You've got the Hi Rhythm Section playing, and so will William Bell. Honoring Marguerite Piazza will be Chelsea Miller and 16-year-old platinum recording artist Jackie Evancho. The list is looking good. It's going to be a full show full of diverse music.UPDATE: Tonight's celebrity guests/performers at the Memphis Music Hall of Fame include Cat Power, Snoop Dogg, and the North Mississippi Allstars. It was previously announced that Jackie Evancho will also be performing.