Friday, November 30, 2012

Bobby Bland Highlights Memphis Music Hall of Fame Induction

Posted By on Fri, Nov 30, 2012 at 9:11 AM

Bobby Blue Bland at the Memphis Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
  • Bobby "Blue" Bland at the Memphis Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
It didn't have the star power it might have, with living inductees such as Jerry Lee Lewis, Al Green, B.B. King, and Mavis Staples not among the night's performers, but Thursday's inaugural induction ceremony at a roughly half full Cannon Center for the Performing Arts was still a nice, if occasionally wordy and slightly overlong, celebration of the breadth of Memphis music.

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.”

Bobby Blue Bland

This lead into the standard “Stormy Monday Blues,” which was capped by a guitar solo from the house band's Niko Lyras that let Bland take a minute to survey the crowd. “Take your time, son, take your time,” Bland told Lyras. And with that he held up one hand in the air, smiled, and said a simple “Thank you.” But the gratitude was all ours.

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.

Steve Cropper leading the house band through In the Midnight Hour
  • Steve Cropper leading the house band through "In the Midnight Hour"

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.

Luther Dickinson and Amy LaVere

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.

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