Some of the world’s finest musicians, many of them no longer with us, were honored on November 29 at the inaugural Memphis Music Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and Celebration. In a storied city that boasts Graceland, Sun Studios, Beale Street, and the Stax Museum of American Soul Music as chief tourist attractions, the Smithsonian Rock ’n’ Soul Museum, founded more than a decade ago, has now stepped to the fore by founding a hall of fame to honor the many great musicians—and several of their accomplices—who’ve made Memphis one of America’s great music towns.
Honorees rose to prominence in a range of styles, from blues (Memphis Minnie, W. C. Handy, Howlin’ Wolf, B.B. King and Bobby “Blue” Bland) to gospel (Lucie Campbell, the Staples Singers) to rock and R&B (Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Al Green, Otis Redding, Booker T. and MG’s, Isaac Hayes, Jim Dickinson, ZZ Top) to hip hop (Three 6 Mafia). In the jazz realm, bandleader Jimmie Lunceford was inducted, as was saxophone great George Coleman, pictured above, performing at the ceremony.
Also inducted into the Hall during the inaugural festivities at Memphis’ Cannon Center for the Performing Arts were high-school bandleader and mentor Professor W.T. McDaniel, teacher/writer/deejay Nat D. Williams, Sun Records founder Sam Phillips, influential deejay Dewey Phillips, Stax Records founders Estelle Axton and Jim Stewart, and producer Willie Mitchell.