(MEMPHIS, TN) — In advance of the projected May 8, 2015 opening of the Blues Hall of Fame, curators are at work dealing with objects related to inductees.
The Blues Foundation, founded in 1980, inaugurated its Blues Hall of Fame induction program that same year. In the intervening thirty four years, 143 performers including Robert Johnson, B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Howlin’ Wolf, Paul Butterfield, Albert King, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Etta James, T-Bone Walker and Big Joe Turner have been honored with induction.
Pictured beside are Scott Black and Nora Turner, curators from Design 500 Inc., examining objects once owned by the legendary Charles Brown (“Driftin’ Blues,” “Black Night,” “Please Come Home For Christmas”) who was inducted in the hall of fame in 1996. The hat was worn by Brown in a portrait shot by Mariana Cook, the last protegée of Ansel Adams, whose works are in such museums as London’s Victoria and Albert, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. Cook’s portrait of Brown appears on the cover of the Savoy album Charles Brown, Alone At The Piano. The keyboard motif necktie is one that that dates from the late 1940, of the type worn by Brown when he was part of Johnny Moore & The Three Blazers and when he led his own band thereafter.
These items, along with other relevant artifacts, were donated to the Blues Hall of Fame by Howell Begle, the Washington, DC-based attorney who looked after the interests of Charles Brown as well as Ruth Brown and other pioneering blues and R&B artists.
Fifty-one non-performers who played behind-the-scenes roles in the continuing saga of the blues have also been inducted over the years; some of these include Leonard and Phil Chess, Sam Phillips, Jerry Wexler, Ahmet Ertegün, Vivian Carter and Jimmy Bracken, John Hammond, Sr. and Doc Pomus.
Beyond the individuals inducted, the Blues Hall of Fame has honored eighty three iconic blues singles (or album tracks) and seventy six blues albums with inductions into the Hall of Fame. Additionally, forty “Classics of Blues Literature,” published books that deal with various topics and aspects relating to America’s most singular art form, have been enshrined. A total of 393 people and works have been inducted but, until now, those inductees resided in the virtual world. After a successful fundraising campaign, geography and architecture are coming into play with a physical, brick and mortar Blues Hall of Fame about to become a reality.
The Blues Hall of Fame will occupy a 12,000 square foot site located at 421 South Main Street in Memphis, directly across from the National Civil Rights Museum. That location has, most recently, served as the headquarters of the Blues Foundation. It will be gutted to accommodate both the Blues Hall of Fame and Blues Foundation offices with the Foundation lodged in temporary quarters over the course of the anticipated 10-month construction process.