The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum

Posts by Greg Harris

A Long, Strange Trip: Pete Sears' One-of-a-Kind Bass Guitar, "Dragon"

Monday, July 1: 12:29 p.m.
Posted by Greg Harris
Pete Sears with his long-lost custom bass guitar named "Dragon"

In June 1978, Pete Sears and his Jefferson Starship bandmates narrowly escaped a riot following a cancelled concert in Germany. Amid the chaos, much of the band's gear was left behind, including Sears' one-of-a-kind bass created by famed luthiers Doug Irwin and Tom Lieber – the men responsible for Jerry Garcia's most iconic instruments. Sears never played the guitar live, and he never thought he'd see it again. Thirty-five years later, however, the missing bass has resurfaced. 

While a member of Jefferson Starship in 1976, Sears commissioned Irwin and Lieber (the latter working at the Doug Irwin Custom Shop) to build a custom bass dubbed "Dragon." Grateful Dead fans will recognize the work of both artisans, as they had hands in creating a series of iconic Jerry Garcia guitars, including "Rosebud," "Lighting Bolt" and "Tiger," which were all exhibited as part of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum's Grateful Dead: The Long, Strange Trip exhibit that was on view from April 12, 2012 to March 24, 2013. 

The bass' resemblance to Garcia's famous guitars was no coincidence: the designers used the same piece of wood as Garcia's "Tiger" to build Sears' "Dragon ...

continue Categories: Today in Rock, Exclusive Interviews

Album Notes: The Rolling Stones – Exile on Main St.

Friday, March 8: 10 a.m.
Posted by Greg Harris
The Rolling Stones' 1972 release "Exile on Main St."

I was seven years old when Exile on Main St. was released in 1972. It wasn't until later in the decade that I first heard the album, though I was already a Rolling Stones fan by then. My earliest rock and roll mentors – friends and family, and musicians and writers that I admired – told me Exile was the Stones record to have, so I picked up a used, well-worn copy on vinyl. The dog-eared double LP jacket was ragged and looked like hell; long gone were the dozen postcards that came with the original packaging. However, the scratched wax delivered an electric sound. 

Those sounds – like my battered copy's packaging – were gritty, rough, perfectly unpolished. The album was filled with bravado, the songs seemingly shambolic, unrehearsed and the playlist was sprawling, with more than a dozen tracks. The Stones tapped into America's eclectic songbook, borrowing lines from country, blues, soul, swamp and the heyday of the rock and roll era – and it all sounded genuine. The recording of Exile was shrouded in mystique, a model of rebellion amid tales of wild decadence and hedonism at Nellcôte, the French mansion-cum-studio rented by Keith Richards. Even the ...

continue Categories: Hall of Fame, Inductee, Exhibit

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Inspired Message and Gift to Rock and Roll

Monday, January 21: 11:30 a.m.
Posted by Greg Harris
Rock Hall salutes the pioneering spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his lasting inspiration

Today, January 21, 2013, we welcome visitors to the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Festival at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, an event that celebrates the life and legacy of Dr. King. There are performances, speakers and admission to the Museum is free. 

The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday observance is a time for people to reflect on the accomplishments of the African-American people, including the art form known today as rock and roll. If not for the struggles and sacrifices that Dr. King and his contemporaries made, the voices and musical talents of many African-American artists may not have come to be respected and recognized at the level they are today. 

Naturally, the Rock Hall salutes those visionary musicians who were the genesis of rock and roll – not just on Martin Luther King Day, but every day. King's pioneering spirit is echoed in the music that is the foundation of rock and roll, the foundation of all the Rock Hall celebrates. 

rare Lead Belly acoustic guitar and blues exhibitThe Rock Hall's "Roots of Rock" exhibit highlights the importance of recognizing rock's origins – those true pioneers – including gospel, blues, jazz and R&B, soul, country and folk music ...

continue Categories: American Music Masters, Inductee, Exhibit, Event

Celebrating David Bowie – His Birthday, His New Single and His Rock and Roll Legacy

Tuesday, January 8: 4 p.m.
Posted by Greg Harris
David Bowie celebrates his 66th birthday with new single, "Where are We Now?"

Any kid that grew up in the 1970s with dreams of becoming the next guitar hero had to start somewhere – usually playing a cheap acoustic model and trying to master the Mel Bay chord chart. The exciting part came when your slightly more advanced friends – and fellow budding guitarists – passed along a few iconic rock and roll licks: the opening riff to Chuck Berry’s "Johnny B. Goode," the bassline to Deep Purple’s "Smoke on the Water" and that ringing D chord hammer-on flourish in David Bowie’s "Ziggy Stardust." These were the ones that you played endlessly, and especially enthusiastically if the song happened to come on the radio. 

David Bowie, who opened his first U.S. tour in Cleveland, Ohio, on September 22, 1972, marks another milestone today with his first new release in a decade, "Where are We Now?," as he also celebrates his 66th birthday. The song's title gave me pause, prompting me to wonder where rock and roll would be without David Bowie.

For decades, Bowie's music has challenged and captivated fans and critics alike. Sending bold messages ...

continue Categories: Hall of Fame, Inductee, Exhibit

For The People

Sunday, November 6: 3:30 p.m.
Posted by Greg Harris
Sharing the spotlight: Bruce Springsteen performs with Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers

Recently, a few members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum board drove to Pittsburgh with me for what is now near the top of my list of rock and roll experiences. Local legends Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers hosted a special benefit show for the Greater Pittsburg Community Food Bank with special guest Bruce Springsteen. The concert was held in the 2,000-seat Soldiers and Sailors Hall near the Pitt campus. The venue is more than 100 years old and houses a museum with remarkable collection of artifacts from the Civil War to the present. The hall is stunning, with a balcony on three sides, a very low stage and the entire text of the Gettysburg Address – with 12-inch letters – etched in a formidable block of stone above the stage.

Springsteen took the stage first, noting that he was going to “warm up for Joe.” He led off solo acoustic with  an early classic from Greetings, "I Came for You,”which sent a jolt of excitement coursing through the mixed-age crowd. He stayed solo for a few more numbers, including “Land of Hope and Dreams” and an incredibly tender version of “I’ll Work for Your ...

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You did it! Woodstock artifact funded by music fans

Monday, August 15: 11 a.m.
Posted by Greg Harris

Today—with help from over 100 donors from around the country—our curators hung the iconic Yasgur’s Farm dairy sign in the museum.  It was installed to coincide with the 42nd Anniversary of the Woodstock Art and Music Festival. See photos of the sign installation here!

Some readers will be familiar with the story.  The remarkable sign was preserved for 40 years by a neighbor and was recently acquired by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  An anonymous donor agreed to contribute $12,000—half the purchase price—with the condition that other music fans provide the remainder through a grassroots online fundraising campaign.  We elected to use website  From there the fans took over and contributed the rest of the funds in a few short weeks—THANK YOU.

If you are passing through Cleveland stop in and see the sign.  It hangs in the museum next to the famed awning from CBGB’s, about 50 feet from Jerry’s guitars, Janis’ Porsche, and a few thousand other incredible artifacts documenting the most powerful art form in history – ROCK AND ROLL!
Over 100 individuals supported the campaign including:

Craig A. Adams
Carl Artman
Kimberley Barton
John ...

continue Categories: Inductee, Exhibit, Education, Event

By the time we got to Woodstock: Help us Preserve Rock History

Thursday, July 28: 3:08 p.m.
Posted by Greg Harris
The Yasgur Farm Sign from the Woodstock Festival.

Rock and roll history includes many keystone moments—Elvis entering Sun Studios, the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, Dylan “plugging in” at Newport. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum recently acquired a historic artifact from an event of this stature: a sign from Max Yasgur's farm, the site of the 1969 Woodstock Art and Music Festival!

What I love about this item is that it features the answer to the long-time trivia question “where was Woodstock held?”: not Woodstock, New York, but Bethel! It also pictures the handsome breed of cow that the Yasgurs raised—purebred Guernseys. Signs like these still dot the New England landscape wherever working farms remain.

Woodstock is universally recognized as a pivotal moment in American culture. An unprecedented array of artists took to the stage during the festival including: The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, the Band, Santana, the Grateful Dead, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Sly and the Family Stone, and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

A neighbor has kept the sign for the last four decades and a few months ago offered it to the Rock Hall. An anonymous donor agreed to contribute $12,000—half the purchase price—with ...

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Turn back the clock: the importance of Record Store Day

Friday, April 15: 2:51 p.m.
Posted by Greg Harris
Greg Harris, vice president of development at the Rock Hall

Tomorrow, April 16, is National Record Store Day. Across the nation, shops will offer special promotions and activities. As fellow music lovers, we encourage you to visit these stores to commemorate the day.  Digital downloads are convenient and here at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame we’ve embraced them while still loving physical records. In fact, yesterday we launched our first App (available at the iTunes store) and we will soon have a mix and burn station in our museum store. 

However, we need to pause and honor those who are keeping retail stores alive, in particular those that sell used vinyl and used CDs.  I’ve had a soft spot for these stores since first clerking in a used-record shop in the early 1980s.  In fact, the fondness grew so strong that another clerk and I jumped ship and opened up the Philadelphia Record Exchange. The store specialized in used out-of-print records and in indie labels and imports.  We focused on LPs while our pal across town, Val Shively, focused on 45s. It was a classic retail start-up. We built bins from plywood and stocked the shelves with our own collections. As we sold records, we bought ...

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