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History of the Blues :: Blog

Rare Photo Collection of Grammy Award-winning Harmonica Player Sugar Blue Unveiled

Friday, February 14: 4:44 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Rare rock moments: Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger with Sugar Blue

This week, the Rock Hall's Library and Archives unveiled a new collection of rare and candid photographs donated by Grammy Award-winning harmonica player Sugar Blue.

Perhaps best known for his signature riff and solo on the Rolling Stones' hit "Miss You," harmonica virtuoso Sugar Blue (born James Whiting) made his first recordings in 1975 with legendary bluesmen Brownie McGhee and Roosevelt Sykes. Blue can be heard on the Rolling Stones' Some Girls, Emotional Rescue and Tattoo You. He received a 1985 Grammy Award for his work on the compilation album, Blues Explosion, recorded live at the Montreux Jazz Festival. Blue has performed and recorded with musicians ranging from Willie Dixon to Stan Getz to Frank Zappa to Bob Dylan. Blue was among the featured performers at the 18th Annual Music Masters concert, honoring the music of the Rolling Stones

Visit the Rolling Stones: 50 Years of Satisfaction feature exhibit before it closes on March 2, 2014.

Sugar Blue, Eric Clapton and Buddy Guy perform live rare photo

(l-r) Eric Clapton, Sugar Blue and Buddy Guy.

The Sugar Blue Photographs collection at the Rock Hall's Library and Archives includes seven digital images of the award-winning harmonica player performing with various collaborators and contemporaries, including Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, John Lee ...


continue Categories: Exhibit, History of Rock and Roll, History of the Blues, Rock's Greatest Guitar Players, Rolling Stones, American Music Masters, Education, Library and Archives

Johnny Cash Performs with Louis Armstrong in Rare TV Performance

Wednesday, February 26: 5 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Hall of Fame Inductees Louis Armstrong and Johnny Cash perform together on Cash's TV show in 1970.

What happens when two musical giants collide, when two Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees defying genres and generations share the stage? On October 28, 1970 just that happened on Johnny Cash's TV variety show, when he welcomed "the great Louis Armstrong." Cash opened the introduction, remarking: "This country has given the world three original art forms – country music, jazz and Louis Armstrong."

Promoting his 1970 collection of country and western standards (fittingly titled Country & Western) and sporting an oversized cowboy hat, Armstrong sang "Crystal Chandeliers," the country classic originally sung by Charley Pride; and "Ramblin' Rose," a song made popular by Nat King Cole.

With the performance wrapped, Armstrong took a seat beside Cash, both musicians holding their instruments of choice: a trumpet and a guitar, respectively. "You've been at it a long time," Cash said to Armstrong. "I know that. We did a little research on some of your recordings; we find that on July 16, 1930, you played trumpet on a session with the late Jimmie Rodgers, the Father of Country Music. That was in Hollywood, right?"

Armstrong explained the ostensibly unlikely pairing: "We had a meeting one morning and Jimmie said, 'Man, I ...


continue Categories: Inductee, Exhibit, History of Rock and Roll, History of the Blues, Hall of Fame, Johnny Cash

Big Brother and the Holding Company at 1967 Monterey International Pop Music Festival

Tuesday, March 11: 7 a.m.
Posted by Rock Hall

Big Brother and the Holding Company’s performance at the Monterey Pop Festival was so powerful, the festival organizers hastily provided a second performing slot for the band to ensure it was captured by D.A. Pennebaker’s film crew. Janis Joplin’s performance of “Ball and Chain” was a small part of the energy and power of that performance but it was a major part of helping them to get signed to Columbia Records later that year. Crowd shots in the film show established artists such as  staring in jaw-dropping wonder as Joplin delivered a blues-soaked performance.  

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum will open its latest featured exhibit, Common Ground: The Music Festival Experience on Friday, April 25, 2014. The exhibition will be an engaging look at the music festival as more than just an outdoor concert, but as a community experience. Whether it‘s forging human bonds, building a sense of community, providing broad exposure for musical artists or as one of the most important economic engines of the music industry, the story of the music festival is inextricably linked with music’s powerful cultural impact around the globe. Visit Common Ground: The Music ...


continue Categories: Inside the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Exhibit, History of Rock and Roll, History of the Blues, The Greatest Festivals in Rock and Roll History, Inductee, Hall of Fame, Rare Performances

Muddy Waters Live at the 1960 Newport Jazz Festival

Tuesday, March 11: 7 a.m.
Posted by Rock Hall

With rare exception, blues and blues musicians entertained exclusively black audiences in the 50s. George Wein, the founder of the Newport Jazz and Folk festivals, gave Muddy Waters a platform to reveal the majesty and power of the blues to an entirely new audience. The record album of this show became essential listening to a new generation. Music was never the same again.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum will open its latest featured exhibit, Common Ground: The Music Festival Experience on Friday, April 25, 2014. The exhibition will be an engaging look at the music festival as more than just an outdoor concert, but as a community experience. Whether it‘s forging human bonds, building a sense of community, providing broad exposure for musical artists or as one of the most important economic engines of the music industry, the story of the music festival is inextricably linked with music’s powerful cultural impact around the globe. Visit Common Ground: The Music Festival Experience to immerse yourself in this story.

Get even more of the story at the Rock Hall's Library and Archives!


continue Categories: Inductee, Exhibit, History of Rock and Roll, History of the Blues, Rock's Greatest Guitar Players, Rolling Stones, The Greatest Festivals in Rock and Roll History, Hall of Fame, Rare Performances

From Sam Cooke to Eric Clapton: 7 Degrees of "Danny Boy"

Monday, March 17: 3 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall

Although it originated in Ireland, the tune and melody of "Londonderry Air" is known worldwide, its flowing cadence inextricably linked to Irish heritage. When English lawyer and songwriter Frederic Weatherly was introduced to the tune in 1913, he recast lyrics he'd previously penned to match the "Londonderry" melody, giving rise to "Danny Boy,"arguably the most celebrated version of the song.

For more than a century, the stirring folk ballad has been adapted by a diverse cast of performers, including various Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees. Here, we look at versions of "Danny Boy" by Sam Cooke, Johnny Cash, Jackie Wilson, Roy Orbison, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Eric Clapton.

Sam Cooke

Cooke cut a beautifully soul-infused version of "Danny Boy" for his 1958 self-titled debut album, adding a charismatic lilt to the arrangement.

Johnny Cash

Cash recorded a hauntingly solemn version of "Danny Boy" for his 1965 Columbia Records release Orange Blossom Special, an album that included various folk and country standards as interpreted by the incomparable Man in Black.

Jackie Wilson

Wilson, who could effortlessly transition from rock to blues to soul, transformed "Danny Boy" – reportedly one of his mother's favorite songs – in ...


continue Categories: Inductee, Exhibit, History of Rock and Roll, History of the Blues, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll

Staples of American Music: Mavis Staples and "I'll Take You There"

Tuesday, April 29: 1 p.m.
Posted by Greg Kot
Author Greg Kot will present and do a short reading from his most recent book, I’ll Take You There.

The song was there amid the highs and lows of the top 40, tucked among "Kung Fu Fighting," "Me and Mrs. Jones," "Maggie May," and countless other 70s one-offs, novelties and classics. The Staple Singers’ "I’ll Take You There" was in the air, like oxygen. Years after I first heard it in my parents’ kitchen on a transistor radio, it always seemed to be part of my life – I would find myself humming the bass line while waiting for an elevator or muttering "Ain’t no smiling faces" as I walked down a downtown Chicago street at rush hour. A few decades later, after hearing the song dozens if not hundreds of times, it dawned on me: There are only about five lines of verse in the entire song, spanning more than 4 minutes. The rest is just a magic act between the band (the Muscle Shoals rhythm section) and Mavis Staples, backed by her family.

In interviewing the people in the studio when "I’ll Take You There" was recorded, they all still sound in awe of what happened that day.

"The ‘I’ll Take You There’ session rates as high as any we ever did," guitarist Jimmie ...


continue Categories: Inductee, History of Rock and Roll, History of the Blues, Event, Rolling Stones, Hall of Fame, Library and Archives

Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll: "Whole Lotta Love"

Wednesday, May 7: 4 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
"Led Zeppelin II" gets re-release with new versions of "Whole Lotta Love" and more.

This week, it was announced that Hall of Fame Inductees Led Zeppelin would be reissuing their first three albums with a series of box sets featuring previously unheard mixes, live versions and one unreleased track. In advance of Led Zeppelin II's re-release, the group shared a radio edit of a rough mix of the classic cut "Whole Lotta Love" that sounds quite different than the famous radio-staple studio version, most notably Jimmy Page's guitar parts and Robert Plant's vocals. It's a mix as intriguing to listeners as the song's controversial – sometimes litigious – history.

Experience the world's greatest music festivals past, present and future at the Rock Hall in Cleveland!

Plant remembers the first time he noted similarities between a Zep-credited composition and an obscure but not that obscure blues. JPage's response was "shut up and keep walking."  Led Zeppelin almost got away with "Whole Lotta Love." The crunching riff and relentless thud that opens Led Zeppelin II could be attributed to few other bands in 1969. But as the lyrics unfolded, certain listeners got a dose of deja vu. "Whole Lotta Love" distinctly recalled the Small Faces' number "You Need Loving." Had the ...


continue Categories: Inductee, History of Rock and Roll, History of the Blues, Rock's Greatest Guitar Players, Hall of Fame, Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll

Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll: "Fever"

Wednesday, September 17: 5 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall

The Godfather of Soul, James Brown, revered Little Willie John, having opened shows for John early on and later recorded an entire album of his tunes, the 1968 tribute Thinking About Little Willie John and a Few Nice Things. Brown was just but one of many artists of the day who were influenced by John's gospel-charged R&B sound. The likes of Hall of Fame Inductees Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson and Al Green all noted a musical debt to the man behind "Fever," and hits including "Sleep," "Talk To Me, Talk To Me" and "Leave My Kitten Alone" – the latter an early Beatles fave.

Spending his formative years raised in Detroit, Michigan, Little Willie John's stature belied his powerful voice. Signed to Syd Nathan's Cincinnati-based King Records in 1955, John cut the haunting, sultry "Fever" in 1956 at the tender age of 18. His smooth style presaged soul music. His delivery was passionate and dramatic, which paired with his melding of styles proved the perfect foil to such evocative lyricism.


Sadly, this polished, passionate artist suffered a sad fate: convicted of manslaughter in a post-gig fracas and sentenced to prison in 1966, he died under disputed circumstances ...


continue Categories: Inductee, Exhibit, History of Rock and Roll, History of the Blues, Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Hall of Fame, Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll
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