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Remembering Donald "Duck" Dunn

Monday, May 14: 2 p.m.
Donald "Duck" Dunn (11.24.41 – 5.13.12)

As one half of Booker T. and the MGs’ rhythm section, Donald "Duck" Dunn was house bass player at the legendary Stax label, where his artistry helped define one of the most distinctive and enduring sounds in popular music. Among the recordings for which Dunn laid down the bottom end: Otis Redding’s “Respect,” “Dock of the Bay” and “I've Been Loving You Too Long;” Wilson Pickett's “In the Midnight Hour” and Sam and Dave’s “Hold On I'm Coming” and “Soul Man.” He also played on sessions with such artists as Neil Young, Eric Clapton and Jerry Lee Lewis, to name but a few.

Born in Memphis on November 24, 1941, Dunn was given his nickname by his father as the two watched a Donald Duck cartoon on television. Although one of his grandfathers played fiddle, there was no music in Dunn’s immediate family. He recalled: "My father was a candy maker. He made peppermints and hard candies. He didn't want me to go into the music industry. He thought I would become a drug addict and die. Most parents in those days thought music was a pastime – something you did as a ...


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Sharing the Charts: Pop, R&B and Rock and Roll's Meteoric Rise

Tuesday, May 1: 11 a.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Little Richard

When the May 12, 1956 issue of Billboard magazine hit newsstands, its pages cataloged a monumental shift in the charts. The issue reported the chart positions for the week ending May 2, 1956, with the usual suspects of the era holding steady positions in the Top 10 of the pop charts: Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Little Richard, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers and the Platters, among them. More telling, however, was the fact that each of those five artists also had singles in the Top 10 of the R&B charts. The chart positions reflected greater sociological movements in the United States, to wit the burgeoning civil rights movement, and an emerging respect for African American culture and identity as being truly American, but there would be a backlash. 

Presley had signed with RCA Victor in 1956, and his first release under his new label was "Heartbreak Hotel." Producer Steve Sholes had worked to recapture the "Sun sound" for "Heartbreak," enlisting guitarist Scotty Moore, bassist Bill Black, drummer DJ Fontana, guitarist Chet Atkins, pianist Floyd Kramer and three members of the Jordanaires on backing vocals. On May 2, 1956, the song was at Number One on the Billboard pop ...


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Meshell Ndegeocello Live at the Rock Hall

Thursday, February 16: 4:30 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Meshell Ndegeocello

Since her debut album in 1993, songwriter, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Meshell Ndegeocello has been creating music on her own terms, simultaneously challenging and engaging listeners by deftly drawing from an eclectic songbook and delivering powerful reflections on race, love, sex, betrayal, power and religion. Her nine albums illustrate a creative versatility and singular aesthetic that has embraced everything from rock to hip hop, R&B to new wave, funk to punk, reggae to jazz. Her work has been met with critical accolades and fan acclaim, and her proficiency on the bass has brought her signature warm, fat, melodic groove not only to her own performances, but also to those of the Rolling Stones, Madonna, Alanis Morrisette, James Blood Ulmer, the Blind Boys of Alabama, Tony Allen, John Medeski, Billy Preston and Chaka Khan. Ndegeocello best characterizes her particular brand of playing: "Genres are for commercial purposes and music is a continuum like everything else. My style is explorative, searching, personal, and it grows and changes as I do."

Born Michelle Johnson in Berlin, Germany, Ndegeocello spent her formative years in Virginia, cultivating her musicality during the late Eighties while working the go-go circuit in Washington, D.C. In the ...


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Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll: "Let's Talk About Sex"

Wednesday, February 15: 3:30 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Salt-n-Pepa's "Let's Talk About Sex" is one of the Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll

On February 15, DJ Spinderella of Salt-n-Pepa will participate in an interview and lead a DJ demonstration performance as part of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum's Ladies First: Celebrating African-American Women Who Rock  programming throughout Black History Month. The event starts at 7 pm, and will be viewable via live stream here.

Back in 1988, John McCready wrote in England's New Musical Express: "After Salt-n-Pepa, women in rap don't need to act like men in reverse. They have created a space of their own and the future is wide open." They were prophetic words as more than 25 years after their debut single, "The Show Stopper," Salt-n-Pepa rank among the most successful female groups in hip-hop history. Sandy "Salt" Denton, Cheryl "Pepa" James and DJ Spinderella (Dee Dee Roper) created an impressive string of best-sellers, capped by 1991's "Let's Talk About Sex" (Blacks' Magic) – an upbeat pop-rap song that expressed surprisingly frank and thoughtful opinions about the dangers of HIV/AIDS, media censorship of sexual imagery and the complex emotions bound up with the physical act (Let's tell it how it is, and how it could be / How it ...


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Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll: "Jim Dandy"

Wednesday, February 8: 3 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
LaVern Baker's "Jim Dandy" is one of the Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll

Employing more aliases than a con artist, 1991 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee LaVern Baker was born Delores Williams in 1929. The niece of blues great Memphis Minnie, she took the name of Little Miss Sharecropper for her first professional engagements in 1946. The early Fifties found her cutting tracks as Bea Baker; finally, joining the Todd Rhodes Orchestra in 1952, she began calling herself LaVern Baker. It wasn't until the next year, however, when she joined Atlantic Records, that this exuberant belter hit her stride. Working with master Atlantic producers Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wexler, and backed by killer players like saxophonists Sam Taylor and King Curtis, guitarists Mickey Baker and Bucky Pizzarelli, drummer Connie Kay and pianist Hank Jones, she reeled off a string of sexy, high-spirited hits: "Tweedle Dee," "Bop-Ting-a-Ling," "I Cried A Tear" and her signature song "Jim Dandy." The latter tale of a gentleman given to helping ladies in trouble was penned by Lincoln Chase and given an energetic R&B punch by Baker in 1956. Initially released as a single, the song also appeared on Baker's second LP, LaVern Baker (1957). "Jim Dandy" was given a Southern rock re-working ...


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A Salute to Etta James

Friday, January 20: 12:05 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Etta James

Etta James was a pioneer. Through a career that spanned more than six decades, James' raw, unharnessed voice crossed genres, with Fifties hits such as "The Wallflower" and "Good Rockin' Daddy" cementing her role in the genesis of rock and roll alongside Chuck Berry, Ray Charles and Little Richard, and her soulful pop and blues explorations of the Sixties ranking with the works of Dinah Washington and Billie Holiday. She continued to make her mark through 2011, with a string of award-winning, critically acclaimed releases that showcased her unique style.

James was born Jamesette Hawkins in Los Angeles in 1938. Although brought up in the church singing in the gospel choir, she was drawn to rhythm and blues, and rock and roll, and by her mid-teens had formed a vocal trio named the Creolettes that worked up an answer song to Hank Ballard’s “Work With Me Annie” entitled “Roll With Me Henry.” The trio caught the attention of bandleader Johnny Otis, who arranged for the group to record “Roll With Me Henry” (retitled as “The Wallflower”) for Modern Records. Released with the group renamed the Peaches, "The Wallflower" topped the R&B chart for four weeks in 1955 ...


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The Lost Photographs of Cleveland Deejay Tommy Edwards

Thursday, January 12: 4 p.m.
Posted by Terry Stewart
Tommy Edwards (center) with the Everly Brothers

Many know that rock and roll was christened in Cleveland, Ohio, when DJ Alan Freed coined the phrase to describe the up-tempo R&B music he was beaming out on his popular radio show. Freed opened the doors for countless artists, and for years was the de facto king of rock and roll. But fewer know about the cadre of revolutionary Cleveland disc jockeys who shared the airwaves with Freed. Among them was Tommy Edwards. 

Edwards, who owned a prominent record store, pressed records and was a disc jockey at WERE 1300 AM, was instrumental in bringing Elvis Presley to Cleveland in 1955 for his first performance north of the Mason-Dixon line. Pat Boone headlined the concert, and the supporting bill included Bill Haley and the Comets, the Four Lads, Priscilla Wright and a largely unknown Presley. It was there that Edwards snapped the famous photograph of Presley with Haley, one of the few times the two met. The show was not held in a grand concert hall or big-ticket venue, but in a suburb of Cleveland at Brooklyn High School. The now mythical performance is rumored to have been captured in vivid Technicolor, and dubbed The Pied Piper ...


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10 Essential Elvis Presley Songs

Saturday, January 7: 12 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Elvis Presley

See the NEW Elvis Presley exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame! 

Elvis Presley is the undisputed King of Rock and Roll. He rose from humble circumstances to launch the rock and roll revolution with his commanding voice and charismatic stage presence. In the words of the historical marker that stands outside the house where he was born: “Presley’s career as a singer and entertainer redefined popular music.”

As far as his stature as a cultural icon, which continues to grow even in death, writer Lester Bangs said it best: “I can guarantee you one thing - we will never again agree on anything as we agreed on Elvis.”

In celebration of Presley's January 8 birthday and his contributions to rock and roll, we chose 10 essential Elvis Presley songs. Presley built arguably the most impressive catalog of recordings in rock history, so it was understandably difficult narrowing the list down to 10 essential tracks. Let us know what songs would be on your list.

10 Essential Elvis Presley Songs

1. "That’s All Right"

Released in the summer of 1954, "That's All Right" was Presley's first commercial single and a fairly faithful version of ...


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