On April 4, 2009, the red carpet was rolled out in Cleveland, literally and figuratively, for the first-ever induction ceremony open to the public. In addition to the exclusive guest list comprised of artists, recording industry insiders, and the inductees and their family and friends, five thousand tickets were snatched up by the fans. The induction was held at Cleveland's venerable Public Hall, where the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Jimi Hendrix Experience performed in the sixties. To celebrate the induction returning to the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, special musical events took place all week in Cleveland, leading up to the big night.
Having three tiers of seats filled with enthusiastic fans greatly increased the emotional power of the evening. Throughout the night, applause and cheers ringing from the rafters brought even more excitement to those artists taking the stage. The event was simulcast inside the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and other locations in Cleveland, and broadcast nationally on the FUSE television network.
More than half of the artists inducted had spent a half-century making music: Little Anthony & the Imperials, rockabilly queen Wanda Jackson, sidemen D.J. Fontana and the late Bill Black, soulful keyboardist and songwriter Spooner Oldham, and Cleveland-born Bobby Womack.Tremendous performances by the Imperials, Jackson, and Womack proved that these vocalists could deliver.
Emotional speeches inspired by deceased inductees also in evidence: Both Metallica and Run DMC had lost founding members to tragic early deaths: bassist Cliff Burton died in a van accident in 1986 and Jam Master Jay, a.k.a. Jason Mizell, was shot to death in 2002. Red Hot Chili Peppers' bassist Flea gave a moving eulogy to Burton. Eminem gave profuse thanks to Mizell for discovering his close friend, 50 Cent. Bill Black's son tearfully remembered his father who died in 1965, and "Little" Anthony Gourdine dedicated the night to his recently departed son.
It was also a night of homages: Jeff Beck was visibly moved by the speech made by his former Yardbird colleague Jimmy Page; former Metallica bassist Jason Newsted, previously estranged from the group, earnestly thanked his band mates; and Metallica's founders Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield hugged each other like brothers.
There to give support was Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry, whose band collaborated with Run DMC on teh groundbreaking rock-rap hit "Walk This Way." Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian shoed up for Metallica.
Later, Hetfield said "This is living proof that it is possible to make a dream come true!" And for many of those 6,200 people in attendance, dreams did come true that night.