PAWTUCKET — Move over, Cleveland. The City of Pawtucket is going to have its own Music Hall of Fame.
From the late George M. Cohen to the Cowsills to Tavares and Duke Robillard, there are a surprising number of famous musicians and music industry professionals with ties to the Ocean State. As such, efforts are underway to create a Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame to celebrate their legacy, and it will be located at Hope Artiste Village in Pawtucket.
The project is still in its infancy, with plans for a first class of musicians to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in early 2012. Yet, there is much excitement brewing over the project, according to Bob Billington, president of the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council and also chairman of the board for the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame.
The board of directors for the project boasts of such local music industry names as veteran club owner Rich Lupo, local music promoter John Chan of Chan's in Woonsocket, jazz musician and Times/Call music columnist John Worsley, and musician Rick Bellaire among others. Hope Artiste Village, which is also home to The Met, is donating space for the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame to have a display of awards and memorabilia.
Billington was mum on the specific details of the project, saying more will be unveiled after the first of the year. However, according to its website, supporters have joined forces with another group of volunteers, the Rhode Island Popular Music Archive, in pursuing the same goals.
The website states that the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame has incorporated as a non-profit organization “dedicated to celebrating, honoring, and preserving the legacy of Rhode Island musicians, educators and industry professionals who have made significant contributions to the national and Rhode Island music scenes.”
It also reads that the Hall will carry out its mission through the annual election of inductees and the creation of a museum of artist and music-related exhibits honoring inductees and commemorating the state's musical legacy. The Hall will also expand an existing on-line music archive of information about audio recordings by those involved in Rhode Island's past and present music scene.
In addition, according to the website, the Hall “is committed to continuing that legacy by developing programs and services aimed at promoting and strengthening Rhode Island's current and future music scene” and “insuring that music continues to play an important role in the lives of all Rhode Islanders.”
A benefit concert to raise funds for the upcoming museum was held last month at Lupo's Heartbreak Hotel with local performers that included Chachi, Last One Out, Sharks Come Cruisin, Northern Lands, and The Brother Kite. The Hall will be completely run by volunteers with funds coming from such sources as an annual induction concert, grants, donations and membership fees, the website states.
When asked about the project, Rich Lupo, owner of The Met and Lupo's, also said that details are still being worked out, but that the first induction ceremony and concert would be held at The Met, probably sometime at the end of February or early March.
According to its website, in 2006, Mederick “Rick” Bellaire organized the Rhode Island Popular Music Archive, beginning with a retrospective concert honoring musician Ken Lyon at the Stadium Theatre in Woonsocket. In 2009, a group of Archive volunteers began organizing discographies of Rhode Island musicians and began posting content on the Internet. It was at this time that the Archive accepted an important donation of historical material from Anders & Poncia, a songwriter-musician-producer duo from Providence who achieved national success throughout the 1960s and late 1970s, including as part of The Vidals and The Tradewinds.
In 2010, the Popular Music Archive gained the use of the name “The Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame” combining these developments with earlier efforts spearheaded by Al Gomes and Bob Giusti. Also in 2010, a retrospective concert was held honoring the achievements of Anders & Poncia (Peter Anders and Vini Poncia), and the duo became the first inductees into the newly merged Hall of Fame and Popular Music Archives during a ceremony conducted by John Cafferty of The Beaver Brown Band. Last October, the Hall welcomed its third inductee, Gerry Granahan, a producer, singer, songwriter and record executive.
According to the website, the original inductees of the Rhode Island Popular Music Hall of Fame, Ken Lyon, Anders & Poncia and Gerry Granahan, will be inducted along with the first group of Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame inductees at the upcoming ceremony early next year.