Rock Hall Nominees: My Take

Thursday, 17 October 2013 06:14 AM Written by 

My friend Scott Mervis has some great perspectives on the 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominees, not surprising for one with his broad and wide-ranging knowledge of the music both locally and internationally. He makes good cases for his choices, and I don't necessarily disagree with them.

I lack his expertise on Yes, N.W.A., Kiss and the Replacements. I agree totally on Deep Purple.  But I want to make a case for three others. Scott and I agree on two, the other was earlier in the game, was no less important.

Link Wray:

Scott and I certainly see eye to eye on Link Wray, a name not known to everyone, especially those under age 40. Wray was the prototypic heavy metal guitarist, starting with "Rumble," his menacing 1958 instrumental (originally known as "Oddball,"). Its ominous, foreboding nature got it banned in some areas as a tune that could potentially incite juvenile gang fights.

"Rumble" (1958) The original single.

"Rawhide" (1959) A lip-synched American Bandstand appearance with the Ray-Men. Note the cool Danelectro Longhorn guitar.

Skeptical?  Take it from Pagey himself.

"Rumble," (1998) On Late Night With Conan O'Brien. At the time, Wray was 69.

The Paul Butterfield Blues Band.

This one is personal for me. These guys, along with the Stones, introduced me to the blues. Whatever was going on in London, Butterfield's Chicago-based group was the first great American white blues band. Singer- harp virtuoso Butterfield and guitarists Mike Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop cut their teeth sitting in with Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf and other blues giants in South Side taverns.  Butterfield pioneered a clean, articulate style of blues harp.

"Born In Chicago" and "Juke (1965) At the Newport Folk Festival. They were the "electric" band behind Dylan they made their own history with blazing performances of "Born In Chicago" and, Little Walter's "Juke." Bloomfield became the first of a new generation of 60's American guitar heroes though understandably, Delta blues icon Son House, a giant of the music, felt a bit differently.

"East West" (1966) at San Francisco's Fillmore Auditorium . A jam number based on both Ravi Shankar and the modal jazz improvisations by Miles Davis, cemented Bloomfield's reputation. The Butterfield band's SF appearances influenced the extended jams of the Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Santana and other Frisco bands.  Many members, including Carlos Santana and Jorma Kaukonen ready acknowledge Butterfield's impact.

"Driftin' Blues" (1967) at the Monterey Pop Festival Bloomfield departed to form the Electric Flag yet Butterfield, with a new horn section and Bishop as sole guitarist, was electrifying on "Driftin' Blues." I got to see them at St. Vincent College in Latrobe later that year, and they were every bit as good.  Tragically, substance abuse eventually got both Bloomfield (1981) and Butterfield (1987) too soon.  They've been nominated twice. Hope the third time's the proverbial charm.

Linda Ronstadt:

I sense she'll get this honor as well. Before Emmylou Harris emerged, Ronstadt's blend of rock and country-rock did plenty to advance that sound. She' as worthy for the RRHOF as inductee Gram Parsons. Like Harris and Parsons, Ronstadt shared a background in folk music and other styles. Her albums with Nelson Riddle introduced many younger fans to classic pop.

"Different Drum" With The Stone Poneys (1967) Her first hit (A Mike Nesmith original), seen here live. She got the song up from a 1966 recording by the urban bluegrass band the Greenbriar Boys.

"Up To My Neck In High Muddy Water" (1968) with the Stone Poneys. This also came from the Greenbriar Boys.

"Only Mama That'll Walk The Line" and "I Never Will Marry" (1969) from the Johnny Cash Show "Only Daddy (Mama)," was a 1968 hit for Waylon Jennings. While Ronstadt's attire was a bit too abbreviated for June Carter Cash's taste, singing with Cash, showcases her folk roots.

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