Bobby Karl Works The Rock Hall Inductions

Chapter 394

Carole King inducts the late Don Kirshner.

Photos from rockhall.com.

Bobby Karl took his act on the road this month, namely to Saturday’s 27th annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, staged this year in Cleveland, Ohio (4/14).

The black-tie gala was held in the city’s historic Public Hall. That’s a cool, Art Deco venue about a block from the museum.

This year’s honorees were/are the Beastie Boys, Donovan, Guns N’ Roses, Laura Nyro, Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Small Faces/The Faces, plus Freddie King as an early influence and non performers Don Kirshner, Cosimo Matassa, Tom Dowd and Glyn Johns. Plus, there were the “make-up” inductions of the previously overlooked bands The Miracles, The Comets, The Blue Caps, The Famous Flames, The Midnighters and Music City’s own The CricketsJ.I./Jerry Allison, Joe B. Mauldin and Sonny Curtis, as well as the late Nikki Sullivan.

Following a fabulous cocktail dinner—more on this later—we took our assigned dessert tables upstairs for the ceremony. About 6,000 fans were in the two balconies above us, gazing down at our black-tie splendor. I thought about tossing desserts up to them. My guess is that there were 2,000 industry dignitaries on the floor. So that was a much, much bigger crowd than attends the event at the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan, the gig’s usual home. It comes to Cleveland once every three years, and this was my first time to attend the gala in Ohio.

Musically, the highlights included Green Day kicking things off with an incendiary “Letter Bomb,” Darlene Love’s magnificently Spectorian rendition of “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” Donovan’s set and the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ finale all-star jam on “Higher Ground.”

Green Day opens the ceremony.

Rock Hall president/CEO Terry Stewart welcomed everyone, noting that, “the entire city has been on fire for the past 11 days,” with the opening of the Hall’s Library & Archives, a new Grateful Dead exhibit and the first 17 plaques of a new Walk of Fame on downtown streets. Cleveland does make a big deal out of this, much more so than Nashville does with its awards events or New York and Los Angeles do with theirs. Here’s something you would never see in the South: When Stewart introduced Ohio Governor John Kasich, the whole room booed loudly.

Jann Wenner’s speech and the video clips of this year’s inductees were wildly cheered by the fans. Their enthusiasm made a real difference in the night’s vibe.

Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill of ZZ Top inducted the late bluesman Freddie King and played his songs. Dusty saluted his late brother Rocky Hill, as well as Freddie, saying, “Long live Freddie King and long live the blues.” Daughter Wanda King accepted.

John Mellencamp inducted Donovan, who sang “Catch the Wind,” “Sunshine Superman” and “Season of the Witch.”

Bette Midler became emotional inducting the late Laura Nyro, emphasizing her feminism as well as her awesome songwriting. Sara Bareilles sang “Stoney End” in salute. Laura’s son Gil Bianchini accepted.

Carole King inducted the late Don Kirshner. Widow Sheila Kirshner accepted. Bandleader Paul Shaffer did his famed Kirshner imitation, drawing laughs, and then Darlene brought down the house.

An “In Memoriam” video sequence was accompanied by Ledisi singing “At Last.” Our own late Steve Popovich was among those applauded.

Miami Steve Van Zandt inducted The Faces/Small Faces. Rod Stewart was absent due to the flu, but Mick Hucknall ably sang lead in his absence.

Smokey Robinson inducts the Blue Caps, the Crickets, the Comets, the Famous Flames, the Midnighters and the Miracles.

Next, Smokey Robinson did the honors for the six previously overlooked bands. “The bands don’t stand behind us; we stand together,” he said. “We play together.” The Crickets did not attend.

Chuck D of Public Enemy and LL Cool J inducted The Beastie Boys. Then Kid Rock, The Roots and Travie McCoy of Gym Class Heroes performed the salute.

Robbie Robertson inducted Casimo Matassa, Glyn Johns and the late Tom Dowd. By now it was one o’clock in the morning, and we’d been there since the 5 PM dinner.

Chris Rock inducted Guns N’ Roses. His remarks included a jab at the band’s boycotting lead singer Axl Rose.

Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day did the talking for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and their performance brought the ceremony to its end at around 1:30.

Among those who endured were Holly Gleason, Holly George and Robert Burke Warren, George Clinton, Lance Freed, Berry Gordy Jr., Terry Likona, Andy Schwartz, Parke Puterbaugh, Brad Tolinski and his rock-musician girlfriend Izzy Lay, Harry Weinger, Jim Brickman and Rob Bowman. Ted Drozdowski of The Scissormen was representing Music City, as was Hall of Fame member Felix Cavalieri, who produced one of inductee Nyro’s LPs.

Slash and Jann Wenner

Now about that cocktail dinner: Beneath the Public Hall is a massive space. One ballroom was sparkling in silver and white with beads and feathers. Another was lit in red with black-and-crimson gothic décor. Black tablecloths were splashed with red rose petals. The “pastel” room was lit in lavender. Lime green orchids decorated aqua tablecloths. The most intimate room was lit in orange and was decorated with dozens of Moroccan lamps.

Throughout these spaces stood robot-like statuesque women and bare-chested men wearing quasi-military white attire featuring lighted epaulettes with floor-length fringe and captain’s hats fronted with silver CDs. They held scepters whose globed tops constantly shifted colors. The women had silver designs painted around their eyes. The men’s bodies were shaved and spray tanned.

All the rooms had tables of giant prawns, seared tuna, encrusted salmon, beef tenderloin, pasta stations, boxed Napa cabbage salads and veggies including marinated mushrooms and steamed carrots, asparagus and green beans. Desserts in the induction hall included chocolate-covered Pringles, shortbread cookies, strawberries, brie-and-crackers, grapes, tasty dough balls, a whole tray of chocolates and another tray of cupcakes.

An edited version of this year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame celebration will air HBO on May 5. Tune in.

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