Musicians Hall Celebrates Garth Brooks, Rock, Soul, Country, Studio Honorees

Pictured (L-R): Ricky Skaggs, Garth Brooks, XX. Photo: Moments By Moser Photography

Pictured (L-R): Ricky Skaggs, Garth Brooks, Don Felder. Photo: Moments By Moser Photography

The 2016 Musicians Hall of Fame induction ceremony was punctuated by standing ovations as celebrities Peter Frampton, Kenny G, Stylistics lead singer Russell Thompkins Jr., Bruce Hornsby, Steve Wariner and Melinda Doolittle took the stage of The Municipal Auditorium on Wednesday night.

The stars were there to celebrate the evening’s honorees – Garth Brooks & The G-Men, the Sigma Sound Studio Band (creators of TSOP, The Sound of Philadelphia), the late Jerry Reed, Don Felder of The Eagles, Ricky Skaggs, producer Allen Reynolds and engineers Lou Bradley, Ron “Snake” Reynolds, Joe Tarsia and Mark Miller.

“I’m proud to say you are staring at the weakest link in this group,” said Brooks, standing with the musicians who have played on his hit records.

“It’s very humbling to be here in this hallowed hall,” said Skaggs.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine success or recognition of this magnitude,” commented Felder.

Garth Brooks performs. Photo: Moments By Moser Photography

Garth Brooks performs. Photo: Moments By Moser Photography

The evening began with the hit 1974 instrumental “TSOP” as people took their seats. Skaggs, Wariner, Felder and Gordon Kennedy then lined up to harmonize on “Seven Bridges Road.” The song was written by Steve Young, who passed away earlier this year.

“What an amazing group of singers,” said Felder. “What a spectacular night. Thank you for coming.” He then performed his Eagles composition “Victim of Love.”

From out in the crowd came solo soprano-sax notes. A spotlight pointed out Kenny G, who slowly made his way down through the audience to take the stage while playing.

“I’m Kenny G, your host for the night, and I am honored to host the fifth annual Musicians Hall of Fame ceremony,” he said. “This museum celebrates players, and that’s why we’re here tonight.”

Skaggs took the stage to sing “Heartbroke.” This song was authored by Guy Clark, who also died this year. On the gospel tune “Somebody’s Prayin,’” Skaggs was accompanied on piano by the song’s writer, John Elliott. Hornsby joined Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder on “The Way It Is.” This drew the night’s first standing ovation.

Ricky Skaggs is honored by Garth Brooks. Photo: Moments By Moser Photography

Ricky Skaggs is honored by Garth Brooks. Photo: Moments By Moser Photography

Brooks presented Skaggs with his induction medallion. “This is amazing,” said the honoree. “Thank you so much for this….Thank you, Emmylou [Harris], for having faith in me and hiring a hillbilly.” Skaggs also expressed gratitude to attendee Brian Ahern, who taught him how to produce records. He thanked Sharon White, his wife of 35 years, as well as her 85-year-old, still-performing father Buck White and her sister Cheryl, among others. “Most of all, I want to thank the Lord Jesus for giving me the talent,” concluded Skaggs.

AFM president David Pomeroy explained that the union partners with the Musicians Hall of Fame to vote on who gets into the Hall. “It’s a Lifetime Achievement award, regardless of genre or era,” Pomeroy said. “Thank you for supporting these great musicians.”

He next saluted the four honored engineers. “Masters of their craft, welcome to the Musicians Hall of Fame!” stated Pomeroy. Tarsia, Miller, Reynolds and Bradley offered acceptance speeches.

Wariner inducted his friend and mentor Jerry Reed (1937-2008). He and Kennedy performed the honoree’s “Thing Called Love,” “Amos Moses” and “East Bound and Down.”

“Jerry Reed Hubbard lived the American Dream,” said daughter Seidina Hubbard, who accepted with her sister Lottie. She said that Reed was born in a hobo jungle and rode the rails with his parents before achieving success. “Daddy was unique. He was one of a kind. He was an innovator. Thank you for recognizing his genius tonight.”

Garth Brooks and the G  Men perform. Photo: Moments By Moser Photography

Honorees perform during the Musicians Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Photo: Moments By Moser Photography

Melinda Doolittle honored the Sigma Sound team. “It took a lot of sensitivity to create The Sound of Philadelphia,” she said.

The living members present to accept were Charles Collins (drums), Bobby Eli (guitar), Dennis Harris (guitar), Jimmy Williams (bass) and Earl Young (drums). Others on that team included the absent Tommy Bell (keyboards) and the late Ronnie Baker (guitar), Norman Harris (guitar), Vince Montana (vibes), TJ Tindall (guitar) and Larry Washington (congas).

Stylistics vocalist Thompkins drew standing ovations for “You Make Me Feel Brand New,” “Stone in Love with You” and “Betcha By Golly Wow.” Doolittle joined him on the 1979 Philadelphia Sound hit “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now.”

“If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have had a job for the last 45 years,” said Thompkins of the honorees. “This is their night.”

Kenny G brought out the Musicians Hall of Fame’s founder. Joe Chambers got a standing ovation and introduced attendees Gary Tallent, James Burton and Steve Cropper seated in the audience. He then invited Frampton to the stage, who drew another s.o.

“It’s nice to be back,” said Frampton. He explained that Felder was being presented with Musicians Hall of Fame’s Iconic Riff award for the guitar part he created for “Hotel California,” which Felder co-wrote.

Frampton and Felder then recreated that twin-guitar rave-up on The Eagles’ biggest hit. Garth Brooks stood, transfixed in admiration from the front row, as the two dueled instrumentally.

“This is such an honor,” said Felder. “Thank you all for helping me to do what I love to do.”

Dickey Lee welcomed Reynolds to the Hall. In addition to Brooks, Reynolds is notable for producing hit discs for such stars as Crystal Gayle, Chris LeDoux, Bobby Bare, Hal Ketchum, Don Williams, Trisha Yearwood, Emmylou Harris, The O’Kanes and Kathy Mattea.

“My heroes have mostly been songwriters and musicians,” said Reynolds. “As a producer, I have always known I am standing on their shoulders. I am forever in awe of their skills, especially The G-Men, Garth’s studio band. I am so honored to be associated with their name in the Musicians Hall of Fame, as well as with Mark Miller. I would also like to thank the one and only Garth Brooks.”

This evolved into the induction of The G-MenBruce Bouton (steel), Mark Casstevens (rhythm guitar), Rob Hajacos (fiddle), Chris Leuzinger (lead guitar), Milton Sledge (drums), Bobby Wood (keyboards) and the late Mike Chapman (bass). An earlier induction ceremony had been staged by Chambers with The G-Men to honor Chapman, a few days before his death in June.

Brooks and The G-Men performed “The Thunder Rolls,” the audience sing-along “Friends in Low Places” and “The Dance.” The last-named got a standing ovation and was dedicated to Chapman.

“Mike loved Garth and The G-Men with all his heart,” said Chapman’s widow Connie. “He passed with knowing he was so appreciated and loved. He had the chance to have The Dance.”

“I know I speak for all of these guys when I say it’s been a labor of love,” said Casstevens. “Garth, thank you for being the most loyal artist in music history, and for generously shining the spotlight on us so many times,” added Leuzinger. “Twenty-seven years [together in the studio],” marveled Wood. “I can’t believe it. Thank you for celebrating with us tonight.”

Reynolds inducted Brooks, who got yet another s.o. “He never acted like a star,” said Reynolds. “He was always a team member. That’s why the music turned out so well.” Brooks, in turn, praised each member of his longtime studio band. He pointed out that Wood has now been inducted twice, thanks to previous recognition as a member of The Memphis Boys.

“What a night,” exclaimed Kenny G. “Super impressive: I’ve seen things I’ve never seen before. It’s been an honor [being the host]. This music is the fabric of our lives.”

The all-star house band was joined by all of the honorees and celebrity guests in a finale jam session on the 1973 O’Jays TSOP classic “Love Train.”

The Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum is located in the lower level of Municipal Auditorium. It was the site of the after-party, as well as the pre-show press conference.







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Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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