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R&B Hall of Fame honors musical heroes at Detroit induction ceremony

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

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DETROIT -- The evening after the Queen of Soul played to the masses, a corps of R&B heroes gathered Sunday, June 11, to close the inaugural Detroit Music Weekend with the fifth annual Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

The four-hour affair -- often ramshackle but filled with a genuine kind of family reunion warmth (where the relatives all like each other) -- honored a dozen performers and a selection of Unsung Heroes, along with special awards for Martha Reeves, the Rev. Al Sharpton, Jackson 5 patriarch Joe Jackson, the Chi-Lites and others.

Plenty happened over the course of the night, with highlights that included:

• Inductee Gerald Austin and Carla Cooke delivered a show-stopping duet on her father Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come,” leading a roster of performances such as: the Contours’ opening the night with Motown founder Berry Gordy’s “Hello Detroit;” a Temptations tribute medley by the Dramatics; a trippy, pre-recorded medley by the Chi-Lites’ Marshall Thompson; a rendition of the Impressions’ “Gypsy Woman” by Motown’s Fantastic Four; “Neither One Of Us (Wants To Be The First To Say Goodbye)” by the Stubbs Girls, all progeny of the Four Tops late Levi Stubbs; “Band Of Gold by inductee Freda Payne; and an cruelly aborted performance by inductee Carl Carlton due to union regulations at the theater.

• Filling in for the late James Brown, one of the night’s inductees, is a formidable task, but Brown impersonator Tony Wilson proved up to the task with a full-throttle, gymnastic version of “Get Up Offa That Thing.”

• Mitch Ryder, a bit of a rock ‘n’ roll “interloper” at the R&B Hall, was humble and gracious in his acceptance, telling the Music Hall crowd that “I’m as confused as you are” but adding “I accept this award with pleasure...It’s quite an honor, one that will last the rest of my life.” Ryder also brought Joe Harris, from his early vocal group the Peps, for a bit of reminiscing.

• The late Motown great Mary Wells’ daughter Stacy honored her mother’s induction with an impromptu a capella rendition of her first single “Bye Bye Baby.”

• Gene Chandler broke into a bit of the Impressions’ “It’s All Right” while accepting the award on their behalf; The group’s two surviving members, on tour overseas, sent a video message of thanks to the ceremony.

• Few inductees were happier than Stuart Avig of the Valadiers, the first group of white performance signed by Motown (in 1969) -- and particularly Avig’s sons, who presented the award on Sunday.

• There were several calls -- from Reeves and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence -- for a permanent R&B Hall building to be established in Detroit. Founder Lamont “Showboat” Robinson, an entertainment and sports impresario from Cleveland, has been working, without success. to make that happen and has also been negotiating with parties in Philadelphia.

Other inductees on Sunday included onetime Motown Funk Brother Dennis Coffey, Gladys Knight & the Pips (represented by Knight’s brother and Pip Merald “Bubba” Knight), the Marvelettes, Carl Carlton and Isaac Hayes. Unsung Heroes inductees included producer-writer Mike Powell, Motowners Sylvia Moy and Carolyn Crawford, Wade “Butterball Jr.” Briggs, Skip Mahoney & the Casuals, Fred Goree, Jeff & the Atlantics and Barbara Acklin,

More information about the R&B Hall can be found at rbhalloffame.com.

Web Site: www.rbhalloffame.com

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