Thursday, February 20, 2014

North Carolina Music Hall of Fame - Kannapolis

The North Carolina Music Hall of Fame is located in Kannapolis at 109 West A Street. It is housed in a small red brick building that at one time was the town jail. In these days of corporate ownership, it is a rare pleasure to have an independent and growing operation like the Music Hall of Fame. North Carolina has been the stomping grounds of many illustrious musical legends. And this spunky little museum does its best to highlight them all.

Walking in, and immediately to the right, as you enter are some plagues and photos from James Taylor. He wrote "I'm Going to Carolina In My Mind", which is our State Song. He continues to perform today all around the world.

This snappy little outfit was worn by Nina Simone. Her earthy and insistent rendition of "Do I Move You" still sends shivers down the backs of her listeners. It's almost as if she's daring you to say no. And her scathing indictment of segregation in "Backlash Blues" still ranks among the greatest of the 60's social protest songs. It's right up there with "Bitter Fruit" by Billie Holliday, or "I'm Black and I'm Blue" by Louis Armstrong. Powerful stuff.

Most people think of North Carolina in connection with bluegrass and gospel music, and we do have our share of that. Charlie Daniels, Earl Scruggs, Doc Watson all immediately spring to mind. But we have such a wide variety of music in our history. From the beach sounds of groups like The Chairmen of the Board to the funky soul sound of George Clintons' Funkadelics, it's all on display here, with plans for adding more.

The second floor is not open yet, but there is already a need for more space. As more items keep on arriving and new members are  added to the ranks of inductees, the need for more space will arrive sooner than later. Each years Induction Ceremony brings with it new and more contemporary artists, all requiring a space of their own.

Also, to accommodate the continuous need for more space there are plans to use part of the first floor as a revolving type exhibit. This will enable the Museum to remain current and involved in the music scene as it relates to North Carolina.

This gown belonged to Victoria Livengood, the noted opera star. She is still performing today. The exhibit runs the entire gamut of music. From Andy Griffiths' early comedy records and his later gospel recordings, to the likes of The Shirelles, Ben E. King and Roberta Flack. And there is more on the way.

Vice Chairman Eddie Ray is hoping to get some more memorabilia from "American Idol" to represent the artists; such as Carrie Underwood, Clay Aiken and Bo Brice, to highlight North Caroilna's unique connection to the show.

But the real star of the whole show is Mr. Ray himself. He is half of the partnership that gave life to this museum. His history in the music business is an education in itself.

In 1954 Mr. Ray was already established in the music industry, on the distribution end, and also promoting artists such as The Drifters, John Lee Hooker, Chuck Berry, B.B.King, Clyde McPhatter, and Joe Turner, just to name a few! It was also the year he released his self penned hit recording of "Hearts of Stone" by The Jewels. It was a crossover hit and also covered by many of the leading R & B groups of the era.

In the mid to late 50's he was handling Ricky Nelson, Fats Domino, Slim Whitman and Johnny Rivers while employed at Imperial records. In the 1960's he joined Capitol records as Director of A & R for the Tower label. It was there that he acquired Pink Floyd. It was also around this time that he became the first African American V.P. of a major recording company.

Mr. Ray, along with his old friend, Mike Curb from Tower Records, have put this museum together to honor and showcase the artists that have made North Carolina a great place for music. But I have to say, that although all of the exhibits are wonderful, for me it will always be Mr. Ray that gave this visit it's own "Heart and Soul."

For more information about the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame, and their upcoming annual 5K race in May, use this link;

No comments:

Post a Comment