PAWTUCKETââItâs about time that these people get the recognition they deserve,â says Alan Pavlow, a member on the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fameâs Board of Directors. Known more fondly as âBig Al,â Pavlow spoke about times and music past, the memories of which were hanging in the newly set up space next to the Met CafĂ© in Pawtucket. The red bricks of the old mill complex, now the Hope Artiste Village, stood in stark contrast to the images of albums and photographs embossed onto the wall.
This was the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony, a celebratory exaltation to the music gods which resided on Charles or Westminster Street, and where the musicians of the small state began their journey.
âWhen we were 18 and had no money, weâd say we were from Rhode Island and people would ask, Long Island?â said Vini Poncia of the Providence-born duo Anders and Poncia. âWeâd say, âNo, Rhode Island!â âWhat state is that in?â theyâd say!â
The RI Music Hall of Fame, begun through the efforts of Rick Bellaire and his original project, the Rhode Island Popular Music Archive, showcases artists from all time periods who began their musical careers in the state, and became influential players in their respective genres.
On Sunday, February 26, all the greats were there, conversing with nostalgic tongues and eyes, grasping back into their personal histories and the memories of music which had brought them to that instant. The late Dave McKenna, born in Woonsocket, was there through the stories of his friends and family. His sister, Jean McKenna-OâDonnell, sang a stirring tribute to her brother, accompanied by Barry DeRossi playing Daveâs jazz piano tunes that had comforted so many.
âDavidâs favorite piano player was Nat King Cole, but [Providence-born Trumpeter] Bobby Hackett used to say Dave was his orchestra,â said pianist John Worsley at McKennaâs induction on Sunday. âIf he were here, heâd want to say thank you, plop himself down in front of the piano and play.â
Opera Soprano Eileen Farrell, her upbringing spent in Woonsocket, was honored by her family members. So was singer-songwriter Gerry Granahan, and blues guitarist Ken Lyon was there, too, grateful to the many fans and appreciation he has received over the years.
âI was lucky enough for my music to make a home in your hearts for a long time,â said Lyon to the bustling audience at the Met CafĂ©. âWhat weâre celebrating here tonight is the music we knew we could make since we could hear.â
Roomful of Blues stopped by as well, the blues and country outfit which has endured for 45 years and counted musicians such as Duke Robillard, Preston Hubbard, Sugar Ray Norcia, and current composer/guitartist Chris Vachon among its ranks. John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band received recognition as well from the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame.
Before the bands played Sunday evening and the crowd broke into their raucous dances, a photograph of Thom Enright, having passed away on February 21, was held aloft above the stage in silence. He was one of the most influential Blues guitarists to hail from Rhode Island, and more importantly, a friend.
âNo one has had more of an impact on Rhode Island music than Thom Enright,â said Chris Vachon of Roomful of Blues. âHe had a special gift to be able to fit into any musical context, while still being himself.â
The trumpeting and guitar playing and singing and dancing carried well on into the night, a tribute to all the concerts and shows of years past. The conversations between music greats, discussing a new tune that was heard or a unique tale from the bandâs road travels, remained. The Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame has preserved these moments for the public to cherish, creating a pathway for Rhode Island musicians into the future.
To learn more about the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame, its history and inductees, visit www.rhodeislandmusichalloffame.com.