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    Elvis Presley, Al Green among first class of Memphis Music Hall of Fame

    Bob Mehr - The Commercial Appeal -

    Bluff City icons W.C. Handy, Elvis Presley, B.B. King, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Al Green, were among the names announced as part of the first class of inductees to the new Memphis Music Hall of Fame on Tuesday.

    The initiative, part of the Smithsonian-connected Rock 'n' Soul Museum, was launched with an event at downtown's The Warehouse. City of Memphis mayor AC Wharton, U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn.; Rock 'n' Soul executive director John Doyle, and Memphis Convention and Visitor's Bureau President Kevin Kane, as well as various local music notables, were on hand to confirm the first class of 25 inductees, who will be honored with a ceremony on Nov. 29 at The Cannon Center for the Performing Arts. The event will be open to the public.

    Others set to be honored as part of the 2012 class include R&B great Bobby "Blue" Bland, blues singers Howlin' Wolf and Memphis Minnie, big band leader Jimmie Lunceford, and producer Jim Dickinson.

    The Rock 'n' Soul museum will administer, fund, and house the Hall of Fame, which has been six years in the making. "We've long felt there was a need for the city to have a Memphis Music Hall of Fame," said Doyle. "We're one of only a handful of cities who could do something like this, that has a rich enough musical heritage that an entire hall of fame could be built around."

    Memphis' significant labels are well represented among the first class with Sun Records (Sam Phillips, Presley, Lewis), Stax Records (founders Estelle Axton and Jim Stewart, Rufus Thomas, Booker T. & the MGs, Isaac Hayes) and Hi Records (Green, producer Willie Mitchell) all getting multiple nods.

    The list of names reaches beyond rock and R&B, with figures from the world of jazz (trumpeter George Coleman) hip-hop (Academy Award winners Three 6 Mafia) and gospel (spiritual composer Lucie Campbell) being recognized. Pioneers from the world of radio, including deejays Dewey Phillips and Nat D. Williams will also be honored, as well as music educators like Manassas and Booker T. Washington high school bandmaster W.T. McDaniel.

    Several other artists, hailing from areas other than Memphis but who made a significant contribution to the city's musical reputation, will also be inducted; this group includes Otis Redding, the Staples Singers and ZZ Top.

    The inductees were chosen earlier this year by the Hall of Fame's nominating committee, which includes a cross section of music industry professionals, cultural historians and authors, and museum and foundation directors.

    Hall of Fame officials say that the first year inductees are simply a start. The organization plans to add more names each year. Doyle estimates 10 to 15 additional inductees for several years, before paring down to 7 to 10 each year thereafter. He expects the hall to reach as many as 300 people ultimately.

    Doyle adds that he understands that certain first-year inclusions and omissions will cause debate. "It would be impossible to get every deserving person in the first year. We will be inducting people 10 years from now who are Grammy winners, hit makers and icons in their field, because we have such a long list of people worthy of being included. This is just the start of a process honoring all of Memphis' greats."

    Initially, the Hall of Fame will occupy a physical space inside the Rock 'n' Soul Museum, in the form of an interactive galley. A series of touch screen kiosks will provide information, music and videos on each Hall of Famer.

    Long-term term plans for the Hall are still being discussed. Doyle said that it could eventually grow to become a stand alone facility.