For the first time in its history, the supreme rulers of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame have decided to allow input from the humble listening public on the 15 nominees for induction in 2013. To accomplish this, an online fan poll has been posted that allows the public to “vote for the five nominees they believe to be most deserving of induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.”
The five nominees receiving the most votes by the December 3 deadline will comprise a “fans’ ballot” that will be tallied with other ballots to select the 2013 inductees. Which sounds pretty good until you dig a bit deeper and discover this will be just one of the more than 600 others submitted by artists, historians and music-industry executives. That means our humble ballot—the fans—will count a bit less than 1% of the total. According to Terry Stewart, the hall’s president, “This is not ever going to be American Idol, no matter how much some people want it to be. But we thought it was important for fans to have a way to express themselves and for it to have some legitimacy.”
While the concept of “some legitimacy” leaves something to be desired, it’s better than sitting back and wondering just what goes on behind the scenes in this sometimes baffling process. Like 2011, for example, in which Leon Russell was finally inducted, but not as a “performer” but as a “sideman.” Okay, Leon is, without doubt, one of the finest and most versatile session players in the business. But his songwriting, solo career, and participation and influence on some of rock and roll’s greatest albums certainly deserve recognition as a “performer.” After all, the Hall of Fame says its process considers “factors such as an artist’s musical influence on other artists, length and depth of career and the body of work, innovation and superiority in style and technique, but musical excellence shall be the essential qualification of induction.”
But back to the matter at hand. The 2013 crop of nominees is truly a mixed bag, with something for just about everyone, from Rush to Albert King to Public Enemy. Personally, I would definitely like to see King and Procol Harum make the cut. But my dark horse pick, and a deserving one in my humble opinion, is the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, both on its merits as a group that introduced a lot of people to hardcore Chicago blues and also to recognize the guitar skills of the under-appreciated Mike Bloomfield, a curly haired Jewish kid with an uncanny ear and magic fingers. Bloomfield, lost long ago to drugs, helped power the soulful harp player Paul Butterfield’s band, along with second guitarist Elvin Bishop. He also played guitar on Dylan’s classic “Highway 61 Revisited” album, including the song named the greatest r&r song of all time, “Like A Rolling Stone.”
Interestingly, it was the rhythm section of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band–after blowing away a critical crowd at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival–backed Dylan when he strapped on an electric guitar and shocked the world. Bloomfield went on to share stage and session time with many other greats, including such blues legends as James Cotton and Muddy Waters. He was part of another influential band, Electric Flag, with Nick Gravenites and Buddy Miles. Some of his best work came on the “Super Session” sessions he did with Al Kooper and Stephen Stills, which are still well worth a listen.
But if I were taking bets, I’d have to say Paul Butterfield Blues Band is a long shot at best, with the mainstream Rush, Deep Purple and Heart currently leading the early voting. However, there’s always hope, and maybe just the nomination will bring the band some renewed attention.
And it’s never a bad idea to close with a great song by Leon…