Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Pales in Comparison

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is inducting its latest “class” this evening (of course, not the evening you are reading this, but on the evening of October 30, 2021, or, for those of us who are in Detroit, “Devil’s Night”). It always seems as though there are pissing and moaning associated with who gets “in” and who doesn’t that goes to a high level of overall pissiness, which Spell Check wanted me to spell “prissiness,” which is also to the point.

Apparently there is a nominating committee that comes up with a list, with the fundamental qualification that the person or group in question having put out their first recording at least 25 years ago. They draw up a list of the people they want to be considered, then that is distributed to some 600 people who are in “the industry” who vote on the names; there is a “fan” quotient that is part of the mix.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation named its first class in 1986, before there was a physical building in Cleveland, which opened in 1995. The first group of musicians? First do the math and recognize that these had to be performers circa 1960, which makes it pre-Beatles and Stones. So those who were named is probably a more eclectic group than this year’s, and this year, according to the organization, is “the most diverse list of Inductees [sic] in the history of the organization. The first group: Chuck Berry, James Brown, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Fats Domino, The Everly Brothers, Alan Freed, John Hammond, Buddy Holly, Robert Johnson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Sam Phillips, Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Jimmie Rodgers, Jimmy Yancey. Although there is a distinct absence of women, it is hard to imagine a group of musicians of that eclecticism.

This year’s: Tina Turner, Carole King, The Go-Go’s, JAY-Z, Foo Fighters, Todd Rundgren, Kraftwerk, Charley Patton, Gil Scott-Heron, Clarence Avant.

Putting aside the charitable aspects of the organization—it has 501(c) (3) non-profit status—it seems strange that rock and roll, which is arguably about tearing down monuments, not building them, has a building designed by I.M. Pei—the man who designed a portion of the Louvre, no less—full of memorabilia and such.

And all of the sturm und drang associated with the who made it and who didn’t seems antithetical to the spirit of rock and roll.

But it has been in place now for 35 years, so let’s consider it stare decisis.

That said, there are other halls of fame that are less famous and really deserve more attention.

One of them is 284 miles southwest of Cleveland, in Cincinnati.

It is the American Classical Music Hall of Fame and Museum. It was founded in 1996, making it younger than Rock, and it had its first inductees in 1998. The mission of this organization is to honor “people who have contributed to American music and music in America,” to quote Samuel Adler, who was the co-chair of the hall’s artistic directorate, and given that it has an artistic directorate, you know that this is a serious outfit. And although it is undoubtedly clear from its name, when Adler says “American music,” he doesn’t mean Elvis.

The first inductees to the American Classical Music Hall of Fame and Museum makes this year’s Rock and Roll group look like Wonder Bread.

To wit: Marian Anderson Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein, Elliot Carter, Aaron Copland, Duke Ellington, George Gershwin, Howard Hanson, Charles Ives, Scott Joplin, Serge Koussevitzky, John Knowles Paine, Leontyne Price, Fritz Reiner, Arnold Schoenberg, Gunther Schuller, Roger Sessions, Robert Shaw, Nicolas Slonimsky, John Philip Sousa, Isaac Stern, Leopold Stokowski, Igor Stravinsky, Theodore Thomas, Arturo Toscanini, and the United States Marine Band. (No, I am not making that last one up.)

What’s more, it is interesting who is involved in the selection of the honorees. The ACMHF has a Professional Organization Advisory Council (POAC) that is rather comprehensive, including the American Choral Directors Association; American Federation of Musicians, Cincinnati; American Guild of Organists; American Harp Society; American Music Center, Inc.; ASCAP; American String Teachers Association; Broadcast Music, Inc. Chamber Music America; Chorus America; College Band Directors National Association; College Music Society; Conductors Guild, Inc.; Delta Omicron Music Fraternity; League of American Orchestras; Mu Phi Epsilon; Music Critics Association of North America; Music Educators National Conference; Music Publishers’ Association of the US; Music Teachers National Association; National Association of Composers, USA; National Association of Music Merchants; National Association of Schools of Music; National Federation of Music Clubs; The National School Orchestra Association; Opera America, Inc.; Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia; National Public Radio; Sigma Alpha Iota Music Fraternity; Society for American Music; UCLA.

That is a group in whom one can have complete confidence.

Rock certainly racks up numbers when it comes to people who attend concerts and festivals. OK. This is a smaller number today than it was back in 2019, but you certainly understand the overall magnitude of people who attend shows and buy the merch and suck down the pricey beverages and wonder why the parking costs so damn much.

Here is a number from 2019 that is certainly eye opening: 16.67-million.

That’s the number of people who attended National Football League games in 2019. It breaks down to an average of 66,479 people per game. Major League Baseball had a bigger gross number (remember: more games are played): 68.48 million, or an average of 28,201 per game.

Clearly the music industry has to look at that with more than a bit of envy.

(And here’s something to think about: one of the biggest musical events of the year takes place. . .at the Super Bowl. Musical performance as subset of football.)

Which takes us to another hall of fame, this one 328 miles west of Cleveland, in Whiting, Indiana. Cleveland is on Lake Erie. Whiting is on Lake Michigan. Automatically score one for Whiting.

Whiting is the home of the Mascot Hall of Fame. That’s right: a hall of fame dedicated to North American sports mascots. (While some of these characters have big heads, that is a physical manifestation, unlike the big heads that some people have in the music industry.)

The MHOF was founded by David Raymond, the original Phillie Phanatic, in 2005. It was originally an online-only hall, but the good people of Whiting thought it would be a good idea to have something that could draw people to its municipality, so there was a $14-million tax-increment financing package put together, and by the day after Christmas, 2018, the doors opened.

For a mascot to be considered for induction, it must have performed in U.S. major and minor league sports of baseball (MLB, MiLB), basketball (NBA, WNBA), football (NFL, CFL), hockey (NHL, AHL, ECHL), and soccer (MLS, NWSL, USL, NASL), or college divisions of NCAA Divisions I, II, III, NAIA. It can be an independently performing character (solo artist).

Like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 25-year rule, to get in the Mascot Hall of Fame, the mascot must have been an active performer for 10 years prior to its election and whomever must “be prepared to show documented proof.”

There is a screening committee that determines who makes the list. The list is then turned over to the Executive Committee.

And that Executive Committee has as much—if not more—cred when it comes to selecting who makes it in than any associated with Cleveland. These are men and women who have skin, fur and feathers in the game.

As in:

• Jon Absey: Mascotted at >900 NBA games. Mascot of the Year in the NBA 5x
• Zoltan Berencsi: Senior producer for Harlem Globetrotters. >20 years as a professional mascot for NBA, WNBA, NFL, NHL
• Chris Bergstrom: Director, Fan & Youth Engagement for Boston Red Sox
• Robert Boudwin, Created YoUDee (the University of Delaware Fightin’ Blue Hen) and Clutch the Bear (Houston Rockets)
• Chris Bruce: Performed as the aforementioned YouUDee. Extensive experience in the mascot professional sports environment
• Tom Burgoyne: was the Phillie Phanatic for over 30 years
• Brad Collins: started his career in 2001 as Sparty at Michigan State University. Other post-grad characters: JJ Jumper, Sherman and Parker. Performed at UCA Nationals B1G Football games, 2004 Final Four, 2015 and 2015 World Series, and 9 MLB All-Star Games
• Jon Cudo: Original Timberwolves Crunch (1989-96). Also Sport the Fire Dog for the Portland Fire (1998-2000). Created and performed Moondog for the Cleveland Cavaliers for over 15 years.
• John Decicco: Started as mascot assistant for Miami Marlin home games in 1999 and became the backup Billy the Marlin in 2000. Became full-time Billy The Marlin in 2002. Spent 19 years with the Marlins.
• Joe Doyle: Worked for various teams before joining the Chicago Blackhawks in 2008. The Tommy Hawk mascot was inducted into the Mascot Hall of Fame in 2017.
• Tim Falkner: Joined the St. Louis Cardinals in 1996 as “Freebird’s very close friend” and spent 24 seasons with the team.
• Joby Giacalone: Mascotting includes Joe Bear for Lenoir-Rhyne College, the original Homer the Dragon for the Charlotte Knights, was Hugo the Hornet for the Charlotte Hornets, and was the original Dinger the Dinosaur for the Colorado Rockies. He created COSMO the Sheepdog in 1997 for charity events.
• Ray Henderson: Has been a professional NBA mascot for 23 years.
• Dan Kilday: Was the original Cleveland Indians Slider in 1990 and spent 30 seasons with the team.
• Wes Lockard: Experience includes performances as Duncan of the New Jersey Nets and Burnie of the Miami Heat.
• Bromley Lowe: Was a mascot for the Baltimore Orioles for 11 seasons, the Baltimore Ravens for four seasons.
• Dan Meers: Selected as the #1 college mascot at the 1989 National Collegiate Mascot Championships for his work as the University of Missouri’s Truman Tiger. Has performed as the a mascot for the St. Louis Cardinals and the Kansas City Chiefs.
• Todd “Parney” Parnell: An executive for the Richmond Flying Squirrels and the Montgomery Biscuits.
• Doug Raymond: The original Phillie Phanatic and founder of the Mascot Hall of Fame.
• John Routh: Started as Cocky for the University of South Carolina in 1980, then went on to stints as the Miami Maniac, Sebastian the Ibis, Billy the Marlin, Pat C. Gull, Striker, and Hosty the Super Bear.
• Jennifer Smith: Established Avant Garb, a mascot design and production studio.
• Kristen Jacob Smith: Worked for the NCAA for 15 years which has given her “the opportunity and enjoyment of meeting hundreds of characters across the country.”
• Kenn Solomon: Started his mascot career in 1990 as Rocky for the Denver Nuggets.
• Al Spajer: Not a background in being a mascot (40+ years in the steel industry). Original executive director of the Mascot Hall of Fame during its construction.
• Glenn Street: Founding chairman of the Mascot Committee of the Calgary Stampede (1984). Established Street Characters in 1987, which creates and manufacturers mascot costumes.

Sort of puts that ceremony at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame into perspective.

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