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“The Rochester Music Hall of Fame”

“The ROCHESTER MUSIC HALL OF FAME” – Saluting music professional
from the GLOOW counties (Genesee, Livingston etc.) and beyond

BY SCOTT GUDELL

Over a decade ago, an area music fan wrote a letter to Rochester’s daily newspaper and suggested the community consider supporting a regional music hall of fame.  That letter sparked a methodical procession to create the Rochester Music Hall of Fame (RMHF.)  Volunteers united, a charter was created, a list of potential nominees was compiled and more. Fund raisers were conducted and the first official induction ceremony occurred in 2012 at the prestigious Eastman Theatre.  The RMHF is celebrating its 10th anniversary on Sunday April 30, 2023 (delayed a bit due to Covid).  Although Rochester is the core city, numerous area counties and towns are also rich with talented music pros. One of the towns well represented is Webster with two people already inducted and a third about to join them. 

The initial list of potential nominees included hundreds of names and continues to grow confirming there is a deep, rich pool of talent.  In addition to the original list of ‘charter inductees,’ the RMHF has inducted approximately five dozen people to date.  Two of the inductees to date have deep Webster roots and have already been inducted: 

LOU GRAMM / RMHF Class of 2013 – This long-time resident of Webster (who now splits his time between here and Florida) began his music career as a member of Rochester’s Black Sheep.  After limited commercial success, Gramm responded to a ‘help wanted’ call when Mick Jones, a veteran British Invasion rocker from the 1960s, was in New York City seeking to craft a new rock band with a new lead singer.  Gramm got the job and Foreigner’s debut LP hit the charts in 1977.  The first album immediately offered a potent ‘one/two’ punch with the very first two songs – “Feels Like the First Time,” and “Cold as Ice.”  Each of the next three albums had chart topping songs including ”Hot Blooded,” “Double Vision,” “Head Games,” “Rev On the Red Line” (with a line about racing on Lake Avenue) and “Juke Box Hero” which was also the title of Gramm’s 2013 autobiography.  The fifth LP was a ‘greatest hits’ disc and was the fifth Foreigner album in a row to achieve 5x platinum sales.  Gramm released several of his own albums featuring songs such as “Midnight Blue” on his 1987 solo debut but, by the end of the decade, he left Foreigner (although he occasionally reunited with them.)  The hectic rock and roll lifestyle eventually led Gramm to becoming a born-again Christian in the early 1990s and he would perform Christian rock off and on going forward.  He also victoriously dealt with a severe health scare in the late 1990s.  He announced his retirement by the late 2010s but did hit the road for several brief tours.  As of 2023, he’s greatly reduced his touring and recording activities.

WENDY O. WILLIAMS / RMHF Class of 2016 The family home was on State Road and her early arts and entertainment activities included tap dancing and a stint playing that definitive rock instrument, the clarinet, in her junior high school band.  But a new clamorous sound was beckoning her by the time she was in her mid-20s.  During the mid to late 1970s, punk rock was scratching, clawing and shoving its way into clubs in key cities such as New York, London, LA and others and eventually caught the attention of major record companies and creative radio stations.  Even though CBGBs in New York City was a relatively small club, if you played there, you arrived.  Talking Heads, Patti Smith, Blondie, the Ramones and numerous other musicians converted first dozens then hundreds, thousands and eventually portions of the world to the sound of punk.  When the Plasmatics hit the stage at CBGBs in the late 1970s, lead singer Wendy O. Williams was cocked and ready to fire.  Her over-the-top stage antics attracted attention but, when it came to music, she was obviously doing something right since even the Grammy’s officially acknowledged her power by nominating her for an award in the mid-1980s.  Although there were several Plasmatic and solo releases, her time in the musical spotlight was relatively brief.  In addition, Wendy made sure to find time for her other passions such as advocating for animal rights.  Her life came to an abrupt end on April 6, 1998 but WOW lives on via her music.

Joining them this year is colorful radio personality Brother Wease, who has already been inducted into both the National Radio Hall of Fame as well as the New York State Broadcasters Associations Hall of Fame.   More about the newest RMHF member at Rochestermusic.org. 

The Rochester Music Hall of Fame – celebrating the region’s music – year in and year out – for over a decade.  Plan on being at the 2023 ceremony on Sunday April 30th.  For information, including info on the complete ‘Class of 2023,’ visit Rochestermusic.org. 

 

About the Author: Scott Gudell had covered music since the 1970s and is a long-time board member of the RMHF.  He can be reached at SGudell@frontier.com

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