A member of the Grand Ole Opry, a woman who founded an iconic American coffeehouse and two local connections – one incidental and one influential – to MTV are among the six 2020 inductees in the Capital Region Thomas Edison Music Hall of Fame.
The Accents, Blotto, The Fidelitys, Hal Ketchum, Lena Spencer and John Sykes are to be inducted March 9 at the site of the Eddies Hall of Fame, Universal Preservation Hall in Saratoga Springs.
This group will join the inaugural class from 2019 – Kevin McKrell and Ruth Pelham – in the Hall exhibition, which is being formally unveiled that evening.
Here are the six inductees:
A regional music scene cornerstone for more than a half century, Schenectady drummer Benny Cannavo created the original lineup of The Accents in the late 1950s with Peter Rizzo of Schenectady (accordion) and Amsterdam residents Vince Siciliano (bass) and Carmen Filanova (guitar.) Some 40 other musicians have participated since, including Cannavo’s sons Joe (keyboards/vocals) and Frank (guitars/vocals.) Benny Cannavo retired in 2008.
Albany-based Blotto combined new wave and soul/R&B with comedic themes. Sporting pseudonyms on recordings and on stage, the quintet’s songs were played on radio’s “Dr. Demento Show” and the video for “I Wanna Be A Lifeguard” was played on MTV’s first day on the air in 1981. The band was active 1978-1984, with subsequent reunions.
Briefly called the Mellow-Tones, the Albany doo-wop group The Fidelitys appeared three times on TVs “American Bandstand” and had several appearances at Harlem’s famed Apollo Theater with Fats Domino, Jackie Wilson and other stars. Earl Thorpe (bass); Emmitt Smith (lead), Maurice Newton and Robert McCann (tenors) and Arthur Morning (baritone) reached No. 60 on the Billboard pop charts with “The Things I Love.” The group was active 1956-1970, with subsequent reunions.
Grand Ole Opry member Hal Ketchum has sold over 5 million copies of his 11 albums. The Greenwich native had 17 Billboard Hot Country Songs chart entries from 1991 to 2006. Three singles — “Small Town Saturday Night,” “Past the Point of Rescue” and “Hearts Are Gonna Roll” — all reached No. 2. A painter and a master carpenter, he acted in the films “Heartbreak Hotel” and “Maverick.” He retired in 2019 after a 33-year career.
Lena Spencer was founder and owner Caffe Lena from 1960 until her death in 1989. At the time the Saratoga Springs venue underwent a $2 million renovation in 2016, America’s oldest continuously operating coffee house had hosted over 35,000 artists performing some 16,000 shows, including a young Bob Dylan, Don McLean, Emmylou Harris and Ani DiFranco.
Schenectady native John Sykes, president of Entertainment Enterprises at iHeartMedia since 2011, was named chairman of Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2019. He has been president at VH1, president-North America at Chrysalis Records, executive VP of artist acquisitions at EMI Music Publishing, chairman and CEO at Infinity Broadcasting and is an MTV Networks co-founder.
“This is an amazing class of individuals from the Capital Region who have had a significant influence on the local music scene and beyond,” says Sal Prizio, a co-founder of The Eddies Music Awards. “The first two classes exemplify the diversity of talent engaged in many different aspects of the industry.”
The Eddies Hall of Fame event precedes the Capital Region Thomas Edison Music Awards event by about a month. Over 100 judges identified over 300 potential nominees this winter before culling the finalists for nearly 40 Eddies Awards categories. The finalists will be announced in early March and the winners will be unveiled during a three-hour show at 6 p.m. Sunday, April 5, on the MainStage at Proctors.
The Hall of Fame ceremony on March 9 is being held in advance of the awards show to shine a greater light on the six inductees, according to Jim Murphy, a co-founder of the two Eddies projects. “We wanted to spend ample time celebrating each of them in the home of the Hall of Fame.”
Last year, Pelham and McKrell were named to the Hall of Fame but since Universal Preservation Hall formally opens on Feb. 29, their plaques will be hung in the hall with the others this spring. They are invited to the Hall of Fame celebration as well. “Kevin and Ruth were the ideal individuals to name when we formally announced the Hall of Fame,” Murphy says. “Their stories are big and their impact is immense.”
An acclaimed folk musician – Pete Seeger called her “one of America’s greatest songwriters” – Pelham is equally beloved for her work as an educator and a community organizer. Through Music Mobile she brought music into Albany neighborhoods for several decades in her brightly decorated van. A co-founder of the Children’s Music Network, her music is recorded and performed near and far.
A singer-songwriter and member of Donnybrook Fair (Celtic folk), The McKrells (Celtic bluegrass) and The Fabulous Newports (pop), McKrell has performed throughout the United States, Canada and Europe since the 1970s. Many of his songs, including “All of the Hard Days Are Gone,” have been widely performed by top Celtic acts. McKrell is also a prolific painter and sculptor.
The Eddies Hall of Fame at UPH will feature a plaque with the likeness of each inductee, as well as videos about all who are enshrined. Future plans include exhibits of local music memorabilia.
To purchase tickets to the Hall of Fame dinner and the Eddies Awards, visit universalpreservationhall.org.
For more on the Eddies Awards and the Eddies Hall of Fame visit theeddiesawards.com.