In October, members of the Kansas Music Hall of Fame voted on nominees for the class of 2011. The votes have been counted, and there’s a strong contingent of Kansas City musicians. In fact, seven of the 11 inductees have a connection to Kansas City.
Inductees will be honored March 5, 2011, at Liberty Hall in Lawrence.
KC-area inductees are:
Count Basie — Bill “Count” Basie was born in New Jersey, but he lived in Kansas City and his bands are the best example of Kansas City-style jazz. Lots of prominent musicians went through his bands, and Basie even had an influence on rock ‘n’ roll. Big Joe Turner, one of rock ‘n’ roll’s foundational artists, sang with Basie in the early 1950s, which lead to Turner’s record deal with Atlantic Records. Turner’s signature hit, “Shake Rattle and Roll,” was released in 1954.
James Gadson — Gadson is one of the most most recorded drummers in R&B history. He played on a ton of important records in the 1970s, including Bill Withers’ album Still Bill, which featured the classic Lean on Me.
Charlie Parker — Parker is one of the most important musicians ever to have come from Kansas City. He played a leading role in the development of bebop, a form of jazz characterized by fast tempos, virtuoso technique and improvisation based on harmonic structure.
The Rainmakers — Although they had limited commercial success in the United States, the Rainmakers had a good run in Europe in the 1980s and 1990s, particularly Norway. To my ears, their stuff stands up extremely well compared to other acts of the era. Their biggest hit was the song “Let My People Go-Go.” Writer Stephen King quoted the band’s lyrics in his novels The Tommyknockers and Gerald’s Game.
Riverrock — A great country-rock/electric bluegrass band that has been active since the 1970s. They were one of KC’s most popular bands in their day, and the band still performs around town. Their album Midwest Man is considered an area classic and has just been rereleased on CD.
Bobby Watson — Born in Lawrence, Kan., and reared in Kansas City, Kan., Watson is an alto saxophonist who has recorded 26 albums as a bandleader and plays on nearly 100 others. He moved home in 2000 and currently serves as director of jazz studies at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. In addition to teaching, he performs around the world.
Chely Wright — Growing up in Wellsville, Kan., at the southwest edge of the Kansas City metro area, Wright began singing with local bands at 11 and eventually started her own band. She joined the Ozark Jubilee show in Branson while still in high school, then moved to Nashville. Her debut album was released in 1994 and she received an Academy of Country Music award for Top New Female Vocalist that year. Her biggest his is Single White Female, released in 1999.
Full Disclosure: I’m a member of the Kansas Music Hall of Fame and voted in this election.