Lou Gramm, Son House among new class for Rochester Music Hall of Fame

08:19 PM, Feb 28, 2013

Written By Jeff Spevak | Staff music critic

If you go

What: The concert for the 2013 Rochester Music Hall of Fame inductees.
When: 7 p.m. April 28.
Where: Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre, 60 Gibbs St.
Tickets: Ranging from $20 to $65, available at the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra box office, (585) 454-2100, rpo.org, rochestermusic.org and Wegmans.

The actual building is nowhere in sight, but the foundation is being laid. Eight new inductees — including the biggest name ever to come out of the city’s rock scene and a Delta blues icon from the ’30s — were named to the Rochester Music Hall of Fame on Thursday.

They’ll be celebrated with an an evening of music on April 28 at Kodak Hall at the Eastman Theatre, built by one of the other new members to the hall.

The eight new honorees:

Lou Gramm. Lead singer of the arena-powerhouse rockers Foreigner, Gramm grew up in Gates and lives in Webster today. He also will be inducted in to the National Songwriters Hall of Fame in June.

Son House. The legendary Mississippi Delta bluesman was lost, and then rediscovered in 1964 living in obscurity in Rochester, leading to an energetic revival in his career before his death in 1988.

George Eastman. His role as a music philanthropist in the city included establishing the Eastman Theatre, the Eastman School of Music and the radio station WHAM.

Bat McGrath. A member of one of Rochester’s top bands of the ’60s, The Show Stoppers, he and Don Potter were the hub of the local scene. McGrath played on and wrote for several of Chuck Mangione’s early albums, has had songs recorded by Wynonna Judd and Kenny Rogers, and continues to release solo albums. He will be inducted by his current songwriting partner, Pat Algier, who wrote many of Garth Brooks’ hits.

Don Potter. McGrath’s partner throughout the ’60s with The Show Stoppers and as co-owner of the popular music coffeehouse Hyliemorris’ Alley, Potter also was a member of the Rochester band The Brass Buttons. Potter has released a handful of solo albums, most focusing on Christian music, and was the musical director for The Judds for many years. He will be inducted by Naomi Judd.

Mitch Miller. An Eastman School of Music product, Miller worked with many of the world’s biggest music stars, including Doris Day and Johnny Mathis, while at Columbia Records. Miller, who died in 2010, had his own television show for years, Sing Along With Mitch.

Nick Nickson. Starting at WARC in 1947, Nickson was best known as a deejay at WBBF in the 1950s and ’60s, ushering in the era of rock and roll. He had the highest ratings ever of any Rochester radio personality.

Jack Palvino. Another WBBF deejay, Palvino had the city’s top-rated morning show for nearly 20 years.

Our music history has defined this community,” Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks said at Thursday’s press conference, noting that the concert honoring last year’s inaugural class “exceeded all expectations,” drawing 1,600 people to the Eastman Theatre. Deputy Mayor Leonard Redon praised the hall’s “grass-roots effort” in getting off the ground.

The success of that initial show allowed the Hall of Fame to narrowly break into the black in its first year, said Jack Whittier, vice president of the organization. Whittier said he expects a sell-out this time around for a show that will feature video tributes and live performances not only by inductees such as Gramm, but also by guests such as Leslie Uggams on behalf of Miller and John Mooney and local icon Joe Beard playing Son House’s music.

A permanent home for the hall now would be “putting the cart before the horse,” said the group’s president, Karl LaPorta. “We don’t know if it will be a building on its own, or attached to another organization.”

Because we had success last year, it was a lot easier to make this year happen,” said the show’s producer, Bruce Pilato. He expects to add a few more big-name performers to the lineup, particularly to the Son House tribute. Mooney, originally from Mendon, and Beard both knew House when he was living in Rochester

Miller’s induction will also include Bob McGraw, who was featured on Sing Along With Mitch for five years. McGraw is probably better known, however, for the four decades he spent on Sesame Street. Pilato also said he was “hopeful” for a reunion of Potter and McGrath; the two did perform together at Mangione’s three sold-out “Friends & Love” concerts in 2007.

George Eastman, a classical music enthusiast, will be represented by a string quartet, dancers and a performance on one of his favorite instruments, the Rogers pipe organ. That may take some dumpster diving, however, as the Eastman Theater’s Rogers pipe organ apparently ended up in the garbage during the venue’s 1972 renovation.