RIMHOF 2018 Inductees

Ten more musicians have been given the highest honor a local musician can receive in RI (other than a Motif Music Award): An induction into the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame. This year’s Hall of Fame class includes musical artists, music educators and production specialists. David Blue, Tom Ghent, James Montgomery, Paul Murphy, Mike Renzi, John Chan, Lloyd Kaplan, Andrew Polin, Bob Morrisey and LeRoy Bennett were given this year’s honor for their work done for the music industry in Rhode Island.

The annual induction ceremony took place inside the Hall of Fame in Pawtucket. The event had a strong attendance, made up of music fans, fellow artists and band members, family members and other Hall of Famers. The crowd was rambunctious and rowdy, but in an excited kind of way. People spent the afternoon yelling to the inductees and greeting each other in the crowd. Everyone was moving around, talking and enjoying themselves. The noise level was very high, as you can imagine at music ceremony, but only became an issue when the inductees were getting their introductions and RIMHOF volunteers had to quiet down the room.

The building has one long brick hallway, covered on both sides by displays honoring musicians who were enshrined in past years. The event began with each of the current inductee’s displays covered by a black sheet. Each inductee was introduced by Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame Vice Chairman, Rick Bellaire, who spoke without the assistance of any notes, about each new member. When Mr. Bellaire was finished with his introduction, the inductee or a representative would grab the 10’-high curtain covering their display, and pull it off. The event concluded when all the new displays were unveiled, and was followed by a sold-out concert next door at The Met, as a tribute to the new class of inductees.   

The first of two pre-ceremony events kicked off a few days prior at Chan’s Fine Oriental Dining in Woonsocket. The restaurant and music club was passed down decades ago to this year’s inductee, John Chan. Chan has made his family restaurant into one of Rhode Island’s — and the region’s — premiere music destinations. Chan’s hosted Mike Renzi and his piano, starting the weekend off right with a collaboration between two of the inductees.

Renzi started his career on the piano before diversifying his career. In addition to being one of the most decorated pianists in Rhode Island, he has made soundtracks for several different TV and movie productions. He has received 17 Emmy nominations and won seven times.

Sadly, David Blue and Paul Murphy were enshrined posthumously, but both men received touching tributes from former bandmates and friends.

David Blue was honored by past inductees, Marc Cutler and Bill Hurley, during an event where they played folk music written and performed by Blue. That night also featured a performance from fellow inductee Tom Ghent, who played with Blue during the folk revival of the 1960s.

Ghent was honored to perform a tribute to David Blue, as well as play his own music that made his career so special. Ghent mastered the coffee house scene in Rhode Island and moved to Greenwich Village where he made a career playing in “baskethouses.” Ghent moved all across the United States, spending a short time in Los Angeles before returning to New York, and then packing up again to go to Nashville. He found fame with his hit, “Whiskey, Whiskey” which has since been adapted by several artists. Along with his musical talent, Ghent was also a professional tennis player. He eventually came back to New York for a bit to be a tennis coach, and then continued to instruct other musicians on the game when he returned to Nashville.

“The songwriter’s songwriter” is how folk legend Bob Dylan described David Blue. Dylan played alongside Blue on occasion throughout their careers and has stated, “David Blue was the peer of any songwriter in this country.” Blue made seven full albums and was elevated into the public eye when he wrote songs for the Eagles in 1973. Rick Bellaire was ecstatic to honor David Blue, saying, “David Blue was the epitome of folk rock and blues.” Bellaire later added, “Dave’s an extremely important figure in the 1960s folk revival… you can’t underestimate him and his pivotal role in modernizing folk music.” While his premature death prevented him from reaching his full level of stardom, his contributions to the music world cannot be overlooked. Anyone who receives such high praise from Bob Dylan is truly a legend.

Paul Murphy made his way into the Hall of Fame with his guitar. He played for several different bands and was always in demand across Rhode Island. Greg Abate, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2016, played with Murphy as band members of Channel One. “I’m really glad and proud Paul is being inducted. We played together a lot in the 1970s. He was a great man and a great guitarist.” Another former band member, Marty Bellou, said about Murphy, “He was the kinda guy that would steer any conversation toward what’s up with you rather than what’s going on with him. He always knew the soundman’s name, the door guy’s name, the bartender’s name, everyone! He had a great sense of community and not just in our home area. While Murphy passed away too young, his 40 years left an indelible mark on Rhode Island music.

This year had the induction of lifelong music educator, Lloyd Kaplan. Kaplan began teaching in 1960 and never looked back. He started as a teacher at Cranston public schools before moving to Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI), where he stayed for 31 years. Kaplan transformed the music curriculum at CCRI, making it more advanced and diverse. Kaplan recognizes that not many educators receive an induction, and he is grateful for the journey that brought him to this point. “I’m thrilled, I’m elated to be given this honor… It’s been fantastic, I’ve been very lucky all the way through. It’s been heavenly at CCRI. I love teaching.”   

Lighting professionals Andrew Polin and Bob Morrissey started their lighting production company at young ages back in 1972. The two men first crossed paths at an Aerosmith concert and discussed their shared passion for productions. They grew their company quickly and within five years of its creation, they were the light designers for the hit band Boston. They grew even larger and worked with a wide range of popular bands. They worked on regional projects as well, such as the Newport Jazz and Folk Festivals. Morrissey continues doing lighting productions while Polin has stepped off the scene. Although he’s not working in the business anymore, Polin was still thrilled to find out he had been given this honor, “I am tremendously honored that people would remember me for my work, even after this amount of time being out of the music industry.”

Along the way they hired a young man named LeRoy Bennett, who would go on to start his own string of career successes and joined them as an inductee.

LeRoy Bennett was working for a production company when he asked if he could have the lead on a lighting design project. He was told he could take the lead for the next artist to call the office. Later that day, the office got a call about an up-and-coming artist who needed a light design for his tour; that guy’s name was Prince.

Bennett worked with Prince for many years and his career took off. He used his visions to put together incredible displays that brought the music to life. “I came from a very talented musical family, I could never do it but I love music. I have a passion for it. I see it, I don’t just hear it.”

Along with Prince, Bennett worked with rock and roll legends like Paul McCartney, Queen, The Who and Freddie Mercury. More recently, Bennett has done lighting for Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, Jay-Z and Beyonce, among many others. With all the different projects he has worked on, it was impossible for Bennett to pick a favorite. “I’ve worked with all sorts of artists and projects and they’re all like my children, I loved each project.”

Since the inaugural class was inducted back in 2012, the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame has grown into a shrine to the best musicians from the state. The newest class has been honored for their outstanding work, and will be forever immortalized for Rhode Island music lovers.  

 

   

 

 

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