How We Got Our Name

The idea to create a hall of fame for Michigan artists came about in the mid-90’s while I was writing a textbook for a Rock and Roll history course I was developing at Cramer Junior High School in Essexville. While researching material for what became the first version of Good Rockin' Tonight, I was surprised to discover that there was not already something in place for Michigan artists.

One of the main themes for my class was the very important role that Michigan artists played in the history of Rock and Roll, and it seemed to me that the establishment of an organization that celebrated that aspect of our state’s cultural history was long overdue.

An opportunity was presented when Bay City hired a firm to explore ideas for developing the land that was formerly an industrial site along the riverfront on the city’s Eastside. To encourage community involvement in the area now called Uptown at River’s Edge, citizens were invited to submit ideas that would be considered for possible investment and implementation.

I wrote a proposal for a Michigan Rock and Roll Hall of Fame/Museum to be established along the riverfront in Bay City. My proposal outlined the importance of Michigan in the overall history of Rock and Roll as well as Bay City’s part in that history (i.e. the birthplace of Madonna and the site for the recording of “96 Tears”). I thought that the best selling point of the proposal was that a hall of fame museum that housed memorabilia from Michigan artists would attract tourist dollars from all around the world.

The idea for a Hall of Fame was rejected, and instead there was a lot of big talk regarding a proposed maritime center, a new shopping and restaurant area, a minor league baseball stadium, a gambling casino, and the construction of more expensive condos along the river. It took over 15 years but development of the properties at Uptown at River's Edge finally began in 2013.

Despite having my proposal turned down, I still believed it was an idea worth pursuing. I thought it might be fun to try to do something with it online in the form of a website. Having very little computer savvy, I recruited some high school computer students from the Bay Arenac Skill Center and hired them to help me set up the first version of the site.

The voters for the first group of Michigan inductees in the spring of 2005 were the 100 or so knowledgeable people who regularly attended the “World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Trivia Show” that I had been hosting with a friend of mine in Bay City since 1992. Seventeen well-known Michigan artists were inducted as a result of that first vote. At this point the website was going to be called the Michigan Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

My wife, Lynn-J, and I had first met Terry Stewart, the President and CEO of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, at an event called "A Night Of Rock And Roll Dancing" on February 14, 2004 in Cleveland. Writer and deejay Norm N. Nite hosted the dance at the Hall of Fame Museum, and Terry ran a brief trivia show which I managed to win. Speaking with him afterwards, I tried to recruit him to come to my multi-media Rock and Roll trivia show in Bay City in the spring. I wrote to invite him again in the fall of 2004, as well as the spring of 2005, but had no luck in getting him to attend.

When I wrote Stewart once again to invite him to the fall trivia show to be held in November of 2005, I mentioned in the letter that I was in the process of setting up a Michigan Rock and Roll Hall of Fame website, and that we had held our first vote the previous spring.

Terry Stewart had always sent me a postcard informing me of his regrets, but this time he called me on the phone. His purpose was to let me know that if I used the name Michigan Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for my site, he would be forced to sue me. He went on to explain that the hall in Cleveland had exclusive rights to the title “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame”. Stewart said that he was currently in the process of suing a website called the Jewish Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for $150,000 because they had refused to change their name.

Stewart then advised me that I should modify the name of my site "to something like Michigan Rock and Roll Legends” in order to avoid being the target of a lawsuit. Discretion being the better part of valor, and impressed by his right-sounding suggestion, I thanked him for the advanced warning and turned his proposed name change for the website into the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends Internet Hall of Fame that very day.

I never was successful in luring Terry to Bay City for one of my Rock and Roll trivia presentations, however, despite mailing written invitations to him right up until the end of the run of the shows. I'm sorry he never made it to one, but I'm indebted to him for helping me come up with a great name for the site and for playing a part in the interesting story relating to it.