- Category: Michigan Rock & Roll Legends Hall of Fame
The automotive industry and the other manufacturing companies in Michigan played an important role in the rise of Rock and Roll in the state. Plants like Dodge Main in Hamtramck, which employed 40,000 people in World War II, brought people of different nationalities and races from all over the world to Michigan. The most important migration in terms of music came from the agricultural South in the United States, a region where people representing a wide range of ethnic groups were looking for good wages and an opportunity to provide a higher standard of living for their families.
Because of the auto plants and the industries that grew around them, Metropolitan Detroit and the large cities to the north and west became melting pots of cultural diversity. The people who came to live and work in these municipalities brought a variety of musical styles including Blues, Country, Gospel, Folk, and Latin. These were blended with R&B, Jazz, and Pop into a kind of cross-cultural musical stew that evolved into the very distinct style of Rock and Roll found in Michigan.
The higher standard of living now possible for Michigan families also saw the rise of a postwar teenage culture with more disposable income and leisure time than any previous generation. These teens of all races would begin to look for a new type of music that would better reflect their lives.
Even the big, powerful, chrome-trimmed cars coming out of Detroit became somewhat symbolic of the new sound. The automobiles produced in the Motor City were, in turn, the subject of many songs during Rock and Roll’s first decade.
Other technological advances would be vital to the rise of this powerful new music genre. One important one was the change in radio broadcasting from predominantly live music in the 40’s to playing recordings by an announcer who would become known as the disc jockey in the 50’s. These deejays, broadcasting from AM stations all around the state, would play crucial roles in exposing the new artists and sounds of Michigan Rock and Roll, especially during its first two decades.
Another would be the development of amplified instruments. The electric guitar, invented by the late Les Paul, would become a symbol of Rock and Roll and an important ingredient of the Michigan sound. This can clearly be heard in the early R&B recordings of Hank Ballard & The Midnighters, the Rockabilly sides of Jack Scott, the three-guitar approach of the Funk Brothers on countless Motown hits, and in the heavy sounds of bands like the MC5 and Grand Funk Railroad.
Televisions became common in American households in the 50’s, and even though there were only two or three channels, teen programs such as American Bandstand as well as prime time variety fare such as the Ed Sullivan Show became important showcases for the new breed Rock and Roll artists. These, in turn, inspired Michigan stations to start producing their own televised dance programs such as Teen Town and Swingin' Time in Detroit.
Teen nightclubs grew across the state, starting with the rise of Rock and Roll in the 50’s and continuing through the decade of the 60’s. The ‘battle of the bands’ and weekly dances held at the clubs would prove to be invaluable training grounds for new young bands to play the hits of the day and to develop original material.
Michigan was also blessed with a number of small independent record labels that provided opportunities for Michigan artists. Fortune, Lucky Eleven, A-Square, Lu Pine, Fenton, Golden World, Carla, Impact, and most importantly Tamla-Motown, were just a few of the labels that opened the doors to a vast array of Michigan vinyl recordings that today provide us with an aural history of development of the Rock and Roll movement in our state.
Michigan Rock and Roll Legends is a website dedicated to the artists and music of the vinyl era, a period of time running from roughly 1950 through 1990. Making a record at a recording studio was an important event for an artist during those days, and the vinyl 45s, EPs, and LPs that were produced played an immense part in what is the state’s rich and diverse Rock and Roll legacy. MRRL was created in 2004 to help promote and preserve this vital aspect of Michigan's cultural history. It is hoped that the site will not only give recognition to artists and songs that were important contributors to the Rock and Roll movement in the state, but will also help keep the spirit of Michigan music burning bright.
The voting for inclusion in the MRRL Internet Hall of Fame was originally done in the spring of 2005 by a large group of Rock and Roll lovers who participated in The World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Trivia Show held twice yearly in Bay City. In 2007, the vote was expanded to include ballots sent via email by Michigan music fans who did not attend the trivia shows.
By 2008, the voting for the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends Internet Hall of Fame and Legendary Michigan Songs was done completely online. The vote is open to anyone who is interested in Michigan Rock and Roll music. In 2012 an automated voting system was installed to tabulate the votes. The top 3 vote-getters among the eligible Michigan artists and the top 5 songs on the internet ballots will gain induction each year.
Honorary inductions to the MRRL Internet Hall of Fame were started in 2008. The purpose of this type of induction was to give credit to the people behind-the-scenes who were significant in the history of Michigan Rock and Roll. These would include artists, photographers, label owners, music promoters, session musicians, publicity directors, songwriters, disc jockeys, and record producers who would generally not be household names to most Michigan music fans.
In celebration of its 10th anniversary, Historical Inductions were introduced by the MRRL Hall of Fame in 2014. This designation honors up to three Michigan artists each year who have released significant vinyl recordings, but have been overlooked by both the voting public and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. In order to qualify for Historical Induction to the MRRL Hall of Fame, an artist would have had to issue a vinyl recording during Rock and Roll's first two decades, roughly 1950 through 1969. Historical Inductions in the Legendary Michigan Song category began in 2017, and ten recordings have been honored thus far. As with Historical Hall of Fame inductions, the vinyl recordings selected as Historical Legendary Songs have to have been issued during the 1950 through 1969 time period.