Breaking Down the Walls of the Rock Hall: Class of 1991

1991 was different than other year in Rock Hall history. Unlike most of the induction years the class of 1991 inductees mostly consisted of R&B and Blues artists, the genres that help make Rock and Roll possibly. Even in the early years of the Rock Hall, it’s amazing that the majority of inductees in a year mostly consists of African American artists.

One of the headlining acts inducted in 1991 was Tina Turner, or as the Rock Hall points out “Ike & Tina Turner“. Yes I know that Ike & Tina made important contributions to music, but the way of how Ike treated Tina during their years together it’s better off if they inducted just Tina instead. Heck, the Rock Hall didn’t even induct Tina Turner twice for her solo career.

Although most people know them through the solo careers of Jerry Butler and Curtis Mayfield, The Impressions deserves to be inducted into the Rock Hall. The Impressions helped put Chicago into the music map for it’s unique style of Soul music during a time when Detroit and New York dominated that scene with Motown and Atlantic Records respectively. Plus, having written and recorded the song “People Get Ready” should automatically put them in the Hall of Fame.

Although most Rock Hall analysts put her at the bottom of the totem pole of Rock Hall inductees, no one should sleep on the achievements of LaVern Baker. LaVern Baker is important in Rock Hall history because she was considered to be one of the first female Rock stars. With hits like “Jim Dandy”, “Tweedle Dee”, and “See See Rider” it’s no wonder why she’s considered as an early rock star.

Another major R&B artist that got inducted in 1991 was Wilson Pickett. There’s no need to describe more to Wilson Pickett other than, like Joe Tex, his success and stage energy is probably the only one who could rival James Brown’s during the 1960s. With hits like “Land of 1000 Dances”, “In the Midnight Hour” and his own rendition of “Hey Jude” (backed with the guitar stylings of Duane Allman), there’s no way to deny that Pickett belongs in the Hall.

On the Blues side, there’s also the induction of John Lee Hooker. If you are a big Blues fan, then you know how much influence John Lee Hooker has on the genre. Even though his style of guitar may seem simple even for the time, it was also feels timeless that it feels so modern. John Lee Hooker career spans over a 50 year period that he had different kinds of styles of Blues that he still finds success during those decades.

John Lee Hooker performing at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Bonnie Raitt

Another major Blues guitar player that year was Jimmy Reed. Jimmy Reed is not just important to Blues, but also to the history of modern pop music because his style of people is so accessible to every one. With his style so simple and imitated so easily, Jimmy Reed’s music has influenced a number of artists that include Elvis, Charlie Rich, Lou Rawls and The Rolling Stones.

Although he was inducted in the Early Influence category, there are reports that Howlin’ Wolf was nominated in the Performer category. And I agree, he belongs to be inducted in the Performer category. Howlin’ Wolf’s career mostly took place after 1954, the year when it’s been said that Rock and Roll was born, and he still had some success after the 1950s that inducting him in the Early Influence category seems unnecessary. Regardless of where he’s place, it’s really a no-brainer that Howlin’ Wolf deserves to be in the Hall.

Howlin’ Wolf being introduced by The Rolling Stones

The only white artists that got inducted in the Performers category in 1991 was The Byrds. This was their first year of eligibility for induction so it makes sense that they got inducted right away. The Byrds are probably the first artists to merge both Folk and Rock even before Dylan went electric and one of the few American acts to still find major success in the US during the British Invasion that it’ll be very dumb not to induct The Byrds into Hall.

There were three men that inducted in Non-Performer category, and most of them are connected the year’s theme of R&B and Blues. One of the major ones was Dave Bartholomew, who was a major songwriting partner to Fats Domino and a prominent figure of the New Orleans music scene in the latter half of the 20th century. There was also the induction of Ralph Bass, a talent scout and producer who helped discovered and producer many R&B artists on several labels, and one of his major discoveries was James Brown. Although Nesuhi Ertegun helped found Atlantic Records with his brother Ahmet, he wasn’t much of contributor of either Rock or R&B during the label’s history. The only known major contribution he made on both genres was on compilation albums.

Artists Who Were Nominated But Didn’t Get Inducted That Year

All of the artists nominated for the 1991 ceremony were later inducted afterwards, so I’ll be saving them for later analysis. Here are the other artists that nominated that year:

  • Bobby “Blue” Bland
  • Duane Eddy
  • Elmore James
  • Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers
  • Gene Vincent
  • Johnny Cash
  • The Moonglows
  • The Yardbirds

Final Thoughts

This is a perfect case for the Rock Hall to induct more non-white artists into the Hall because it wasn’t just white men who have contributed to Rock and Roll. But sadly, this might be the last year (or maybe 1996) where we see this kind of thing happen because right after the 60s Rock and Roll has been dominated by white men. But who knows, maybe the Rock Hall could have year where the majority of the inductees are a mix of R&B and Hip Hop.

Artists Who I’ll Vote If I Had a Real Ballot:

  • Tina Turner
  • The Byrds
  • John Lee Hooker
  • The Impressions
  • Wilson Pickett

(LaVern Baker and Johnny Cash were my final cuts)