Damn right, they’ve got the Blues Hall of Fame inductions they deserve. Aretha Franklin, Count Basie and Booker T. & the MGs are the household names being brought into the hall as part of the 40th class this year, in a ceremony that will take place in Memphis May 8 at the Halloran Centre for the Performing Arts and Education.
The blues and rhythm & blues are interconnected enough that installing the late Queen of Soul might seem like a no-brainer to many fans. But for anyone who doubts that Franklin counts as a true exemplar of the genre, the Blues Foundation helpfully points out that the very first record she ever released after signing with Columbia was a song called “Today I Sing the Blues,” and her fifth album was “Unforgettable: A Tribute to Dinah Washington.” In 1980 she released a compilation of her more blues-oriented early material, “Aretha Sings the Blues.”
The Blues Foundation names recordings as well as artists to its Hall of Fame, and the singles being inducted this year include Muddy Waters’ “Rollin’ Stone,” Ray Charles’ “I Got a Woman” and Elmore James “Shake Your Moneymaker,” along with Elmore James’ 1965 compilation “The Sky Is Crying.” Ida Cox and guitarist Pee Way Crayton are the other two performers joining the Hall of Fame, which will also honor the late Folkways Records executive Moses “Moe” Asch.
Cox is best remembered for the 1924 feminist anthem “Wild Women Don’t Have the Blues,” which three-quarters of a century later found new life as a staple in Lyle Lovett’s set. Crayton, at the forefront of the west coast blues scene in the 1940s, had a guitar instrumental called “Blues After House” top Billboard’s “Race Records” chart (the name of which was later changed to R&B) in 1948. Booker T. and the MGs had their own hits like “Green Onions” in the ’60s but also played on a huge number of the Stax soul and blues records of that era, including everything bluesman Albert King put out for the label. Count Basie, one of the great entertainers of the 20th century, combined blues and swing to irresistible effect.
The May 8 induction ceremony in Memphis will be followed a night later by contemporary honors given out at the 40th annual Blues Music Awards. The museum itself will put items connected with the inductees on display starting the day of the ceremony.