STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
The Philadelphia Music Alliance announced May 28 that The Roots, Ray Benson of Asleep at the Wheel, Cinderella, The Trammps, Andrea McArdle and WOGL air personality Harvey Holiday will be added to the Philadelphia Music Walk of Fame as members of its Class of 2015. The new honorees – along with the previously-announced Billie Holiday – will be formally inducted together on Oct. 26.
Harvey Holiday — who lives in Wayne, and has been on the air in Philadelphia 50 years — noted that the Walk of Fame, which was established in 1986, now has a two-generation connection. Questlove of The Roots is the son of ’50s singer Lee Andrews (“Teardrops,” “Long Lonely Nights,” “Try the Impossible”).
Jerry Blavat, another radio personality associated with Philly, said after a press conference held at the Hotel Monaco: “I go back with Harvey Holiday when he was carrying records for Hy Lit (who was inducted to the Walk of Fame in 1993 with Blavat). I was a fan of (Holiday) when he was on WDAS. He played the real rhythm and blues … The Spaniels, Frankie Lymon and The Dells …”
Holiday called his induction “unbelievably humbling” and “a dream come true” to have a plaque along the Avenue of the Arts just like Hy Lit and Joe Niagara. He said that his only goal getting into radio was “to be a friend to people like radio was a friend to me.”
“This year we are able to illustrate, through our musically diverse honorees, why Philadelphia has been and continues to be the number one city for extraordinary and award winning talent,” said PMA board chairman Alan Rubens, a resident of Wynnewood, Montgomery County. “Our inductees this year span the musical gamut, from jazz, country, disco, hip hop/neo soul, rock, Broadway and radio.”
The Class of 2015 collectively has 16 Grammy Awards and a Tony Award nomination (McArdle, who was Broadway’s original “Annie”). The Roots, who have four of those Grammys, have been the official house band of “The Tonight Show” since Jimmy Fallon took over. Live Nation’s Philadelphia regional president Geoff Gordon came out to publicly tip his hat to the band for their successful (and sold out this year) Roots Picnic concert festival.
Cinderella’s glam metal/hard rock image was tailor-made for 1980s MTV, leading to worldwide album sales to top 15 million thanks to songs like “Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)” and “Nobody’s Fool.”
Kenneth Gamble — co-founder of Philadelphia International Records, which had a notable run of hits in the ’70s — had The Trammps on his label for about three years, just before “Disco Inferno” made them stars. He said that The Trammps’ Earl Young was also a member of Philadelphia International powerhouse studio band MFSB (“TSOP”) and that The Trammps originally called themselves The Volcanoes.
Of Billie Holiday, who makes the walk on the 100th anniversary of her birth in Philadelphia, Gamble said: “She’s a great artist and a great singer. She’s an icon of the blues.”
Rubens said that the PMA keeps a running list of “people born or spent a tremendous amount of their life” in the Philadelphia area, but had somehow missed Asleep at the Wheel frontman Ray Benson. Rubens, who produces country music theme cruises, seemed slightly embarrassed at not being aware Benson had ties to the area until recently. The Americana/bluegrass/country hybrid band has released 25 albums over 40 years.
“The accolades go to the city for having born and bred so many tremendous talents,” said Rubens.
After “Annie,” McArdle continued her Broadway career with roles like Margy in “State Fair,” Belle in “Beauty and the Beast” and Fantine in “Les Miserables.”
For more information on the Walk of Fame, visit www.pmawalk.org.
In addition, the PMA honored Philly Pops president Frank Giordano with the Platinum Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Philadelphia Music Community. According to the PMA, the award is given to an individual, organization or company that has been a leader and champion in supporting the music making community in a significant way. “The Philly Pops is on a tremendous upswing,” said Giordano, noting a recent successful concert at Longwood Gardens and upcoming concerts with the Pops performing with Andrea Bocelli and Deana Martin, the daughter of iconic entertainer Dean Martin.
The CAPA Foundation, which was formed in response to a $1.1 million cut in CAPA High School’s operating budget as a result of the School District of Philadelphia budget crisis, was also recognized with the Educational Award, a financial donation, for outstanding excellence in arts and music.