Written by Calvin Gilbert
Although Peter Frampton, Randy Bachman, Billy Gibbons and Duane Eddy were onstage, they weren’t the only guitar heroes at Tuesday night’s (Jan. 28) Musicians Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Nashville. Getting equal respect were lesser known session musicians such as Corki Casey O’Dell and Velma Smith.
Equality and mutual respect are what make the Musicians Hall of Fame such a special place. The induction ceremony and concert is a unique event because it pays tribute to those who live in the spotlight and others who work behind the scenes.
“Everybody has these big shows for the hood ornament,” Neil Young said, referring to other awards shows. “Everybody’s cheering for the hood ornament. Don’t forget what’s under the hood. … Without that, there’s nothing happening but the chrome.”
Young made the trip to Nashville to induct pedal steel guitarist Ben Keith, his longtime friend who died in 2010. They first played music together on Harvest, Young’s 1972 album which prominently featured Keith’s work on classics such as “Old Man” and “Heart of Gold.”
Along with Keith, the 2014 inductees included Frampton, Bachman, O’Dell, Smith, Barbara Mandrell, veteran Nashville session guitarist Jimmy Capps, The Late Show With David Letterman bassist Will Lee and blues legend Buddy Guy. Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble were also inducted, and band members Chris Layton, Tommy Shannon and Reese Wynans accepted on behalf of the late guitarist. The late Roy Orbison was honored in the new “iconic riff” category for the guitar line on “Oh Pretty Woman,” and record label owner Mike Curb accepted induction in the industry icon category.
Guy, who was not present, thanked the audience via a video message when the award was presented to Nashville resident Billy Cox, a former member of Jimi Hendrix’s Band of Gypsys. Mandrell and Smith did not perform. And neither did Young, but everyone else did.
Chris Isaak opened the show with Orbison’s “Only the Lonely.”
Steve Wariner followed to induct Smith, one of the first female musicians to work in Nashville’s recording studios. As a rhythm guitarist, she played on sessions for Eddy Arnold, Jim Reeves, Skeeter Davis, Waylon Jennings, Chet Atkins and many others.
Presiding during Mandrell’s induction, Brenda Lee noted her friend’s hit records as a vocalist and her success as a TV star and concert headliner but emphasized her mastery of numerous instruments, including steel guitar, saxophone and banjo.
O’Dell played on early rock hits recorded in Phoenix before meeting fellow guitarist Duane Eddy and playing on some of his classic instrumentals, including “Peter Gunn” and “Forty Miles of Bad Road.” After inducting her into the Musicians Hall of Fame, Eddy strapped on a Gretsch electric guitar and twanged his way through the bass notes of his biggest hit, “Rebel Rouser,” while O’Dell played acoustic guitar. It was their first time to perform together in approximately five decades.
The Oak Ridge Boys inducted Capps, who played guitar on their biggest hits. To illustrate Capps’ smooth style during the concert, he then backed them on “You’re the One” and “Elvira.”
Singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie inducted fellow Canadian Randy Bachman, a founding member of the Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive. Bachman, a frequent visitor to Nashville, grabbed an electric guitar for solo snippets of the Guess Who’s “These Eyes” and “Undun” before cranking it to 11 with a full band version of “American Woman.” With other hits still in his back pocket, he finished with BTO’s “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet” and “Takin’ Care of Business.”
Bassist Will Lee is best known for his work with bandleader Paul Shafer on Letterman’s talk show, but he also has a lengthy list of studio credits with artists such as Barry Manilow, Mariah Carey and Dave Matthews. ZZ Top‘s Billy Gibbons inducted Lee, and the two also joined the band for funky versions of Lee Dorsey’s “Get Out of My Life Woman” and Sam & Dave’s “I Thank You.”
Guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd, one of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s many disciples, was an obvious choice to induct Double Trouble and recreate some of the late guitarists signature lines on “If the House Is Rockin’,” “Texas Flood” and “Crossfire.”
Former Eagles guitarist Don Felder inducted Frampton, who obliged by performing one of his biggest hits, “Do You Feel Like We Do,” complete with the now-famous special effects from a talk box.
In summing up the evening, Frampton said, “A star can shine, a star can explode, a star can fade away, but a musician will play for a lifetime.”
The event, hosted by Nashville star Chip Esten, wound down with Isaak returning to the stage to perform “Oh Pretty Woman” with session musician Wayne Moss, who played on the original recording, revisiting the riff with guitarist Gordon Kennedy, the son of the other guitarist on the session — Jerry Kennedy.
Frampton, Bachman and Gibbons closed the show by swapping solos on ZZ Top’s “La Grange.”