“We’re local guys and we started out together,” says John Cafferty of The Beaver Brown Band. Cafferty, along with a handful of other Ocean State acts, will become one of the first inductees to the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame Sunday night at The Met in Pawtucket’s Hope Artiste Village.
“Getting recognized like this is very gratifying,” said Cafferty, who grew up in Providence and lives in South County, where the band is based. “There are so many talented, hardworking, dedicated musicians from this area that I’m sure, over the years, many more will follow into the Hall of Fame.”
The Rhode Island Hall of Fame was previously known as the Rhode Island Popular Music Archive. The two groups, along with another similar organization, merged into one to form the Hall of Fame. Sunday’s event marks the first in which the organizations will celebrate as one entity.
Further, other musical acts such as Anders & Poncia, Gerry Granahan, and Ken Lyon, will be re-inducted, as they were previously honored in the Rhode Island Popular Music Archive. In addition, Roomful of Blues, Oliver Shaw, Eileen Farrell, and Dave McKenna will be inducted.
But, not only will guests get the opportunity to watch the local legends receive accolades, they’ll also hear them perform, as John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band, Roomful of Blues and the Dave McKenna Tribute are set to play.
Like Cafferty, Roomful of Blues guitarist and Charlestown resident Chris Vachon, said he feels flattered to be part of the show. While there have been more than 50 musicians in the band through the last 40 years, Vashon has been part of the mix for the past 20. Many of their Grammy nominations have occurred after he joined.
“There have been a lot of bands that have come out of Rhode Island who have done really well and it’s good that the state is recognizing that,” he said. “It’s important because the bands that are being inducted have played all over the world and it’s nice to be recognized in our own state as more than just a band.”
Two of the nearly 20 members on the Board of Directors for the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame, Mederick “Rick” Bellaire and Don Culp, said they feel privileged to be able to honor bands that got their start in the state through their non-profit organization. As a group, they work together to document and pay homage to music they love.
“I’ve always been interested in music that originates in Rhode Island and our mission is to save all music by Rhode Islanders,” said Bellaire, the vice-chair. “It’s in recognition of their achievements. It doesn’t have to be the big, big stars only. We want to celebrate as many musicians as we can.”
Culp, who has been friends with Bellaire for more than 35 years and played with him in an original band called The Backbeats, as well as FolkTogether, agreed.
“We want to keep the respect for the musicians and honor and integrity for the Hall,” he said. Culp also said it’s a great way to reflect on the past. He enjoys remembering when some of his favorite bands emerged in the 1960s and 1970s.
“It was just a different time,” he said. “If you had a good band playing a club on a Wednesday night, the place would be packed with people. There’s not nearly as many places to play today.”
In the early 1970s when John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band formed in Narragansett, Culp, a drummer and percussionist, as well as a martial artist, moved to Rhode Island from New Hampshire when he was 16. His martial artist teacher had a dojo in Bonnet Shores and members of Beaver Brown wanted to study martial arts. The band journeyed into the dojo and Culp quickly befriended them.
“They took me under their wing and were so supportive of me,” he said. “I used to sneak into clubs with them and they even let me get up and play with them onstage sometimes.”
From there, they introduced Culp to Cafferty’s cousin, Jim Sullivan, who played bass. In turn, Sullivan introduced Culp to Bellaire, a guitarist, and started The Backbeats.
As band mates, Culp and Bellaire learned more about one another and became tied to the same groups of musicians. Through the years, they got to know area artists, including guitarist Paul DiChiara, who passed away more than seven years ago.
When he died, Culp, Bellaire and some of their buddies rented a hall and had an Irish wake in honor of him. Irish wakes typically took place in homes and were more about celebrating and remembering the life of the deceased, rather than grieving.
They set up their musical equipment and held a jam session in memory of DiChiara, which ultimately gave them the idea to start the Hall of Fame.
“At the end, Culp said, ‘we should start doing this for some of the older musicians before they pass away,’” said Bellaire. Soon after, their non-profit was born.
Today, the Board of Directors for the Hall of Fame write articles, upload discographies, as well as information and photographs, of Rhode Island musicians and bands and showcase them on their website at rhodeislandmusichalloffame.com.
“All my life, I’ve been gathering a collection of Rhode Island music and I always felt it should have it’s own place,” Bellaire said. “My father collected a lot of records and he would always point out musicians who were from Rhode Island. I found it fascinating that you could make it big coming from the state.”
Bellaire said this year’s inductees are more than deserving. In addition to Beaver Brown and Roomful of Blues, he praised the late Oliver Shaw, who he said was the first American-born hit songwriter. Shaw, a blind man, had his biggest hit with “There’s Nothing True But Heaven,” and ran his own publishing company, instrument shop, as well as music school, in Downtown Providence in the early 1800s.
Bellaire also shared his feelings of admiration for Eileen Farrell, a deceased opera singer from Woonsocket who toured the world and sang with the Metropolitan Opera Company, Toscanini and the NBC Symphony Orchestra. Further, he tipped his hat to another Woonsocket native, renowned jazz pianist Dave McKenna.
“She was a famous diva [and] he was one of the greatest jazz pianists that ever lived,” Bellaire said.
Cafferty said he is thankful to Bellaire and Culp, as well as the rest of the Board members, for remembering his band and their music. He is grateful for their fans, too.
“These guys put a lot of work into organizing the whole thing and we’re very honored to be a part of it,” Cafferty said. “We’re appreciative that people in Rhode Island always came out to see us. We always tried to play our best in return.”
Vachon feels the same and said Roomful of Blues is working on new material and hopes to have an album out within a year. He said he and the band love performing in Rhode Island not only because it’s their hometown, but because the summers are spectacular.
“We like to play outside and that’s the cool thing about Rhode Island.” Vachon said. “The summer is awesome.”
Culp said the Hall of Fame show will also be sure to please.
“It will be an extravaganza,” he said. “We think this will be a sell-out, so get your tickets now.”
Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door and can be purchased at rhodeislandmusichalloffame.com or the Met’s site at themetri.com. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the show starts at 7. The Met is located at 1005 Main Street in Pawtucket. For more information, call 401-729-1005.