RI Hall of Fame celebrates lives of musicians
It was a sold-out show of 515 guests for the first annual Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame Ceremony Sunday night, in which eight acts were inducted at the MET, located at 1005 Main Street in Pawtucket’s Hope Artiste Village.
It was a night to reflect not only on music, but also the lives of musicians who recently passed.
In fact, Thom Enright, who played guitar for John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band, Roomful of Blues, as well as Tombstone with Ken Lyon, three of the bands inducted, died last week after a four-year battle with brain cancer. Friends and family were there to receive recognition on his behalf and shared their sentiments in brief interviews.
“I’m very proud,” said his wife, Olga Jansen Enright, who lives in Warwick. “He loved it and it’s nice to know he is remembered.”
Mary Cotoia, wife of Bobby Cotoia, former keyboardist for Beaver Brown, was also in attendance. She, too, said the evening was “pretty special.”
“He would be all over this,” Cotoia said of her husband. “He was a true music man and always played with passion and soul.”
John Cafferty, who founded the band more than 40 years ago, said he is pleased the organization honored the music and the lives of members who passed away. He said local musicians, especially his band, are like family.
“We were such a tight-knit community,” he said in an interview following his induction. “We were only 21 years old when we signed the band so there’s a lot of history here.”
Gerry Granahan, who earned three Gold Record awards for hits he wrote and is known as one of the youngest recording executives in history, was inducted, as well.
Originally from Pittson, Pa., Granahan, the father of WPRO radio personality Tara Granahan, has lived in Rhode Island for more than 50 years with his wife and Warwick native, Mary Lou Kernan. He said he was excited when he was notified of the honor.
“When something like this comes along, it’s nice,” he said.
Gary Gramolini of the Beaver Brown Band was also pleased to be there.
“We’ve been doing this for a long time and it’s a real honor,” he said in an interview during a ceremony that took place before the event. “This is great.”
Fans also enjoyed the experience. Liz Patterson said she was pleased to see Roomful of Blues inducted because they helped her through the deaths of her mother and grandmother.
“Listening to their music was the only way I could cope with the loss,” said Patterson. “I fell in love with their music and all my pain and anger went away. It was just transforming. It means a lot to me because the band has been supportive of me in my life and I’m giving my support back to them. They have a great musical style.”
For Debbie Underwood and her twin sister Donna Tetreault, the show was the perfect way to celebrate their 56th birthday. Ironically, they rang in their 18th birthdays at a live performance that featured some of the same bands.
“It’s a special night,” Underwood said moments before the show began. “We’re reminiscing about all kinds of good stuff.”
In the mid-1970s, the sisters frequented Gulliver’s Tavern in Smithfield, which is now the home of Box Seats Restaurant. Underwood worked at Gulliver’s and took care of the deposits after gigs.
“It was very exciting because we had a lot of blues musicians in the club,” she said.
Now, they are thrilled to see the bands they grew up listening to be recognized for their achievements. They said there is no other way they’d want to spend their birthday.
“We don’t get to go out clubbing as much as we did when we were younger but it’s great to be here to support the bands that we loved,” Tetreault said.
Timothy Flynn, who has been playing guitar for more than 35 years and is performing at the Whisky Republic with his band The Amazing Rhythm Mule on Thursday night, said the event was a treat.
“I’m excited that people put this together because there is a huge historic significance for music in Rhode Island,” he said.
In addition to The Beaver Brown Band, Roomful of Blues, Ken Lyon and Gerry Granahan, acts such as Anders & Poncia, Oliver Shaw, Eileen Farrell, and Dave McKenna were also inducted.
Nearly 20 members of the Board of Directors for the Hall of Fame selected the entries. Further, they write articles, upload discographies, information and photographs of Rhode Island musicians and bands for a website at rhodeislandmusichalloffame.com.
Board member Don Culp said he is happy the show was a success.
“The way it all came together was amazing,” Culp said. “The camaraderie has been great.”
The fact that it sold out doesn’t surprise him. He said it’s not shocking because everyone involved put their hearts and souls into the project.
“I think if we did it at a 2,000-seat auditorium, it would have sold out,” said Culp.
Rhode Island is the 20th state in the country to have a Hall of Fame, said Culp. Display cases designed by students at the Rhode Island School of Design are available for public view at The MET at no cost. Students are working to improve the showcases at the moment.
The event included performances by the Dave McKenna Tribute and Roomful of Blues, as well as the Beaver Brown Band. Before he took the stage, Cafferty said of performing, “The old saying is that if you find something that you love to do, you never feel like it’s work.”