December 17, 2014 Long Island Music Hall of Fame Induction Awards Gala 10-23-14 The Paramount Huntington, NY
When one thinks of Long Island, the first thing that probably comes to mind is beaches, The Hamptons, and wineries. Low and behold, the longest and the largest island in the contiguous United States also has a rich history in music as well. Broken into four counties, Brooklyn, Queens, Nassau, and Suffolk, the spectrum of musical culture ranging from Rock-n-Roll, to Hip Hop, to Blues, to Pop and everything in between, making the island one of the most densely populated areas of talent in the country. Back in 2014, a group of music lovers, educators, and industry representatives established the Long Island Music Hall of Fame to help preserve and honor those from the area which have blazed a path musically. A wonderful idea, the organization has grown extensively over the past decade and in 2006 held their first annual awards gala at the Patchogue Theatre. Now becoming a semi-annual tradition, 2014 marks the fifth Long Island Music Hall of Fame induction awards gala which was held on Thursday October 23rd at The Paramount in Huntington village. A fine location for the event, The Paramount became part of a revitalization of Long Island music venues when opening in 2011 and since has become one of the top clubs in America. With a long list of guests on hand for the celebration, 2014’s inductees included music industry executive Clive Davis, lyricist Gerry Goffin, record producer Steve Thompson, Pop star Debbie Gibson, Hip Hop legend Kurtis Blow, concert promoter Ron Delsener and members of Billy Joel’s band – drummer Liberty DeVitto, bassist Doug Stegmeyer, guitarist Russell Javors and saxophonist/flutist/clarinetist/keyboardist Richie Cannata.
Igniting excitement, the red carpet introduction included Kurtis Blow (with wife), The Tokens’ Jay Siegel (with wife), record industry representative Ron Alexenburg, filmmaker Brian Koppelman, Brandon Morgan, Steve Thompson (with wife), Peg and Susan Stegmeyer, Russell Javors, WBAB DJs Fingers and Joe Rock, Blue Oyster Cult’s Eric Bloom, Carlos Alomar, Liberty DeVitto, Jen Chapin, Ernie Canadeo, Ralph Ekstrand (Mayor of Farmingdale), Debbie Gibson, Avery Wilson, Richie Cannata, and Darryl “DMC” McDaniels. With flashes going off and the guest walking down the carpet stopping to pose and marvel in the energy surrounding. there was no doubt this was going to be an event worth attending.
As guests took their seats at the sold out Paramount, beginning the evening was The Cookies and Jay Siegel performing a song by the late great songwriter Gerry Goffin. Goffin originally began writing with his wife Caorle King and went on to write hit songs “Will You Love Me Tomorrow”, “Take Good Care of My Baby”, “The Loco-Motion”, and “Go Away Little Girl” among others. Sadly passing away this past summer at the age of seventy five years old, his daughter graciously accepted the award for her father to a round of applause. Following thereafter, a special appearance was made by Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters to induct concert promoter Ron Delsener. Waters, whom apologized for missing the red carpet event due to a battle with a bottle of tequila the night prior, playfully stating the bottle won, introduced Delsener a sincere fashion referring to him as uncle Ronny. Delsener, a native to Astoria and long-time resident of East Hampton is considered one of the most powerful concert promoters ever. Coming out to accept the award, Delsener spoke vividly about the good times on Long Island and proudly of his crown accomplishment being Jones Beach Theater. Certainly an important part of Long Island concert experiences each summer, Jones Beach Theater has hosted some of the best concerts in the country over the years and Delsener’s impact on music has been bold and positive.
Keeping spirits high and intrigue flowing, Ernie Canadeo, president of Melville-based EGC Group, and Suffolk County Representative Steve Bellone came out to announce that the Long Island Music Hall of Fame will soon have a permanent home. Very positive news for the establishment, their physical address will be within the Hamlet of Wyandanch, in efforts to revitalize the area with new development. Near by a Long Island Railroad station, the location is strategically very well-placed and it will be interesting to see what the museum will hold for spectators.
It was at this point Kurtis Blow was inducted by good friend Russell Simmons via video feed. Blow, a pioneer in Hip Hop, made an impact on the form of musical expression that was different and would soon go on to dominate popular music. Performing his certified gold hit song “These are the Breaks,” Blow enthusiastically expressed his happiness and pride that Hip Hop is celebrating four plus decades. Received with warm cheers, it was an excellent moment in the ceremony, reminding everyone how diverse Long Island’s culture really is.
Coming out next was WBAB’s DJ Fingers along with guitarist Carlos Alomar to induct producer Steve Thompson. Growing up in New York, Thompson began performing in local bands and went on to work with the likes of Guns N’ Roses, Madonna, John Lennon, Wu-Tang Clan, Korn, Cutting Crew, Metallica, and Red Hot Chili Peppers among others. Humbled by the award, Thompson brought Clive Davis out to embrace him with a hug, stating without Davis nothing would be possible.
Speaking of the legendary Clive Davis, he too was introduced thereafter by Ron Alexenburg and famous R&B vocalist Dionne Warwick. Record producer and music industry executive, Davis has won five Grammy Awards and became a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. Helping form the music industry, Davis is most definitely an intricate part of history and Long Island is gracious to have him be apart of the culture. Still vital and witty at the age of eighty two years old, Davis gave a fantastic speech about Long Island music history and his plans to begin a new vocal revolution in contemporary music announcing new albums from Jennifer Hudson and Aretha Franklin. Extremely passionate about music and his work, he then introduced newest signing, vocal prodigy Avery Wilson. Originally featured on NBC’s The Voice, Wilson opened eyes with a powerful performance at The Paramount and many are looking at him as the next phenomenal vocalist in popular music.
Long Island Music Hall of Fame board of directors member James Faith walked out next to speak about Long Island music education programs. Emphasizing their importance for the future Long Island musicians, it was assuring to hear there are individuals working as hard as Faith and his colleagues to keep the music culture of Long Island strong. In fact, to help raise funding for such programs, Canadeo, Alexenburg, along with a professional auctioneer auctioned off tickets to see Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden, a signed acoustic guitar by Simon and Garfunkel, VIP season tickets to Jones Beach Theater, one half hour vocal lesson with Debbie Gibson, as well as a guitar signed by the legends Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, BB King, The Edge, Van Halen, Peter Townsend, Brian May, Neil Young, and Jimmy Page. An amazing array of gifts for any music lover, the auctions raised $18,000 making it an overall massive success.
Already an exciting evening, Hip Hop king Darryl “DMC” Mcdaniel of Run DMC and Harry Chapin’s daughter Jen came out to perform the classic tune “Cats in the Cradle.” Begun with Jen on lead, singing passionately, DMC pumped his distinctive vocal delivery making for an interesting rendition of the track that had everyone cheering. DMC, whom was originally inducted into the Long Island Hall of Fame back in 2008 as a member of Run DMC, soon after his performance with Jen was given the Harry Chapin Humanitarian award. With both Jen and Sandy (Chapin’s wife) on stage, DMC was humbled and grateful, expressing thanks and love. A moving moment, the audience were on their feet cheering for more.
More they wanted and more they received as later on filmmaker Brian Koppelman introduced Debbie Gibson. Gibson was the youngest artist to write, produce, and perform a number one single on the Billboard Hot 100 back in 1988 with her song “Foolish Beat.” Going an amazing three times platinum with her debut album Out of The Blue in 1987, Gibson took the pop world by storm. Now years later she continues to write and record music and most certainly is deserving of this induction. As Koppelman spoke of his first impression of Gibson, he reflected on her being a young girl engaging in a question and answer with a panel of male producers asking why are there not more women producing records. Receiving a series of condescending answers, Gibson struck back saying she wrote and produced her own record, proving it can be done. A striking and bold statement for such a young girl, the story really went more than skin deep. As Gibson came out to accept her induction she thanked her mother for being her first manager and even apologized to Newsday for lying about her age to qualify for their teen singing talent contest, when in fact she was only twelve years old. With a kind heart and contagious smile, Gibson lit up The Paramount in her time on stage.
In the final segment of the evening, Long Island Music Hall of Fame alumni Denis McNamara and News 12 Long Island’s Carlo Silva introduced Billy Joel’s Band. Considered the classic line-up behind Joel originally put together back in late 1970’s, this would mark the band’s first performance together in twenty five years. With drummer Liberty DeVitto, guitarist Russell Javors and saxophonist/flutist/clarinetist/keyboardist Richie Cannata on stage together, the room cheered loudly. In place of the late bassist Doug Stegmeyer, his mother Peg and sister Susan accepted the honor. Peg spoke affectionately about the band, being young, and playing in the garage; knowing they had magic in the making. Devitto then spoke of playing in all the great bars during the time period and first meeting Billy Joel, whom came to check them out. Low and behold Joel saw the immense talents the four musicians possessed and they went on to become his first stable and consistent studio and live band.
While Joel could not make the event, due to prior obligations, Faith came out to read a letter from him addressing his band’s induction. Stating he was happy for his band being honored, Joel also expressed how much they deserved to be there and that he never wanted to play with any musicians. Topping off the ceremony, the band rocked out a set together that included “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant,” “Only the Good Die Young,” and “You May Be Right.” With a photograph of Doug Stegmeyer along with his bass on the stage, the band sounded as tight and strong as ever. With Devitto dazzling on the drums, Cannata on horns, and Javors on guitar, fans were dancing in sheer delight. Keeping the music flowing until the late hours of the night, Billy Joel’s band did a phenomenal job during their reunion on stage as some fans were even heard saying they would love nothing more than to see them back with Billy again.
The fifth annual Long Island Music Hall of Fame induction was a night filled with memories of the past while keeping a progressive look toward the future. Each inductee was completely worthy and the flow of the night was perfect. Classy, respectful, and educational, this was an event Long Island should be extremely proud of.