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Arts & Culture

Aretha Franklin among nominees to Buffalo Music Hall of Fame Class of 2016

WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

The Buffalo Music Hall of Fame will be inducting the "Queen of Soul" into its Class of 2016 this fall. The winners were announced Wednesday at a news conference at the Buffalo History Museum and Grammy winner Aretha Franklin has been named as one of this year's inductees. 

Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
Buffalo Music Hall of Fame, 34th Annual Induction Gala.

President’s Award:

Multiple Grammy winner and "Queen of Soul" Aretha Franklin is best known for such hits as "Respect," "Freeway of Love" and "I Say a Little Prayer." Franklin's musical gifts became apparent at an early age. Largely self-taught, she was regarded as a child prodigy. A gifted pianist with a powerful voice, Franklin got her start singing in front of her father's congregation, Greater Friendship Baptist Church on Clinton Street in Buffalo. Her mother, Barbara, passed away in 1952 and is buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery on Delaware. Aretha visits her mother’s gravesite on a regular basis. In her early career, she also performed with her father’s traveling revival show and, while on tour, befriended gospel greats such as Mahalia Jackson, Sam Cooke and Clara Ward. Aretha Franklin has won a total of 18 Grammy Awards and is one of the best-selling artists of all time, having sold more than 75 million records worldwide.

Legacy Award:

Ray Chamberlain has played bass and guitar with some of the best in the jazz world, dating to the early 1950s, when he toured nationally with the Stan Kenton Orchestra and the Pete Agiro Quartet. After nearly a decade on the road, he returned to the Buffalo area in 1957 and became a mainstay of the local scene, playing or recording with the likes of Sam Noto, Joe Baudo, Don Menza, Larry Covelli and the best of WNY’s jazz scene.

Pioneer Award:

Danny Cannon & the Vibraharps – The Vibraharps were the first and the best doo-wop group to come out of Buffalo in the late 1950s. They recorded for Atco, Beech and Dab. Member Danny Cannon, who died in 2014, went on to record for Smash and ABC-Paramount, working with Bob Crewe, making the Billboard Top 100 as Lenny O’Henry. That song, “Across the Street,” was listed in Dave Marsh’s book The Heart of Rock & Soul as one of the top 1001 songs in pop history.

Industry Award:

Recording, Sound & Career Consultant: Tony Romano Romano was one of greatest sound engineers to come out of WNY and played a key role in helping Diana Krall hone her sound on her way to stardom. Romano started out doing sound for Bobby Militello and engineered Militello’s Motown LP as well as doing sound and road-managing work with Michael Brecker, Stan Getz and Doc Severinsen. But his biggest achievement may have been his work with Krall, engineering her Grammy Award-winning “Live in Paris”.


Jim Runfola – Runfola has done just about everything it’s possible to do in music in Western New York. He’s an all-star saxophonist and founder of J.J. Swing, teaches and leads the jazz ensemble at Erie Community College, wrote or co-wrote musicals that had runs at MusicalFare and Kavinoky Theatre, recorded CDs with his band, and toured with national groups, including the Tommy Dorsey Band.

Joey Diggs – Diggs is one of Buffalo’s secret treasures. In addition to working with Rick James and a host of other performers (including U.S.T. Topaze and Van Taylor’s bands), Diggs became a go-to coach for performers on the American Idol TV show. They traveled to Buffalo to be prepped by Diggs before performing on the show.

Joanie Marshall – Marshall is Ramblin’ Lou Schriver’s widow and was his musical partner for more than 50 years. She was the secret weapon in the band, playing a wicked lead guitar on records and in their shows, and backing up some of the greatest country artists when they toured in WNY.

The Panfil Brothers – As two of the mainstays of Creek Bend and on their own, Mark and Chris Panfil have been the face of bluegrass in Western New York. In addition to Creek Bend releasing multiple albums and touring festivals throughout the U.S. and Canada, Mark Panfil is the founder of the Buffalo Bluegrass Youth Ensemble, teaching youths to play the style. Creek Bend also brought more than 40 shows of national bluegrass stars (including Bill Monroe) to Western New York.

Jeff Schaller – Schaller is an all-star drummer. Over the past 25-plus years, he has played with a host of bands such as Grand National, Last Days of Radio, Blue Bullet Skater, McCarthyizm, Here Come the Comets and Tiger Chung Lee, Jive Injection and the Mohawk Street Saints. He’s produced albums and written for Modern Drummer magazine.

David Meinzer – Meinzer is an all-around threat as a songwriter, guitarist, singer and graphic artist. He has been performing and recording since his days leading Davy & the Crocketts and putting out his first record with Tommy Calandra’s BCMK Records in the late 1970s. In addition to his other bands like Dry Bones and the Outlyers, Meinzer has been a go-to graphic artist for posters and album cover art over the years.

Patti Parks – Parks made her name in recent years with a series of blues recordings. However, the singer’s career started more than 40 years ago. She performed regularly until taking time off for her family. Since her return to performing, her recent CDs have received airplay around the world and have been well received in the national blues publications. Some of her biggest contributions, though, have been through the blues therapy program that Parks, a nurse, has created for youths with drug dependency or who otherwise are at risk.

Alyn Syms – Syms is best known for the Alyn Syms Group, one of the most successful local bands in WNY history. ASG at its best was able to sell out Shea Stadium, a feat no other local band (that hasn’t been on a national touring level) has been able to accomplish. Syms’ career extends from the 1960s with Hank “Soul Man” Mullins to the ’70s with Rick James through progressive/classic rock and jam recordings of the last few years.

This year's inductees will be formally honored at the 34th Buffalo Music Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony Gala on Thursday, October 6, 2016 at Cardinal O'Hara Performing Arts Center, 39 O'Hara Road, Tonawanda.

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