September 27, 2019

Hall Watchers Episode 15 Companion Guide: Rock Hall-Worthy Women Behind the Music

On a recent Hall Watchers podcast, Mary put a spotlight on 19 Rock Hall-worthy women behind the scenes in the music industry. What follows below is a companion guide to that podcast, showcasing the amazing women that were discussed.

For additional context on the Rock Hall and its need to induct more women, here's a bit of info about the Non-Performer category from the Rock Hall website (in 2008, the category's name changed to the Ahmet Ertegun Award):

"This award honors songwriters, producers, disc jockeys, record executives, journalists and other industry professionals who have had a major influence on rock & roll."

Fact: There are only 3 women inducted into the Rock Hall as non-performer/Ahmet Ertegun out of 47 people, and they are inducted with their partners:
1990 - Gerry Goffin and Carole King 2010 - Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich 2010 - Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil

There is not a single female non-performer in on her own. Let's change that. Here are the candidates discussed on Hall Watchers, Episode 15:

Ruth Polsky, Booker and Concert Promoter

What she is notable for: She was crucial in breaking UK bands such as Simple Minds, Echo and the Bunnymen, the Smiths, the Psychedelic Furs, the Birthday Party, Jesus & Mary Chain and many more. She also booked the Joy Division USA tour in May 1980, which was canceled after Ian Curtis' death. 

Susan Rogers, Record Producer, Engineer, Mixer, and Audio Electronics Technician

What she is notable for: Worked alongside Prince from 1983 to 1988 as the sound engineer for his albums Purple Rain, Around the World in a Day, Parade, Sign o' the Times, and The Black Album. Also worked with artists such as David Byrne, Barenaked Ladies, Tricky, the Violent Femmes, the Jacksons and Toad the Wet Sprocket. just to name a few.

Sylvia Robinson, Record Label Executive and Producer

What she is notable for: Mother of hip-hop, best known for her work as founder and CEO of the Sugar Hill Records hip-hop label. She is credited for being the force behind the two hip-hop singles, “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugar Hill Gang released in 1980 and “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five in 1982.

Lillian McMurry, Record Producer, Owner of Trumpet Records

What she is notable for: Influential in the development of blues music particularly through her recordings of Sonny Boy Williamson II and discovery of guitarist Elmore James.

Sylvia Massy, Record Producer, Mixer and Engineer

What she is notable for: Her big break came in producing comedy-rockers Green Jello’s debut album featuring the radio hit “Three Little Pigs.” She is perhaps best known for her work on 1993's Undertow, the double platinum-selling debut for Los Angeles metal band Tool.

Helen Oakley Dance, Jazz Critic

What she is notable for: Pioneering female jazz critic in the 1930's as well as a record producer, music publisher and personal assistant to musicians like Duke Ellington, Red Norvo, Chick Webb, Johnny Hodges, Bob Crosby and Earl Hines.  She helped organize one of the first sit down jazz concerts that featured an interracial band. Wrote "Stormy Monday: The T-Bone Walker Story" which is considered the definitive book on T-Bone Walker.

Marion Keisker, Assistant at Sun Records

What she is notable for: Was the first person to record Elvis, and encouraged Sam Phillips to take a chance on him. Her detailed logs of the activities at Sun Records provided music historians with ample and interesting information about the label's history.

Gwendolyn Quinn, Public Relations

What she is notable for: Organized media campaigns for artists such as Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, P. Diddy, Notorious B.I.G. and Faith Evans.

Sharon Osbourne, Manager

What she is notable for: Managed her husband Ozzy Osbourne to a successful solo career, which then resulted in her beginning her own management agency that managed the careers of artists such as Lita Ford and Smashing Pumpkins.  In 1996, she created Ozzfest, which featured both new and established metal bands.

Lenise Bent, Audio Engineer

What she is notable for: One of the earliest women working on sound in the 70’s, she was assistant engineer on Aja by Steely Dan; Breakfast in America by Supertramp and Tusk by Fleetwood Mac. But one of her biggest accomplishments is that she engineered AutoAmerican by Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees Blondie; her work on that album resulted in her being the first woman to receive an RIAA Platinum album.

Donna Halper, Deejay and Music Director

What she is notable for: Donna is credited with discovering the rock band Rush when she was working as the Music Director at radio station WMMS in Cleveland in 1974. After a Canadian record producer gave her the then-unknown band's album, she played a track called “Working Man” on the air. Listeners started requesting more Rush tracks, which resulted in other radio stations beginning to give Rush more airplay. By late summer of 1974, the band got a U.S. recording contract.

Polly Anthony, Record Label President

What she is notable for: She was one of the first women to head a major record label, she was the president of Epic Records from 1997 until 2003, then she became president of DreamWorks and after a corporate reorganization she was named co-president of Geffen Records.  She worked with artists like Korn, Macy Gray, Celine Dion, Michael Jackson, Pearl Jam, and Rage Against the Machine. She allocated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the “Korn Kampaign,” which led to the band going multi-platinum.

Ann Powers, Writer and Music Critic

What she is notable for: She was the senior curator at the Experience Music Project (EMP) in Seattle, which later became Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP). Powers and her husband Eric Weisbard have helped organize the annual EMP Pop Conference (now MoPOP Conference) since its inception. She currently is a music critic for NPR and a contributor at the Los Angeles Times, where she was previously chief pop critic.
Angelica Cob-Baehler, Music Executive

What she is notable for: Angelica moved to Virgin Records as an SVP in 2005 where she launched an ultimately successful campaign to bring Katy Perry to the label after she had been rejected by Columbia Records. She played a large role in the creative direction of the singer's 2008 breakthrough album One of the Boys as well as the follow-up, Teenage Dream.

Carla Sacks, Publicist

What she is notable for: Founder of Sacks and Co., a PR company with offices in Seattle, New York and Nashville.

Ellen Willis, Rock Critic

What she is notable for: She was the first pop-music critic for the New Yorker, and was a regular contributor at Rolling Stone, The Village Voice and many other publications. She wrote 56 pieces for The New Yorker's “Rock, Etc.” column over seven years, including famous pieces on Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin and The Sex Pistols.

Vicki Wickham, Manager, Entertainment Producer, and Songwriter

What she is notable for: She is most known for producing the 1960s British television show "Ready Steady Go!" and managing the pop/soul acts Labelle and Dusty Springfield. She cowrote the English lyrics to Dusty Springfield's only British #1 hit "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me" and also co-wrote Dusty's biography Dancing with Demons.

Vicky Hamilton, Record Executive, Personal Manager and Promoter

What she is notable for: Famous for managing the early careers of Guns N' Roses, Poison and Faster Pussycat, as well as working as a management consultant for Mötley Crüe and Stryper. Began her own record label, Small Hairy Dog, after being outraged no one wanted to work with June Carter Cash.  This ultimately resulted in June recording the album Press On, which won a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album in 2000.

Jane Scott, Rock Critic for the Cleveland Plain Dealer

What she is notable for: She was world-famous for being the oldest rock critic, retiring in 2002 at the age of 82.  Over her career, she covered over 10,000 shows with stars ranging from Bruce Springsteen, Beastie Boys, the Who, the Rolling Stones, the Doors, Led Zepplin, the Beach Boys, and more.  Many, including former Rock Hall CEO Terry Stewart, consider her the reason the Rock Hall museum is in Cleveland.

September 1, 2019

The Idealist's Ballot: Mary Picks 15 Nominees

E-Rockracy readers, please welcome guest columnist and Hall Watchers co-host Mary, offering her 2020 Rock Hall ballot picks.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! NFL preseason has begun (go Saints and Bills) and so has our Rock Hall preseason — ballot predictions! Eric has posted his picks, and is now kindly allowing me to guest post with what we’ve dubbed the “Idealist Ballot.” 

Eric will tell you that I refuse to ascribe to the “Rock Hall won’t ever nominate so and so” philosophy. It’s a negative, self-fulfilling prophecy, and I would much rather work toward fighting for the people who should be in the Rock Hall rather than predicting what the nominating committee will do this year. I don’t like trying to predict what the Rock Hall will do, because it means thinking like the nominating committee and also giving credence to whoever is at the top of the kiosk. Thinking like that usually means omitting legacy artists, women, and people of color. It means bowing to pressure to sell ceremony tickets instead of honoring music history and educating people. I won’t do it, even if it means I’m “wrong” when it comes to predicting what artists will end up on a ballot.
I am an idealist to my core and firmly believe that we have the power to change the Rock Hall, even if it's small and incremental changes. More women and people of color are being discussed, and I know that’s due to us. Janet Jackson was inducted, and I know that was due to us. The Texas Playboys will rightfully be restored to the Bob Wills plaque, and that’s due to us too. I think more people are watching and listening than we think they are, so why not use our voices for change? I believe that if we continue to respectfully put out names of people who we know deserve to be in, and we continue to make a case for those people, then eventually someone will hear us. And you know, maybe it's all for nothing and we’re just screaming into the void, but at least we’re screaming the right things.
This was a really difficult ballot to put together. I had to make some really hard cuts, but I think this would be a ballot most anyone could find 5 boxes they would be happy to check. Also note that out of 15 slots, there are 8 amazing women on this ballot, including Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth. Shockingly the world is still managing to spin on its axis, and I hope the Rock Hall takes note of that. 

Without further delay, here are the 15 artists I would put on a ballot:
Black Flag - Punk has been woefully ignored for the last few years, so gimmie gimmie gimmie a Rock Hall nomination for this legendary punk band! They're the very essence of rock n' roll. They truly suffered for their art and the story of their perseverance and grit would make one hell of a ceremony video package. With their name recognition, Black Flag may be able to succeed on a ballot where MC5 and Bad Brains couldn’t, which could help grease the wheels for the rest of the punk bands from the late 70's to 80's who have been snubbed for far too long. And let's be honest, wouldn't it be awesome to hear "Rise Above" being snarled at some of those in the audience who have likely snubbed our favorite artists? I'm already getting in the van for that. (Discussed on Hall Watchers Episode 5)
Carole KingShe’s been rightfully honored as a non-performer for helping countless artists achieve hits, now it’s Carole’s turn to be honored as a performer for her own singing career. Tapestry is obviously enough to get her in, but let’s not forget she made a total of 17 studio albums including Music and Wrap Around Joy, both of which went to number one. For heaven’s sake, when it comes to albums this woman has more gold, platinum and diamonds than Elizabeth Taylor, can we just get her inducted? (Discussed in Episodes 2 and 6) 

Dolly PartonWhether it’s teasing a possible collaboration with Lil Nas X or surprising fans at the Newport Folk Festival by joining an all-female collaboration with Amanda Shires, Maren Morris, Brandi Carlile and Natalie Hemby, Dolly Parton is having a moment this year, and it’s one of many over her incredible career. In a world that often feels dark and divisive, a Dolly induction would not only be a well-deserved honor for this inspirational woman, but perhaps a light in the darkness. I can already feel the breath of fresh air she would bring to a ceremony. (Discussed on Episode 8)
Glen Campbell With both a staggering session musician portfolio and a successful solo career, Glen Campbell has more than enough credits to warrant a place on a Rock Hall ballot. Don’t think he’s rock and roll enough? Glen was such an incredible guitarist that Eddie Van Halen once asked Alice Cooper, one of Glen’s closest friends, if he’d be able to get Glen to give him a lesson. He gave the finger to Alzheimer's disease by touring and making one last album for his fans. He was just that much of a bad-ass. (Discussed on Episode 8)
Link Wray - "(Greg) Harris also confirmed that just because an artist’s song is honored, it doesn’t mean they can’t be nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame moving forward. Meaning, previous nominees like Link Wray and Procol Harum are still eligible for induction." - Troy Smith of

I feel like this is the year where the Rock Hall watcher community will either have their faith restored or their worst fears about the Singles category confirmed. I think I speak for most of us when I say we’d be thrilled to be proven wrong. It’s your move Rock Hall. Do you stand by your words, or will we have to continue to rumble to get this legendary man in the hall where he rightfully belongs? He was so rock n' roll that the instrumental "Rumble" was banned in 1958 over fears that it would cause teenage gang violence, and influenced everyone from Iggy Pop to Neil Young. If you listen to Link, you hear the birth of punk and metal. Rock Hall, this is a ridiculous snub and a long overdue induction. (Discussed in Episodes 4, 5 and 6) 

Mary Wells - At this point, the exclusion of Mary Wells feels like a mistake the Rock Hall is hoping no one will notice, and it’s really a damn shame given her legacy. Her story would provide inspiration to many young women and let them know that with tenacity and hard work, they can accomplish anything at any age. The Rock Hall needs to rip off the Band-Aid and admit her not being inducted is outrageous and finally honor this Motown legend the way she deserves. (Discussed in Episode 2) 

The Monkees Despite increasing public clamor for their inclusion, the Rock Hall has missed opportunity after opportunity to induct The Monkees, including in 2016 after the release of their fantastic album Good Times! and the 50th anniversary tour that followed. Now with both Davy and Peter gone, time is of the essence. Mickey and Mike were just out touring together, and would likely show up to the ceremony. Artists like Rivers Cuomo would probably be thrilled to participate in their induction since The Monkees were the stepping stone for bands like Weezer. (Discussed in Episode 6)
MC Lyte - There isn’t a single female hip-hop artist in the Rock Hall, and it’s an injustice we need to remedy immediately. I can’t think of any better woman for the job of “first” than MC Lyte given the many firsts she accomplished and the barriers she broke for women in hip-hop. If you’re in the Smithsonian for being a hip-hop pioneer, then you belong in the Rock Hall, period. (Discussed in Episode 2)

MotörheadWith the passing of Lemmy, it’s really, really important for me to see Motörhead acknowledged in (the Rock Hall), cause there’s no more rock and roll person on this planet than Lemmy and Motörhead.” - James Hetfield

It will be bittersweet without Lemmy here to deliver what surely would have been a delightfully snarky acceptance speech, but it’s time once and for all to put Motörhead on the ballot. They are the pioneers of thrash metal, and clearly mean so much to so many metal and hard rock fans. I can only imagine that James Hetfield and/or Dave Grohl would be all too delighted to induct them. (Discussed in Episode 3)
New York Dolls - The Rock Hall is an institution that is supposed to honor pioneers and trailblazers, but somehow they haven't inducted the New York Dolls. Talk about a personality crisis! While the Doll's career was limited, their influence and impact on music is lasting. They are critical to glam, and drew up a blueprint for punk that makes them well overdue for the Rock Hall.
Pat Benatar - With four consecutive Grammy awards three American Music Awards, two multi-platinum albums, five platinum albums, three gold albums and 15 Billboard Top 40 singles, Pat Benatar is well overdue for Rock Hall nomination. No one can tell us we’re wrong. We’ve been searching Rock Hall ballot for so long, just waiting for this incredible woman to be nominated. (Discussed on Episode 2) 

Patsy Cline - The Rock Hall can't ignore country forever, and they definitely shouldn't ignore the great Patsy Cline, who I am convinced would be the ballot dark horse that would run away with a 2020 class spot. Her ability to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with her male peers is an inspiration, and the way she mentored her female peers is a reminder to us ladies to uplift your fellow woman instead of tearing her down. She's influenced everyone from Loretta Lynn to LeAnn Rimes, and her timeless music makes her more than worthy for the Hall. 

Sonic Youth - Hey, Kool Thing, come here, sit down/There's something I go to ask you/I just want to know, what are you gonna do for me?/I mean, are you gonna liberate us girls/From male white corporate oppression? - "Kool Thing" from the 1990 Sonic Youth album Goo

With 16 studio albums, three compilation albums, seven video releases, 21 singles and 46 music videos, how in the world has Sonic Youth never been nominated? Their experimental sound defines "alternative" and influenced a generation to play outside of the box. They've influenced Beck, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, My Bloody Valentine, Dinosaur Jr. and oh yeah... NIRVANA. Bassist Krist Novoselic even said Nirvana's initial goal was simply “to do as good as Sonic Youth.” Kim Gordon is such an incredible frontwoman on her own, she even had Carrie Underwood headbanging during her brilliant performance of Nirvana's "Aneurysm" at the 2014 ceremony.   

Suzi Quatro -"I just don't like being ignored because that's not correct. It's a big fault. I hear from a lot of people -- they say, 'What? You're not in it?!' No -- and my biggest fan is, and that's not right. You can't rewrite history just to suit your organization." - Suzi Quatro

Full disclosure, I originally had The Runaways in this spot but then realized I was wrong and I'm woman enough to admit that! Suzi majorly influenced my beloved Runaways and she should rightfully be in first, and her significance of being a pioneering woman in the glam rock scene is undeniable. She is critical to paving the way for not only The Runaways, but also Heart, The Pretenders, Siouxsie and the Banshees and countless others. She's one of the many women the Rock Hall should be ashamed for excluding, and I think she’d do well on a ballot.
Warren Zevon - "One day I hope to come back here for the induction for my friend Warren Zevon." - David Letterman during the 2017 Pearl Jam induction.

Warren enjoyed every sandwich, but critics and fans have never been able to enjoy his inclusion into the Rock Hall because of the mind-boggling fact this revered singer songwriter has never even been nominated. While perhaps he didn't enjoy the populist chart success of some of the bands inducted in recent years, there is no denying that his body of work is extensive, exemplary and beloved. Bruce Springsteen called him the greatest songwriter, and Warren's fans also include Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, R.E.M. and Fleetwood Mac. With fans like that, I can't imagine he'd languish long on a ballot.

So those are my 15 ballot picks, but wait...there’s more.
Trying to limit my picks to a certain number of artists is agonizing for me and I will always find a way to bend the rules. In that spirit, I have also chosen picks for Early Influences, the Ahmet Ertegun Award and the Award for Musical Excellence. I know many people don’t like these categories because they feel they are a lesser induction, especially the Award for Musical Excellence. I understand that viewpoint but I personally don’t see it that way, though I’m moderately more forgiving towards the Rock Hall than most.
The long and short of it is, the Rock Hall has a backlog of artists who need to be inducted, and while having more inductees per year would be a simple solution to the problem, it seems for whatever reason that the Rock Hall is not going to deploy it anytime soon. I don’t understand it either; if Eric and I had our druthers, we would support the Rock Hall doing two nights of inductions and inducting 10-15 artists per class. As much as an idealist as I am, I never, ever see that happening. It’s not ideal, but our best chance at chipping away at the backlog is utilizing Musical Excellence. At the end of the day if it’s a choice between a worthy artist never getting in, or them being inducted via a backdoor manner, I will pick the “lesser” option every time unless it’s the Singles category. We cannot complain about people being left out, but then also complain when an effort is made to induct them.

Lastly, let’s face it, we’re the only group of people who care this much about the minute details with the Rock Hall. The public at large isn’t going to care or understand the difference of an artist being inducted as a performer or as a Musical Excellence pick, they will just see them as a Rock hall inductee. And you know what, I think there is credence sometimes to simply letting go of the labels and being happy that the artists we love are being celebrated. With that said, let’s talk categories!

Early Influences: The Carter Family 
This was a no-brainer pick for me and frankly, it's shocking that the Carters are not already in as Early Influence. When you’ve influenced every country artist alive, including Johnny Cash, and acts such as The Grateful Dead then you belong in the Rock Hall. (Discussed on Episode 8)

Ahmet Ertegun Award: Rick Rubin
He created Def Jam Records, has worked with a staggering amount of musical acts (many of them Rock Hall inductees), and even helped Aerosmith revitalize their career with their collaboration with Run D.M.C. on “Walk This Way”. He is critical to hip-hop and metal, and I can only imagine the talent who would raise their hands to be the one to induct Rick or perform a set in his honor. Maybe we’d even get a Slayer performance at a Rock Hall ceremony after all!

Award for Musical Excellence: Tina Turner 
This might but controversial, but if I had to pick a “backdoor” person for induction, then I think I would have to go with Tina Turner. She is already in as a performer, so it doesn’t seem as egregious to use this category to honor her solo career and shine a spotlight on the fact that she is pretty damn excellent. One might even say, she’s simply the best. (Discussed on Episode 2)

So that’s my idealist ballot. I guess now we wait and see if this year maybe there is an idealist or two on the nominating committee! Thank you guys so much for indulging me, thanks Eric for letting me invade E-Rockracy, and finally, thanks to everyone who has supported the Hall Watchers podcast! Happy Rock Hall season!

Make sure you don't miss our podcast episode on Monday, September 2nd, where we will recap all 33 artists we picked for the 2020 Rock Hall season!