Locals represented in R.I. Music Hall of Fame
Locals represented in R.I. Music Hall of Fame
PAWTUCKET - Three Blackstone Valley natives, Michael "Duke" Robillard, a Woonsocket native and resident of Pawtucket, the late Paul Gonsalves, formerly of Pawtucket, and the late Randy Hien, a Woonsocket native who formerly lived in Lincoln, are among nine new inductees into the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame.
Representatives from the Hall of Fame announced the organization's 2014 inductees last Friday in its museum space at the Hope Artiste Village, 999 Main St. Members of the RIMHOF Board of Directors, along with members of the Class of 2012 and Class of 2013, were on hand to welcome nine new inductees. The other six are: Tavares, Cheryl Wheeler, The Castaleers, The Mark II (Winston Cogswell & Ray Peterson), Freddie Scott, and Francis Madeira.
Hall of Fame Chairman Robert Billington told assembled guests that getting into the hall is not about who you know, but about reaching "for the stars." This year's inductees have all earned the right to get in based on their impact, not just locally, but on a national and even international stage, he said.
Hall of Fame members have announced that this year's induction ceremony and concert event has expanded to two days, May 3 and May 4, and will take place at two separate locations. An evening concert, featuring Tavares as well as a tribute to Freddie Scott led by Rhode Island's own Mac Odom, will take place on Saturday, May 3, at Lupo's Heartbreak Hotel, 79 Washington St., Providence.
The induction ceremony and concert is set for Sunday, May 4, at The Met and Hall of Fame itself, both located within the Hope Artiste Village complex. The afternoon event will include the unveiling of all nine 2014 inductee exhibits as well as performances by Cheryl Wheeler, Duke Robillard, the Mark II and a tribute to Paul Gonsalves led by saxophonist Dan Moretti.
Tickets for the May 3 evening concert at Lupo's are $20 in advance and $25 at the door; and $35 for Gold Circle seating. Tickets for the May 4 event are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. The unveiling of the inductee exhibits is free and open to the public. A ticket will be required for entrance to the concert at the Met. Tickets can be purchased at www.rhodeislandmusichalloffame.com starting Feb. 25.
Robillard, a Woonsocket native who would later move to Pawtucket, earned a reputation in the 1960s as one of the best blues guitarists in the state after stints with the original Roomful of Blues, Ken Lyon's Tombstone Blues Band, and The Black Cat Blues Band.
In 1970, he reformed Roomful with a three-piece horn section. Under his leadership, the band revived the genre and gained national attention with two albums for Island Records. He left the band to pursue a solo career with his Rhode Island rhythm section, The Pleasure Kings, Thom Enright and Tommy DeQuattro. He became equally adept as a jazz player, releasing his first jazz project "Swing" in 1987.
Gonsalves, who died in 1974, attended Pawtucket High School in the 1930s, studying while he was there with two of the state's best musicians, Joseph Petteruti and Joseph Piacitelli.
He became a pivotal figure in the evolution of post-war jazz from swing into the modern era when he was drafted into Dizzy Gillespie's band in the late 1940s. He joined the Duke Ellington Orchestra in 1950 and provided a crucial ingredient in the modernization of Ellington's sound.
In his off time, Gonsalves released a series of solo albums, which are considered some of the finest small-group, modern jazz recordings of the '50s and '60s. He was guaranteed a place in the history books by his famous 27-chorus improvisation on "Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue" at the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival.
Though plagued throughout his career by problems with drugs and alcohol, Gonsalves was widely regarded "as one of the warmest, kindest and generous musicians in jazz," according to RIMHOF board members. He died in 1974.
Hien, who died in 2006, was born in Woonsocket and later lived in Lincoln. He began working in the music business in 1971 when he took a job with his great-uncle B.A. Dario, who had recently purchased the decaying Loew's. They changed the name to the Palace Theatre.
Hien was liaison to the acts and managed concessions and venue operations until 1975 when Dario decided it was not financially feasible to keep the doors open. Hien approached Arnold Hahn, who had a small, failing jazz club at the corner of Westminster and Empire streets in Providence called The Living Room, just blocks from the Palace.
By 1980 the club had become the center of a blossoming music scene with a dedicated clientele. The future looked promising until Dario, who also happened to own that building, decided to sell the property, which was torn down to make way for a new building.
Hien set up shop for Living Room #2 in a warehouse on Promenade Street. It was called "the bubble complex." Life was good until the building owner decided not to renew Hien's lease and the Living Room #2 closed in 1990. For five years, Hien searched for a venue he could buy so he wouldn't be at the mercy of a landlord. Living Room #3 was purchased in 1995 and prospered until Hien died in 2006.
During his entertainment career, Hien also focused on his other passion - baseball. He was a coach for the Lincoln Little League for 28 years.
The RIMHOF, formed in 2011, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to celebrating, honoring, and preserving the legacy of Rhode Island musicians, educators and industry professionals who have made significant contributions to the music scene.
All proceeds from the induction events go toward creating museum displays, acquiring recordings and memorabilia, and digitizing that collection for permanent online access for future generations. All organizational work has been donated by members of the board of directors and a staff of volunteers.
"As the organization grows, the Hall of Fame will be committed to developing programs and services aimed at promoting and strengthening Rhode Island's current and future music scene and ensuring that music continues to play an important role in the lives of all Rhode Islanders," said Billington.
"The Music Hall of Fame initiative provides a great opportunity to not only acknowledge Rhode Island's musical greats and celebrate their achievements, but to finally have an organization whose primary goal is to promote and preserve Rhode Island's rich musical heritage in all its forms," said Rick Bellaire, vice chairman of the RIMHOF.