PortFolio Weekly

PortFolio Weekly
April 3, 2007

Legends of Music Walk of Fame

by Jim Newsom

It’s been four years since the City of Norfolk last inducted new members into its Legends of Music Walk of Fame. The first two classes, installed in 2002 and 2003, included Ella Fitzgerald, Pearl Bailey, Charlie Byrd, Gary “US” Bonds, Ruth Brown, Tommy Newsom, Bruce Hornsby, Dorothy Maynor, Bill Deal and the Rhondels, Keely Smith, Gene Vincent, The Golden Gate Quartet and Frank Guida. Their stars are embedded in the 300 block of the Granby Street sidewalk downtown.

This year’s group of honorees is once again a diverse crew:

There’s no question that Clarence Clemons is a legend of rock-n-roll. His cool hatted countenance backed up to The Boss on the cover of Born to Run cemented his place as a larger than life figure, and when Springsteen sang “and the Big Man joined the band” on “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out,” the Crestwood High School football player was marked for immortality. His unmistakable gritty tenor sax sound harkens back to the early days of rock-n-roll, when saxophone was the nascent genre’s principal solo voice.

General Norman Johnson was singing beach music before there was such a thing. His early ‘60s hits with The Showmen, “It Will Stand” and “39-21-46” were called R&B at the time, but became charter members of every beach music playlist. When he moved to the Chairmen of the Board for early ‘70s soul music classics “Give Me Just a Little More Time” and “Dangling on a String,” his voice was enshrined internationally. Clarence Carter’s chart topping cover of the General’s down-home “Patches” probably paid the mortgage for a few years.

The Phelps Brothers went from South Norfolk to New York to Hollywood, where they were lassoed into the 1930s craze for “singing cowboys.” After their sojourn in the movies, the three brothers—Norman, Earl and Willie—came back home, playing for years as the Virginia Rounders at their own club, Fernwood Farms. It is said that oldest brother Norman co-wrote “Back in the Saddle Again,” but Gene Autry claimed authorship and made it his theme.

Pat Curtis is the first Walk of Fame inductee to be honored primarily for his work on the local music scene. A mainstay of Tidewater jazz for more than fifty years, the Norview High School graduate probably made his biggest mark as a piano teacher, and his benefit performances on behalf of regional charities are legion.

Maestro JoAnn Falletta is the first come-here to get a star on the Granby Street sidewalk. Since arriving in town to lead the Virginia Symphony in 1991, she has guided the VSO to the top ranks of regional orchestras. Commuting between her job here, her job as Music Director of the Buffalo Philharmonic and her position as Artistic Adviser to the Honolulu Symphony, she has still found time to guest conduct more than a hundred other orchestras, record forty albums and perform numerous solo guitar concerts.

This year’s class will be honored at a free concert and induction ceremony at the Roper on April 18. All four living legends will perform and Norman Phelps’ daughter Bobbie Beard will lead a tribute to her father and uncles. Tickets are available at the Virginia Symphony box office in MacArthur Center.

copyright © 2007 Jim Newsom. All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.