January 15, 2017
A New Batch of Legends Comes to Granby Street
by Jim Newsom
It’s been ten years since the city of Norfolk last inducted a new batch of honorees into the Legends of Music Walk of Fame. It’s been so long that a lot of people who walk on and past the stars on the Granby Street sidewalk every day probably have no idea what those embedded stars represent.
But in 2002, 2003 and 2007, a total of eighteen well known musicians with ties to the Hampton Roads region were honored with concerts at the Roper Performing Arts Center. Previous inductees include Ella Fitzgerald, Bruce Hornsby, Gary “US” Bonds, Bill Deal & the Rhondels, Keely Smith, Gene Vincent and Clarence Clemons.
Last year, city council appointed a committee to consider new honorees. On Sunday, February 26th, six individuals will be inducted into the Walk of Fame with a concert, again at the Roper. As in the past, this year’s class covers a wide range of musical genres:
Norfolk native Margie Day hit the R&B Top Ten with the Griffin Brothers in 1950 with “Street Walking Daddy” and followed up in 1951 with the number five hit, “Little Red Rooster.” She continued her recording career through the decade with releases like “Snatchin’ It Back” and “Take Out Your False Teeth Daddy,” moving back to her hometown in the mid ‘60s. She recorded two albums of jazz and pop in the late ‘60s before retiring from the business. In 1985, she founded the Centerstage children’s arts workshop and was a community leader until her death in 2014.
Bob Zentz discovered folk music growing up in Norfolk in the 1950s. After college, a stint in the Coast Guard, and three years in Los Angeles, he came home to open Ramblin’ Conrad’s Guitar Shop and Folklore Center, which became the hub of the region’s bustling folk and acoustic music scene. While performing around the world himself, he staged local concerts and festivals that brought national and international folk artists to town, while providing opportunities for local musicians to perform and congregate.
From its distinctive opening guitar lick and Farfisa organ, Lenis Guess’ “Working For My Baby” is a classic slice of ‘60s grit, blending the excitement of garage band rock with the soulful strut of the great rhythm & bluesmen. While the record was the last glorious gasp of the “Norfolk Sound,” it was neither the first nor last to be heard from Guess, who continued to produce soulful, funky music locally and in New York City.
Although not a native Virginian, composer Adolphus Hailstork has lived here for forty years, first as a professor at Norfolk State from 1977-2000, and since then as Eminent Scholar and Professor of Music at Old Dominion. He is recognized internationally as one of the finest living composers, with works for small ensembles, orchestras, chorus, opera and more. He is composing a new piece which will receive its world premiere at the Roper on February 26th.
Gordon Banks played in his first band, The Showmen (“39-21-46”) at the age of twelve (with previous Walk of Fame inductee General Norman Johnson). After graduating from Norfolk State, he moved to Los Angeles where he played with ‘70s music greats including Stevie Wonder, Mandrill, The Gap Band and Edwin Hawkins. But it’s his work with Marvin Gaye from 1977 until Gaye’s death in 1984 that brought him international renown. As Gaye’s musical director, he was instrumental in creating the singer’s biggest album Midnight Love and its signature hit, “Sexual Healing.”
With his unmistakable wakeup call to “Get Up From There,” Jack Holmes was the voice of soul radio in Hampton Roads. “Daddy Jack” started at WLOW in Portsmouth in 1947 after his discharge from the Navy, but he made his indelible mark on Tidewater radio listeners after moving to WRAP ten years later. In the ‘60s and ‘70s heyday of soul music, “Daddy Jack” was the indisputable King of the DJs.
Besides the world premiere of Hailstork’s new composition, the concert on February 26th at 7:00 pm will feature performances by Zentz and Banks, and live musical tributes to Day, Guess and Holmes. Tickets are free, and may be picked up at the Virginia Arts Festival Box Office, 440 Bank Street in downtown Norfolk, 10am-5pm, Monday through Friday. For additional information, call (757) 664-4253.
© 2017 Jim Newsom. All Rights Reserved.