Celebrating The Philly Sound PMF Ceremonies Show That Local Music Biz Is ‘Fam-i-ly’

Mary Flannery, Daily News Staff Writer

There really was no need for Philadelphia Music Foundation officials to have brought together more than 40 entertainers for the first Philadelphia Music Awards show.

To celebrate the sound of Philadelphia, foundation officials could have simply turned the spotlights on the 2,900 music-lovers in the audience for last night’s gala at the Academy of Music.

When Bobby Rydell crooned “Volare,” the audience sang back “Whoa-whoa.”

When folk singer Jesse Colin Young urged, “Come on people now, smile on your brother,” they answered, “Everybody get together…”

And when Sister Sledge pounded out,”We are…” they shouted back ”fam-i-ly.”

“That song has a magic and the audience was in the mood to party,” said Kathy Sledge. “I think the people were roused by the acts that were on before us. Each performer was electric.”

Every entertainer had a familiar face and every song seemed to strike a responsive chord among segments of the capacity crowd who came out to honor 40 years of Philadelphia music. The event combined performances and the presentation of seven awards for “Best of Philadelphia” popular achievement.

However, the evening lasted an ungodly 3 1/2 hours – one hour beyond schedule – and ended at 11:50 p.m. as organizers attempted to cram rock, rhythm and blues, crooners, folk, jazz and gospel into the program.

Comedian David Brenner, when it came time for his appearance as a presenter, cracked, “Welcome to the second Philadelphia Music Awards show.”

Almost anybody who is or ever was somebody in Philadelphia music participated. Frankie Avalon was master of ceremonies. The original members of Bill Haley’s Comets were brought together for a “Shake, Rattle and Roll” medley. Billy Paul massaged his hit “Me and Mrs. Jones.”

Former TV host Mike Douglas was a presenter. So was Broadway star Andrea McArdle and rocker Todd Rundgren.

Patti LaBelle came out of the audience to receive awards voted by the public as female vocalist of the year and for “On My Own” as record of the year. Other awards voted by fan ballots mailed to the Daily News included Daryl Hall, male vocalist of the year; the Hooters for group of the year and for “One Way Home” as album of the year; Cinderella for new artist of the year, and Bill Cosby as performer of the year. Hall, the Hooters and Cosby were no-shows.

The highlight of the evening was the foundation’s honoring of Dick Clark, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame. A plaque bearing his name was installed yesterday in the Walk of Fame in the sidewalk on South Broad Street between Locust and Spruce streets. Clark, who began hosting “American Bandstand” here in 1956, said that local support for emerging talent – one of the foundation’s purposes – is essential for the development of new performers.

“The hardest thing for a new artist to do is not to give up,” said Clark in an interview earlier yesterday. “If they get no support and no help, they will get discouraged and they’ll do something else.”

“Dick Clark’s ‘Bandstand’ is what I remember of Philly music,” said comedian David Brenner backstage. “We all learned to dance by watching his show and we all went to the studio to watch his show.”

Brenner, it must be pointed out, appeared to present the performer of the year award. “I don’t have any musical talent,” he admitted. “I was in the monotone section in school. I ruined the assemblies. When I started singing, everyone else stopped.”

Rocker Joan Jett, who served as a presenter, was born here but moved away as an infant. Still, she said she considers herself a Philadelphian. “I find it an honor to be included as part of Philadelphia’s music,” Jett said.

Many of the top-price tickets ($100) were sold to recording industry executives. But there were a substantial number of music fans who came to the event because simply because they grew up listening to the sounds of this city.

“I have four daughters who grew up with Dick Clark,” said Clementine Catrambone, 63, of Mayfair. “I wanted to see him and I wanted to see the stars. My favorite is Frankie Avalon. That’s why I bought the tickets.”

The foundation, which serves to promote the local music industry and bring young people into the business, received a $100,000 grant from the state last night that was presented by State Sen. Vincent Fumo.