Honors, Homestown Style, For Phila. Music Legends – Musicians, Promoters and a Talk-Show Host Make the Walk.
Denise-Marie Santiago, Inquirer Staff Writer
The days of sweating in a car, waiting as her sons Michael and Randy finished their music lessons, came flooding back to Sylvia Brecker yesterday.
She looked on as the Philadelphia Music Alliance honored her boys, now Grammy-winning jazz musicians with several albums to their credit, with bronze plaques on the Avenue of the Arts’ Walk of Fame. They received the recognition with nine other contributors to the city’s music scene.
Before a noonday crowd of a few hundred fans and onlookers standing in front of the Merriam Theater on South Broad Street, saxophonist Michael Brecker, 48, thanked his mother for taking him and his brother, trumpeter Randy, 51, to “the lessons and waiting in the car.”
She waited because it was too much of a hike to return to the family’s house in Melrose Park from the Northeast, where the youngsters took the lessons.
“In the summer, I sat in the heat,” she recalled. “In the winter, I sat in the cold.”
How it all paid off for the brothers, who were among the celebrities who came to see their names immortalized and embedded in concrete during the alliance’s 10th annual event. The nonprofit group this year joined the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences Inc. in honoring the winners with plaques, which now number 100.
The brothers were scheduled to headline a show at a gala ball last night in the Park Hyatt at the Bellevue. The Rock School of the Pennsylvania Ballet was to perform to a piece by a fellow inductee, classical pianist Gary Graffman.
Also on the bill were honorees blues guitarist Leon Redbone, jazz organist Jimmy Smith and rock and rollers the Dovells, all expected to perform for an audience of several hundred.
The event for the public started with attitude from the Conestoga Angels Precision Marching/Drum Corps, whose majorettes shimmied their shoulders and jutted their hips for the honorees.
In the crowd was Grace Butler of North Philadelphia. She lined up early to get a glimpse of the Dovells, who started hitting the musical charts long before the 32-year-old came into this world.
“I love rock and roll,” said Butler, whose favorite group formed in 1957 and first made its mark with the dance smash “The Bristol Stomp” in 1961.
“I have an old soul,” she added. “I was born in the wrong era.”
From another era, too, came former talk show host Mike Douglas. The 72-year-old crossed himself when his plaque was unveiled commemorating the years in the 1960s and 1970s that he taped his daytime entertainment and chat show at KYW in Philadelphia.
“I feel wonderful,” Douglas said. “It’s a big thrill. These were the best years of my life, these 13 and a half years [in Philadelphia.]”
Also recognized yesterday was actor James Darren, the South Philadelphia native who began his career singing in local nightclubs and went on to play a rich surfer boy in several Gidget flicks and a police officer in T.J. Hooker, a television series of the 1980s. More recently, Darren has made a living behind the camera as director for television programs.
Joseph “Butterball” Tamburro of South Philadelphia was honored for his years as program director and disc jockey at WDAS-FM radio station, where he started working 35 years ago as an advertising salesman.
Concert producers Larry Magid and Allen Spivak, founders of the Electric Factory, one of the country’s first live rock venues, were also honored with plaques. Besides their rock connection, they are involved in Broadway theatrical productions and were American organizers of the 1985 Live Aid concert at JFK Stadium, which raised money for famine relief.
The alliance was scheduled to give other achievement awards at last evening’s activities to jazz guitarist Kevin Eubanks, the Avenue of the Arts Inc., and the Philadelphia Folksong Society.