Sidewalk Tribute To Musicians – Hall and Oates Haven’t Pounded This Pavement in Years. Their Names are on the Pavement Now.
Kevin L. Carter, Inquirer Staff Writer
Even though they’re well into middle age, Daryl Hall and John Oates proved that they still can stop traffic.
Back in town to be inducted yesterday afternoon in the Philadelphia Music Alliance’s Hall of Fame and its Walk of Fame on South Broad Street, Oates, 43, who now lives in Connecticut, and Hall, 44, now of London, caused a scene that only true rock stars could.
As they crossed the street in front of the Merriam Theater, the cacophony of horns and the loud crush of shouting fans, many of whom drove miles to see the soulful duo, were not exactly music to the ears.
“This is the fifth time I’ve kissed John,” said Jersey City secretary Maureen Frendak, 41. She came, along with four friends, to see her favorite group honored by their home town.
Gene and Susan Ricketts came from Baltimore, camcorder in hand, to meet Hall and Oates.
“There is no other group that plays music like theirs,” Gene Ricketts said.
Hall and Oates, a few years past their hit-making prime, were gracious and grateful. “I am so happy that I come from here,” said Hall, who is working on a solo album.
“Philadelphia is the source, the inspiration for everything I do.”
Hall spoke after brass plaques, embedded in the Broad Street sidewalk and bearing his name and that of his partner of nearly 25 years, were dedicated. Others who received plaques and Philly immortality were Philadelphia International Records executives Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, arranger/composer Thom Bell, the Heath Brothers, jazz-pop singer Buddy Greco, actress Molly Picon of the Yiddish theater, record company founder Bernie Lowe and classical pianist Rudolf Serkin.
The crowd at last night’s PMA Hall of Fame awards gala was a bit light of national celebrities, compared to last year, but it did demonstrate a bit of hipness sometimes lacking in the city.
For the first time, a good percentage of the more than 700 attendees at the gala at the Wyndham Franklin Plaza last night wore red ribbons on their lapels, ribbons that signified their support for AIDS research.
Just like the Oscars. Just like the Grammys. Who said Philadelphians were provincial?
On the subject of the Grammys, the music alliance has been trying to start a chapter of the National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) here. And Michael Greene, NARAS president and award presenter, had some good news for the city.
“Philadelphia… I believe, is really positioned to re-establish itself as one of the great music centers in the United States,” he said.
As a result of the PMA’s drive to recruit members, Greene said, within a few weeks the city will be eligible to appoint a “national trustee” to NARAS’ board of directors. The alliance has recruited about 100 members so far, Greene said. In order to be eligible for national representation, the Philadelphia chapter must sign up 100 voting members, who must meet stricter requirements than ordinary members.
Speaking before the gala, Greene had some words of caution for the PMA’s membership drive.
“The easiest part is always the first part,” he said. “The alliance has done a very good job so far.”
“The real work of the alliance lies in front of it, not behind it. There’s a real need for a high-profile person in the music business to become synonymous with the effort,” Greene said, citing local Grammy winners such as Boyz II Men and Grover Washington Jr.
Later, at the gala, the Uptown Theater on North Broad Street received the alliance’s Institution Award, record and film producer Bob Marcucci received the Founders’ Award, and arts patron Emanuel S. Kardon was given the Hal Weissman Humanitarian Service Award.
The PMA also gave 25th anniversary salutes to Kal Rudman’s Friday Morning Quarterback, a radio/music tipsheet, and to WMMR-FM (93.3) and Sigma Sound Studios.
For jazz bassist Percy Heath, who, with his brothers Albert, a drummer, and Jimmy, a saxophonist and flutist, were enshrined on the Walk, the afternoon had a special significance.
When he was growing up in South Philadelphia during the ’20s and ’30s, his home town was segregated.
“We lived next door to an Italian family,” Heath, 69, said after posing in front of his plaque on Broad Street, “but we went to different schools.”
Young African American men like Heath and his brothers, even though they were some of the best musicians the city had to offer, were not welcome in certain spots on Broad Street, such as the Academy of Music.
But now, his name, and those of his brothers, all jazz greats, will forever be on display along South Broad, among 61 other plaques that dot both sides of the street from Walnut to Spruce.
How things have changed.
“I’m thrilled to be part of this,” said Heath, whose brother Albert, nicknamed “Tootie,” was by his side. “Philadelphia has been a little slow in realizing that its black artists are important also. It’s very good to see that people who contribute to music that is not classical music are honored.”
And on a day when civic and musical Philadelphia celebrated itself, at least one Philadelphian was oblivious to the happenings around him.
Standing near Broad and Spruce, half a block from where the crowd formed around Gamble and Huff, was Bharat Patel, 32, a newspaper vendor and resident of Northeast Philadelphia, who immigrated from India a decade ago.
“Who the hell are those guys?” Patel asked, looking at the crowd with a bemused expression. A bystander filled him in.
“So they are big guys, then,” he said.
They are indeed.