The 4th Annual PMF Awards – Another Piece of Music History Takes its Place on South Broad Street’s Walk of Fame – Six Pieces, in Fact. And Other Honors go to Five Philadelphians and Local Institutions.
Joe Logan, Inquirer Staff Writer
A cold, steady rain drove the daytime ceremonies inside yesterday, but it did not dampen the spirits of the organizers or the recipients of the Philadelphia Music Foundation’s Fourth Annual Hall of Fame and Walk of Fame awards.
“Sure, now the sun shines,” said one PMF functionary, leaving a post-ceremony luncheon at the Hotel Atop the Bellevue.
Weather notwithstanding, about 200 people turned out at noon in the atrium of the University of the Arts, Broad and Pine, where 10 Philadelphians and local institutions were recognized by the PMF for their contributions to the local and national music scenes. An 11th award was to be presented last night.
Master of ceremonies Jim Vance, the Washington anchorman who graduated from Lower Merion High and Cheyney University, drew a chuckle when he thanked Mayor Goode and State Sen. Vincent Fumo (D., Phila.) for doing the unthinkable, at least for politicians: keeping their remarks exceedingly brief.
But by far the biggest moment of the ceremony occurred when pop diva Patti LaBelle, one of the city’s biggest celebrities, led the procession of award-winners through the atrium and onto the stage, all to the funky beat of the Chester High School Marching Band.
LaBelle, positively low-key in a tight black dress, her often-outrageous tresses combed back into a longish flip, prompted applause and squeals, most from several dozen University of the Arts students who had stopped by.
Between Spruce and Pine on Broad, a 16-by-22-inch brass plaque bearing LaBelle’s name had been freshly implanted in the sidewalk, along with plaques honoring the five other new names on the Walk of Fame: Gerry Mulligan, Linda Creed, Arthur Tracy, Stan Lee Broza and Efrem Zimbalist Sr.
The Walk of Fame stretches from Walnut to Pine Streets on the west side of South Broad Street and, with this year’s additions, consists of 36 plaques. It is the brainchild of the 4 1/2-year-old PMF, a nonprofit organization that was created to preserve the city’s musical heritage, and works to provide music scholarships, internships, job-training seminars, a speakers’ bureau and band showcases.
While her plaque was being pelted with rain outdoors, LaBelle was holding court indoors.
“This is wonderful,” she said of the ceremony, which was to be followed last night with a gala at the Wyndham Franklin Plaza Hotel, where more than 800 were expected to attend.
“We artists work very hard to be recognized, so this just makes you work harder,” said the flamboyant singer who hit it big in the ’60s with the Bluebells and continues as a solo artist – and, in recent years, as an actress.
“Even if I didn’t get an award, I would still work hard. It comes from within me – but it helps to get an award.”
Following LaBelle, the other Walk of Fame honorees or their proxies stepped to the podium. Three were represented by family members. Accepting the honor for the late Stan Lee Broza, the WCAU-AM program director whose Horn and Hardart Children’s Hour aired on the station from 1928 to 1958, were his sons Stanley Broza Jr. and Elliot Lawrence. Stephen Epstein and his daughters Roni and Dana represented their wife and mother, Linda Creed, who died in 1986. The Mount Airy songwriter penned some of the most popular songs of the ’70s and ’80s, including “You Are Everything,” “Betcha by Golly Wow,” “The Rubber Band Man” and Whitney Houston’s No. 1 hit “The Greatest Love of All.” Jazz saxophonist, composer and arranger Gerry Mulligan, who played with such greats as Count Basie, Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday, was represented by his brother, Philip.
Arthur “The Street Singer” Tracy, 87, whose career spanned 60 years in radio, television and recording and included the 1930s multimillion-selling single “Marta,” was on hand. And the award for the late Efrem Zimbalist Sr., a violinist and the director of the Curtis Institute of Music from 1941 to 1968, was accepted by Vladimir Sokoloff of Curtis.
At the ceremony, the PMF also introduced recipients of three Founders Awards, given to music-industry members for their contributions to local music. They were Richard Barrett, a producer, performer, writer, arranger and manager who has worked with such acts as Little Anthony and the Imperials, the Isley Brothers and Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes; Harold Lipsius, owner of Universal Record Distributing and the old Jamie and Phillies record labels, and Daniel Webster, The Inquirer’s classical-music critic for 27 years.
The 28-year-old Philadelphia Folk Festival, the oldest such festival in the country, was cited as winner of the Institution Award.
The PMF’s only surprise award, the Hal Weissman Service Award, was to be given at last night’s black-tie gala. Named for the late Weissman, a public relations man who donated his time to help launch the PMF, the award goes each year to a Philadelphian who has contributed to the cultural community.
This year’s honoree is Fumo, whose position as chairman of the state Senate Appropriations Committee has enabled him to funnel thousands of dollars to city music endeavors.
“I’m honored, gratified and surprised,” Fumo, who had been told ahead of time of his award, said yesterday afternoon. “It’s rare that a politician gets these things.”
Specifically, the South Philadelphia Democrat has landed the PMF $100,000 in state funds for each of its years of existence and has helped procure funds for the annual Luciano Pavarotti/Opera Company of Philadelphia International Vocal Competition; the new University of the Arts book, Philadelphia Images; the Wilma Theater; the Philadelphia Drama Guild; the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Pennsylvania Ballet and others.
“If the arts in Philadelphia survive, the city will survive,” said Fumo. ”A new stadium costs about $100 million, but cultural institutions can get along with $50,000.”
The Philadelphia Music Foundation began its Hall of Fame in 1987. These are the individuals and groups that were inducted in the three previous ceremonies:
The Dixie Hummingbirds
Nelson Eddy & Jeanette MacDonald
The Four Aces
Kal Mann & Dave Appell
Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes