Welcoming 13 Stars of Music From Ed McMahon To Todd Rundgren: The Walk of Fame Honors All Sorts of Contributions to the City’s Musical Heritage
Joe Logan, Inquirer Staff Writer
“This,” said Ed McMahon, nodding toward his new plaque on South Broad Street, “means I’m here. I started here 40 years ago and nobody knew I would make it. Well, I made it, and I’m here to celebrate.”
McMahon, Johnny Carson’s longtime Tonight Show sidekick, was one of 13 current and former Philadelphians to be cast in bronze and set in stone yesterday in recognition of his contribution to the city’s musical heritage.
Set in the sidewalk, actually, down at Broad and Spruce Streets.
In ceremonies under a hot noontime sun yesterday, the Philadelphia Music Foundation unveiled nine 16-by-22-inch bronze plaques in honor of the 13 men and their accomplishments. The PMF “Walk of Fame” now consists of 30 plaques and stretches along Broad from Walnut to Spruce.
Cited were jazz bassist Stanley Clarke, pop singer Al Martino, the five- member soul group Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, crooner Teddy Pendergrass (who before going solo was also a member of the Blue Notes), rock star Todd Rundgren, writer-producers Kal Mann and Dave Appell, pianist Andre Watts, TV personality McMahon and the late classical composer Samuel Barber.
“I consider myself a Philadelphian,” said McMahon, who brought three of his daughters, a son and two grandchildren to the ceremony. McMahon, a native of Detroit, spent much of his youth here and launched his television career at WCAU (Channel 10).
McMahon’s entry into the PMF Walk of Fame has nothing to do with his own musical talents: It has to do with the aspiring musicians whose careers he has helped launch via his syndicated TV show, Star Search.
“Oh, I once sang, not notably, but I sang,” McMahon said. “But if you could get in my shower with me, you’d still hear some good work.”
Though Mayor Goode could not make the festivities, his requisite proclamation was read in absentia. He cited the PMF for its work in bolstering the city’s image, its scholarship programs and its impact on the music scene, and concluded by declaring yesterday “Philadelphia Music Foundation Day.”
The afternoon ceremonies were but a prelude to the foundation’s black-tie gala at the Hotel Atop the Bellevue. There, each of the entertainment-business success stories was also to be formally inducted into the PMF Hall of Fame.
Yesterday afternoon, after being introduced to the small crowd that gathered in front of the Atlantic Building at 260 S. Broad St., where the new plaques were laid, Melvin, Pendergrass, Clarke, McMahon, Mann, Appell and Watts each was photographed alongside his latest award.
Nearby was Grover Washington, the internationally acclaimed jazz saxophonist who continues to call Philadelphia home. Washington was to receive last night’s PMF Hal Weissman Service Award, named for the entertainment publicist and tireless PMF volunteer killed two years ago in an auto accident.
“Hal was the personification of what’s good in the music industry,” said Washington, who was being honored for “exemplary contributions to the local music community.”
“Hal helped everybody, regardless of their musical genre,” Washington said. “We all knew him and we all loved him.”
Also scheduled to receive an award last night was veteran radio personality Ed Sciaky, who is credited with helping launch the careers of Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel. He and the late record promoter Harry Chipetz were to be named the recipients of the Hall of Fame Founders Award.
Conductor Peter Nero was to be presented the PMF Hall of Fame Institution Award for his work with the Philly Pops.
Nominees for the PMF awards were chosen by committees of experts from five musical genres – classical, jazz, folk, gospel and popular. The final award- winners were selected through a vote of 1,500 people involved in the area’s music industry.