The Memphis Music Hall of Fame is inducting its first class Thursday night with a roster of 25 music greats spanning generations, from rock 'n' roll icon Elvis Presley to Oscar-winning rap group Three 6 Mafia.
The Hall of Fame will also induct blues guitarist B.B. King, Sun Records founder Sam Phillips, R&B singers Otis Redding and Isaac Hayes and influential R&B-soul-rock group Booker T. and the MGs.
Sponsored by the Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum, the hall has been in the planning stages for about seven years. All the inductees have strong ties to Memphis, where many soul, blues and rock n' roll pioneers have worked and performed.
Some inductees have ties to Presley, who moved to Memphis from Tupelo, Miss., as a young teenager. They include Sam Phillips, who recorded Elvis' first song, "That's All Right" at Sun Studio in 1954, and Dewey Phillips, the force behind the "Red, Hot and Blue" music show and the first disc jockey to play Elvis songs.
Sam Phillips — no relation to Dewey — also recorded songs by inductees King, bluesmen Bobby "Blue" Bland and Howlin' Wolf, rock n' roll pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis and R&B singer Rufus Thomas at Sun Records.
Several musicians have ties to the city's other prominent production studios, including Stax Records, Hi Records and Ardent Studios.
Hayes, Redding and The Staple Singers recorded at Stax Records, helping create the "Memphis Sound." Booker T. and the MGs was the house band at Stax, and also recorded the 1962 classic "Green Onions."
Stax founders Estelle Axton and Jim Stewart are being inducted.
The Staple Singers and fellow inductees ZZ Top, the Southern rock group, recorded at Ardent Studios. Representing Hi Records is Willie Mitchell, a trumpeter and bandleader who ran the studio, and soul singer Al Green.
Memphis-based Three 6 Mafia was the first rap group to take home an Academy Award for Best Original Song for their 2005 song, "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp."
The hall of fame also is honoring early popular music pioneers such as blues musician and songwriter W.C. Handy — known as "The Father of the Blues" — and Lucie Campbell, a composer of gospel songs who died in 1963.
The inductees were determined by a nominating committee consisting of national authors, historians and music industry representatives. Inductions will be held annually.
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