October 29, 2008

Musicians Hall Ceremony Honors Players, Producers

By Peter Cooper

NASHVILLE -- Keith Richards held court backstage Tuesday night at the Musicians Hall of Fame induction ceremony, guffawing with old friends who first were heroes.

He'd flown in to pay tribute to The Crickets, the group that began as Buddy Holly's backing band and wound up an enduring force in pop and rock.

"See, what you cats in America don't realize is that this is the first global, international rock band of all time," Richards said. "It so impressed us in England. There would probably be no Beatles or Rolling Stones without them."

Onstage, Duane Eddy's monstrous electric guitar rumbled through Rebel Rouser. Booker T. and the MG's offered a stinging and soulful Green Onions. And Richards smiled through a mini-set with The Crickets, playing That'll Be the Day, Peggy Sue and Not Fade Away.

The star-powered event at Schermerhorn Symphony Center found Eddie Floyd, Lee Ann Womack, Phil Everly, George Jones, Percy Sledge, Kid Rock and a slew of others paying tribute to some of the finest studio and touring musicians on the planet.

Richards is right that most in America don't know about The Crickets, though many do know the name of the group's late bandleader. ("Hey, I've worked with a pretty heavy frontman, too," Richards said.) And most don't know the names Jerry Allison, Joe B. Mauldin and Sonny Curtis. They don't know Wayne Jackson or Andrew Love, or Steve Cropper or Billy Sherrill. The Musicians Hall of Fame is not devoted to the famous.

But the induction of Booker T., the Memphis Horns, the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, The Crickets, Al Kooper, Sherrill and Eddy put the spotlight on the players and producers behind the hits. The night is about Cropper's electric guitar on Sam & Dave's Soul Man, and Kooper's keyboard part on Bob Dylan's Like a Rolling Stone and Sherrill's stately production on George Jones' He Stopped Loving Her Today.

Richards spoke of his days as a teen in England, mesmerized by the sounds coming from the radio.

When he heard That'll Be the Day, he thought "these guys are streets ahead of us. We have to catch up."

Peter Cooper writes daily

for The (Nashville) Tennessean (c) Copyright 2008 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc. <>