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Inductees  

The Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame 2013 Class of Inductees

George M. Cohan
(1878-1942)

The Cowsills

Jimmie Crane
(1910-1998)

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Hailing from the Fox Point neighborhood on the East Side of Providence, George M. Cohan burst onto the national scene when still a young child as a member of his family's successful traveling variety act, The Four Cohans. By his mid-twenties, he had moved on to presenting his own shows beginning in 1904 with "Little Johnny Jones" which established him as major player on the landscape of American entertainment. As a composer, producer, actor, singer, and dancer, he became a pivotal performer in the evolution of theatrical presentations from the minstrel show format to the variety offerings of vaudeville as well as a major innovator and early star of the modern era of Broadway stage production. He is considered one of the most important composers in the history of American popular music with songs from his productions regularly becoming across-the-board hits on radio and on record and sheet music sales charts. His most famous compositions, such as "The Yankee Doodle Boy" (a/k/a "I'm A Yankee Doodle Dandy"), "Give My Regards To Broadway," and "Over There" helped form the basis of what is now called "The Great American Songbook."

From Bannister’s Wharf in Newport, The Cowsills carried their glorious pop harmonies to the world in the 1960s and '70s. Along the way, they garnered three Top-10 hits – and another nine Billboard chart entries – making them one of the most successful Rhode Island acts of all time. Their early singles featured a four-piece lineup of brothers Bill, Bob, Barry and John. By the time they'd begun their string of hits for MGM Records, they'd added their mom, Barbara, to the mix and then brought in sister Susan and brother Paul for their second album. After pursuing successful solo careers in the '80s and '90s (most notably Susan with The Continental Drifters and Bill with The Blue Shadows on the Americana scene; and John as the drummer-in-residence for The Beach Boys), the group reformed in 1999 for an album under Bob's direction and reestablished itself as a major concert attraction. The Cowsills have become universally recognized as pioneers of the joyful genre of Rock 'n' Roll now referred to as "Sunshine Pop."

Providence musician Loreto Fraieli, known professionally as Jimmie Crane, was the dean of Rhode Island songwriters in the modern era. He found early success in the 1930s and '40s culminating in Glenn Miller's use of his composition "It's Great To Be An American" (co-written with another Rhode Islander, Ray Muffs) as his wartime theme song. He truly hit his stride in the 1950s with a string of hits composed with a new partner, Al Jacobs, which lasted into the 1970s. Along the way, he rang up major hits for such heavyweights as Eddie Fisher, Doris Day, Al Martino and Bobby Vinton. Perhaps his best-known song is "Hurt" which was a smash in three decades: Roy Hamilton in 1954, Timi Yuro in 1961 and Elvis Presley in 1976. Besides being an admired songwriter, Jimmie was beloved for his generosity, unselfishly providing personal, musical and financial assistance to to dozens of young singers, musicians and songwriters throughout his life.

Bill Flanagan

Paul Geremia

Bobby Hackett
(1915-1976)

Born in Warwick, Bill began his life's work as a dedicated music fan and record collector who parlayed his knowledge and passion into a career as a critic, reviewer and musicologist for all of the major periodicals in Rhode Island in both the "underground" and mainstream press. His positive spin on, support for, and coverage of Rhode Island artists helped lead the way to many a record deal by promoting our local acts to the national mainstream. Bill went on to become a celebrated writer for Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, GQ and Esquire and was Editor In Chief of Musician in its heyday. He is the author of seven books (four novels based around the music business and 3 non-fiction works on U2, The Three Stooges, and important songwriters). He is currently Executive Vice President and Editorial Director of the MTV Networks where he has helped propel music programming into the future with such innovations as "Storytellers" and "Crossroads."

Providence-born Paul Geremia is an internationally-known musician, equally well-regarded in the folk and blues communities. An active performer and major label recording artist for more than 40 years, Acoustic Guitar magazine calls Geremia "One of the best country blues finger-pickers ever." His approach has never been simply that of a preservationist carrying on a tradition – he has always put his own stamp on the music by introducing his original songs as well as material from other genres into the style. His long string of critically-acclaimed albums for Folkways, Sire, Adelphi, Flying Fish and Red House has firmly established him at the forefront of the Americana music scene and he has been a major player in evolving country blues music into the modern era.

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Providence-born trumpeter and cornetist Bobby Hackett was one of the greatest improvisers in the history of jazz. His career spanned six decades (1930s-1970s) and encompassed every style from New Orleans traditional to big band swing to the easy-listening mood music of the 1950s. Along the way he performed with dozens of musical giants including Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett. His unique and exquisite tone coupled with his melodic improvisational style gave him an instantly recognizable sound and made him a household name. Louis Armstrong considered Bobby his only equal. His releases as a leader, a sideman, and as a featured soloist are all equally considered to be some of the most important recordings in the history of popular music.

Sissieretta Jones
(1868-1933)

Steve Smith & the Nakeds

Eddie Zack & the Hayloft Jamboree

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Sissieretta Jones, of Providence, was one of the greatest sopranos in the world at the turn of the last century. Music critics of the era dubbed her the "Black Patti" as only Italian opera great Adelina Patti was considered her equal. She was one of the first women to break the color barrier in opera and was the first African-American to perform at Carnegie Hall. She toured the world and was honored and decorated by heads of state around the globe. When mounting social pressures forced her to rethink her future in opera, she launched a second successful career in popular music when she organized a theatrical troupe she named "The Black Patti Troubadours" which is credited as being the first such organization owned and operated by African-Americans. By presenting variety shows with a story line for continuity, she not only assisted in the late-19th century transition from minstrelsy to vaudeville, but helped pave the way for the 20th century Broadway theatre tradition in the pre-"Showboat" era. Sissieretta is the subject of a major biography published in 2012 and the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society dedicated a plaque in her honor at her homestead on Pratt Street on the East Side of Providence on publication date.

Since 1973, Steve Smith, of Smithfield, has spent four decades barnstorming the country with his 10-piece horn band, The Nakeds, playing his personal brand of Rock 'n' Roll and Rhythm & Blues and attracting a huge following in the process. Originally known as Naked Truth, the group faced down all economic pressures to downsize and consistently produced and released original music in the hope of securing a major label record deal. Steve's determination paid off in a big way. The majors came knocking on his door in 2008 when the band's 1984 indie hit "I'm Huge (And The Babes Go Wild)" was featured by the animated hit TV series "The Family Guy." The YouTube video for the song has seen almost 400,000 views and the interest in the group prompted Sony Records to offer a distribution deal. The first release, a "greatest hits" package containing the best of their independent recordings, was a best seller; a follow-up, "Under The Covers," was released in 2012.

The Zackarian family, of Providence – Edward (Eddie Zack), his brother Richard (Cousin Richie), and their sisters, Mercedes (Babs) and Marilyn (Maril) – pioneered the Country & Western music scene in Rhode Island and were major players in the introduction of the style into the Northeast. During the 1940s and '50s, they released dozens of successful recordings on Decca Records and Columbia Records. They were the stars of a nationally-broadcast NBC radio program originating from WJAR studios in downtown Providence, and they were also an established major nightclub and concert attraction. The success of The Hayloft Jamboree continued on into the 1980s with a string of successful radio and television shows and a succession of independent record releases. Although Eddie and Richie have passed away, the tradition continues with Babs and Maril and Eddie's daughter, Dotty Zack, leading new generations of country musicians into the future.

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