It was 30 years ago tonight (January 23rd, 1986) that the first inductees entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in a ceremony held at New York City’s Waldorf-Astoria. The inaugural class of the Hall of Fame featured rock’s forefathers: Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Buddy Holly, the Everly Brothers, Ray Charles, James Brown, Sam Cooke and Jerry Lee Lewis.
Included in the “Non-Performer” category were Sun Records founder Sam Phillips and seminal disc jockey Alan Freed, whom many credit for actually coining the phrase “Rock And Roll.” Also inducted that night in the Early Influence category were blues icon Robert Johnson, country’s Jimmie Rogers, and boogie-woogie pianist Jimmy Yancey. Columbia Records’ legendary A&R man John Hammond, who was responsible for discovering Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and many others, received the Hall’s first Lifetime Achievement Award.
The emotional inductions included Keith Richards’ speech inducting Chuck Berry and John Lennon’s sons Julian and Sean Lennon inducting their father’s hero, Elvis Presley.
The ceremony featured the first all-star jam, which closed the night’s festivities. Among the stars joining the inductees onstage were Steve Winwood, John Fogerty, Billy Joel, and ZZ Top. The musicians, backed by Late Night With David Letterman’s house band — the World’s Most Dangerous Band, lead by Paul Shaffer — rocked into the early hours on classics such as Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Little Queenie,” and “Johnny B. Goode”; Lewis’ “Great Balls Of Fire” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On”; Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary”; Chubby Checker’s “The Twist”; and the Spencer Davis Group’s “Gimme Some Lovin’,” among others.
Paul McCartney, told us that the birth of rock n’ roll in the mid-1950’s not only changed his life but the world at large: “It was America reawakening the world ’cause, you know, we were into sort of other stuff then, and suddenly Elvis, Little Richard came screaming out of across the Atlantic, y’know, and it was just so exciting for us all. That is a very exciting time, so to remember it was very exciting, but also being a teenager at that time was a very exciting, interesting time.”