image from rockhall.com
The museum wouldn’t open until 1995 (“The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum opens its doors: September 2, 1995”), but the first induction ceremony was held on January 23, 1986 in New York City at the Waldorf-Astoria Grand Ballroom.
The evening kicked off with Keith Richards’ induction speech for Chuck Berry. Richards said, “It’s very difficult for me to talk about Chuck Berry ‘cause I’ve lifted every lick he ever played.” RH After ripping off his tux jacket to reveal a leopard-print jacket underneath, Berry continued saying, “This is the gentleman who started it all!’” RH
In addition to Berry, the first class of inductees included James Brown, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Fats Domino, The Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, and Elvis Presley in the performers category. Non-performers were Alan Freed and Sam Phillips. Early influences were Robert Johnson, Jimmie Rodgers, and Jimmy Yancey.
The initial intent was a dinner with music provided by Paul Shaffer and the World’s Most Dangerous Band from Late Night with David Letterman. Inductees were not expected to perform. As Shaffer told Rolling Stone in 2009, “"We didn’t want people to feel as if they had to sing for their supper, but we had brought in instruments just in case.” RS However, by the end of the first ceremony Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, and others were on stage in what has become an all-star jam tradition.
Resources and Related Links:
- RH Rockhall.com The 1986 Induction Ceremony
- RS RollingStone.com Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s Greatest Moments by David Browne and Andy Greene (3/10/2011)