DEAR JERRY: I keep thinking of your recent column about Connie Francis and Neil Diamond still not being in the R&R Hall of Fame.
I am astounded, especially about Neil Diamond. I couldn't believe this performer, and songwriter, had not been inducted years ago.
Where can we write to express opinions to someone who can affect the voters? I'm sure there are many Neil and Connie fans who would like to be heard.
Elaine Coffin, So. Pasadena, Fla.
DEAR ELAINE: According to the Hall of Fame rules, “Artists become eligible for induction 25 years after the release of their first record.”
Given that Neil Diamond's first solo record, “Clown Town” (Columbia 42809), came out in 1963, he became eligible in 1988 thus he has been passed over for about 15 years.
As for Connie, the oversight is even more absurd. She was eligible in 1980, three years before the birth of the Hall of Fame itself!
Here is what is stated about the election process, according to the Foundation's web site:
“The nominating committee, composed of rock and roll historians, selects nominees each year in the Performer category. Ballots are then sent to an international voting body of about 1,000 rock experts. Those performers who receive the highest number of votes, and more than 50 percent of the vote, are inducted. The Foundation generally inducts five to seven performers each year.”
Though I am clearly a R&R historian, perhaps even an expert, I neither nominate nor vote. I don't even know anyone who does, despite being as immersed in this field as anyone.
All of which means I cannot provide any addresses where you can sound off.
This seems to be the week for HOF feedback:
DEAR JERRY: I read your column in the New Haven Register (November 14) about the R&R Hall Of Fame and Connie Francis, Pat Boone, etc. And I find the facts hard to believe.
Since I was a teenager in the '50s, and heard “Who's Sorry Now” being played on the radio, I was hooked on Connie Francis. I have followed her career, purchased all of her albums, and have seen her perform many times live.
I even had the opportunity to spend a day with her in the summer of 1961 as the recipient of a contest by WMCA (New York), and disc jockey Jim Harriet. I was only 18 years old and it was my first trip to New York City. Jim and his crew took me to Wildwood,
New Jersey to see Connie. We met her at her hotel, took some pictures, made a recording of me asking her questions, for play on the radio the next night, and just had a great time. It was a dream come true for me.
Connie invited us to her show that night and gave us a front row table. I went backstage after the show and thanked her for the best day of my life.
I met her a few times after that and we corresponded for a few years by mail, but her life became hectic and we eventually lost contact.
I agree that she should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as an acknowledgement to her remarkable career that has spanned decades as a female singer.
Jim Amodio, Hamden, Conn.
Jerry, I have been reading your articles concerning the induction of Connie Frances into R&R hall of fame. I think this is a major oversite, and wish something could be done about it.
I met Connie in 1967 during my tour of duty in Vietnam. I had been wounded by schrapnel in my head. I had been in the field for several weeks and I really looked and smelled terrible. I had a bandage going around my head and
I was bleeding through my bandage. I was a mess. That night Connie gave a concert and I was able to attend it.
Connie had all the wounded soldiers sitting in the front row. Her performance that evening was wonderful. She looked so beautiful and sang some songs that seemed to put me back in the states, if only for a brief time.
I have never forgotten Connie and that special concert she gave us.
After the concert she came to each wounded G.I. and spoke to us, and she kissed me on my cheek. She took the time to make all of us feel very special, but to me she will always be special.
David Page, Mayfield, Ky.
DEAR JERRY: I need to comment on the writer who was upset by the fact that Connie Francis is not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
I think that the problem with such expectations are that Connie Francis and Pat Boone weren't really rock and roll at all.
Both celebrated their maximum popularity during that time span when rock had lost its initial force Buddy Holly had died,
Elvis had been drafted, Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry were in trouble with the law and Little Richard had quit the business.
What was Pat Boone famous for? Embarrassing covers of songs originally done by the great R&B and rock performers, sanitized for white suburban teenagers. Mere rip-offs, at best; cultural appropriation at worst.
Similarly, Connie Francis sang nice songs for nice girls that were even less rocking than Pat Boone.
They were what we were hoping would be swept away when the Beatles, Kinks, Stones and Dylan came along and revitalized the original spirit of rock that was absent since the early days. And they were.
Another problem represented in this argument is that record sales alone justify Connie Francis' induction. Artistic merit is also an essential criteria in judging the merits of inducting people into the Hall.
It matters not if Connie Francis sold 100 times the records of Janis Joplin or Dusty Springfield. Their creative contributions to the art form tower above the contributions of Boone and Francis. Dusty Springfield's “Dusty in Memphis” didn't sell well at the time but is surely now recognized as a minor masterpiece.
If measured by sales alone, it would then seem that Mitch Miller should be in the Rock Hall of Fame.
Many would argue that both Connie Francis and especially Pat Boone are actually anti-rock and roll in nature as they both contributed to rock's near-death during the late '50s and early '60s. I won't go that far. In fact, I admire Pat Boone's sense of humor and classy show business survival skills.
A star on Hollywood Boulevard? Absolutely. But deserving of being inducted into the RRHOF? Never.
Chris Maun, Olympia, Wash.
DEAR JERRY: I thoroughly enjoyed your column on the inexplicable omissions at the Cleveland Rock Hall. Now I'd like to add my own comment, which might explain the inexplicable.
My theory flies in the face of some of the inductees, especially the great Brenda Lee, but is it possible that Connie is being overlooked because the voters are only aware of her ballad hits?
We probably all agree that sales alone does not a R&R Hall of Famer make. So maybe the more uninformed voters are only aware of tunes like “My Happiness; Mama; Don't Break the Heart That Loves You; etc., or the country-ish “Breakin' in a Brand New Broken Heart” and “Second Hand Love.”
Lenny Corrigan, Lancaster, Pa.
DEAR LENNY: I prefer to believe that anyone entrusted with a vote would know that whether or not music is categorized as rock and roll is not determined by tempo!
The example you give is perfect. Most of Brenda Lee's hits, including her two No. 1s (“I'm Sorry” and “I Want to Be Wanted”) are ballads, and Brenda recorded far more country tracks than Connie.
Further proof is Tony Williams and the Platters. Of their 34 hits, nearly every one is a ballad. We called them Rock-a-Ballads even though none resemble “Rock Around the Clock.”
The Platters qualify as a R&R act, whereas ballad-oriented groups like the Ink Spots and Mills Brothers do not. Since Brenda Lee and the Platters are rightfully enshrined, let's assume tempo is not the issue.
This is not to say the nominators and voters shouldn't be put in a room and forced to listen to Connie rockin' and rollin' with the best of them on hits like “Stupid Cupid; Lipstick on Your Collar; Plenty Good Lovin'; Fallin'; Vacation; I'm Gonna Be Warm This Winter” and “If My Pillow Could Talk.” (Mitch Miller NEVER recorded songs like these!)
It is a mystery, though we're not the only ones in the dark.
DEAR JERRY: Thanks so much for the kind words and support in your column.
As for the R&R Hall of Fame, I'm as much in the dark as you are.
Connie Francis, Parkland, Fla.
DEAR CONNIE: There's no stopping us now. We're on a mission to break out of the dark.
Thanks for writing. We lost touch when you left New Jersey, so I am thrilled that YOU found ME!
IZ ZAT SO? It would also seem that some trailblazer credit for Connie Francis is appropriate.
Right in the midst of the male-dominated rock and roll explosion of the mid-'50s, Connie often would stand alone on the charts.
One example is the week of September 29, 1958, when the “only” solo female act in the nation's Top 30 was Connie, with “Stupid Cupid.”