Earlier this month, my twin sister Sheryl and I (aka the "twinstorians") journeyed to Cleveland to visit The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Library and Archives as well as the Museum to enjoy its new exhibits and features. Sheryl scheduled our visit and requested collection materials in advance through Jennie Thomas, Director of the Library and Archives, in hopes that we might discover items to inform our work on behalf of The Everly Brothers Childhood Home Foundation in Shenandoah, Iowa.
Visitors are welcome at the Library and Archives by appointment only, so James, the friendly Security Guard, greeted us at the locked entrance. When Sheryl introduced herself, he responded with a big smile: "Then you must be Sherry!" We signed our names in the guest log and James made sure we knew where to park. I moved the car to the designated space:
"Rock and Roll Staff Parking Only."
After placing our belongings in a locker near the front desk, we took our seats for a Visitor Orientation and afterwards signed a registration form. When we walked over to the Reading Room area where our cart of reserved boxes awaited, Jennie presented us with official Researcher Cards and white gloves for handling the material. We were officially ready to rock...and research!
As we began looking through the collections, we discovered material relating to The Everly Brothers and their former hometown, especially as it pertained to their 1986 homecoming concert. Jennie gave us a device on which to take photos that she would later send to us in PDF with a watermark. We were required to document every single item we photographed on a special form. We also had to list any item we wanted digitally scanned on a separate form. It was a time-consuming process, but well worth the effort. Any material requested for exhibition will require another level of paperwork and permission.
Seated near large windows overlooking the sidewalk, we observed the bustle of activity outside, including the many children enrolled in summer music camp at the Cuyahoga Community College. They laughed and skipped with friends and parents, carrying their musical instruments and backpacks. To them, music was carefree leisure, a contrast to the reality of the child performers we were studying that day. To Don and Phil Everly, music was joy, but also responsibility.
It was how their parents earned a living. It was a way of life, and to live successfully by one's musical talents required discipline and diligence, a lesson they learned early. Don and Phil joined the family show on KMA Radio in Shenandoah when they were only 6 and 8 years old.
*The following photo is not from the Rock Hall Library. Credit: TNN (The Nashville Network).
The library staff noted that there was a significant amount of material relating to the brothers and Shenandoah that had not been cataloged yet, but there was one off-the-grid item we were privileged to see. Sheryl asked about the program from their 1986 induction into the inaugural class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Although it was an uncataloged item in the Rock Hall Foundation's very own collection, they still brought it out for us to explore and photograph. While the Reading Room was quiet and mostly vacant, there was plenty of rock and roll in the stacks!
I observed a few individuals being escorted by a staff member in the distance. I noted their British accents and thought they must have been collectors, historians or musicians. I went back to the task at hand and a short time later, I was approached by Chris White of The Zombies!
We shook hands and he asked about our research. Archivist and Assistant Curator Anastasia Karel said she told him that our subjects were The Everly Brothers and that we were working to restore and advocate their childhood home. Chris seemed pleased and applauded our effort. I didn't know until later, but he was in town because the museum was dedicating a new display for The Zombies that evening!
As he looked at the materials on our table, Chris told me that Don and Phil were a significant influence on him and the band. It was incredible to hear this directly from a member of such an iconic British Invasion band. These groups idolized and imitated American rock and roll pioneers like the Everlys.
Although Sheryl and I arrived at the Library and Archives around 9am, we quickly realized that we wouldn't have time for lunch, so we continued on with our work until 4:30pm when the collection materials had to be returned. Jennie and her staff went above and beyond to provide the expertise and support we needed to conduct our research. We look forward to continuing our work with this team!
After driving a short distance to Rock and Roll Boulevard, we parked and made our way to the museum plaza. After taking photos with the "Long Live Rock" art installation (I took to a crowd-surfing pose in honor of its Ohio origins!), dinner at the new All Access Cafe was our first order of business. The "East Ninth" pizza was just what we needed to fuel the last hours of our day. The atrium is an entirely new space now than it was during my last visit. As soon as you walk in the door, you're introduced to the exciting redesign that presents the history as "experience!"
We arrived at the museum around 5pm. While it normally closes at 5:30pm, we took advantage of their extended summer hours. The Power of Rock Experience, a three-part exhibit featuring a new short film by the late Jonathan Demme, was near the top of our list. The much-anticipated attraction opened less than two weeks before our visit. Watch the trailer!
The film included some of the greatest induction ceremony and onstage moments projected onto five moving screens with concert lighting, lasers, fog effects and under-seat speakers that rumbled like thunder throughout your entire body. There were interactive displays allowing fans to record their concert memories. Artist apparel and guitars from the film were also on display.
With new amenities and attractions placing emphasis on the more recent history of the genre, I was happy to see that exhibits like "The Architects of Rock and Roll" still attracted just as many visitors. I mean, who isn't captivated by the story of Cleveland disc jockey Alan Freed (aka "Moondog")? He was the "boundary smashing, trend-setting, evangelist" of the genre!
I took a video of Don and Phil in "The Beat Goes On," an interactive component highlighting the artists who inspired inductees. Their apparel and guitars were on display in the exhibit "Rave On: Rock and Roll's Early Years." With music, new tech and artifacts working in tandem throughout the museum, the tangible and intangible together presented a compellingly dimensional rendering of the artists.
As Museum 2.0 shifts its focus towards creating a concert-like energy and atmosphere to engage fans, I hope that the Everly Brothers and their peers remain a central part of this transition. I'm excited about this heightened experiential approach to preservation and what it means for audience development!
In October 2014, The Everly Brothers were celebrated as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's Music Masters honorees (schedule of events). Phil had passed away earlier that year in January. During the Music Masters Tribute Concert, surviving brother Don stated in his acceptance speech:
"Thank you so much, all of you, each and every one of you, for being here tonight. My brother appreciates it and I appreciate it. Thank you so very much. We think Cleveland is the birthplace of the name 'rock and roll' and I'm glad the Hall of Fame is here. I never would have thought it would have happened, but it did."
Long Live Rock! (and The Everly Brothers!)
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