My twin sister Sheryl and I are excited to be among those featured in the 50th issue of Vintage Rock for April/May 2021! "The State of Rock 'n' Roll," a four-page article highlighting our work in Iowa for The Surf Speaks: Voices of a Living History (Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa) and The Everly Brothers Childhood Home (Shenandoah, Iowa), is included in the magazine's anniversary edition. Also published for the first time beyond this website is a brief summary of my research regarding the 1962 album, Christmas with The Everly Brothers and The Boys Town Choir, which represents the only known account of this recording session.
With its opening pages adorned by the iconic stage of the Surf Ballroom where Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson gave their final career performances at the Winter Dance Party, along with the last known photo of Holly on stage, “The State of Rock ‘n’ Roll” offers a bold statement for the Hawkeye State’s modest nature. But for its heavyweight role in the genre's storied past, this limelight casts Iowa in its proper light. Moreover, it beckons the unacquainted to reconsider what they've perhaps always considered flyover country. Destination tourism. This too, is preservation.
Reference: See "Rural America Scholarship Program Supports Music History And Heritage On Main Street" about the Open Doors Scholarship I received last month from the Rural America Chamber of Commerce. My application focused on the musical past's small-town origins (including artists) and the challenges faced by localities to preserve and advocate it.
The questions posed by feature writer Julie Burns created a narrative that gives greater insight into our work and its application. Although Sheryl and I have been published in books and newspapers, this is our first magazine feature. And I can’t fully express my excitement about what this editorial exposure means not only for our initiatives, but more broadly for the preservation of music history and heritage.
Perhaps it’s not only “The State of Rock 'n' Roll” in terms of geography and where we are in our march towards preservation equity and equality, but also the state of its crucial placement in periodicals. I hope that our feature will inspire the incorporation of preservation efforts in more popular music magazines, journals, newspapers and newsletters directed towards both specialty and general audiences, for they are at the heart of our work.
I encourage editors to no longer relegate this subject to esoteric trade and scholarly publications, but to embrace it as a part of the music industry landscape they regularly cover, which is itself an act of preservation. Drawing editorial lines in the sand has long undermined preservation awareness in fandom culture and deterred them from embracing their vital role in powering its activities as consumers, patrons and volunteers. Just as specialization has become necessary for magazines like Vintage Rock to be competitive in an over-saturated market, preservation requires inclusion to be viable.
I'd like to thank my Iowa rock and roll family and editor Steve Harnell and the Vintage Rock team for their commitment to our feature story. I'd be amiss if I didn't point out the significance of being recognized in this UK-based publication as part of my continued relationship with friends and colleagues across the pond.
I earned my M.A. in Media, Arts and Design (Public Communications and Public Relations) at the University of Westminster, authoring my dissertation on the topic of music history and heritage, mythology and social stigma, and cultural strategy and communication design to achieve preservation through audience development. The findings from this research shaped my professional identity and helped create the foundation of my career. I'd like to thank David Brooks, Alumni Relations Officer and the press team for their recognition in the university news: "Westminster alumna featured in Vintage Rock magazine about her work as a music heritage preservationist."
“It’s fantastic to see that Sherry’s dedication to preserving such important musical heritage, encompassing places linked to rock and roll legends such as the Everly Brothers and Buddy Holly, has been featured in Vintage Rock magazine and will receive wider recognition. Since her dissertation at Westminster, Sherry has pioneered research in this field and strived to engage the public with these great stories of music history.” -David Brooks
My research focus at Westminster wasn't on popular music, but the classical genre which indulged my interests in the English choral tradition and Mozart who was influenced by J.C. Bach when he lived in London as a child prodigy. This led to my authorship of The Chronicles of a Modern-Day Mozartian and several opportunities to work with Britons including Director Phil Grabsky as the North American Marketing Manager for his film, In Search of Mozart.
It was in springtime when I joined my classmates for a dissertation workshop at Cumberland Lodge in Windsor Great Park. On the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens, the 17th-century country house is located a few miles south of Windsor Castle and is now occupied by a charitable foundation which holds residential conferences, lectures and discussions. During those lovely days in May, this is where my vision began to take shape. In recent days, Windsor has been grief-stricken with the passing of HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. I offer my heartfelt condolences to all who mourn his loss.
Returning home to the other side of the Atlantic, my beginnings in rock and roll with The Surf Speaks project as a collaboration with my sister Sheryl was met with even more British enthusiasm. Mike Berry, who performed Buddy Holly's "True Love Ways" on The Voice UK in 2016, gave us permission to use his song "Tribute to Buddy Holly" (1961) on our official website.
"I'm very pleased and flattered that you saw fit to use my 'Tribute To Buddy Holly' recording as your sort of 'theme' tune? I wish you every success in your endeavours to keep alive the great heritage Buddy and all the other pioneering rock 'n' roll artists of every colour and creed left us. If there is any way I can help to sustain the momentum you are a very important part of, please let me know!" -Mike Berry
Sheryl was already an ambassador for Music Heritage UK, so Founder James Ketchell promoted The Surf Speaks project along with The British Buddy Holly Society Luncheon in the article, "Commemorating the Day the Music Died." Demonstrating the significance and longevity of British fandom, the luncheon had been a mainstay of the Surf Ballroom's Winter Dance Party commemorative event programming from 1989 through 2020. It was founded by Liverpool native Margaret Majerczyk (she knew The Beatles from their Cavern Club days!), who warmly welcomed us into the "February Family" even before we arrived in Clear Lake.
This photo of my sister Sheryl (left) and I (right) was taken at The British Buddy Holly Society Luncheon by The Surf Speaks supporter and participant Steve Belew. The event was held annually at a local hotel ballroom in Clear Lake with ample accommodation for tables, a dance floor, stage and buffet fit for one of rock and roll's premiere fan communities!
In the months leading up to the Winter Dance Party, Sheryl and I provided the Bopper and Me film crew with information about the Surf Ballroom, its history and contacts. They were capturing English scrap metal merchant John Cumberland's stateside journey to induct J.P. Richardson into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In exchange, they filmed our interview with Bob Hale, emcee of the 1959 Winter Dance Party, for The Airplay Channel, a project inspired by the award-winning documentary, Airplay: The Rise and Fall of Rock Radio.
The Surf Speaks project was also a catalyst for meeting Londoner Peter Bradley, Jr. of the Buddy Holly Educational Foundation, whose father founded the organization with Holly's widow, Maria Elena. Working with Peter, Sheryl and I facilitated a partnership between their organization and The Everly Brothers Childhood Home. They've loaned artifacts for our exhibits including a Gibson J-180 guitar signed by Don and Phil Everly (pictured in the Vintage Rock article), a contract from their July 30, 1966 concert at the Danceland Ballroom in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and a rare 10" acetate of the recorded demo of their hit song "Problems" that peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in December 1958.
Sheryl and I were in the Reading Room at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Library and Archives researching The Everly Brothers when I had a chance encounter with Chris White of The Zombies! He was taking a tour of the facility and when the curator told him about our subjects, he was curious to learn more and talk about his heroes. He said that Don and Phil were a significant influence on him and his bandmates. Our meeting was brief and serendipitous, but 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. I didn’t realize it then, but he was in Cleveland because the museum was dedicating a new exhibit for The Zombies that evening. Rock on!
Another UK connection to our Everly Brothers work has been Grammy award-winning English guitarist Albert Lee, who performed regularly as Don and Phil's sideman for decades. Our Founder Bill Hillman, who also studied in the UK and organized the brothers' 1986 homecoming concert in Shenandoah, invited Albert back to town a few summers ago for a fundraising concert to benefit the Everly Brothers Childhood Home. He was also interviewed inside the former Everly residence for our first documentary about the family's history in Shenandoah. Sheryl was instrumental in reuniting Bill and Albert at the Winter Dance Party which led to these efforts and to what we hope will be many more!
From my postgraduate studies in London to my first professional projects and beyond, UK friends and colleagues have been a steady presence and source of support in our shared passion for music. These are only highlights and in no way represent all of the wonderful individuals in my story. Besides my sister, nobody else is doing this kind of work in the field as a scholar-practitioner outside of academic and regulatory roles, and even Sheryl and I have different approaches. Being on the rocky, isolated and unforgiving path of a pioneer, I'm all the more grateful for you. The Vintage Rock feature culminates in a history celebrating our transatlantic relationship and a promising future for preservation!