This year’s Kansas Music Hall of Fame inductee class comes from all over the Sunflower State.
“We have inductees from Kansas City, Salina, Manhattan, Wichita, Rose Hill, Lawrence and other places,” said Allen Blasco, who co-founded the Hall of Fame in 2004 with Meredith Gordon and Bill Lee, former president of the hall who died in October.
Saturday night, the hall will have its annual induction ceremony at Lawrence’s Liberty Hall. The ceremony will include seven music performances.
Here’s a look at the careers of some of the inductees, a few of whom come from just inside the Missouri border:
Never miss a local story.
▪ Marva Whitney (Kansas City, Kan.): Whitney is most famous for the time she spent in the James Brown Revue, during which Brown nicknamed her “Soul Sister No. 1.” She later recorded as a solo artist on his label, King Records. Her biggest hit was released in 1969: “It’s My Thing (You Can’t Tell Me Who to Sock It To),” a response to the Isley Brothers’ hit “It’s Your Thing.”
She left Brown’s revue in 1969 and continued to record and tour. She died in 2012 of complications from pneumonia. She was 68. Her daughter will accept on her behalf.
“I got to see her perform with James Brown at a blues and jazz festival at the Liberty Memorial,” Blasco said. “She certainly deserves the honor.”
▪ Dick Wilson and Jay Cooper (Kansas City): The two on-air personalities are well-known among radio listeners in the Kansas City area for their show on KYYS (KY 102) from 1974 to 1984. They will receive a Directors Award.
“Jay lives in Florida, and Dick still has an ongoing career in radio here,” Blasco said. “Jay is coming in, and they’ll be together for the first time in decades.”
▪ King Alex and the Untouchables (Kansas City): Alex Littlejohn grew up in Ferriday, La., in the company of future music greats Jerry Lee Lewis and Mickey Gilley. He spent most of his adult life in Kansas City and got caught up in its 18th and Vine scene, eventually starting his blues band, the Untouchables.
A review of a greatest hits collection at CDBaby describes their sound: “Imagine B.B. King singing with the Roomful of Blues Horns backing him up and you have the sound of King Alex and the Untouchables playing his original songs the way they’ve been doing it since 1959.”
Band members will be present, but Littlejohn will be honored posthumously. His granddaughter will accept on his behalf.
▪ Charlie and the Stingrays (Kansas City): For 30 years Charlie Stendebach and his four-piece band performed nearly 2,800 shows in this region, entertaining crowds with the best dance songs from the 1960s and 1970s. The band retired in 2015.
In 1999, Dick Clark inducted Charlie and the Stingrays into the Kansas City American Bandstand Walk of Fame. “They were an institution here and need to be honored,” Blasco said.
▪ Mark Selby and the Sluggers (Salina): They toured the Midwest in the late 1980s and early 1990s, playing a mix of rock, R&B and country. Selby eventually moved to Nashville, where he became a session player (Kenny Rogers, Wynonna Judd) and songwriter.
Selby co-wrote the hit “Blue on Black” with Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and he co-wrote the 1999 Grammy-winning Dixie Chicks hit “There’s Your Trouble” with his wife, Tia Sellers.
▪ The Fabulous Apostles (Wichita): They started out as Beatles imitators but evolved into a horn-based soul/R&B ensemble that toured from the Midwest to Canada and Mexico. Guitarist Jay Leach has made a name for himself as a member of the house band for “American Idol” and “The Voice.”
▪ Thumbs (Lawrence): This punk/garage rock band emerged from the Lawrence music scene in the late 1970s and early 1980s. They opened for acts like XTC, Iggy Pop and the Police, and their recordings grabbed the attention of critics.
“They got reviews in Rolling Stone and Musician magazine,” Blasco said. They called it quits in 1985, but not before leaving an imprint in the Lawrence music scene. “Thumbs were kind of seminal to the revolutionary independent rock scene in Kansas.”
Other inductees include: Billy Bob and the Belaires of Beloit; Sawdust Charley of Wichita; South of the Tracks of Manhattan, and Roger Walls of Rose Hill.
Orin Friesen of Benton will be awarded the Bob Hapgood Award, and Wayne Rouse of Manhattan will receive a Directors Award.
▪ The 2016 Kansas Music Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony begins at 7 p.m. Saturday at Liberty Hall, 644 Massachusetts in Lawrence. Admission to the all-ages event is $25. Amid the inductions, there will be seven performances: Billy Bob and the Belaires; Sawdust Charley; Mark Selby and the Sluggers; the Fabulous Apostles; South of the Tracks; Thumbs; and Charlie and the Stingrays.