Published in Woonsocket Call on April 23, 2017
With extreme regularity, Pawtucket West High School student Steve Cohen arrived every Monday and Tuesday night at Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel in Providence just like clockwork to listen to his two favorite Rhode Island bands, Rizzz and the Wild Turkey Band. Next Sunday, Cohen and hundreds of other people will gather at the Hope Artiste Village mill complex to see Rizzz, Wild Turkey and Hometown Rockers and eight other inductees be brought into the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame’s Class of 2017.
The Pawtucket-based RIMHOF, formed in 2011, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to celebrating, honoring, and preserving the musical legacy of Rhode Island
musicians, educators and industry professionals who have made significant contributions to both the national and Ocean State music scene.
Looking Back at Over Forty Years of Musical Memories
Cohen, 63, who considers himself a music aficionado, remembers going to long gone Rhode Island music hangouts like The Act, January’s, The Edge and Gulliver’s to catch a set or two of Rizzz and the The Wild Turkey Band/Hometown Rockers. The native Pawtucket resident says that his love for music began at age 16 and continues to this day.
“I know every original song played by Rizzz and Wild Turkey Band by heart,” claims Cohen.
Rick Bellaire, 62, Vice Chair of RIMHOF, has memories of how Rizzz helped change the course of his musical career. “When I was in my freshman year at Rhode Island College, I was playing in a hard rock cover band to pay my way through school. It was very successful, but I didn’t like the music,” says Bellaire. After watching the original 6 piece lineup of Rizzz play a song by The Band followed by an original to a packed house at Gulliver’s in Smithfield, he said to himself, “Now that’s what I want to do.”
Bellaire gave notice to his hard rock band the next day and never looked back. “You’ll find dozens of musicians in southern New England whose experiences with Rizzz, Wild Turkey and Hometown Rockers were similar,” he says.
After the Rizzz and The Wild Turkey Band/Hometown Rockers officially broke up, over the years Cohen and Bellaire regularly attended these band’s reunions. Being by the stage at these reunion shows brought a flood of memories from over 40 years earlier to Cohen from the days he followed the two local bands as a high school and later a college student.
Cohen is adamant that Rizzz and The Wild Turkey Band/Hometown Rockers were great bands in the ‘70s and ‘80s. After attending their recent reunions he says these bands have not lost their “mojo.”
Reunions are always special occasions, like anniversaries, fund raisers, and they are never disappointing to Bellaire. “As good as they ever were. So not ‘better,’ but just as great. Rizzz still has all 10 members from the various lineups – how could it not be great!
It’s the same with Wild Turkey/Hometown Rockers. Although they’ve lost some important original members – Pat Davis, Paul Gaudette, Kevin Falvey – they always have top notch players who are also fans sitting in for those guys and they feature the principal frontmen from each configuration, John Baldaia and Tom Keegan. When they get together, it’s always incredible,” Bellaire says.
With the establishment of the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame six years ago, through the efforts of Bellaire and others, Rizzz and The Wild Turkey Band/Hometown Rockers and eight other inductees – Artie Cabral, Phil Greene, Dan Moretti, Neutral Nation, Billy Osborne, Plan 9, Frank Potenza and Throwing Muses – will be inducted in 2017.
Musicians Get Long-Awaited Recognition
“The Music Hall of Fame initiative,” says Rick Bellaire, “provides a great opportunity to not only acknowledge Rhode Island’s musical greats and celebrate their achievements, but to finally have an organization whose primary goal is to promote and preserve their music and stories. We have in place the tools to curate and showcase the best of Rhode Island’s musical artistry.”
Adds, Robert Billington, Chair of RIMHOF, “The Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and concerts have become the place to be and be seen at as we continue to showcase the fascinating history of Rhode Island’s musical heroes. The events are a virtual ‘who’s who’ of Rhode Island music history.”
With ten inductees in RIMHOF’s Class of 2017, organizers split this year’s celebration into three separate events with the Jazz and R&B inductions taking place last Sunday at the Greenwich Odeum. There will be two more induction concerts held at The Met next weekend. On Saturday, April 29, at 8:00 p.m., the 2017 RIMHOF Rock Induction Concert – Part I will feature performances by Plan 9, Neutral Nation, and Kristin Hersh, David Narcizo, and Fred Abong of Throwing Muses.
On Sunday, April 30, the unveiling of all ten RIMHOF Class of 2017 inductee exhibits will take place at 2:00 p.m. at the Pawtucket-based Hope Artiste Village, 999 Main St., followed by the 2017 RIMHOF Rock Induction Concert – Part 2 featuring Rizzz, Phil Greene, and the Wild Turkey Band/Hometown Rockers, beginning at 3:00 p.m.
Since its initial induction six years ago, a total of 53 inductee exhibits were produced. Eventually, the Pawtucket museum will hold more than 100 displays as well as assorted Rhode Island musical history memorabilia and interactive components for the visitors to enjoy.
Tickets for the April 29 and April 30 events at The Met are $20.00 in advance and $25.00 at the door. While the Unveiling Ceremony is free, a ticket will be required for entrance to Sunday’s 3:00 p.m. concert in The Met. Tickets for the April 29 and April 30 concerts can be purchased at themetri.com.
All proceeds from RIMHOF’s annual induction events go toward creating the museum displays, acquiring recordings and memorabilia, and digitizing that collection for permanent online access for future generations. All organizational work has been donated by RIMHOF’s Board of Directors and volunteers.
For profiles of the inductees, visit http://www.rhodeislandmusichalloffame.com.\