Add to that list the names of three more legendary entertainers who were inducted into the 2010-11 Beale Street Brass Note Walk of Fame this past weekend. The Beale Street Brass Note Walk of Fame was founded in 1986 to honor those whose musical contributions had largely gone unnoticed.
The induction ceremony for influential pop group Big Star was held Saturday, Nov. 13, inside of B.B. King’s Blues Club. The group was formed in Memphis in 1971 by Alex Chilton, Chris Bell, Jody Stephens and Andy Hummel. After an early breakup and personnel changes, Big Star reemerged in 1993 and continues to influence the music of other artists, according to industry critics. Hummel and Chilton died earlier this year.
On Sunday, Nov. 14, bluesman "Sleepy" John Estes (1904-1977) and the Steinberg family were each honored with a brass note during a ceremony inside the Historic Old Daisy Theater. Family and friends were on hand to support the honorees.
Eight members of the family were honored: Milton Gus Steinberg (pianist/patriarch, 1910-1950s), Nan Steinberg (vocalist, 1930s-1940s), Morris Steinberg (saxophonist), Luther M. Steinberg (trumpet/piano), Wilbur Steinberg (vocalist/bassist), Lewie Steinberg (bass/trumpet), Martha Jean Steinberg, international radio personality and radio station owner/executive, and Diane Steinberg-Lewis (pianist/singer/songwriter/ producer/actress/teacher).
Authentic Beale Street Musicians...
Estes and the Martha Jean Steinberg were also honored Sunday evening with W.C. Handy Heritage Awards, presented each year to authentic Beale Street musicians who got their start on the street that catapulted many of them to prominence.
This is the 14th year for the Handy Awards and the 137th birthday anniversary (Nov. 16, 1873) of W.C. Handy (also known as the "Father of the Blues"), for which the awards were named. It was presented by W.C. Handy Museum Preservation and Heritage Tours, Inc.
The first Handy Awards were launched on Beale Street in 1997 and subsequently moved to other locations over the years, said Elaine Turner, awards founder. "We went back on Beale Street, which was the origin of the first Handy Awards."
Beale Street, she said, is where music was generated and "where blues musicians can be exposed to visitors who come to Memphis from all over the world seeking to hear genuine Memphis music."
The honorees for Memphis Blues were the late "Sleepy" John Estes, guitarist; Carl Drew, singer/guitarist; and Johnny Scott, singer/songwriter.
Southern Soul: Archie "Hubbie" Turner, keyboardist; Soul Breed, recording artist; Freddie Durham, baritone singer; and Clifford Marable.
Saturday Night, Sunday Morning: Barbara Perry Wright, jazz/gospel vocalist; and Errol Thomas, bassist.
Music Legacy Award: Martha Jean "The Queen" Steinberg (1930-2000), pioneering radio personality with WDIA-AM, executive and owner of a radio station in Detroit, community activist and minister.
Lifetime Music Achievement: Booker T. Jones, organist, pianist, clarinetist, guitarist, trombonist, singer, arranger, composer and producer.
Master Musician Award: Willie Mitchell (1928-2010), producer, composer, writer, recording artist and engineer.
Welcome Queen Back Home...
The Steinberg family has played an integral part of Memphis music for more than one hundred years. Those who achieved acclaim were no less than stellar musicians. But one of them, Martha Jean "The Queen" Steinberg, followed a different path altogether than her kinsmen.
The Queen started at WDIA-AM Radio Station as an on-air personality in 1954 and, from that point, rose to national and international prominence during her career in Detroit, where she'd become the executive/owner of WQBH Radio Station. She was inducted into the Black Radio Hall of Fame in 1993 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.
But something was amiss until that day, Sunday, Nov. 14, when The Queen finally got a brass note (with other family members) on "World Famous" Beale Street.
"I feel like this is a portal for the rest of the coming generations to step through. Our father and grandfather put in the work over 100 years ago," said Diane Steinberg-Lewis, the eldest of Martha Jean Steinberg's three children. Sandra and Trienere are the other two.
When Lewie Steinberg accepted the brass note on behalf of the family, she said, "My heart was full to see my uncle accept the brass note for those who didn't see it in their lifetime. The Steinberg family has been recognized."
The honor was a longtime coming, said Steinberg-Lewis, nearly giving up hope that her family's contribution to Memphis music and the world would soon be forgotten. There were 10 Steinbergs, she said. Only three are still living: Lewie, Gladys and Isaac.
Although her name has been inscribed on the brass note as well, she said the portal that her family has opened for others to walk through has been widened because of her mother's six decades in radio and unparalleled contributions.
Since Martha Jean Steinberg's contribution to music differed from the musical talent of her kinsmen, "I felt she should have a separate brass note, and a separate brass note for the Steinbergs. But I'm happy that the Steinbergs have finally been recognized."
Martha Jean Steinberg's contributions: on-air personality, WDIA-AM, from 1954–63; WCHB-AM, from 1963–66; WJLB-FM, from 1966–82; and was an on-air personality, general manager, vice president/president and part-owner/owner of WQBH-AM, from 1982–2000. WQBH was an acronym for Welcome Queen Back Home.