As it always has, the Musicians' Hall of Fame and Museum celebrates the crucial contributions of studio musicians to the sound of classic records across all genres. Today, country music is the genre that's most associated with ace session players, but for much of the '50s through the '70s, pop and soul artists also relied on crack studio bands to bring songs to life. In the past 15 years, their stories have become more familiar, having been told in books like Kent Hartman's The Wrecking Crew, about the L.A. session players who backed up The Beach Boys and many more (some of whom, like Leon Russell and Glen Campbell, would become marquee acts themselves), and documentary films like Standing in the Shadows of Motown, the Funk Brothers biopic and Respect Yourself, an inspiring ride through the history of Stax. There remain a plethora of other musicians, like Nashville's A-Team, the Memphis Boys and Muscle Shoals' Swampers, who still don't have the name recognition of James Jamerson or Booker T. Jones, but the MHOFM makes a space, both physical and cultural, to honor them. Take a look at Jewly Hight's 2008 feature on The Swampers' induction into the Hall for some perspective from bassist David Hood.
The MHOFM does something else special with its equipment displays. I got a little chill when I stood in front of Hal Blaine's drum kit at the old location. I was five feet away, on the other side of a glass partition, and I'm not even a drummer, but looking at the wear and tear on it, seeing the marks it picked up through being used every day, I got a strong sense of the human element in music. Pet Sounds may be a lofty, lauded piece of history, but it was also one of several jobs Blaine had to do in a given day. Sure, music is a special, sometimes ethereal thing, but it doesn't just appear out of thin air; someone has to make it happen.
Doors open at the new space Thursday at 10 a.m., and admission is $18.95 for everyone 18 and up, $15.95 for those over 65, $10.95 for children ages 7 to 17, and free for kids 5 and under (the website isn't clear about kids age 6; maybe they are forbidden, but we'll bet they're in the $10.95 bracket). Regular hours will be Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more details, check the official website or Facebook, and watch Channel 5's Marcus Washington talk with MHOFM founder Joe Chambers (also of Chambers' Guitars fame).