Memphis Music Hall of Fame Welcomes 100th Inductee in Grand Ceremony

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Twelve years ago, the grandiose strains of the blues, the sultry tones of soul, and the iconic beats of rock ‘n’ roll echoed majestically through the Memphis Music Hall of Fame. It was a rousing evening where the inaugural class, 25 in
all, was inducted. The night reverberated with the illustrious names of Elvis Presley, ZZ Top, and Three 6 Mafia among others, marking the beginning of a splendid tradition.

Over the subsequent years, the hall drew in dozens of others who had set their musical roots in Memphis. Artists like the smoothly gifted Justin Timberlake, the indefatigable Tina Turner, and the versatile Carla Thomas secured their places in the revered Hall of Fame. This year, the institution hits a significant milestone, the inclusion of the 100th member into its hallowed hallways.

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The batch of nine inductees being welcomed this year includes rhythm and blues virtuoso Wilson Pickett, the brilliantly versatile Jazze Pha, and Jack Soden, who alongside Priscilla Presley, helped transform Graceland into a coveted tourist spot in 1982. This transformation took place five years after Elvis, the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, tragically passed away at the age of 42 in Memphis.

Today, Graceland is etched in the books of American landmarks. This former residence of Elvis, now a museum, garners the admiration of hundreds of thousands of visitors who throng to this Mississippi River city annually.

In recognizing its 2024 honorees, the hall acknowledged Soden’s contributions — creating the blueprint that led to the public unveiling of Graceland and executing it to perfection, despite being advised to sell it off to evade bankruptcy.

The Graceland estate, as it stands today, is a world away from the 13-acre property that Elvis once lived in. It now boasts a colossal entertainment complex complete with a soundstage, an expansive exhibition space, world-class restaurants, and a 450-room hotel. The hall attributes this evolution to the keen oversight of Soden.

In its proclamation, the Hall of Fame extolled the positive impact Graceland has had on Memphis’ music scene, crediting Soden’s leadership for an annual economic contribution of $200 million.

By the turn of the 1980s, Graceland weighed heavy on Presley’s estate due to hefty estate and inheritance taxes. While some advocated selling the property, Priscilla Presley and her loyal confidant, Soden, envisaged opening the home to the public. This move planned to remedy their fiscal troubles and simultaneously bolster Elvis’ enduring legacy.

They diligently sought inspiration from successful tourist destinations such as Hearst Castle, Will Rogers’ home, and even Walt Disney World before formally launching tours of Graceland on June 7, 1982. The event was an overnight success, selling all 3,024 tickets on its debut.

In the years since its inauguration, Graceland has managed to stoke the flame of Elvis fandom, aided regularly by an influx of music compilations, popular culture references, and films such as 2022’s “Elvis” and the follow-up “Priscilla” in 2023.

Overwhelmed at being acknowledged by the Hall of Fame, Soden thanked the organizers in a statement he provided. He regarded the induction as an accolade of the highest order, appreciating the privilege of joining a distinguished roster of talented singers, musicians, and pioneers responsible for crafting Memphis’s rich musical tradition.

This year’s induction ceremony, scheduled for Sept. 27, will also acknowledge Southern Soul keyboardist and songwriter Spooner Oldham, opera singer Kallen Esperian, pop group The Gentrys, singer-songwriters Rhodes, Chalmers, Rhodes, Kevin Kane, head of Memphis’ tourism bureau, and James Carr, the hauntingly soulful singer of “Dark End of the Street”. Wilson Pickett, whose soul standard-bearing career saw a meteoric rise at Stax Record of Memphis, where he recorded “In the Midnight Hour,” will also be recognized on the illustrious night.