Last Friday, Leon Berman, host Shake The Shack, was presented (and surprised) with a certificate inducting him into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.
Mike Fuller (aka Cousin Mike), the fill-in host for Shake The Shack and not coincidentally Leon’s cousin, spearheaded the campaign and worked his ass off to make this happen. Here’s Mike:
This came about a couple of weeks ago when I was looking at the Rockabilly Hall of Fame website. As I was going through at the names, it just suddenly struck me that Leon should be in the Hall. I mean, who’s done more for rockabilly in the northwest than Leon? And he’s been doing it for 22 years -- not just the show, either, but the Rockabilly Ball and its CD series and now a DVD.
So, I started corresponding with the curator, Bob Timmers, in Nashville. He was reluctant at first, because the Hall has a history of mainly honoring musicians, but I presented what I thought was a convincing argument that Leon’s body of work made him a prime candidate and that his induction would make the Hall stronger. Bob agreed and that was that.
Longtime Shake the Shack listener, Thom Head (Rear Admiral of the Friday Night Yacht Club), made a special one-of-a-kind frame for the certificate.
Here’s the letter Mike sent to Bob Timmers that convinced him to recognize Leon’s contributions:
Many Halls of Fame have inductees who are not performers. The Baseball Hall of Fame comes to mind as one that honors broadcasters and executives, as does the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I think it’s an acknowledgment that the creation and ongoing health of an industry or art form is not the sole result of the people on stage-but rather that the songwriters, engineers, producers, promoters, A&R people and, yes, broadcasters like Leon, are the ones who create the environment where the performers’ work can be heard. I don’t have to tell you that without the recognition of a Hall of Fame, over time, these people often fade into an unjust obscurity.
I’m a big rockabilly fan myself and know that, without the support of organizations like the Hall; record labels and studios and, again, broadcasters like Leon, rockabilly would fade because it’s the work that all of you do that makes my enjoyment of the music possible. You’re not making the music but in giving me access, you’re keeping it alive and vital. I don’t underestimate the value of performers, but would Elvis Presley be Elvis without Sam Phillips, Dewey Phillips, Leiber & Stoller and (I know this is a touchy subject for some, but) Col. Tom Parker? Perhaps -- maybe even probablyŠbut perhaps not and I can’t help but wonder how many other performers of Elvis’ stature might have been out there (might be right now) but we never heard of them because they didn’t have the support and encouragement of people behind the scenes?
I’d like to share a small story that happened last month: Sleepy LaBeef was booked to perform here and the day before the show, the club had sold exactly two tickets. Leon personally called everyone in his address book and by the time Sleepy hit the stage, the show was not only sold out, but the club had to turn people away. I was standing right there when the promoter told Leon that it was all because of him. Sleepy said the same thing on stage. Do you think another club here would have brought him back if he had really sold just two tickets that night? Again, that’s just a very small example, but it illustrates that the performer is not the only one who makes the music possible.
I obviously like to argue -- it’s a skill that’s useful in my line of work-but I would have a hard time overstating what Leon has done over the past 22 years to keep rockabilly not just alive, but thriving. That there is a rockabilly scene here at all is largely due to the sheer force of Leon’s will. Anyone who’s met him will tell you that the man is like a force of nature and is truly worthy of induction in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame as a full member, as are others. I believe that the Hall would be much stronger for it. Again, I totally respect your decision, Bob, but I do ask that you consider what I’ve said and do what you feel in your heart is the right thing.
Keep on rocking,