CLEVELAND, Ohio – In 1996, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame was still looking for an annual event it could hang its hat on.
The museum opened on the shores of Lake Erie a year earlier with the Concert for the Hall of Fame. Exhibits and programs were drawing people in. But Bob Santelli, director of education and vice president of public programs, had an idea that would put an exclamation point on the Rock Hall’s mission.
The latest episode of cleveland.com’s CLE Rocks podcast looks back on the first ever American Music Masters, the brainchild of Santelli and an annual series honoring the roots of rock artists that laid the groundwork for the development of rock and roll.
The first honoree in 1996 was Woody Guthrie. Working with Guthrie’s daughter Nora, Santelli and the Rock Hall created a 10-day celebration featuring exhibits, conferences and concerts to salute Guthrie’s legacy as America’s folk troubadour.
The festivities would culminate with an unforgettable tribute concert headlined by Bruce Springsteen, also featuring Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, a young Ani DiFranco, the Indigo Girls, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and others at Severance Hall.
The concert, which drew international attention, would prove what the new museum in Cleveland was capable of, establish the power of the Woody Guthrie Archives and create an event that would last for 20 years as a hallmark of Cleveland music history. Listen to the full episode above, or download/subscribe on Spotify, Apple, Stitcher, Audible and other platforms.
Note to readers: if you purchase something through one of our affiliate links we may earn a commission.