The 2014 inductees into the N.C. Music Hall of Fame will get a special treat at the ceremony.
They’ll be among the first people to the see the hall’s new home, which won’t open to the public until November. The Hall of Fame is combining with the Curb Museum for Music and Motorsports on Dale Earnhardt Boulevard in Kannapolis.
The hall’s annual induction ceremony will be Oct. 16 at The Gem Theatre in Kannapolis. Tickets are available for the public ceremony, which will run 7:15-10 p.m.
Inductees this year range from “American Idol” finalists Clay Aiken and Fantasia Barrino to the late Link Wray, a rock ’n’ roll guitarist credited as the inventor of the power chord.
The original museum, a renovated city jail at 109 West A St., opened in June 2009. Organizers are in the process of moving exhibits to the new location, which is expected to almost triple the number of exhibits.
Just as the N.C. Music Hall of Fame’s annual induction ceremony has grown, so have the crowds that visit the Kannapolis museum.
“We have between 450 and 500 visitors per month,” said Eddie Ray, 87, operations director and vice chairman of the hall of fame. “When it first started, it was little to nothing. Now visitors come from Raleigh, Winston-Salem, Asheville and Fayetteville. …”
That’s why Ray recently asked Mike Curb – a longtime supporter of the museum and owner of the Curb Records – for help expanding. After a few conversations, Curb offered to donate some of his museum space.
Without Curb’s support, the Hall of Fame might never have called Kannapolis home.
The Hall of Fame was incorporated by Doug Croft in Thomasville on May 26, 1994, with a goal of commemorating the state’s musical heritage.
Without a permanent location to house memorabilia, the Hall of Fame nevertheless began inducting music movers with connections to the state – including John Coltrane, George Clinton, Earl Scruggs and Doc Watson in 1999 and Ronnie Milsap in 2002 – before becoming inactive.
Then, in 2008, Mike Curb provided money to bring the museum to Kannapolis. He bought and renovated the old city jail and used much of his personal memorabilia collection to furnish the museum.
The reactivated Hall of Fame opened June 1, 2009. Since then it has inducted artists in virtually every genre of music, including opera, bluegrass, funk and pop.
Curb and Ray were inducted into the hall in 2009; Curb for his contribution and support of the Hall of Fame, and Ray for his lifetime achievement in the music nonperformer category.
Throughout his 60-year career in the music industry and his rise to the nation’s first African-American executive of a major record company, Ray helped promote hundreds of artists, including B.B. King, Fats Domino and Pink Floyd.
His memoir, “Against All Odds: The Remarkable Life Story of Eddie Ray,” helps preserve little-known facts about the music industry.
Rowan-Cabarrus Community College students Anetra Lee, 33, and Deborah Brown, 53, helped research this year’s inductees as part of an internship with the Hall of Fame.
They were both impressed by inductee Link Wray.
“He’s amazing. His outfits, his music,” Lee said.
“Link Wray, when he started out, he got sick,” Brown said. “He had problems with his lungs, and the doctor told him he wouldn’t be able to sing again. But he pushed forward, and he became one of the biggest singer/guitarists.”
Clay Aiken also holds a special spot in Lee’s heart, she said, because he likes to volunteer his time to help students with special needs, a fact she learned during her research.
“Even with his music and fame, he didn’t let that get to him, and he still helps people. … I love that about him,” Lee said.
Brown told a story of how Aiken got inspired to try out for “American Idol.”
A mother of a young boy with autism allowed Aiken into their lives.
“One day, she heard him singing and suggested he try out, … and he did,” she said. “The first time he tried, in Charlotte, he didn’t make it. And she pressured him to go to Atlanta, and that’s where he made it.”
Both Brown and Lee plan to attend the ceremony for the first time. While Brown is looking forward to the older-generation artists, Lee just hopes she’ll be able to walk in her high heels.
“I think if people just came out, they’d see that we have some rich heritage,” Brown said.