On Sept. 2, 1995, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum opened to the public in Cleveland. It would give a physical home to the foundation started back in 1983 by Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun, one that had been inducting musicians and industry insiders into its Hall of Fame in 1986. The opening of the museum was first announced at the ceremony’s 10th anniversary, held on Jan. 12, 1995, making it the last ceremony that would be held annually at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York City. It was also the first ceremony to be televised, with MTV airing a two-hour edited version on January 18.
Inductees that year included Al Green, Janis Joplin, Martha and The Vandellas, The Allman Brothers Band, Neil Young, Frank Zappa and Led Zeppelin as performers. The doo-wop group The Orioles were inducted in the early early influences category, and Billboard magazine music editor Paul Ackerman made it into the non-performer category. Twenty years later, we take a look back at some of the most noteworthy moments from that wild and event-worthy night.
Gregg Allman’s Barely-There Tribute To His Brother
After a heartfelt introduction from Willie Nelson, Gregg Allman stumbled to the microphone in between speeches given by his bandmates Dickie Betts and Jaimoe Johanson, where he managed to utter a barely audible and very brief tribute to his late brother, Duane, saying he was always “the first one to face the fire.”
Allman would later regret all those he didn’t thank that night, calling the moment a personal crossroads and an all-time low for him. After his lackluster performance with The Allman Brothers Band, he checked himself into rehab the following day.
Neil Young Thanks Just About Everyone
Eddie Vedder certainly took his time with a meandering delivery, including the hopeful, yet unfulfilled promise that Neil Young would use his time at the podium to scold the industry types in the audience over the disregard for music on vinyl. He also took the time to point out that his table was near Ticketmaster’s, a notable oversight, given that Pearl Jam had sued them the year prior.
As Young came out, clad in a bolo tie and an infectious grin, he first thanked his mom, then his band, Crazy Horse (who were sitting way in the back of the room), various label executives, producers, and a few others. Partway through, he freely admitted that he was rambling, before going on a completely new tangent, which included a heartfelt thanks to the late Kurt Cobain, whose suicide was less than a year prior. In the end, Young’s speech was earnest and endearing, coming from a man as grateful for his legacy as his fans.
John Paul Jones Throws Shade At His Former Bandmates
Steven Tyler and Joe Perry from Aerosmith seemed to have taken their cues from Eddie Vedder in terms of lengthy introductions. The two traded passages discussing their relationship with Led Zeppelin, both as fans and as fellow musicians, including a significant portion discussing their shared awe of late drummer John Bonham, whose untimely death brought about the end to the band in 1980.
After coming onstage to accept their induction, Robert Plant took up the majority of their time, followed by Jimmy Page, then John Paul Jones, who Perry had just referred to as “the unsung hero of Led Zeppelin,” citing not only his bass playing, but also his numerous orchestral contributions. While they disbanded after Bonham’s death, Page and Plant continued to work together on multiple projects without Jones, including 1994’s live album full of old Zeppelin songs entitled Unledded.
This wasn’t lost on Jones, who took his turn at the mic to (briefly) mention his gratitude toward Peter Grant before laying down an especially bitter thank you to his friends for “finally remembering my phone number.” Ouch.
Lou Reed Gets Booed When Inducting Frank Zappa
Having died just over a year prior to his induction, Frank Zappa left behind a legacy of unfettered creativity, and fierce political activism, the latter thanks to his work lobbying against the Parents Music Resource Center, the group behind the “Parental Advisory” stickers. As Lou Reed’s name was announced as Zappa’s presenter, he was promptly booed by the crowd after taking the stage.
It was long speculated that The Velvet Underground had an ongoing feud with Zappa, something that Reed denied, and while visibly upset at the crowd’s response, he smirked it off before reading his speech. Delivered with his trademark lyrical prose, he discussed Zappa’s place among the greatest people he had ever known, and how his only regret was not knowing him more. When speaking of his respect for Zappa, he really seemed to punctuate the line “and I know he respected me,” before turning the podium over to Zappa’s daughter, Moon Unit, who tearfully accepted the honor on her late father’s behalf.
The Allman Brothers Band – “One Way Out”
An almost-great performance held back by Gregg Allman, who, as mentioned earlier, was too drunk to play.
Led Zeppelin And Neil Young – “When The Levee Breaks”
In a performance that played out over the end credits, John Paul Jones’ wishes came true, as he was again on stage with his former bandmates, along with Neil Young. Plant not only donned a red Les Paul for much of the song, he worked in the opening verse to Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” as a nod to Young near the end.