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Hall of Fame Gala Helps Spotlight Diversity of Long Island Musical Talent

Ceremony at Paramount honors local musicians and helps raise funds for future music museum.

A diverse group of musical talent, industry types and even a few high school music teachers came out to be inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame at its gala on Thursday night held at the Paramount.

From hip-hop pioneers like Salt-n-Pepa and DJ Spindarella to the record industry legend Ron Alexenburg who signed acts like Charlie Daniels and Michael Jackson to Epic Records launching their careers into the stratosphere, the red carpet was packed with local stars who contributed to the music business.

Jim Faith, director of the Long Island Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Port Jefferson said that the diversity in this year’s lineup is reflective of the talent on Long Island as a whole.

“It’s like that every year,” he said.

Long Island, according to Faith, is no one trick pony.

“We don’t just have one type of music,” he said. “Long Island is called an embarrassment of riches. It’s pretty amazing.”

Put homegrown Eighties hair band Zebra next to Brooklyn-based rappers Whodini to see what he means; exactly what the Hall of Fame did that night.

It also combined inductees with others more symbiotic with their genre of music.

Barnaby Bye – the classic rock band formed by Long Island twins Billy and Bobby Alessi along with Pappy Castro and Mike Ricciardella – was introduced at the ceremony by Michael “Eppy” Epstein.

Before the ceremony, Epstein said events like the induction ceremony were good for the local music scene.

“I love this place,” he said of the Paramount Theater. “More of this and we’ll bring Long Island back to the way it used to be.”

He should know.

Epstein is the founder of Roslyn club My Father’s Place, a Mecca for up and coming rock musicians in the Seventies and Eighties and the kids who travelled there to see them play. As a venue, My Father’s Place was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2010.

Hip-hop trio Salt-n-Pepa and Spindarella (Cheryl Wray, Sandra Denton and Deidre Roper) burst onto the red carpet to be honored for their pioneering roles in music that paved the way for the powerful female rappers who followed them.

Brooklyn born inductee Connie Stevens said her local roots helped in her career.

“It made me very, very brave,” she said of her hometown.

Also from Brooklyn but from another era were the inductees from the rap group Whodini. Jalil Hutchins, John “Ecstasy” Fletcher and Drew “Grandmaster Dee” Carter were producing music in an era when rap music wasn’t played on radio or MTV. They used original music insted of sampling and fought to get their full songs played instead of just instrumental versions of their jams. To fight that battle they say they had to come up with clean lyrics.

Dee Snider of the 80s heavy metal band Twisted Sister was given the Harry Chapin Award but couldn’t make it to the gala because he was filming the next season of reality show The Apprentice.

Taylor Dayne, who grew up in Baldwin, accepted her award and afterwards called the Paramount “one hell of a music theater.”

“I’ll be playing here very shortly,” she revealed.

Dayne also spoke about her stint on the Food Network’s "Celebrity Cook-Off" saying that she has fallen in love with cooking after doing the show. So much so that she’ll be back doing a segment on the channel’s "Cupcake Wars" as a judge.

Ron Alexenburg’s track record in industry of recruiting talent for Epic is certainly legendary growing the label from $6.5 to $300 million over seven years in the Seventies. Charlie Daniels – a singer that Alexenburg brought to the label – performed his hit song ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia” that night. He introduced the noted industry executive.

Talking about the mega success of the album “Thriller” after bringing Michael Jackson to the label, Alexenburg said that there is no way you can plan an album like that .

“Michael called me and asked ‘how are we doing?’” Alexenburg said.

Blowing past gold and platinum status he told Jackson, “I think this is going to be uranium.”

He said he was “fortunate” to have signed Jackson.

“That’s an artist whose music will last forever,” he said.

Also inducted were Joe Butler and Steve Boone from The Lovin’ Spoonful, Ira Maltz, a concert security specialist and his company CSS, songwriters Ervin Drake and Ellie Greenwich, composer Leo Kraft, The Thunderbird Sisters from the Shinnecock Indian Nation, the Jones Beach Theater venue, heavy metal band Suffocation, Jazz pianist Randy Weston and radio station WALK.

This year’s music educators of note were former Director of Music Education for Northport-East Northport Union Free School District Robert W. Krueger and retired department chair at East Meadow High School William Katz.

Faith said that they just about sold out the Paramount, calling it the best turnout they’ve ever had. Overall, he thinks it was a good night.

“We’ll see later but I think we did really well,” he said.

Faith said that the Hall of Fame ceremonies and forthcoming museum in Port Jefferson will help people realize what music on Long Island is all about.

“We’re helping to change perception,” he said. “I think we’re helping to put the focus on Long Island.”

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