The Herald, Sharon,
PA Published Saturday, Oct. 31, 1998


Emotions hit high note in Hall's 1st induction

Inductees given bronze medallions Inductees to the Vocal Group Hall of Fame and Museum, Sharon, received a bronze medallion produced by Wendell August Forge, Grove City.

Mike Reznor of Volant designed the medallions and Master Diecutter Len Youngo hand cut them. The design symbolizes close harmony singing, and comes with a bronze chain.

Each piece is engraved with the name of the recipient and the date of induction.

At the museum, inductees will be marked with an emblem on the cases displaying their memorabilia.

By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer


As the bass singer for the Drifters, Bill Pinkney taps into the emotions of his listeners through his voice, a warm rumble that made the group's "White Christmas" a classic.

But Pinkney captured the feelings of himself and many in attendance Friday at the first induction ceremony of the Vocal Group Hall of Fame and Museum, Sharon, by his silence.

Many of the inductees or their representatives expressed gratitude and humility, but Pinkney was overcome by the moment. Bowing his head to hide his tears, long pauses punctuated his acceptance remarks.

After thanking God, Pinkney named the other original members of the Drifters: Clyde McPhatter and brothers Gearhart and Andrew Thrasher, all deceased.

"God spared my life," said Pinkney, with numerous members of his family nearby. "And the reason I'm thanking God so much is He's letting me smell the roses."

There was a sense in honoring the original Drifters and other groups that the Hall of Fame was trying to make up for lost time.

"Thank God, it's about time," said Albert "Diz" Russell, who took over leadership of The Orioles after Sonny Til died in 1991. Johnny Reed is the only original Oriole alive but he is no longer associated with the group.

Admiring the museum, Russell said, "This is about history. It's not about popularity."

With a museum seeking to preserve vocal music, it's up to others to complete the story.

"I wish somebody would get with us before we die and find out what we have up here," he said, pointing to his mind.

Ed Ames of the Ames Brothers said he was thrilled with the induction, "Not so much for myself but for my brothers. I wish they were all with me."

Brothers Gene and Vic have died and Joe lives in Germany, he said.

"It is wonderful that they and other groups are being recognized for their superb contributions to music," said Chica Minnerly, the daughter of Helvetia "Vet" Boswell of the Boswell Sisters. "I think the Hall of Fame is a magnificent contribution to the heritage."

Tim Hauser of the Manhattan Transfer seemed to speak for all singing groups when he talked about receiving this kind of recognition.

"It you want to get rich, become a soloist because when you divide the money there's not much left," he said. "But it was never about money. It's about the thrill you get when you sing together and thrill you get when other people hear it."

Warren Suttles of the Ravens thought back to the struggles of traveling in the late '40s and early '50s, when segregation kept his group out of decent lodging and restaurants, and the better clubs. Referring to The Radisson Hotel in Shenango Township, Suttles said: "I'm staying in one of the finest places I've ever stayed in my life.

"It feels good to sign an autograph," he said of the Hall of Fame honor. "It feels good to meet people you've heard of but haven't met. This honor is one of my greatest."

Tony Butala, the Lettermen leader who created the museum with local businessman James E. Winner Jr., said the ceremony was the culmination of his dream to open the museum.

"I've had the best two or three years of my life with this project," he said. "I don't think I could feel any better than I do now."

"This was almost a spiritual experience," Winner added. "We felt this was a calling from God. Now we know it was a calling from God. This building transformed from a museum to a very hallowed hall."


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