DETROIT (WXY) — There is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. There is Country Music Hall of Fame. However, there is no physical Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame. Should there be? In exclusive interviews with the legendary Martha Reeves and the daughter of Rhythm and Blues great David Ruffin, they say yes.
Right now, the Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame exists virtually but the people behind it want a brick and mortar location. Their first choice is in Detroit near the old train station, but they are considering other locations.
“It is going to be state of the art, highly interactive, virtual reality," said Lamont Robinson, CEO of the R&B Hall of Fame. "I want to give it that whole Mecca look.”
In 2010, Robinson founded the R&B Hall of Fame. He showed 7 Action News reporter Kimberly Russell just some of the items he has collected for when the dream of a physical location becomes a reality.
The Temptations were one of the first groups inducted. While deservedly so, it is no coincidence. Robinson's wife, Cheryl, is the daughter of Temptations lead singer David Ruffin. She says she was there when her dad recorded "My Girl."
“Everyone thinks my dad was singing to a woman but he was singing to me,” Cheryl said of the recording of My Girl.
They want a physical R&B Hall of Fame, not only to honor him, but to preserve history made by so many artists such as Detroit’s own Martha Reeves of Martha and the Vandellas.
“Thank God for music,” Reeves said.
She says she witnessed music conquer hate as she toured with the Motown Review during the civil rights era.
“We were actually shot at one time,” she recalls.
Another performance in particular stands out in Reeves' mind. It was in Montgomery, Alabama. Segregation was still legal. The audience was segregated. A barrier divided whites and blacks.
Authorities had people with bats there to make sure people kept separate and no one danced. Then Smokey Robinson took the stage. Reeves was backstage, preparing to come out and perform with him.
“Smokey says, 'alright, take those bats and go away; we are going to have a good time,'” Reeves recalled.
They started performing. Soon people stood up in defiance of the guards.
“The audience tore the barrier down and started dancing,” Reeves said. “And then we traveled all over the world and we never saw that barrier again.”
She is calling on state and city leaders to come together to make sure stories like this aren’t just preserved, but celebrated.
“I think it would make an artist today a better person and a better artist if they only knew the history, and understood how they got where they are,” said David Washington, a radio host on WPON 1460AM. “A lot of artists coming up today have paid no dues at all and they are getting all the glory.”
Robinson says other cities are competing to have the Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame built in their community, but they want it in Detroit.
“We have had seven successful induction ceremonies, five of them here, and we are just looking for a home for these guys,” Robinson said.