Blues Hall of Fame

Roebuck "Pops" Staples, Sam Lay and More Named Blues Hall of Fame Inductees

On May 9, The Blues Foundation will celebrate the 39th class of Blues Hall of Fame inductees in a ceremony taking place at the Halloran Centre for the Performing Arts and Education in Memphis, TN. This year, there will be 13 illustrious honorees, representing all five of the Hall of Fame’s categories: Performers, Non-Performing Individuals, Classic of Blues Literature, Classic of Blues Recording (Song) and Classic of Blues Recording (Album).

The 2018 class of performers covers nearly a century of music making. The inductees include Mamie Smith, the 1920s singer who has been hailed as the first “Queen of the Blues,” and Georgia Tom Dorsey, the blues pianist and songwriter who was Ma Rainey’s accompanist in the 1920s and later Tampa Red’s musical partner. The golden age of Chicago blues is represented by renowned band The Aces (featuring Louis Myers, Dave Myers, and Fred Below) and the legendary drummer Sam Lay. The late Roebuck “Pops” Staples will be joining his daughter Mavis, a 2017 inductee, in the Blues Hall of Fame.

B.B. King’s 1967 album Blues Is King is this year’s Classic of Blues Recording Album entrant, while the five classic blues recordings feature Ma Rainey’s “See See Rider Blues,” Albert King’s “Cross Cut Saw,” Joe Turner’s “Roll ’Em Pete,” Booker T. & the MG’s “Green Onions,” and Bo Diddley’s “I’m a Man,” the B side to “Bo Diddley,” which was inducted last year as a Classic of Blues Recording.

The year’s honoree in the Non-Performer category is Al Benson, the disc jockey, promoter, and music entrepreneur who was the long-time powerbroker of the Chicago blues scene. The 2018 pick for the Classic of Blues Literature is I Feel So Good: The Life and Times of Big Bill Broonzy, the authoritative 2011 biography written by Bob Riesman. 

May 9’s Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will kick off at the Halloran Centre (225 South Main Street, Memphis) at 5:30 p.m. with a cocktail reception, which will be followed by formal inductions at 6:30 p.m. More music magic continues the next evening, May 10, when the Blues Foundation presents the 39th Annual Blues Music Awards at Memphis’ Cook Convention Center. Both events are open to the public and tickets are now on sale at THIS LINK. The Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony Tickets cost $75 per person; Blues Music Award tickets are $150 per person.

As part of the Induction Ceremony, the Blues Hall of Fame Museum is securing special items representing each of the new inductees, and those artifacts will be installed and available for viewing beginning May 9. 

Since opening in May 2015, the Museum has been a treasure for both serious blues fans and casual visitors. Offering intriguing exhibits (including traveling exhibits that rotate in conjunction with major Blues Foundation events) and in-depth history, the museum educates and entertains visitors with all that is blues culture, while 10 individualized galleries feature interactive touchscreen displays along with three master databases where they can hear the music, watch videos, and read the stories about each of the Hall of Fame’s over 400 inductees. Additionally, each gallery displays an array of cool items: album covers, photographs, historic awards, unique art, musical instruments, costumes, and other one-of-a-kind memorabilia such as R.L. Burnside’s guitar, Koko Taylor’s dress, Otis Spann’s piano, Eddy Clearwater’s Indian Headdress and Charlie Musselwhite’s harmonica.

The Blues Hall of Fame Museum was built through the generosity and support of blues fans so that it would serve all four components of the Blues Foundation’s mission: preserving blues heritage, celebrating blues recording and performance, expanding awareness of the blues genre, and ensuring the future of the music. The Museum (421 S. Main St., Memphis) is open Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sundays, 1 p.m.-5 p.m. Admission for adults is $10; students with ID are $8. Entry is free for children under 12 and for Blues Foundation members. To become a member, visit and click on Join Now, for as little as $25 per person.