Rock Hall Welcomes New Class Of Music Legends

By DAVID BAUDER, Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK (AP) - Modesty prevented singer Brenda Lee from voting for herself the first two years she was nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

But when her ballot arrived in the mail a third time, Lee checked off her name.

Maybe it made the difference, because she was inducted on Monday in a Hall of Fame class with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Isaac Hayes, the Ramones, Talking Heads, Gene Pitney and Chet Atkins.

"I figured if they waited too much longer, the voting people out there were going to get younger and wouldn't know me," she said.

The annual induction ceremony for the hall, which is located in Cleveland, took place at New York's Waldorf-Astoria hotel. VH1 will televise highlights at 9 p.m. EST Wednesday.

Today's teen pop stars have nothing on Lee, now 57. She recorded her signature ballad, "I'm Sorry," at age 15. She wasn't even 14 when she sang the holiday standard, "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree."

Lee will be the first woman inducted into both the rock 'n' roll and country halls of fame.

Jewel inducted her, keeping with the Hall of Fame's tradition of having contemporary stars explain how they were influenced by their forebears. Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder saluted the Ramones, Jakob Dylan inducted Petty, and Red Hot Chili Peppers Anthony Kiedis and John Frusciante honored the Talking Heads.

Grammy darling Alicia Keys saluted Hayes, the chef of hot buttered soul who said he was surprised in December when his driver told him he had been voted in.

"It's just beginning to sink in, the magnitude of what this means," Hayes said. "To be honored with all these legends is really a great thing. I've been looking in the mirror all my life -- I've lost all objectivity."

Petty, who's had success as a solo artist, in duets with Stevie Nicks and as a member of the supergroup Traveling Wilburys, went into the hall as leader of one of rock's great backing bands, the Heartbreakers.

This year's class marked the first time the hall has opened its doors to the first punk rock generation -- to the Ramones and the Talking Heads.

It's a bittersweet moment for the Ramones, given gangly lead singer Joey Ramone's death from cancer 11 months ago. Green Day, whose lightning-fast guitar riffs are clearly influenced by the Ramones, will perform some of their songs.

Talking Heads, art rockers whose music soared upon taking funk influences, broke up amid acrimony and lawsuits in the 1990s. But its four members set aside their differences to perform two songs together Monday.

It was a relief to Suzan Evans, executive director of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation, who often finds herself negotiating minefields of egos and old feuds at each year's ceremony.

"Once they got the word that they were being inducted, I got the word that they were speaking to each other," Evans said. "It's been wonderful. It's happened a couple of times before where bands have been reunited after having not played together for many years, so we're very excited about it."

The Hall of Fame initially resisted televising its annual induction. Evans said she's been pleased that VH1 hasn't disrupted the spirit of the event, which usually concludes with an all-star jam session.

The induction has been held once in Cleveland and once in Los Angeles. Evans said she's not opposed to switching venues someday, but likes the intimacy of the Waldorf ballroom.

Singer Darlene Love inducted Pitney, singer of "(The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valance" and "It Hurts to Be in Love."

Guitarist Chet Atkins, who died last June and sold more than 75 million albums, was inducted by Brian Setzer and Marty Stuart.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)