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Will Benny Spellman's Death Tell Louisiana's Fortune with Music?
Written by  // Friday, 10 June 2011 10:33 //

Louisiana Music Hall Of FameLast Friday, music lovers lost Benny Spellman, singer of "Fortune Teller" and "Lipstick Traces," and cohort of Ernie K-Doe (lower voice on "Mother-In-Law").

Benny was as well loved as his music. RIP, Benny.

For The Louisiana Music Hall Of Fame, Benny was an icon for why we push to honor our note-worthy and important artists. When we traveled, with Deacon John, to Benny's nursing home in Pensacola two years ago to welcome Benny to the LMHOF, we found Benny's mind intact, his body, not so much so. Benny had suffered a stroke years back and remained paralyzed, in part.

As Benny was presented with induction, his words, "Thank you Lord. After all these years, I finally made it. I waited a long time. I'm still living; all them other cats are gone. I didn't want to be honored when I'm dead. I want to be honored when I can still move," summed up the answer to why we work so hard to honor these artists now. They deserve recognition, and, within their lifetimes, for the music, the pleasure and the memories that they have given Louisiana and the world. Once they are gone, there is no possibility of capturing any more memories, visuals or history from these legends.

The day after we returned and the video from Pensacola was posted, Deacon John called and, with his voice breaking, said, "Brother, I'm watching the film and I can't stop crying, and I can't stop watching." It certainly was an emotional experience as Deacon first sang his "Many Rivers To Cross" to Benny, then together they sang "Fortune Teller" and Lipstick Traces."

It was worth "going the extra mile," in this case, couple of hundred miles, to get the job done and give the artist the recognition and credit that was deserved. And there are many, many more Louisiana musical artists deserving of "their due."

I go today to speak with the third of the three department heads of state government that have a piece of the music puzzle, in an attempt to open up some thinking and develop a path to state participation in moving forward toward a viable music industry in Louisiana. What will happen? I have no idea, honestly.

With the budget crunch, everyone is pulling back, but, in the situation where nothing is already on the table, there's just not very far back to go. Neither is there much confidence in any forward traction. But, the job has to be done, and those that would question why, should be referred to the induction of Benny Spellman, or the induction of Phil Phillips, or the induction of Wilson "Willie Tee" Turbinton or the induction of Bobby Charles or the induction of Dale Houston. Who are these people? If you don't recognize them at first, just check out the LMHOF.

The bottom line is that our musical artists have been taken for granted for way too long, and that we, daily it seems, lose more and more of them. And, every time, we lose that last opportunity to document them, honor them and give them their due. Just remember the words of Benny Spellman quoted above.

For those of you who aren't familiar with Benny, or the other cited artists, what if we lost Fats or Jerry Lee or Little Richard? Would that be better to hammer the point, and the need, home?

Well, that won't happen, because they have been taken care of. But there are many, many more that haven't, and are still with us. But there are many already lost to us.

Author Mike Shepherd is the President & Executive Director of La Musique de Louisianne Inc., The Louisiana Music Hall Of Fame, a 501c3 dedicated to "preserving Louisiana's greatest renewable natural resource" www.LMHOF.org  Benny's LMHOF section, including a link to the Induction video with Deacon John is available at: http://louisianamusichalloffame.org/content/view/99/117/

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