The Mission and History of the Long Island Music Hall of Fame
Founded in 2004, the Long Island Music Hall of Fame is a 501(c) (3) organization dedicated to the idea that Long Island’s musical heritage is an important resource to be celebrated and preserved for future generations. The organization, which encompasses New York State’s Nassau, Suffolk, Queens, and Kings (Brooklyn) Counties, was created as a place of community that inspires and explores Long Island music in all its forms. To date, the organization has inducted more than 100 musicians and music industry executives, and also offers education programs and scholarships to Long Island students, sponsors the Long Island Sound Award, and features traveling educational exhibits, including a state-of-the-art mobile museum.
In 2014, when the Billy Joel Band was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame, Billy Joel said this in a statement: “After The Stranger was released, people began to recognize that the ‘Long Island Sound’ wasn’t just a body of water.” Indeed, it isn’t. Over the years, Long Island has produced some of the most talented and accomplished musicians and has become a respected music scene.
But it didn’t start off that way.
1960s - 1970s
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Long Island music landscape was rather barren and more of a stepchild to that of New York City, which had become a focal point of the music industry. New York City had both iconic recording studios, such as Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Lady Studios, and iconic music venues such as Max’s Kansas City (the epicenter of the early ’70s glam-rock scene), CBGB (the iconic punk-rock venue), Fillmore East, and Electric Circus. During this time, there was limited accessibility to music east of the East River other than performances at local bars and schools and, perhaps, Westbury Music Fair, which featured sporadic performances by artists such as Judy Garland (1967), The Who (1968), and Bruce Springsteen (1975).
According to Norm Prusslin, music historian and a founding member of the Long Island Music Hall of Fame, in the late 1960s Stony Brook University, located in Stony Brook, New York, began to establish itself as an important venue in bringing music to Long Island. “In its heyday, there were literally several shows a month—sometimes with the biggest bands in the world playing at Stony Brook,” says Prusslin, who has taught at Stony Brook for many years and once served as faculty manager for the university radio station, WUSB. “Whatever the big bands of the time were, just about everybody except for The Beatles and the Rolling Stones played here.”
FM radio stations began popping up on Long Island, giving national recording artists Long Island airplay, but there still was little opportunity on the radio for Long Island burgeoning musicians. However, soon college radio stations—such as WRHU (Hofstra University), WCWP (Long Island University/C.W. Post), WHPC (Nassau Community College), WBAU (Adelphi University), and, later, WUSB (Stony Brook University)—began to fill the void. “The Adelphi station, for example, is where a lot of hip-hop music came out of,” Prusslin says. “The group Public Enemy—Chuck and Flava Flav—kind of hung around that radio station, and that’s where they got their start.
“Long Island college radio stations were important in bringing to the airwaves local musicians of all genres, and that certainly contributed to Long Island artists getting heard and getting spoken about,” Prusslin adds.
Simultaneously, Long Island-based publications, such as Good Times magazine, began pioneering local music coverage and talking up Long Island artists. “They deserve a lot of credit for that as well,” Prusslin says. “Good Times magazine played a very important role.” And venues, such as My Father’s Place in Roslyn, brought in a lot of local bands who didn’t have the opportunity for commercial exposure before.
1980s - 1990s
By the early 1980s, some of the commercial radio stations, particularly WLIR and WBAB, began to follow Long Island college radio’s lead, focusing on Long Island artists. In particular, the Homegrown show, the brainchild of WBAB’s then program director Bob Buchmann—who would later become an early member of the Long Island Music Hall of Fame’s board of directors—was an important outlet for bringing Long Island’s new music talent to light. “WBAB was very responsible for bringing to the commercial radio airwaves local bands like Zebra and Twisted Sister and The Good Rats, who were making a name for themselves playing bars and places, but they really couldn’t get any radio airplay other than college stations,” Prusslin says. “BAB had a lot to do to bring it to the commercial airwaves, which obviously brought in a whole different type of listener.”
2000s - 2010s
By the early 2000s, Long Island had become a hotbed for upcoming musicians as well as a sophisticated music scene. It now had its own music festivals, such as the Great South Bay Music Festival (established in 2006) and the Long Island Bluegrass Festival (which premiered in 2002), as well as the establishment of music-specific societies and organizations such as the Long Island Blues Society and the Long Island Traditional Music Society.
In August 2003, Prusslin had been reading an editorial in a local music magazine written by Richard L’Hommedieu—who would go on to become the founding chairman of the Long Island Music Hall of Fame—about the new Georgia Music Hall of Fame, which had opened in 1996. L’Hommedieu wrote that it would be great if Long Island had its own music hall of fame.
Prusslin was intrigued.
He sent L’Hommedieu an email (an email he still keeps in his outbox!) and the two men met, inviting other music educators and music lovers to join them. In January 2004, this enterprising group of founding members held an event at the Patchogue Theater, announcing the creation of a nonprofit organization that would recognize, honor, and preserve Long Island’s longstanding and diverse music heritage—a heritage that fought its way out of the shadow of New York City and would go on to inspire generations of music lovers.
The Long Island Music Hall of Fame was born.