Few artists can match the sheer breadth of Taylor's career, from his start as Sam Cooke's replacement in the Soul Stirrers to his jump to bluesy secular material with Stax in the mid-60's before landing smack in the middle of the soul revolution at the label where he wracked up enormous hits, including the cheating classic "Who's Makin' Love". Unlike many in that style he made the transition into the disco scene with the first certified platinum single ever given by the RIAA with "Disco Lady", his fourth #1 hit overall. Today his name recognition in the mainstream is fairly low but his accomplishments should be looked at closer.
Of all of the 60's soul kingdom in rock Tex is the one name who was as consistent, popular and innovative as virtually any, yet who's been left behind in recognition ever since. His track record more than holds up against most from that era who are already in, with more than two dozen hits to his name over 15 years, including 6 that went to either #1 or #2 on the R&B Charts, spanning southern soul to pure funk. A prolific writer and extremely influential performer with the oft-imitated microphone trick as his lasting legacy. Despite multiple nominations he's thus far failed to get in and remains one of the Hall's most inexplicable omissions.
It was a teenage Carla Thomas who first put Stax records in Memphis on the map with her hit "Gee Whiz" in 1960, a song she'd written in high school. Over the next few years, while attending college much of the time no less, she managed to put over 20 songs on the charts both as a solo artist and in duets with her father Rufus (see below), and finally with some scorching duets with label mate Otis Redding. If class counts for something she'd already be in, either way she still deserves another look.
In a career spanning from rock itself's birth to his own recent death Thomas was a true ambassador of music, both as a DJ on the legendary Memphis radio station, WDIA, and as a performer for over 50 years. In 1953 he had the first ever hit on Sun Records with "Bear Cat" and a decade later he was back in another new Memphis studio, Stax, where he cut his most famous song, "Walking the Dog". He topped the charts again in the 70's with a series of funky records at the age of 53. One of the true patriarchs of rock 'n' roll and among the most engaging live performers ever.
Tony! Toni! Toné!
Virtually lost to the pages of time, at least where recounting fairly recent rock history is concerned, Tony! Toni! Toné! were a far more crucial presence of the late 80's landscape than they've been given credit for. Their soulful vocals harkened back to a gospel-influenced sound that had long been a rock cornerstone and their infusion of hip-hop aesthetics to that helped give rise to New Jack Swing, only one of the most important and influential developments in rock over the past four decades. Though Raphael Wiggins went on to a solid solo career, the group's rather shortlived tenure and lack of any sustained respect from the types of people who lord over the Hall mean they probably have zero shot at recognition.
Toots & The Maytals
Apparently helping to actually create an entire sub genre of rock is not important if that sub genre only has sporadic interest in mainstream white American and British locales. Bob Marley cruised into the Hall of Fame as reggae's iconic figure, and rightly so, while Toots Hibbert appears no closer to induction now than he ever was. He may not have reached quite the same level of recognition as Bob but he was the one who built the steps for anyone in reggae to get up that high to begin with. Reggae demands more representation in the Hall starting with this group.
The Treacherous Three
One of the more groundbreaking rap groups to emerge at the dawn of hip-hop. "Whip It" brought Kool Moo Dee's speed rapping to the forefront while "The Body Rock" was one of the first lyrically complex rhyme schemes in hip-hop and introduced the so-called "rock guitar" to rap. While they never attained the chart success of others at the time their influence on the emerging style can't be understated or overlooked... except by the Hall Of Fame of course.
A Tribe Called Quest
To see how relevant the Hall is or isn't, pay close attention to A Tribe Called Quest's candidacy going forward. They should've been on the ballot the first year they were eligible (they weren't), then with Phife Dawg's tragic passing in March, 2016 renewed attention was paid to the group's groundbreaking and influential legacy, giving the Hall further impetus to see to it they be recognized. But the Hall treats rap as if it were an afterthought to rock, rather than coming to grips with the fact it has been the heart and soul of rock, as well as the commercial king of the genre, for the past thirty-five years, and so there seems to be a limit to the number of hip-hop acts that can even be nominated in a year, let alone convincing the skittish, out of touch electorate to seriously consider them. With bigger name rap artists now becoming eligible each year, and already with a backlog of deserving candidates still waiting to get in, chances are they don't make a ballot any time soon, which would be a crime.
Already in as half of Ike & Tina, her solo career actually outstripped her earlier work in terms of mainstream success and recognition, going from chitlin' circuit legend to worldwide superstar in the 80's. Considering her celebrated status in rock, the respect she gets from all corners (critics, fans, artists) and the Hall's obsession with recognizable names and powerhouse performers to adorn its stage during the ceremonies, it seems odd that Turner hasn't gotten a second well-deserved induction yet for the work she did on her own that cemented her status as one of the all-time great performers rock's ever seen.
One of the 60's stable of popular, though not quite legendary, groups The Turtles had a diverse career starting as the surf-rock instrumental group The Crossfires before finding folk-rock as the Turtles and then becoming one of the more creative bands around for awhile. Their lack of modern recognition and appreciation for their work is certainly keeping them from getting so much as a nomination, as normally the Hall voters never miss a chance to acknowledge a 60's hit making group.
2 Live Crew
At the peak of gangsta rap's takeover of the style and the controversy it aroused, one group far removed from that milieu stirred just as much outrage for their sexually explicit rhymes and ignited a firestorm of protest as the 80's closed. But far more than just being naughty party boys, 2 Live Crew were the biggest proponents of the Miami bass sound, a heavier booming style that terrorized suburban neighborhoods when blasted out of teenagers hatchbacks. The furor over their work and countless lawsuits, some going to the Supreme Court which ruled in their favor, exhausted the group's resources and they faded quickly, but few artists made such a splash while around.
Junior Walker & The All-Stars
The one self-contained band at Motown never were considered by the company to be on the same level as their vocal-only acts, but in spite of that they scored a ton of hits, including one of the most familiar of its day, "Shotgun", and were the one of the pre-eminent dance groove oriented bands of the late 60's. Will likely always be overlooked by those who focus only on the upper echelon at Motown but the junior varsity in those years could kick the ass of most other labels varsity squads of artists.
One of the 70's top funk groups began as backup musicians for Eric Burdon's post-Animals career before going out on their own and scoring immediately with both singles and albums considered to be among the best the style ever produced. They initially seemed to be one of the 70's groups that would be inducted sooner rather than later but they've been eligible now for a decade and are still no closer to entry, leaving you to wonder what the voting body is thinking or if they're thinking at all.
Johnny "Guitar" Watson
The most unclassifiable artist of his time, Watson made his early mark with a mind bending rock instrumental "Space Guitar" in 1954. From there he flirted with blues, soul and jazz, all with success, and finally in the 70's emerged again as a funk star. Despite his ever-changing styles Watson scored hits in every decade from the 50's through the 90's. Few guitarists could equal his skill or influence, particularly on Frank Zappa and all of his disciples, and his vocal style was Etta James template for her own performances. A lack of mainstream recognition seems to be keeping Watson from getting the support he deserves.
Motown's first solo superstar wracking up a dozen hits in four years with the label before leaving on the heels of her biggest smash, "My Guy". Wells was one of the key reasons why Motown was able to break out to a wider audience than most black artist-based labels in the 60's and become the juggernaut of the era. Her early death from throat cancer in the 90's refocused attention on her accomplishments after she got a few nominations early on though it wasn't enough to get her inducted to the Hall Of Fame at the time, a mistake that should be corrected.
Long lasting groups with steady popularity within their core fan base but very little in the way of overwhelming mass appeal (four Top 30 hits, just one went Top Ten) hasn't been a successful game plan for induction traditionally. Add to this the fact that the Whispers are a black vocal group of the 70's and 80's, a double whammy against them since the Hall is shamefully neglectful of both the style and those respective eras. Yet the Whispers are the ultimate survivors, having their biggest hits more than two decades after they began, and very well respected within music circles.
Utterly unique soulful sex-balladeer with a run of enormous success in the 70's, a strong track record as a producer, plus a recent early death makes him an appealing candidate. The excessive style in which he recorded the majority of his hits and his connection to disco are drawbacks in many voters mind no doubt but at some point his success and larger than life persona should get him looked at, but then the real question will be what the hell took them so long? A travesty that he's been forced to wait so long.
In the mid-80's there were a succession of important rap groups emerging, but while Run-D.M.C. and The Beastie Boys broke through to stardom, Whodini remained known primarily by hip-hop aficionados only. But their innovations to the style, adding more melodic elements to their tracks, pioneering use of video and helping to establish the prototype hip-hop stage show, featuring dancers, all contributed to the growing impact the music was having. Wrongly overlooked by history, with rap continually dissed by the Hall, they're sadly not even going to be discussed at the nomination debates.
One of rock's first bad boys Williams had a short lived but prolific heyday churning out a number of raucous hits along with many equally impressive non-hits many of which the Beatles and Stones later covered. In the mold of fellow Specialty label mate Little Richard the piano pounding Williams later resurfaced in the mid-60's with pal Johnny "Guitar" Watson for some funky soul material. After a career in which he earned more money as a drug dealer and pimp than as a singer, Williams was murdered in 1980 and his recognition as an artist has climbed slowly but steadily ever since.
Otis Williams & The Charms
Among the more consistent hit makers on the mid-50's vocal group scene, but their image among hardcore doo wop fans is that of opportunists as they frequently covered other artists records and got the bigger hits with them. That was indeed the case even with their 1954 smash "Hearts Of Stone", which nevertheless was among the most important records in rock's early history, signaling the divide between black and white audiences was coming to an end. The style itself is among the most lastingly respected in rock's history and if they're in need of a recognizable artist from that era, who were very good no matter whose songs they were cutting, even doing country material well, they might slip in.
One of the few artists to be successful in the early 50's before rock's crossover into white America and to maintain that popularity into late 50's where he ignited the first rock 'n' roll dance craze when his re-working of the blues "C.C. Rider" led to his title of "King Of The Stroll". Equally known for his prolific songwriting ability, penning hits for multiple artists including more than a dozen R&R HOF'ers who have recorded his compositions. In 1958 bleeding ulcers claimed his life at age 30. One of the most multi-talented stars of his era, Willis got nominated each of the first five years of the Hall's existence without making the cut but has gotten just one nomination since, which is a crime.
Though he had little in the way of mainstream success in the 50's, Wray's influence in the decades since has grown considerably. His 1958 hit "Rumble" was in essence the birth of hard-rock, popularizing the power chord and a heavier, ominous sound on the guitar. With societal pressure on radio for playing rock songs with racy lyrics, Wray was one of those who helped to bring the guitar instrumental to the forefront as a suitable alternative, though "Rumble" faced airplay bans for its suggestiveness even without words. His style may have been too rough and abrasive for its time, but much of what followed stemmed from his fingertips.
His poignant death a few years back might've been expected to give him a leg up on a nomination, though that didn't happen obviously. Still, as many times as the Hall has missed the opportunity to honor someone while alive, they frequently try making up for it after the fact and Zevon still has a widely respected name, enjoys the adoration of other artists and is far more popular with the public than most artists with a quirky style, so it could add up to a ticket sooner or later.