Michigan’s Rock and Roll Legends Hall of Fame may have finally found its forever home within the walls of the Bay County Historical Museum.
The museum, 321 Washington Ave., hosts the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends Hall of Fame as a permanent, living, interactive exhibit. Curator and board member Gary Johnson is spearheading the exhibit, which will showcase Michigan’s entire rock and roll history with a strong local focus.
The exhibits inside the Hall of Fame date back to the earliest days of rock and roll history.
“Obviously, you can’t have it all, but a few cool spots, starting with the formation of Fortune Records in Detroit,” Johnson says.
Gary JohnsonShaking up sounds with artists ranging from Del Shannon, Bob Seger and the MC5 to ? and The Mysterians, Madonna and the Bay City Rollers, Johnson believes the Michigan rock timeline filtered through this one-of-a-kind record label in 1946.
“Fortune was one of the real first labels. They were very important in bringing in country artists and blues artists and eventually blending into rock and roll.
In addition to visiting the exhibition, music lovers can visit the museum every second Saturday of the month for special presentations. The first took place on March 12 for the official opening.
The plan is to display local and statewide artists in regular rotation, keeping it fresh and updated. Johnson has expressed the range, pace and breadth of his Michigan music history podcast since February 2021.
At the March 12 Hall of Fame inauguration, Johnson introduced Frankie Lymon’s Tombstone Blues. Dennis Loren was at the opening and will also be featured in the museum.
Loren started in 1967 in San Francisco.
“His first posters were of Muddy Waters and Jimi Hendrix. He created this awesome poster (for the museum and) I was shocked and had no idea he was going to do this. He will make 13×19 copies to autograph.
Johnson did not forget local history when curating exhibits.
“There’s a really big Bay City and Bay County focus in the display,” he notes. “People who walk in there thinking it’s going to be all Bob Seger and so on and so on are going to be surprised.”
The beginnings of the Hall of Fame
The museum started as a single online entity. His second home was inside the old Bay City Motor Company in downtown Bay City. When the classic car maker ran into legal trouble, Johnson enlisted the help of Scott Causley of Scotty’s Sandbar, 1201 Evergreen Drive.
“Scott Causley had not only helped me get things off the wall, he also suggested Scotty’s Sandbar as a place where we could put the display.”
In typical rock fashion, this is when Johnson found himself at a crossroads.
“I’m on the museum’s board and I talked about the problems I had,” he recalls. “Mike Bacigalupo asked me if I would be interested in mounting the exhibit at the Bay County Historical Museum. (Bacigalupo) didn’t even realize it was at Scotty’s then. It gave me pause.
Moving into the museum created the opportunity to grow, which gave Johnson a decision to make.
“I had never done anything like this before. The big question is, could I get enough material to fill the gallery and make it interesting for people to want to come in? I decided to If I fail, well, at least I got down swinging.
Scotty’s Sandbar will remain a secondary location.
What to expect inside the Hall of Fame
The large downtown historical museum element fell into Johnson’s lap just after he decided to expand downtown.
“No sooner had I signed up than I received an email telling me that Frankie Lymon’s headstone was now in someone’s garden, in their flower garden.”
Lymon’s music was the precursor to what much of the Motown sound was based on.
“Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers were so big and so important, but they were only together for a little over a year. This teenage sound was just gigantic in terms of influence.
Check out the Tombstone’s trip to Bay City in this February 4, 2021 article on Route Bay City.
Johnson unknowingly began writing his first book as he waited for the tombstone to arrive at the museum.
“While I was trying to negotiate for a company (to carry the headstone), I started writing stories for my website. First on the Teenagers story. As I kept writing this the story started to get a little longer one story turned into two stories and as i met more people it turned into three stories then into four stories. The thing grew to the point that it was over 37,000 words.
“I thought it would probably be a good thing to have at the Museum if we were to have the tombstone as a centerpiece. Why not have a book available so people can actually find out the whole story? »
Another Hall of Fame attraction is the Bay City Rollers exhibit.
“The Bay City Rollers are named after Bay City, Michigan, of course,” Johnson smiled. “One of the big events in town happened in August 1977. Each of the Rollers received a key to the town and a proclamation making them official citizens of Bay City.
“They didn’t play, but they put their handprints in cement and wrote their autograph with their fingers. We have that at the museum and we have a creative way that people can get very close to them without actually touching them.
Luckily, Johnson also just landed a key and proclamation from Roller.
“One of them was how to display those handprints with Derek Longmuir’s key that he received in 1977. Rebel D’Elia, president of the Bay City Rollers Fan Club, managed to get it. (Longmuir) lives in Scotland, mailed it to him, along with his proclamation making him an official citizen.
Another feature will be on longtime Michigan rocker Alice Cooper.
“He was born in Detroit and performed four times in Bay City, which is quite significant,” Johnson adds. “I think of all the big names in rock and rollers, he’s appeared here the most times.
Johnson credits a strong core of friends with making it all possible.
“It was teamwork,” he says. “Three guys I’ve worked very closely with who have done such a terrific job are; Avram Golden, who did all the poster framing and various things; Nick Van Horn, who is a designer and is so good at hanging things on the wall, making them look absolutely stunning, and Myles Roznowski, who installed and built some great signs, including the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends neon sign, he also built fender display cases.
Additionally, Johnson notes, two videos on Motown will be looped thanks to the help of his son Brandon. Special QR codes near song displays will lead customers to more than 150 Michigan Hall of Fame songs for a listen and story on its Rock Legends website.
“I wrote biographies of all the inductees,” he adds. “We have a great exposure of Madonna there because she is by far the most famous musical person who was born in Bay City. There are stories I’ve written about Madonna, including a “site tour” that also has something to do with Madonna around Bay City.
Although there is no admission to enter, Johnson sells his book for $20, with all proceeds going to the museum.
“The cool thing about the museum is that there is no entrance fee for anything. My gift to the museum is the book. I appreciate the opportunity they give me. have given permanent residency to the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends.
The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday.
“I’d like to show rock and roll movies on weekends eventually, or at least one weekend a month,” Johnson says. “Maybe live shows, it’s a pretty small venue, but it can be done.”