July 16, 2014 at 5:09 pm

Talks start on setting up R&B Hall of Fame, museum in Detroit

Abdul 'Duke' Fakir, the last surviving founding member of The Four Tops, stands next to a cutout of the group during a press conference announcing the intent of creating an R&B Music Hall of Fame in Detroit. (Jose Juarez / Special to The Detroit News)

Members of the rhythm and blues scene in Detroit and representatives from the R&B Music Hall of Fame gathered at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History Wednesday to talk about the importance of opening a brick and mortar hall of fame and museum in Detroit.

“We really need this R&B Hall of Fame in Detroit,” said Abdul “Duke” Fakir of the Four Tops. “We need it because it belongs here.”

“The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is good in its place, but would they ever induct Johnnie Taylor? What about Tyrone Davis? How about Walter Jackson?” said David Washington of WPON-FM on Wednesday. “It’s not about how big your records were or how many hits you had, it’s that you tried. You gave your soul to the record industry.”

A video shown at the presentation depicted the possible museum as being a 30,000 square foot facility with exhibit hall, interactive arcade, a 500-seat auditorium and barbecue restaurant and juke joint. There would be a gospel and preacher hall of fame, a hip-hop museum and an outdoor walk of fame. Port Authority on the Detroit Riverfront was mentioned as a possible location, as were one of the city’s many abandoned buildings.

“It would really and truly enhance the city of Detroit and make it something wonderful and good,” said Carla Cooke, youngest daughter of Chicago soul singer Sam Cooke. “Thank you all for considering it to be here because this is the place it needs to be not only to represent the Motown artists, but every artist and all the people that were involved in making rhythm and blues what it is today.”

Currently the R&B Music Hall of Fame is a mobile exhibit featuring cardboard cutouts of stars from Gene Chandler to Whitney Houston. The first R&B Hall of Fame induction ceremony was last year in Cleveland, and a second one is planned for Aug. 24 in Canton, Ohio.

The executive director of the hall, Dr. Fred Wheatt, was also in Detroit Wednesday to talk about bringing the museum to Detroit.

Funding for the project is expected to come from grants and corporate investments. Officials are not asking the local government for financial support, but Dr. Wheatt did ask for Mayor Mike Duggan’s endorsement in bringing such an attraction to the city.

mbaetens@detroitnews.com
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Cheryl Ruffin, left, and her sister Kimberly Ruffin hug each other as they ... (Jose Juarez / Special to The Detroit News)