We might be getting into more familiar territory for some of you now, with artists eligible from 1990 through 1994. There are 25 more artists here, fifteen of which I gave medium odds or higher to get in, bringing that total to 39. Two of those artists I believe Should Be In Already, bringing that total to seven. There are a lot of great artists here – I recommend checking out Harry Nilsson, Tommy James and the Shondells, Captain Beefheart, Jim Croce, and John Denver.
Betty Davis Genre(s): Funk, R&B, Soul Odds of Induction: Low
Though her debut album did not come until 1973, Betty Davis released her first single circa 1964, under her original name, Betty Mabry. Her work was not commercially successful, but found an underground following. Her provocative lyrics and performance style created a path for all artists to come after her, from Prince to Ariana Grande. Despite her influence, she is under-appreciated and unfamiliar to many, leaving her on the outside looking in toward the Rock Hall.
Waylon Jennings Genre(s): Outlaw Country, Country Rock, Country Odds of Induction: Low
Waylon Jennings released his first album in 1964. Known as the originator of outlaw country, Jennings influenced many artists including Hank Williams Jr., The Marshall Tucker Band, Travis Tritt, and Eric Church. His success, longevity, extensive discography, and influence give him a shot at the Rock Hall. Side note – his story related to the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly and others is fascinating.
Harry Nilsson Genre(s): Rock, Pop Odds of Induction: High
Harry Nilsson released his first singles in 1964. Regarded highly by his contemporaries, especially The Beatles, Nilsson is credited as one of the artists to bridge the psychedelic rock sound to the more singer-songwriter style of rock in the 1970s. One of the first artists to overdub vocals, and someone who experimented with sounds and melodies from other styles of music, Nilsson is considered an elite songwriter. Nilsson was also popular to listeners, despite rarely touring or having large performances.
The Sonics Genre(s): Garage Rock, Rock, Punk Odds of Induction: High
The Sonics released their first single in 1964. Best known for their song “Have Love Will Travel,” many consider The Sonics to be one of the originators of punk music with their raw sound, simple chord progressions, tonal aggression, and distortion. Influencing early punk groups and later artists like The White Stripes, The Sonics deserve enshrinement in the Rock Hall.
Tommy James and the Shondells Genre(s): Psychedelic Rock, Rock, Power Pop Odds of Induction: High
Tommy James and the Shondells released their first single in 1964. Known for their hit songs “Hanky Panky,” “Crimson and Clover,” and “I Think We’re Alone Now,” the group had fourteen top-40 singles in their career. A popular group for other musicians to cover as well, many artists have turned their songs into their own massive hits, including “I Think We’re Alone Now” for Tiffany and “Mony Mony” for Billy Idol.
Toots & the Maytals Genre(s): Ska, Reggae, Rocksteady Odds of Induction: Medium
Toots & the Maytals released their first album in 1964. They are one of the pioneering groups of reggae music, and are even credited with creating the style’s name. They helped popularize reggae music around the world and influenced their contemporaries, plus reggae, ska, and reggae-adjacent groups to come after them. The Hall is lacking in ska and reggae representation, and Toots & the Maytals would help fill that void.
Hank Williams, Jr. Genre(s): Country, Country Rock, Outlaw Country, Blues Odds of Induction: Low
Hank Williams, Jr. released his first album in 1964. The son of Rock Hall inductee Hank Williams, Sr., and a 2020 Country Music Hall of Fame inductee, the singer is credited with popularizing country rock in the 1970s and 1980s by blending country, rock, and blues. He has released numerous gold and platinum albums in the U.S. Probably hurt by his divisive and xenophobic political views, Williams, Jr.’s musicality, success, longevity, and extensive discography might still push him through to the Rock Hall.
The Guess Who Genre(s): Rock Odds of Induction: Medium
The Guess Who released their first album as The Guess Who in 1965, though they released music under a couple of different names with lineup tweaks each time before that. Best known for their songs “American Woman” and “These Eyes,” the group had consistent chart success until their initial hiatus in 1975. Though not credited with influencing many artists, the band’s popularity and successful discography merit their induction.
Captain Beefheart (real name Don Van Vliet) Genre(s): Rock, Avant-Rock Odds of Induction: Should Be In Already
Captain Beefheart, who performed with a rotating ensemble called the Magic Band, released his first single in 1966. Not a success in charting music, Captain Beefheart is nevertheless one of the most influential artists to ever make rock music through his creativity, imagination, and unconventionality. Though he was known to be volatile and sometimes insufferable, with both critical acclaim for his music and a near-endless list of artists he has influenced, it’s a wonder he is not already in the Rock Hall.
Jim Croce Genre(s): Folk, Soft Rock Odds of Induction: High
Jim Croce released his first album in 1966. He does not have the longevity typically seen in Rock Hall inductees due to a plane crash that ended his life at 30 years old. Best known for his number-one hits “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” and “Time In A Bottle,” the latter a song about mortality released posthumously, Croce was only just coming into the prime of his career and was already a popular figure. Already inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, Croce deserves enshrinement in the Rock Hall, which would help fill a gap of soft rock and folk rock artists in the Hall.
John Denver Genre(s): Folk, Soft Rock, Country Odds of Induction: Medium
John Denver released his first album in 1966. His career, too, was cut short by his death in a plane crash. Despite a shortened career, at his peak, Denver had four straight number-one hits and three straight number-one albums. His song “Rocky Mountain High” is even one of the state songs of Colorado. Already in the Songwriters Hall of Fame, Denver also helps fill the soft rock gap in the Rock Hall.
Love Genre(s): Psychedelic Rock, Folk Odds of Induction: High
Love had their first releases in 1966. With an album consistently ranked one of the greatest of all time (Forever Changes), and an influence on many artists, ranging from Led Zeppelin, Echo and the Bunnymen, The Doors, The Rolling Stones, and Siouxsie and the Banshees, it’s surprising Love is not already in the Rock Hall. One of the first multiracial rock groups, and a group that promoted peace and love in true counterculture fashion, Love provided an example of harmony in a strenuous period in America. Love’s music and cultural importance should make them a lock for the Hall.
MC5 Genre(s): Hard Rock, Garage Rock, Punk Odds of Induction: High
MC5 released their first single in 1966. One of the foremost hard rock groups of the 1970s, MC5 helped to establish punk rock with their radical politics and style of play. Known for their energetic performing and garage rock sound, MC5 have been nominated for the Rock Hall five times. With influence, rock progression, and critical support, MC5 are likely headed to the Hall.
The Monkees Genre(s): Rock, Pop, Power Pop Odds of Induction: Should Be In Already
The Monkees started their careers with two number-one hits in 1966. One of the most-mentioned bands for snubs from Rock Hall induction, The Monkees formed as part of a television show to capitalize on Beatlemania. They influenced many early punk groups (including the Sex Pistols), set the stage for the music-video industry, and gave an example for most every boy-band type of group to have come since. So far blocked from the Rock Hall likely due to their origins as a ready-made product (Glenn A. Baker, author of Monkeemania: The True Story of the Monkees, wrote that many musicians and rock critics were jealous or annoyed that The Monkees “had success handed to them on a silver plate”) or because many viewed them as just a Beatles knock-off, the Monkees’ popularity and influence cannot be ignored forever.
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band Genre(s): Country, Country Rock Odds of Induction: Low
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band released their first music in 1967. Best known for their hits “Fishin’ in the Dark” and “An American Dream,” the country rock group was a mainstay on country and mainstream charts from 1970 to 1999. More influential to the evolution of country music, as one of the first country rock artists, the band still has a place in the Rock Hall, where country rock has a low presence.
Steppenwolf Genre(s): Rock, Psychedelic Rock Odds of Induction: Low
Steppenwolf released their first single in 1967. Known for their top-ten hits “Born to Be Wild” and “Magic Carpet Ride,” Steppenwolf’s two runs with its original lineup produced ten albums, seven of which are certified gold, along with one platinum. Nominated for the Rock Hall in 2017, Steppenwolf were a major force in rock music in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Franki Valli (real name Francesco Stephen Castelluccio) Genre(s): Rock, Pop Odds of Induction: Slim
Franki Valli released his first solo recordings in 1967. Already a member of the Rock Hall as part of The Four Seasons, Valli went on to have success as a solo artist, though not as much as with the aforementioned group. His hit for the American cultural icon Grease and his other success might bring him nomination.
Scott Walker Genre(s): Avant-Rock, Rock, Pop Odds of Induction: Slim
Scott Walker released his first solo music in 1967. Known for his lyrical compositions contrasting with both popular orchestra melodies and avant-garde noise, Walker is noted for pushing the boundaries of rock music. Those he influenced include David Bowie and Brian Eno, among others.
Joe Cocker Genre(s): Pop, Rock Odds of Induction: Medium
Joe Cocker released his first singles in 1968. Known for his hit song “With A Little Help from My Friends,” Cocker is considered one of the greatest rock singers of all time. With an extensive discography, success and popularity, and critical respect, Cocker is likely for induction to the Rock Hall.
Jethro Tull Genre(s): Progressive Rock, Folk Rock, Rock Odds of Induction: Medium
Jethro Tull released their first music in 1968. One of the most successful progressive rock acts, the band’s music was popular near-worldwide. They have eleven gold and five platinum albums, including two straight number-one albums in the U.S., and have influenced bands ranging from Iron Maiden to Pearl Jam.
Silver Apples Genre(s): Electronic Rock Odds of Induction: Low
Silver Apples released their first music in 1968. Originally made up of a drummer and a vocalist/synthesizer player, Silver Apples were pioneers in using electronic music commercially, and especially in rock music. While the original duo did not have longevity or commercial success, their music is nonetheless important to the evolution of rock music.
Steve Miller Band Genre(s): Rock Odds of Induction: Low
The Steve Miller Band released their first music in 1968. Steve Miller was, interestingly, inducted to the Rock Hall as a solo artist in 2015. No other band members were invited by the Rock Hall to watch him accept the award. Perhaps because there were only two other relatively regular members of the band during either their early years or at the height of their success, the band was not included in the Rock Hall’s plans. It’s a shame, because, while Steve Miller is an incredible artist and wrote and produced much of the band’s work, at the end of the day, their success was a group effort.
Sweet Genre(s): Bubblegum Pop, Glam Rock, Hard Rock Odds of Induction: High
Sweet released their first single in 1968. One of the most successful groups of the 1970s, stringing together 13 top-20 hits, Sweet evolved from Bubblegum pop to hard rock. The group is best known for their international hits “Little Willy,” “Ballroom Blitz,” and “Fox on the Run.” With great success and a unique sound, Sweet are likely for induction to the Rock Hall.
Three Dog Night Genre(s): Rock Odds of Induction: High
Three Dog night released their first music in 1968. The band is one of the most successful rock artists in music history: They had twenty-one straight top-40 hits from 1969 to 1975, and all but one of their thirteen albums in that time frame is certified gold (including one platinum). Their 20th Century Masters collection also went platinum in 1999. One knock on the group is that they did not write most of their songs, though that’s true of many artists. Already in the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, Three Dog Night deserve a spot in the Rock Hall.
The United States of America Genre(s): Avant-Rock, Electronic Rock Odds of Induction: Slim
The United States of America released their one and only album in 1968. One of the earliest artists to use electronic music in rock music, the band’s only album was a massive critical hit. However, the band couldn’t keep together and broke up shortly after their album debuted. Without popular success, little legacy, and only one album, it’s unlikely this band makes a ballot for the Rock Hall.
Check out the next article in the series: artists eligible 1995 through 1999!