Newark couple aims to start Delaware Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame
For George and Paula Wolkind, music — and especially local music — was more than a soundtrack to their youth; it was the ties that bound it.
George moved to Wilmington from New York City when he was a teen, while Paula was born and raised in George Read Village in Newark.
“My husband was a popular singer in Snakegrinder, and I was at every dance at every high school and fire hall,” Paula said. “We remember those days fondly and want to hold onto those times.”
Yet as the years have gone by, they’ve come to realize
that those who share their passion are growing fewer and there is nothing in Delaware to preserve those memories.
So the Newark couple set out to do something about it.
About three years ago, the couple started a Delaware Rock ‘ n’ Roll Hall of Fame page on Facebook, at first simply looking to share their memories and solicit more info from other likeminded Delawareans. While their expectations were minimal, they were pleasantly surprised to find they weren’t alone in recalling those younger days.
“We recognized from the responses that everyone has these kinds of wonderful memories. It just took off,” Paula said, noting nearly 900 people now follow the page and contribute to the conversation. “It’s been a burgeoning place since we started it with people sharing memories, photos and recordings. We aim to keep the faith with the music, faces and memories.”
Through their connections, the Wolkinds met Steve Leech, a local historian with experience in technology, who helped them launch a website for their idea. He provided a meticulous history of music in Delaware and its notable connections.
“When we met Steve, we knew we had our third,” she said. “When you talk to Steve it’s like reading the textbook on Delaware music.”
As their enthusiasm grew for their pet project, there was just one glaring problem to moving it to its next step: they were living more than 1,400 miles away from the state they wanted to honor.
Nearly 25 years ago, the Wolkinds moved to Colorado for work. While they enjoyed the natural beauty of their adopted state, it wasn’t home and dreams of establishing a physical hall of fame meant that they were faced with a choice.
“We packed up and moved back to Delaware in order to pursue our dream,” Paula said.
She is often asked by people as to why she would return to Delaware from Colorado, and Paula’s response was always the same.
“In Colorado, there’s no Bing’s Bakery and you can’t dance to the Larry Tucker Band,” she said. “Now I can do those things.”
The Wolkinds’ long-term goal is to secure a building that would double as a museum where the legacy of Delaware musicians could be retained and a school where up-and-coming musicians could learn from older musicians. While they have connections to Newark, Paula said the organizers are open to locating the Hall of Fame to anywhere in state that makes sense.
Among the bands and artists that may get honored in the near future are Teddy and the Continentals, a Wilmington-based doo-wop band of the ‘50s; the Sin City Band, a country-rock band that still plays weekly at Argilla Brewing Company in Newark; the Watson Brothers Band, a popular blues rock band; Richie Immediato and the Hurricanes, a ‘50s band; and Rocket 88 with Mark Kenneally, a ‘70s blues rock band, and more, according to Paula.
“So much of what happens in Delaware doesn’t get featured in some way,” she said. “There’s just such an incredible amount of bands.”
While the Wolkinds have an institutional knowledge about local rock ‘n’ roll history from the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s, Paula said they want to recognize the varied musical history in the First State, noting southern Delaware features a large blues and bluegrass community, while Wilmington has a storied connection to jazz through musicians like Robert “Boysie” Lowery and Clifford Brown.
“Although popular music that commonly gets called rock ‘n’ roll is near and dear to our hearts, we want to honor other genres as well,” she said. “They often helped influence the sound of others.”
Nods will also likely be given to musicians like George Thorogood and Bob Marley and bands like Television that have connections to Delaware, but made big impacts on America’s music scene.
“Everyone has their favorite local musician, but we also celebrate those who have left Delaware to make a bigger impact on music,” Paula said.
If the Wolkinds were looking for a measure of the excitement for their idea, they only had to look at the interest in tickets to their inaugural fundraiser: all 300 tickets were taken in two and half days. That event, set for Saturday afternoon at the Newark Country Club, will raise funds through donations and silent auctions.
What helped interest, however, was the fact that they were able to secure a performance by Mark Farner, the former lead singer for the chart-topping ‘70s band Grand Funk Railroad, courtesy of Fred Dawson, from the Newark band Club Phred, which will also perform Saturday and back Farner in his performance.
“Fred has a connection to Mark Farner and he said to us, ‘You know, what you guys need is a headliner,’ and he made the call,” she said. “We’re enormously grateful to Fred and Mark, and everyone who came to help us get this event off the ground.”
For those who were unable to get a ticket to Saturday’s fundraiser, Paula said they are planning a guest bartender night at the Deer Park Tavern in March. Those who would like to help in the organization or fundraising for the hall of fame can email firstname.lastname@example.org
While the national Rock & Roll Hall of Fame typically inducts a handful of acts each year, Paula said Delaware organizers hope to induct their first class of maybe 10 to 15 acts into their hall of fame in late April.
“A lot of this community is getting older, and we want them to be able to play,” she explained. “And enjoy knowing that their legacy will have a place.”
George and Paula Wolkind are working to establish a Delaware Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. Among those that could be recognized are (top to bottom) the Sin City Band, Teddy and the Continentals and a group consisting of “Boysie” Lowery on sax, Lue Caz on keyboard and Jerome Jefferson on guitar.
Delaware Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame organizer George Wolkind was a member of the ‘70s blues rock group Snakegrinder and the Shredded Field Mice.