Tom Bedell & The Iowa Rock’n Roll Hall of Fame

For years I have attended the Iowa Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame Induction ceremony at the Sami Center in Spirit Lake, Iowa…and their performances at the Rood Garden Ballroom in Arnolds Park, Iowa. It is incredible for me to both be in the Sami Center and to experience the emotions of the musicians and their extended families celebrating the music that has formed the foundations of their lives. Having been a central participant in both the creation of the Sami Center and the Iowa Rock n’ Roll Association, I become filled with choked up feelings about the things we get involved in and the differences we can make in so many people’s lives. Some of the bands have not been together in 50 years. Being inducted invited them to reunite. Last fall, I chatted with a grand-daughter that had no idea her grandpa could play riffs as he did on the stage. I encountered people who had purchased their gear from my store, Bedell Guitar Company, during the 1960s…and folks that shared stories of things we had done together and the impacts we had made on one another’s lives through our love of music. Over the last 22 years, the Iowa Rock n’ Roll Association has inducted 1800 Iowa musicians, radio announcers, ballrooms and music retailers, and been the catalyst to them celebrating the music that has been central to their entire lives.

It was Labor Day Weekend 2004 when I was first inducted for my Bedell Guitar Company. I had begun importing guitars from Japan in 1964 (I was 14 years old), attached my Bedell logo and wholesaled them to music stores across five Midwestern states. In 1966 I opened two retail stores and supplied the gear for bands throughout NW Iowa and beyond. Through my booking agency, I financed equipment, and in cooperation with a recording studio, I helped bands cut their first 45’s. It was a magical time. The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame reunion gathering of everyone involved in my teenage business from 1964 – 1968 was a huge sentimental celebration.

My second induction was in 2008 – Billy Rat and the Finks. I played a Farfisa organ from age 13 – 17. The 40 years since playing together brought memories of chord patterns, classic cover songs and story after story recollecting the days and nights traveling to gigs, set-ups and tear-downs – great nights and the occasional empty ballrooms.

Memorial Day Weekend 2019 I was afforded a sneak peek at the renovated Iowa Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame Museum – the official opening is June 13th. It is a sensational presentation of all facets of music that have been the soundtrack for so many of our lives. From the ballrooms across Iowa to the rock radio stations and the famous and not so famous musicians that brought music into our lives. Of course, memories flood back as I see displayed a Bedell acoustic from 1966 and a 1967 Bedell electric bass.

For most visitors, the photos, posters, and outfits of the more famous musicians like Johnny Cash will be the intrigue of the new museum. For the 1800 inductees and their extended families and friends, it is the shared memories of our lives as musicians during magical times.

– Tom Bedell