1995 & Earlier Inductees
Jerome "Presley Haskel" Brish
Jerome Brish is a punk legend in Milwaukee and the band he fronted were pioneers of the genre, establishing the city’s scene and making waves throughout the Midwest.
Brish, also known as Presley Haskel, piled on the personality as leader of The Haskels, which emerged at the front end of the punk and new wave scene in 1977. The Haskels were synonymous with punk in late 70s Milwaukee. The scene was centered at Zak's North Avenue nightclub and they shared the stage with bands like the Lubricants, Blackholes, Orbits and Plasticland.
Brish, guitarist and vocalist, was joined in the original lineup by Richard LaValliere (bass-vocal) Guy Hoffman (drums) and Gerard LaValliere (guitar). They were fast, melodic and irreverent.
Their legacy lived far beyond their brief time on the Milwaukee scene.
The Haskels would influence a generation of Milwaukee music. Haskels alumni made waves after leaving the band. Richard would form the Oil Tasters and Hoffman would play with the BoDeans and the Violent Femmes.
Kevn Kinnney, a one-time roadie for The Haskels who would go on to become a WAMI hall of famer in his own right, once described the band as “probably the best live band I’ve ever seen that was a local band. To this day, they practiced more than any band I’ve ever seen.”
Ruby Starr had already developed star power before making a home in Wisconsin and taking the next steps in her musical journey here.
Starr moved to Milwaukee in the late 1970s and became a popular act in the region. She formed a band, Grey Star, in the early 1980s having joined a band based in the Mayville area.
Starr joined Ruby Jones in 1969, and the band was signed to Curtom Records. Jim “Dandy” Mangrum, lead singer of Black Oak Arkansas, saw the band perform and immediately offered her a spot in the well established group. Starr toured with Black Oak Arkansas for several years and was featured in their 1973 Top 30 single "Jim Dandy."
In 1974, she began touring on her own as Ruby Starr & Grey Ghost and released three albums on Capitol Records. She opened for acts including Black Oak Arkansas, Black Sabbath, Edgar Winter and Blackfoot.
Grey Star released several recordings including 1981's Grey Star and 1983's Telephone Sex.
A Wisconsin native changed the guitar, changed the technology of recording and through it all, changed the course of music.Les Paul -- the Wizard of Waukesha -- had among the most influential roles in the 20th Century music.
As an inventor, Paul was a pioneer of the solid-body electric guitar and multi-track recording. As an artist, the jazz, blues and country guitarist was a chart topper, Grammy Award winner and bona fide superstar.
Born Lester William Polsfuss in Waukesha, Paul was performing semi-professionally as a country-music singer, guitarist, and harmonica player by age 13. At age 17, he dropped out of high school to play with Sunny Joe Wolverton's Radio Band in St. Louis. Les Paul's trio appeared on Bing Crosby's radio show. Crosby sponsored Paul's recordings and they recorded together several times, including "It's Been a Long, Long Time", which was a No. 1 hit in 1945.
Paul’s recordings with wife Mary Ford were among his most celebrated. Their hits included "How High the Moon", "Bye Bye Blues", "Song in Blue", "Don'cha Hear Them Bells", "The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise", and "Vaya con Dios."
Paul’s greatest legacy comes as an innovator. He built one of the first solid-body electric guitars and his name remains on the headstock of Gibson’s most enduring model. His early experiments with overdubbing,delay effects and multitrack recording changed the music industry.
Paul received countless honors of the course of his long and illustrious career.
In 1960, Paul and Ford received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. “How High is the Moon” and “Via con Dios” are part of the Grammy Hall of Fame. In 1983, he received a Grammy Trustees Award for lifetime achievement. In 2001, he was honored with the Special Merit/Technical Grammy Award, which recognizes "individuals or institutions that have set the highest standards of excellence in the creative application of audio technology,” joining the likes of Thomas Edison and Leo Fender.
He’s part of several halls of fame. Beyond WAMI, those include halls for songwriters, inventors, big band and jazz and rock & roll.
At a mention of Milwaukee and blues keyboard, only one name would come to mind.
Junior Brantley, singer and keyboardist, started his career in Milwaukee in the early 1960s, performing with Sonny Boy Williamson and others at local venues. In the mid-1960s, his group, Junior and The Classics, had a breakout hit on a national record label. They opened for the Rolling Stones during their first Milwaukee concert.
By 1970, Brantley provided the keys for Milwaukee preeminent blues group, Short Stuff. After Short Stuff’s breakup, Brantley spent three years performing with Milwaukee blues group, Leroy Airmaster. In the late 1980s, Brantley toured with Jimmy Vaughan, Stevie Ray Vaughan and the Fabulous Thunderbirds. He later toured with Roomful Of Blues. In 1992, Junior moved to Las Vegas, where he plays with his own groups including the Del Vikings and the Shuffle Aires. Brantley regularly returns to play shows in his native Milwaukee.
They’ve been described as alternative. They’ve been described as folk punk.
Whatever you call their distinctive sound, it’s full-on American music and they’re a point of Milwaukee pride.
Violent Femmes, known for their stripped down sound and bass driven melodies, were famously discovered by James Honeyman-Scott of The Pretenders as they busked outside the Oriental Theater in 1981. They would open for The Pretenders inside the Oriental later that night.
Their self-titled 1983 debut album, a classic and considered among the best albums of the 1980s, would go on to become a platinum seller without reaching the Billboard 200. It eventually did reach the charts, though nearly a decade after its release. It peaked at 171.
They’re an anomaly, delivering a fullness in their music as a trio -- and with beats resonating off of a bare minimalist drum kit. Never afraid to experiment, the Violent Femmes would incorporate an array of instruments and varying genres into their albums whether electronic, country or gospel. In concert, their Horns of Dilemma are known for their extensive, free-form jams.
The band originally consisted of Gordon Gano, Brian Ritchie and Victor DeLorenzo. Drummer DeLorenzo would depart, rejoin and depart again. Guy Hoffman, Brian Viglione and John Sparrow would also take the percussion role in the band.
By 2005, Violent Femmes sold more than 9 million albums.
A singer and multi-instrumentalist, Jim Liban is a giant of Milwaukee’s blues scene and earned fame as one of America’s greatest blues harmonica players.
Liban founded and led Short Stuff, which is separately inducted in the WAMI Hall of Fame, and was a mainstay of the Milwaukee blues scene. The band was a pioneering act of the blues/rock sound.
He’s earned respect from some of the blues greats and developed an international reputation for his skill on the harp. He’s played with legendary acts including Jimi Hendrix. Journey. Johnny Winter, Muddy Waters and Canned Heat.
In addition to being a world-class player, Liban is also known for his prolific songwriting. He’s penned songs that were recorded by artists including John Mayall, Johnny Winter, Lonnie Brooks, The Legendary Blues Band and Little Charlie and The Nightcats.
Hard rock was well represented on the late 1970s air waves, and Bad Boy represented Milwaukee well within the genre.
Led by Steve Grimm, Bad Boy built a solid reputation in the Midwest before landing a national record deal. Randall “Xeno” Hogan, guitarist and vocalist, was the original singer for Cheap Trick before joining the Milwaukee act.
The band was originally formed under the name Crossfire, and they released one single under that name in 1975. They changed their name to Bad Boy after signing to United Artists in 1977.
Bad Boy had two albums on United Artists in the late 70s. "The Band that Made Milwaukee Famous” reached the Billboard charts and led to their followup, "Back to Back."
He defined flamboyance, luxury and showmanship and was recognizable worldwide by only his last name.
Władziu Valentino Liberace, known to the world simply as Liberace, was born in West Allis in 1919. A piano prodigy, Liberace earned positive reviews at age 20 following a performance with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on January 15, 1940, at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee. They performed Liszt's Second Piano Concerto. His recording career included pop standards and classical interpretations.
Liberace went on to become the highest paid entertainer in the world with a career that spanned music, television and motion pictures. At his peak of fame, Liberace maintained concert residencies in Las Vegas and toured the world.
He understood the value of standing out from the pack. The candelabra became his signature set piece and he performed upon custom-decorated pianos encrusted with rhinestones.
Liberace also understood the power of the television medium and used it as a staircase to fame. The Liberace Show debuted in 1952. He appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Ford Show, Starring Tennessee Ernie Ford, Edward R. Murrow's Person to Person, and on the shows of Jack Benny and Red Skelton. He had a role in the 1966 Batman television series.
Liberace was recognized during his career with two Emmy Awards, six gold albums, and two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Al Jarreau earned a global audience and seven Grammy Awards through a versatile and soulful voice that no single genre could contain.
The Milwaukee native’s legacy unfolded across more than five decades and often beyond the jazz that burnished his reputation.
His father was a minister and his mother; the church pianist. He developed a passion for music through church performance, though it’s not to say his career was pre-destined. Jarreau earned a master’s degree in vocational rehabilitation and worked as a counselor before turning his full attention to music.
Jarreau regularly reached the jazz and R&B charts, and crossed into the mainstream with two top 40 hits. “We’re in This Love Together” hit number 15 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in 1981. It was part of his platinum-selling “Breakin’ Away” album.
His theme to the television show, Moonlighting, reached 23 on Hot 100 in 1987.
He was part of the 1985 “USA For Africa” ensemble and its history-making single, “We Are the World.”
Dubbed the “Acrobat of Scat,” Jarreau’s legacy is one of vocal dexterity and blurring lines. Jarreau took home Grammys in three different vocal categories: jazz, pop and R&B.
He never lost sight of home. Jarreau earned a bachelor’s degree from Ripon College in 1962 and maintained close relations with his alma mater. Family asked mourners to pay their respects through donations to the Wisconsin Foundation for School Music.
Jarreau earned a star along the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2001.