Music: It’s All in Your Head
Music: It's All in Your Head
Imagine life without music. Difficult to fathom, isn’t it? Music that we grew up listening to, especially, can actually alter our mood when we hear it played. And it’s pretty scientific.
Not to get overly technical, but the brain’s pleasure center – the nucleus accumbens – becomes awakened during activities like eating, sex, gambling...and hearing music. In synchronization with various cortexes in the brain that come alive when we recognize a song, sing or dance to it, or listen intently to the words, dopamine courses through our brains and we feel exhilarated, nostalgic, emotional…rewarded.
“Depending on what styles you’re used to – Eastern, jazz, heavy metal, pop – all of these have very different rules they follow, and they’re all implicitly recorded in your brain,” Valorie Salimpoor, PhD, says. “Whether you realize it or not, every time you’re listening to music, you’re constantly activating these templates that you have.”
These musical templates come into play when we hear a familiar song from, say, our high school years. The music conjures up memories of periods of time in our lives and, more specifically, events and people.
Eddie Ray agrees. He’s vice-chairman of the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame (NCMHOF) and operation director of its Hall of Fame Museum. Referring to individual musical preferences, he says, “I think it’s what they were accustomed to hearing at an early age. I came from the Smoky Mountains and the only stations we could get in those days were from Nashville, Charlotte and Atlanta. Most of the music we heard on the radio was country music, bluegrass, and we‘d pick up big band. I can’t imagine living without music. The motions and emotions – there’s something that you listen to in a song and it brings such memories.”
Located on Dale Earnhardt Boulevard in Kannapolis, the hall houses personal effects of North Carolina’s musical best – inductees that are now forever part of the museum. But how did Ray, a Franklin, NC native, end up here and doing this?
Ray’s extensive musical background (he’s 88 years young) has seen him rise from a stock boy at Milwaukee’s Decca Records Distributing Company in 1945 and assistant shipping clerk for California’s Aladdin Records in 1946, to artists and repertoire (A&R) director of Capitol Records’ Tower Records in 1964, then their senior vice-president of A&R administration.
“Before I went to California, I had never heard blues. Occasionally, we’d hear Bessie Smith, but I’d never heard the Delta (blues) music out of Mississippi or R&B through North Carolina,” Ray explains. “People would say, ‘How do you know so much about the Smoky Mountain Boys?’ But what I found, and I think it would be true with anybody, if you take the time to listen to different types of music, you’ll learn to appreciate it.”
Over the years, Ray promoted or signed artists like Ray Charles, Fats Domino, Freddie & The Dreamers, even Pink Floyd. While at Capitol Records, he met Mike Curb, a young independent music producer, before moving on to other music career pursuits. He eventually relocated to Memphis as part owner of Sounds of Memphis Recording Studio and Record Production Company (SOM).
“When I became exposed to music in Memphis, I learned to appreciate the Delta. Elvis (Presley) grew up in the black community in Mississippi and he covered black artists’ songs. To me, his versions of records were even better than the originals,” Ray says.
Memphis didn’t remain Ray’s home, however. He was, ironically, called back home to North Carolina by his friend Mike Curb. Curb is definitely the epitome of entrepreneurism: songwriter, politician, NASCAR car owner and sponsor, philanthropist…
“He called me in 2008 and said, ‘Why isn’t there a North Carolina Music Hall of Fame?’ We did some research and found out a museum had been started in 1994 in Thomasville,” Ray shares.
The Thomasville endeavor, however, lacked a place to physically house the nine original inductees. So Curb approached his longtime friend, David Murdock, and negotiated leasing the old Kannapolis Jail and Police Department building on West A Street. Renovations took seven months and the NCMHOF opened in 2009.
“When I came back to North Carolina after 70 years, I had no idea there were so many great artists from here,” Ray says. “Some states are known for certain types of music. Here, we have bluegrass, country, Southern blues, gospel, Southern rock. North Carolina never promoted this music. But I don’t understand why most of the artists left North Carolina. Some of the greatest jazz artists left North Carolina.”
The Hall of Fame inductees are chosen from a list of 100 to 150 potentials. All must be North Carolina natives. “We go way, way back to the ‘30s and late ‘20s. And each year, in January, I present a list of potential inductees to the Nominating Committee,” Ray explains
“We choose seven to eight inductees each year. We make an attempt to have a representative from the various genres in music. One of the musts is it has to be 10 years since the artist achieved national success. We consider representatives, songwriters, broadcasters and educators, but most are musicians.”
Both Ray and Curb were inducted into the NCMHOF in 2009 – Ray for his lifetime achievement in the non-performer category and Curb for his contribution and support of the Hall of Fame.
Visitors to the museum walk among exhibits containing each inductee’s personal items. “We get all the exhibits from the inductees, and it’s getting more difficult because they’re getting very valuable. Maybe at some stage in their life they want to sell. So what we do is ask for items for a limited time. Most of them give them to us permanently. If it was left up to the office, we’d get them, but the agents and managers make the decision,” Ray says.
And even though the Hall of Fame was opened during tough economic times and grants were about nil, plans were made to give the hall space for expansion and more visibility. Re-enter, Mike Curb. As owner of the Curb Museum for Motorsports, Ray approached him about sharing some of his space with the NCMHOF.
Now with square footage about five times larger than the old location, the museum already has more than 50 exhibits compared to no more than 25 at the West A Street address. Interactive displays have been added, and a large map of North Carolina plots where each NCMHOF inductee was born. There are also touch screens and a television airing musical performances.
Admission to the NCMHOF is free, and hours and additional information are available at northcarolinamusichalloffame.org. Says Ray, “Hundreds of kids visit each week as well as adults. It’s been a challenging labor of love.”