Hometown Philly Fetes The Boyz - Young R&B Stars/Record Producers/Music Executives Head Annual Honorees List
Dan DeLuca, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
"Over here, Nate!" "Smile, Shawn!" "We love you, Michael!" "Wanya! Wanya!"
The dedication of eight sidewalk plaques in honor of this year's Philadelphia Music Alliance Hall of Fame inductees was souped up with a dose of genuine star power yesterday afternoon. About 12:15, a white Ford van pulled up at Broad and Locust Streets to disgorge the four young members of Boyz II Men. And from the sighs and shrieks that followed, it was clear that's who the crowd of more than 100 - including a knot of students on the Academy of Music steps - was there to see.
The mega-selling, rhythm-and-blues vocalists - Nathan Morris, Shawn Stockman, Michael S. McCary and Wanya (pronounced wan-YEA) Morris - strode into the Doubletree Hotel to the accompaniment of a brass ensemble from the High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, their alma mater. Inside, the Boyz, recipients of this year's Philadelphia Award, were among a group of performers cited for their contribution to the city's musical legacy.
Also generating her share of teenybopper interest was rocker Joan Jett, who was born at Lankenau Hospital and moved to Pittsburgh as an infant. Next to Jett, conspicuous in her wraparound shades and rust-brown dye job, stood white-goateed Philly Pops conductor Peter Nero and jazz guitarist Pat Martino. Also on hand were three members of the classic Philadelphia soul outfit the Intruders, whose hit "I'll Always Love My Mama" should be getting plenty of airplay on Sunday.
The late R&B/jazz diva Phyllis Hyman was represented at the ceremony by her sister, Sakinah Ali bint Hyman, and manager, Glenda Gracia. Philly Joe Jones' widow, Eloise, accepted honors for the late jazz drummer. And Deborah Carter Smith stepped up for her late husband, William Smith, who was assistant conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra.
"When Eugene Ormandy - who we called 'The Boss' - got his plaque, Bill said, 'Maybe someday they'll put me in the ground, so people can step on me, too,'" quipped Smith, thanking the PMA.
Nathan Morris, at 25 the oldest of the Boyz, spoke for all four group members. Dressed in shades and a double-breasted gray suit, he thanked their families "for giving us a true, true environment to get us along in the so-called 'Hollywood world'... Philadelphia is the place we take everywhere we go."
The honorees then moved outdoors to see their plaques unveiled on the east side of Broad, below Locust. In 10 years, the Music Alliance has inducted 90 artists - from opera singer Marian Anderson to conductor Efrem Zimbalist Sr. - and their plaques line Broad between Walnut and Locust.
Jazz bagpiper Rufus Harley tootled away, and Mayor Rendell showed up to press the flesh. Rendell declined requests to sing with the honorees, but said he had followed Jett since "way back" and considered himself a big Boyz II Men fan. "I love the harmony," he said.
"This is a moment," said JoAnn Stockman, mother of 23-year-old Shawn, one of the Boyz. "It's wonderful that it's only taken them a few years to get this... They keep making their parents proud."
Her son - who wore a silver medallion in the shape of a Roman numeral II, the title of the band's hit album - said that the group was focusing on the start-up of its own label, Stonecreek Recordings, in Gladwyne.
"We're busy being producers and CEOs," he said. "But it's great to be appreciated by your hometown."
The award winners were to be feted at a black-tie gala at the Wyndham Franklin Plaza Hotel last night. Producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and the mothers of Boyz II Men were scheduled to give the band the Philadelphia Music Alliance's top award. Performances were planned by Jean Carne, doing a medley of Phyllis Hyman songs; rocker Patty Smyth and tennis star John McEnroe, in a tribute to Joan Jett; the Delfonics, singing Intruders hits, and jazz guitarist Jimmy Bruno, playing to Pat Martino.
The High School for the Creative and Performing Arts received the Music Alliance's Institution Award, and State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo received the group's Founder's Award. The Music Alliance is a nonprofit organization that promotes Philadelphia music.