Indianapolis Star: Check It Out, Mellencamp Going Into Rock Hall Of Fame

By David Lindquist
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John Mellencamp's inside source was right.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced the Hoosier musician as a 2008 inductee today, confirming news Mellencamp prematurely proclaimed during a Nov. 29 concert in Erie, Pa.

Pop-culture icon Madonna, cerebral singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, surf-rock pioneers the Ventures and British Invasion act the Dave Clark Five join Mellencamp as new inductees.

Mellencamp enjoyed superstar status during the 1980s, thanks to hits such as “Pink Houses,” “Small Town” and “Check It Out.” The 56-year-old grew up in Seymour, Ind., and he lives in Bloomington.

“I’m very honored and pleased to be recognized this way, especially among people whom I greatly admire,” Mellencamp said in a statement today. It’s his first public comment since he told a Pennsylvania concert audience two weeks ago that a phone call tipped him off to the Hall of Fame news.

Mike Wanchic, the guitarist who's been a full-time member of Mellencamp's band since 1978, said induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame represents support within the music industry.

"But I don't think it's really necessary that we have that kind of validation," Wanchic said during a phone interview from Providence, R.I., where Mellencamp will perform tonight. "Truthfully, being able to make records for 30 years and sell tickets and have a dedicated core audience -- that's enough validation.
"At the same time, to actually have the recognition of your peers is important. And it's appreciated by us, absolutely."

Since 2000, Mellencamp has worked on several projects outside the framework of "heartland" or "classic" rock expectations:

* He played a "Good Samaritan" tour in which free concerts were presented in city parks with little advance warning.

* His "Trouble No More" album featured faithful interpretations of blues songs written during the first half of the 20th century.

* He worked with author Stephen King on a theatrical production titled "The Ghost Brothers of Darkland County," which is expected to premiere in 2008.

An upcoming album produced by T-Bone Burnett (whose soundtrack credits include "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" and "Cold Mountain") is evidence that Mellencamp and his supporting musicians don't view the Hall of Fame as a "grand finale," Wanchic said.

The guitarist quoted a line from Mellencamp's 1987 song "The Real Life": "Just because I'm middle aged, that don't mean I want to sit around my house and watch TV."

Wanchic said the Mellencamp team -- which includes guitarist Andy York, drummer Dane Clark, violinist Miriam Sturm, bass player Jon E. Gee and keyboard player Troye Kinnett -- enjoys making music now more than at any other time.

"The focus is aimed at art and communicating a specific idea, and really being able to hone your skill and say what you want to say successfully," Wanchic said. "That's the beauty of where we are now."

The induction ceremony is scheduled March 10 in New York City. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is located in Cleveland.
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