Seven Mississippi musicians officially joined the ranks of the state’s best of the best.

More than 60 guests welcomed these artists at the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at the River Hills Club in Jackson on Tuesday night.

“Maybe there’s some other things not to be happy about in Mississippi, but this is absolutely something we can be so thrilled about,” said the hall’s executive director Peggy Brown. “This is our music heritage – being the birthplace of America’s music.”

The Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame, a nonprofit organization, promotes and celebrates Mississippi music, musicians and educates people about the state’s music heritage. Each year, the organization inducts Mississippians into the Hall of Fame who have contributed to the state’s musical history and have made a profound impact on the global music industry.

This year’s inductees include R&B/Motown artist G.C. Cameron; classical pianist Bruce Levingston; pop, hip-hop and R&B artist Brandy Norwood; bluegrass and country singer-songerwriter Pete Pyle; song stylist and pianist Ora Reed; trumpeter extraordinaire Dalton Smith and music producer and Malaco Vice President Gerald “Wolf” Stephenson.

Only two of the seven honorees, Stephenson and Reed, were present to accept their plaques in person at Tuesday night’s event. Although Cameron was unable to attend the ceremony due to complications from eye surgery, his wife Linda Cameron, who is also a singer, was proud to accept the award on his behalf.

“I am excited. It’s been a long time coming,” Linda Cameron said. “We always tease each other because it’s like from the cotton hills, to Beverly Hills and back again.” She performed her husband’s hit song “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday” while accepting his award Tuesday night.

About the honorees

G.C. Cameron was born “George Curtis” on Sept. 21, 1945 in McCall Creek, Miss. and later his family moved moved to Detroit. After serving in the Vietnam War, Motown group The Spinners selected Cameron as its new lead singer. Afterwards, during his solo career, he recorded his greatest hit “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday.” Cameron eventually returned to his home state, where he joined Malaco Records in Jackson. From 2003 to 2007, he joined The Temptations and sang lead vocals on their recording of “How Sweet It Is (To be Loved by You),” which was nominated for a Grammy. Cameron now lives in central Mississippi where he continues to perform.

Born in Greenville, Bruce Levingston is known as one of the country’s leading figures in contemporary music. He has performed world premieres at Carnegie Hall, the Lincoln Center and other international venues. The New York Times called him one of “today’s most adventurous musicians” and The New Yorker declared him “a force for new music.” He is the Chancellor’s Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College Artist in Residence at The University of Mississippi.

McComb native Brandy Norwood (known professionally simply as Brandy) launched into stardom when her first single, “I Wanna Be Down,” was released in 1994. Two year later, she started acting career, starring as the title character in the UPN sitcom Moesha. In 1998, she returned to music and paired up with fellow R&B singer Monica for the best-selling female duet of all time, “The Boy Is Mine.” Her second album, Never Say Never, sold 16 million copies worldwide and earned Norwood her first Grammy Award.

Ora Reed provides musical entertainment at the 2017 Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.

Throughout the night Ora Reed was referred to as “Mississippi’s best kept secret.” Reed grew up in Greenville, but spent most of her career sharing her music throughout the world. She began taking piano lessons at the age of three and learned how to play other instruments while attending summer camps at Jackson State University. After 18 years of performing in Asia, including a performance at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, Reed has returned to her home state. Gov. Haley Barbour named her Cultural Ambassador for the State of Mississippi.

Dalton Smith started out as just the kid in his high school band in Forest. He went on to become a trumpet extraordinaire, playing in Broadway plays and with performers such as Donna Summer, Rita Coolidge, Three Dog Night, Glen Campbell and Andrae Crouch.

Gerald “Wolf” Stephenson (left) receives his Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame plaque from former Hall of Fame inductee Marty Gamblin.

Gerald “Wolf” Stephenson, from Columbia, got his start in the 1960s at Ole Miss, where he was a pharmacy student. He and his Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity brother Tommy Couch decided to book bands. After graduating, he and Couch, along with friend Mitchell Malouf, teamed up to create Malaco Records in 1967, which produced artists such as Dorothy Moore, Johnny Taylor and the Mississippi Mass Choir.

The hall of fame does not currently have a building dedicated to the honoring of its inductees. Brown hopes the organization can collaborate with the Mississippi Arts + Entertainment Experience, which opens in Meridian in the spring of 2018.

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Sereena Henderson managed Mississippi Today’s social media and reported on Mississippi culture from August 2016 until June 2020. She was also a member of the engagement team and curated and delivered the daily newsletter. Sereena, a native of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, is a graduate of the Ole Miss School of Journalism and New Media.