When the first Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony was held in 1986, it was going to be nothing more than than a dinner in the Waldorf-Astoria ballroom with music from Paul Shaffer and his band during the evening. “We didn’t want people to feel as if they had to sing for their supper, but we had brought in instruments just in case,” Shaffer remembered in our November 26, 2009 issue celebrating the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 25th anniversary.
But by the end of that first ceremony, the likes of Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry were on stage performing — starting a tradition that would produce explosive sessions like the 1992 all-star jam to induct Jimi Hendrix featuring Johnny Cash, Keith Richards, John Fogerty and onstage reunions like the Byrds in 1991 and Cream in 1993.
In addition to the music, the ceremonies were a platform for Paul McCartney’s heartfelt speech to induct John Lennon, Mike Love’s crazy acceptance when the Beach Boys were inducted and other once-in-a-lifetime tributes.
We collected the most star-studded jams, powerful speeches and action-packed reunions over the past 25 years — read on for these historic moments.
1986 The Return of Chuck Berry: Keith Richards delivers the first induction speech ever on an evening that prompted Berry to plan a 60th-birthday concert propelling him back into the spotlight.
1987 Springsteen Launches Roy Orbison’s Comeback: Bruce inducts Orbison, who had been out of the spotlight since the late 1960s and whose career would have a remarkable revival following his the ceremony.
1988 Mick, Ringo, Dylan, Elton! The Starriest Night of All: A ten-song monster jam session breaks out at the end of the 1988 ceremony featuring Mick Jagger, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Jeff Beck, Elton John, Billy Joel, John Fogerty, Neil Young, the Beach Boys, Les Paul and the Drifters.
1988 ‘Elvis Freed Your Body, Bob Freed Your Mind’: Bruce Springsteen inducts Bob Dylan.
1988 Mike Love: The Craziest Speech Ever: The Beach Boys vocalist lambastes nearly everyone in the room when he takes the stage for the band’s induction.
1988 Mick Jagger Inducts the Beatles: The moment is bittersweet; Paul McCartney misses the induction due to a legal dispute with Yoko Ono, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.
1989 ‘The Stones Changed My Life Completely’: Pete Townshend inducts the Rolling Stones.
1990 Seasons’ End: The original lineup of the Four Seasons reunites for the first time since the mid-1960s and sings together for what would be the last time.
1991 The Byrds: Eight Miles High Again: Roger McGuinn, David Crosby, Chris Hillman, Gene Clark and Michael Clarke unite for what would be the last time.
1992 The All-Star Jam for Jimi: Keith Richards, Johnny Cash, John Fogerty, Little Richard and more rock greats give an epic salute to Jimi Hendrix.
1993 Creedence’s Rocky Induction: The most tense moment in rock hall history happens when John Fogerty refuses to play with Creedence during the music portion of the ceremony.
1993 Clapton Gets Cream Back Together: Twenty-five years after their last concert together, Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker take the stage for a powerhouse set.
1994 McCartney’s Final Message to Lennon: McCartney makes up for his absence at the Beatles’ 1988 induction by welcoming John Lennon to the Rock Hall with a heartfelt speech.
1994 ‘Prophet, Showman, Shaman, Jamaican!’: Bono inducts Bob Marley.
1994 One More Last Waltz for the Band — With Eric Clapton: Clapton fulfills a longstanding dream by playing “The Weight” with Robbie Robertson, Garth Hudson and Rick Danko.
1995 Led Zeppelin Bring It All Back Home: Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones overcome band tension for an epic induction set.
1997 Rascals Hang Tough, Help Little Steven Get New Gig: Steven Van Zandt scores a role on The Sopranos after inducting the Rascals — who almost fell apart rehearsing for the ceremony.
2001 Steely Dan Finally Make It: Steely Dan are inducted after a half serious decade-long campaign to get themselves in.
2002 Ramones’ Punk-Rock Farewell: The band’s surviving members honor Joey Ramone and themselves.
2002 Talking Heads Make Peace for a Night: After not playing together for “something like 18 years,” according to Chris Frantz, the quartet joined together for a once-in-a-lifetime set.
2004 Prince Tears the Roof off the Waldorf: Prince unleashes a breathtaking guitar solo at the end of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” during the ceremony to induct George Harrison.
2004 Bob Seger Returns: After staying away from the stage to be a full-time dad since 1995, Seger decides to cut a new album and go on tour the next year after having so much fun at the ceremony.
2005 Springsteen Salutes U2’s Mighty Sound: Bruce recalls seeing U2 for the first time as he welcomes them to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
2007 Hip-Hop Crashes Hall: Rap pioneers Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five are the first hip-hop act inducted.
2009 Jeff Beck’s Big Night: Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page play a medley of “Beck’s Bolero” and “Immigrant Song” to cap off the guitarist’s entrance to the Rock Hall as a solo artist.
2010 The Stooges Get In: Iggy and the Stooges share the stage with Scott Thurston on “Search and Destroy,” and of course Iggy took off his shirt.
2011 Neil Diamond Meets The Folks: Ever the man of the people, Diamond took a stroll into the crowd while performing “Sweet Caroline.”
2012 Guns N’ Roses Go Without Axl: After the mercurial frontman made no bones about his distaste for the Hall, his former bandmates showed their distaste for him by performing anyway.
2013 Rush … and the Foo Fighters: It took the world’s greatest power trio years to make the Hall, and presumably it will take just as long for superfans Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins to wipe the grins off their faces after performing with their heroes.