A History of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame No-Shows - Rolling Stone
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A History of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame No-Shows

Axl Rose isn’t alone: Paul McCartney, David Bowie and more rockers missed their inductions

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Axl Rose and Slash of Guns N' Roses perform in 1985.

Marc S Canter/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is one of the highest honors in the music industry, but that doesn’t mean that everyone is happy to show up, play a song and smile for the cameras when they get inducted. Sometimes the ceremony honors someone that has left the industry and has little appetite for fanfare; other times it honors someone that simply can’t stomach the idea of standing in the same room as a bandmate they’ve come to despise. Then there are people that have prior commitments — or physically can’t be there. Here’s a look back at the many Hall of Fame inductees that didn’t make it to the event on the big night.

Diana Ross, 1988
The original lineup of the Supremes has been feuding ever since 1967, when the group changed its name to Diana Ross & the Supremes. Ross, Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong last performed together in March of 1983 at the Motown 25th anniversary concert. In 1986, Mary Wilson published her memoir, Dreamgirls: My Life As A Supreme, which painted a very negative portrait of Ross. The Supremes were inducted two years later into the Hall of Fame, and Ross was a no-show. She claimed it was because she had given birth to her son Ross three months earlier, but many speculated that the feud between Ross and the other members played a role.

Paul McCartney, 1988
Relations between the surviving Beatles were also strained in 1988. Four years earlier, Yoko Ono, George Harrison and Ringo Starr started a royalty dispute with Paul McCartney, who opted to not attend the 1988 ceremony. In perhaps the most notorious speech in Hall of Fame history,  Mike Love addressed McCartney’s absence that night when the Beach Boys were inducted. “It’s sad that there are other people who aren’t here tonight,” he said. “People like Paul McCartney who couldn’t be here because he’s in a lawsuit with Ringo and Yoko. That’s why he sent in a telegram to some high-priced attorney in the room.” 

Van Morrison, 1993
The induction ceremony in 1993 boasted reunions of the Doors and Cream, as well as a surprising appearance by the extremely reclusive Sly Stone. The three surviving members of Creedence Clearwater Revival showed up, but John Fogerty caused major drama when he refused to perform with them. Van Morrison didn’t show, so the Counting Crows performed “Caravan” in his absence. This was months before they released their debut LP, August and Everything After, so the induction ceremony was where many critics and fans first learned of them. 

Jerry Garcia, 1994
The Grateful Dead frontman didn’t show up at his induction, reportedly because he was opposed to the whole idea of a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The rest of the Dead disagreed, and they brought a cardboard cut-out of the singer onstage. 

Levon Helm, 1994
The 1994 ceremony was full of no-shows. Levon Helm didn’t attend the Band’s induction due to lingering bitterness towards Robbie Robertson. Rick Danko, Garth Hudson and Robbie Robertson did show up, though, and they performed “The Weight” together. It’s the only time Robertson has performed with his former bandmates since The Last Waltz.

Eric Burdon, 1994
Animals frontman Eric Burdon didn’t come to his own induction in 1994 because he had a gig booked in Dusseldorf, Germany. He made up for it in 2010, when he performed “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” at the ceremony to honor songwriting team Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil.

Rod Stewart, 1994
Two days before the 1994 Hall of Fame inductions, a massive earthquake hit Los Angeles. “Two of my children, Renee and Liam, they were just one and three, they were just terrified,” Steward told Rolling Stone in 2011. “Absolutely terrified. I just couldn’t leave them, so I missed it.

David Bowie, 1996
David Bowie was in Helsinki, Finland, touring in support of Outside when he entered the Hall of Fame in 1996. Madonna accepted on his behalf, and Marianne Faithful performed “Rebel Rebel.” 

Roger Waters, 1996
Roger Waters and Pink Floyd weren’t getting along very well in 1996. Two years earlier, the group went on a enormous stadium tour sans Waters and grossed hundreds of millions of dollars. They invited Waters to join them for a performance of Dark Side of the Moon in England towards the end of the tour, but he declined. Waters was still fuming over the fact that the band carried on without him, while his 1987 Radio K.A.O.S. tour played to half-full arenas. They patched things up a few years later – in part because Gilmour had quietly disbanded Floyd by that point – but in 1996, Waters had no interest in sitting in the same ballroom as the rest of Pink Floyd.

Grace Slick, 1996
The Jefferson Airplane frontwoman has a firm belief that “all rock-and-rollers over the age of 50 look stupid and should retire.” She briefly toured with a reunited Jefferson Airplane in 1989, but ever since has basically stayed away from the stage. The rest of the Airplane did show up for their induction and played a great set. 

Neil Young, 1997
Reports vary about why exactly Neil Young didn’t show up and reunite with Buffalo Springfield at their 1997 induction, but the most likely explanation is that he was fuming over the fact that his bandmates had to shell out big bucks to get their friends and family into the ceremony. Thirteen years later, Young did agree to a Buffalo Springfield reunion, but by that point original members Bruce Palmer and Dewey Martin had died. 

Joni Mitchell, 1997
In 1965, a 21-year-old Joni Mitchell gave up a daughter for adoption. Shortly before her 1997 induction into the Hall of Fame, the mother and daughter had a highly emotional reunion and Mitchell skipped the Cleveland ceremony to focus on re-establishing a relationship with her child. Graham Nash accepted on her behalf.

John Deacon, 2001
The Queen bassist largely retired from music when Freddy Mercury died in 1991. He did join his bandmates at a Mercury tribute show in 1992 and again to perform with Elton John in 1997, but since then he’s been completely off the radar. He refused to participate in Queen’s tour with Paul Rodgers, and he didn’t show up at the Hall of Fame induction in 2001. 

The Sex Pistols, 2006
The punk band’s open letter said it all: “Next to the SEX-PISTOLS rock and roll and that hall of fame is a piss stain. Your museum. Urine in wine. Were not coming. Were not your monkey and so what? Fame at $25,000 if we paid for a table, or $15000 to squeak up in the gallery, goes to a non-profit organisation [SIC] selling us a load of old famous. Congradulations [SIC]. If you voted for us, hope you noted your reasons. Your anonymous as judges, but your still music industry people. Were not coming. Your not paying attention. Outside the shit-stem is a real SEX PISTOL.”

Eddie Van Halen, Alex Van Halen, David Lee Roth, 2007
Van Halen’s 2007 induction into the Hall of Fame came at a very bad time for the group. Bassist Michael Anthony was just kicked out of the band, and they were plotting a reunion tour with David Lee Roth – but that couldn’t start until Eddie Van Halen went to rehab. There was simply too much drama, and no member of the current Van Halen lineup showed up. Roth was in talks to come, but he wasn’t happy that Velvet Revolver were going to perform. In the end, only Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony showed up.

Peter Gabriel, 2010
Genesis fans have been praying for a reunion of the classic Peter Gabriel lineup for the past 30 years. They didn’t get it when the group was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010. Gabriel was in rehearsals for an upcoming symphonic tour in England and didn’t make the trip overseas. The rest of the band went and watched Phish perform “Watcher of the Skies” and “No Reply at All.”

Bjorn Ulvaeus and Agnetha Fältskog, 2010
ABBA have reportedly turned down a billion-dollar offer for a reunion tour, so it was no surprise that they didn’t all show up to their Hall of Fame induction. Agnetha Fältskog rarely leaves her native Stockholm, and Bjorn Ulvaeus has dealt with health issues in recent years. The Bee Gees inducted ABBA into the Hall of Fame, and Benny Anderson performed “The Winner Takes It All” with Faith Hill. 

Tony Hicks and Bobby Elliott, 2010
The classic lineup of the Hollies hasn’t toured in decades, but original members Tony Hicks and Bobby Elliott have carried on the band’s name with new members. They had a gig in Europe at the same time as their 2010 HOF induction and opted not to cancel. Founding members Graham Nash and Allan Clarke played a few Hollies classics with Paul Shaffer and his band, and latter members Terry Sylvester burst onto the stage uninvited to join them on “Long Cool Woman.” 

Adam Yauch, 2012
The Beastie Boys’ induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame came at a very sad time for the band. Three years earlier, they abruptly cancelled their tour when Adam Yauch was diagnosed with cancer, and when the ceremony came up, he was in no condition to travel or appear in public. Mike Diamond and Adam Horowitz read a note he wrote from the podium. Travie McCoy, Kid Rock and Black Thought then played a set of Beastie Boys classics backed by the Roots. Yauch passed away just one month later.

Axl Rose, Dizzy Reed, 2012
The build-up to Guns N’ Roses’ induction was long and tortured, and in the end, Axl Rose opted to stay home. “I strongly request that I not be inducted in absentia and please know that no one is authorized nor may anyone be permitted to accept any induction for me or speak on my behalf,” he wrote days before the ceremony. “Neither former members, label representatives nor the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame should imply whether directly, indirectly or by omission that I am included in any purported induction of ‘Guns N’ Roses.'” Keyboardist Dizzy Reed hasn’t lasted this long in Guns N’ Roses by ignoring Rose’s wishes, so he also stayed home. 

John Frusciante, 2012
The Red Hot Chili Peppers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with new guitarist Josh Klinghoffer and former drummers Jack Irons and Cliff Martinez. The past and present members came together for a scorching set of classics, but guitarist John Frusciante was nowhere to be seen. He’s avoided the limelight ever since quitting the band in 2009 and has kept a very low profile ever since. The group said they would have been happy to play with him had he come, but that simply wasn’t in the cards.

Rod Stewart, 2012
Rod Stewart has horrible luck when it comes to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He missed his solo induction in 1994 because of the Los Angeles earthquake, and 18 years later, he was all set to show up for the Faces reunion when he was stricken with a nasty case of strep and told he couldn’t travel, let along sing. He sent along the bass player from his solo band, and the group hastily flew in Simply Red’s Mick Hucknall — who had been touring with them in recent years — to fill in. Keyboardist Ian McLagan died two years later, though the remaining three members did come together for a charity show in late 2015.

Linda Ronstadt, 2014
Had Linda Ronstadt been in good health she almost certainly would have attended her induction into the Hall of Fame, but she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2013 and announced her retirement from performing. The disease has left her unable to sing and she’s been rarely seen in public since she went public with it. “Linda lives in a place where art trumps commerce, where self-exploration trumps self-exploitation, where hard work and integrity trump fame and failure,” he said. “She never wanted to be a star, she just wanted to make good music.”

Peter Cetera, 2016
Chicago fans hoped that the group’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016 would finally reunite them with former singer/bassist Peter Cetera, but negotiations fell apart when he insisted that the group drastically lower they key of “25 or 6 to 4” to accommodate his deeper voice. “It’s not like a half step either way,” Chicago’s Robert Lamm said backstage. “He wanted to drop it down from A to E. So it’s a big jump. [Drops voice] That’s down here. And normally, if it’s just a four-piece band you can do it, but with horns, you got to transfer those… It’s not something that we wanted to do for a one-off.” Cetera ultimately didn’t even show up to the ceremony. 

Ritchie Blackmore/Rod Evans, 2016
Deep Purple fans waited for many years to see the group inducted into the Hall of Fame, and when it finally happened in 2016 they were very hopeful it could lead to a reunion with estranged guitarist Ritchie Blackmore. He hadn’t played with the metal gods since a 1993 reunion tour turned sour, but it turns out the band was completely unwilling to let him back onto their stage for even a single night. Singer Ian Gillan was so upset that the current keyboardist and guitarist didn’t get inducted that it briefly seemed like he might not even show up. “The induction is not – in clear fact – for Deep Purple,” he said shortly after it was announced. “It is an arbitrary selection of past members, which excludes Steve Morse and Don Airey; both of whom have been with the living breathing [Deep Purple] for a very long time.” In the end, he did come and play with the current lineup. Probably not wanting to sit in the audience and watched his old band play “Smoke on the Water” without him, Blackmore stayed home. Original singer Rod Evans was also inducted, but he hasn’t been seen in decades and also was a no-show. 

Bev Bevan/Richard Tandy, 2017
A small army of musicians have played with the Electric Light Orchestra over the past five decades, but the Hall of Fame only accepted four: frontman Jeff Lynne, co-founder Roy Wood, drummer Bev Bevan and keyboardist Richard Tandy. When the big night came, only Lynne and Wood walked up to the podium. Tandy is still in the touring lineup, but he was battling a health problem and couldn’t travel overseas. Bev and Lynne haven’t really spoken in 30 year, so it was no surprise that he also stayed home. 


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