MILWAUKEE – The Wisconsin Area Music Industry (WAMI) is thrilled to announce its 2023 Hall of Fame class, which will be inducted as part of the 41st WAMI Awards Show on May 21 at Milwaukee’s Turner Hall Ballroom.
A signature celebration of Wisconsin music, the WAMIs will feature live performances and award presentations honoring achievements in a variety of categories as voted upon by our members.
The WAMI Hall of Fame recognizes the excellence and influence of top Wisconsin performers at home, across the country and around the world. This year’s slate of honorees reflect Wisconsin’s significant impact in the music industry across generations. In 2023, we celebrate the contributions of Hildegarde, Bobby Hatfield, Greg Koch and Willy Porter.
Says WAMI President Jason Klagstad, “Our Board of Directors is extremely proud to contribute to WAMI’s unbroken tradition of honoring state musical excellence and legacy and warmly welcomes this year’s new inductees. To see more of the rich Wisconsin history of WAMI’s Hall of Fame, check out their new webpage dedicated to Wisconsin state musical greats who have gone before us: WAMI Hall of Fame.”
About the WAMI 2023 Hall of Fame Class
Hildegarde: Born in Adell and raised in New Holstein, Hildegarde Loretta Sell became a cabaret sensation who went onto global stardom.
She was the first among single-name performers and was well known for the song “Darling, Je Vous Aime Beaucoup.” Nicknamed “the first lady of the supper clubs” by Eleanor Roosevelt, Hildegarde appeared on the cover of Life in 1939. Revlon introduced a Hildegarde shade of lipstick and nail polish.
She was an inspiration to another WAMI Hall of Famer – the one-and-only Liberace once acknowledged her influence on his performances. Hildegarde passed away in 2005 at age 99.
Bobby Hatfield: Born in Beaver Dam, Hatfield earned stardom as part of the legendary duo, The Righteous Brothers.
Alongside singing partner Bill Medley, The Righteous Brothers earned their first No. 1 was “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” produced by Phil Spector in 1964. Follow-up hits included “Unchained Melody,” a Hatfield solo performance that hit No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1965.
It returned to the charts in 1990 when used in the blockbuster film, “Ghost.” The Righteous Brothers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003. “Rolling Stone” ranked them 16th among their top 20 duos of all time. Hatfield passed away in 2003 at age 63.
Greg Koch: A native of the Milwaukee area, Koch has earned wide acclaim for his mastery of the guitar that continues today. Koch’s style, which he’s dubbed “gristle,” is all his own. He first drew attention upon his first place win in the 1989 Bluesbreaker Guitar Showdown judged by blues legend Buddy Guy.
Plenty more have since taken notice. Koch was invited to play for Les Paul’s 100th birthday and has drawn praise from virtuosos including Joe Bonamassa and Steve Vai. In 2012, Fender named Koch one of its top 10 unsung guitarists.
He’s also played a major role in educating the next generation of guitarists as author of many books for music publisher Hal Leonard.
Willy Porter: A native of Mequon, Porter is a tireless performer whose work is beloved in Wisconsin and known across the country.
Porter’s professional career began in 1990 with his album “The Trees Have Soul” with Paul Perrone. In 1994, Porter released the album, “Dog-Eared Dream,” which led to the Willy Porter Band touring as an opening act for artists including Tori Amos, Rickie Lee Jones, and The Cranberries.
He signed with BMG/Private Music in 1995 and with Six Degrees Records in 1999. During that time, he toured with Sting, Paul Simon, and Jeff Beck. In 2005, he formed his own imprint, Weasel Records, with his manager Chris Webb.
The Wisconsin Area Music Industry (WAMI) is a volunteer organization whose purpose is to educate and recognize the achievements and accomplishments of individuals in the Wisconsin music industry. In addition, we endeavor to provide annual scholarships to students and/or emerging artists in the Wisconsin community; promote the Wisconsin music scene; and showcase an awards ceremony annually.