When the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced its nominees for the class of 2016, Tampa Bay music fans had reason to celebrate. One of their own was up for induction.
Scoring a nomination were iconic power-pop forebears Cheap Trick and singer Robin Zander, who has lived in Safety Harbor for more than 22 years. While the group has been eligible for the Hall since 2002, this was their first nomination.
"I think it was my wife who called me and told me" Zander said by phone this week. "I was in New York doing a show, and she called me and told me she heard."
That Cheap Trick received the news on the road is no surprise. Decades after scoring massive radio-rock hits like Dream Police, Surrender, The Flame and I Want You To Want Me — not to mention one of the best-selling live albums of all time, Cheap Trick at Budokan — the Rockford, Ill., quartet remains plenty busy months out of the year, playing numerous festivals, hopping on tours and headlining gigs like Friday's sold-out show at the Capitol Theatre in Clearwater.
Cheap Trick's passionate fan base understandably geeked out over news of the nomination. But what about Zander? That's what we wanted to know when we got him on the phone before his (almost) hometown gig.
Cheap Trick has been eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame since 2002. Was it ever something that was ever on your radar?
I gotta be honest about it: It wasn't, really. I didn't really think about it much. I thought I'd probably be dead before we were nominated. (laughs) But it is an honor and a privilege, and I really am flabbergasted. I'm very humbled by it. It's rare that anybody gets in the Hall of Fame, and to be nominated is good enough for me.
Whenever there was a poll online about artists that people thought should be in, Cheap Trick was always near the top.
Well, that's nice, because those artists that usually get in sell a lot more records than Cheap Trick does. But the thing is, I think we've always been, like, the fifth album in your stack. We've always been kind an underground band in a way that had the respect of our peers on the road. I like to say we're the world's most famous opening act because we've opened for every huge band on the planet. We do our own shows too, of course. But we've been around, and we've stayed around, and we go out and people still enjoy listening to us, and we still sell a lot of tickets, so what do I got to complain about? Nothing.
Next year, one of the biggest bands ever to fly the Cheap Trick flag is eligible: Smashing Pumpkins, your fellow Chicagoans. Do you think they stand a shot?
I hope so. I hope the best for anybody in this business. It's hard enough as it is, and of course you don't get much respect from anybody, but when you do, you should appreciate it.
If you do get inducted, is there a chance that original drummer Bun E. Carlos will play with you guys at the induction?
Oh, I'm sure he'll be there. He wouldn't miss that.
Contact Jay Cridlin at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8336. Follow @JayCridlin.