(left to right) Sherri Thompson-Glover; Helen Ruth Collins; Mayor Pat McCabe, Jean Lacefield, Lance Spicer

An undersung mensch of early rock ‘n’ roll garnered some recognition in his birthplace of Hot Springs today, on what would have been his 100th birthday. Henry Glover, the genre-busting songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and A&R man who produced hits for for James Brown, Levon Helm, Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughan and Grandpa Jones was honored with a plaque on the Hot Springs Walk of Fame, which lines Central Avenue near the national park’s visitors center. A “parklet” at 348 Malvern Ave. will also bear Glover’s namesake, and was dedicated today by Mayor Pat McCabe in a rainy but cheerful ceremony in front of the city’s “Black Broadway” mural, created by Pepe Gaka and Anthony Tidwell to pay homage to a bustling arts and retail district that once flourished along Malvern Ave.

Joining McCabe: Sherry Thompson-Glover, Henry Glover’s daughter; Helen Ruth Collins, Glover’s niece; Jean Lacefield of Hot Springs’ Gateway Community Association, Deputy City Manager Lance Spicer; District 1 City Director Erin Holliday; and “Arkansongs” radio show host and author Stephen Koch. Audio from poet and civic leader Elmer Beard detailed Glover’s impact on the recording industry and his ability to sell a song across genres — “Finger Poppin’ Time,” for example, which was fashioned in different styles to be sold on both the R&B charts and the country charts.

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Glover’s finesse crossed genre, but also boundaries of class, race and access. In a time when nearly every recording executive of import was white, Glover rose through the ranks to become one of King Records’ foremost producers at its headquarters in Cincinnati, establishing a New York satellite of the label and producing rock staples like “The Twist” and “Fever.”

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McCabe, joking that Cincinnati “uses a different font than Hot Springs,” read two twin proclamations declaring May 21 “Henry Glover Day” — one from the city of Hot Springs and one from Cincinnati, Ohio, where Glover’s career as an executive blossomed. “We’re the birthplace, we can’t be outdone by the city of Cincinnati, can we?” The effort to honor Glover in the same neighborhood where his parents Pearl Ware-Glover and John Dixon Glover raised him, he said, was a partnership between several factions of city government, including the Hot Springs Cultural Alliance, and with Koch, who brought the idea to Alliance executive director Mary Zunick. “Everybody grabbed an oar,” McCabe said, “and if you’ll keep coming to us with these ideas, we’ll keep trying to see them through.” 

Koch, who is a contributor to the Arkansas Times and who discovered Glover during an interview with Levon Helm, said during his remarks: “Twenty-five years ago, Levon Helm told me about his mentor Henry Glover, and mentioned that he thought the family might have some land set aside for a park, and now there is one. … Hot Springs is magic, but you guys knew that.” (In full disclosure, Koch is my partner.)