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Long Islanders get Blues Hall of Fame nod

Inductee Donny Celenza, left, and Michael Packer, an

Inductee Donny Celenza, left, and Michael Packer, an ambassador with the Blues Hall of Fame, perform during the Blues Hall of Fame's inaugural Long Island induction ceremony at Hub Billiard Club in Island Park. (June 10, 2012) Credit: Ursula Moore

Blues guitarist and songwriter Howie Haber, 55, of Island Park was in a state of disbelief when he first learned that he was being inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.

“After the disbelief, I felt joy and then I felt extremely proud. It means a lot to be to be inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame because it means that my peers enjoy my music,” Haber said.

Haber was one of the 10 Long Islanders, along with guitarist Chaz Depaolo of New Jersey, being inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame, which held its first Long Island induction and celebration concert at the Hub Billiards Club of Island Park on Sunday.

The event raised $1,400, with proceeds going toward the Barrier Beach Blues and Arts Festival and the Blues Hall of Fame Long Island. The Blues Hall of Fame is an international organization of blues artists and contributors to the genre, which since 1999 has inducted members representing various U.S. cities.

The inductees also included guitarist Donny Celenza; keyboardist and songwriter Tommy Keys; vocalist and songwriter Sweet Suzi Smith; vocalist and songwriter Pamela Betti; harmonica player “Killer” Joe Ferrara; WRCN radio “Graveyard Blues” host Jerry Schaefer; photographer Rich Balter; Johanna Mathieson-Ellmer, director of the Long Beach-based Artists in Partnership, a nonprofit which promotes several forms of arts on Long Island and founder of the Barrier Beach Blues and Arts Festival; and guitarist and songwriter Lou Carrollo, 54, of Island Park.

As musicians jammed on stage, an enthusiastic crowd cheered and danced.

According to Carrollo, 54, of Island Park, it doesn’t get better than this honor.

“This is mind-blowing. I have been playing in the band Breakaway with Howie Haber since 1982 and this is a great acknowledgment after playing all these years,” said Carrollo.

Betti, 46, of Commack agreed.

“This is a humbling experience because it means I am being recognized with the greats like BB King and Etta James,” she said..

Mathieson-Ellmer is a former singer for a heavy metal band, but a big fan of the blues.

“I love the simplicity of the blues, she said. “The blues tell stories and for me, it’s something that needs to be preserved.”

Smith, 39, of Lindenhurst, hopes having the Blues Hall of Fame induction in Long Island brings an awareness and fondness for the genre.

“I am so happy the blues is being recognized on Long Island,” she said. “I fell in love with the blues and I hope others do too.”

For more information, visit www.aip-arts.org.

Above: Inductee Don Celenza, left, and Michael Packer, an ambassador with the Blues Hall of Fame, perform during the Blues Hall of Fame's inaugural Long Island induction ceremony at Hub Billiard Club in Island Park. (June 10, 2012)

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