The 2011 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its 26th annual group of inductees tonight at New York City’s Waldorf Astoria. Alice Cooper will be inducted by recent touring partner Rob Zombie; Elton John will induct recent collaborator Leon Russell, Paul Simon will do the honors for Neil Diamond, and Neil Young will induct Tom Waits.

Doors drummer John Densmore will do the honors for Jac Holzman, who founded the band’s label Elektra; Bette Midler will induct “Wall Of Sound” legend Darlene Love; Dr. John will be inducted by John Legend; and Art Rupe, the founder of Specialty Records, will be inducted by Lloyd Price.

Actual Rock Hall inductees couldn’t believe that the Alice Cooper band wasn’t already within their ranks. “I mean, I think there were people that we’re in the Hall of Fame — this is, we’ve heard this from five or six people that said, ‘We already thought you were in!’ Y’know, it was almost like an oversight, people thought we were — I was surprised to hear Neil Diamond wasn’t in. When somebody said ‘Neil Diamond’s going in with you,’ I went, ‘What?'”

Alice went on to say that the importance of Alice Cooper to the theatrical side of ’70s rock can never — and should never — be undervalued or underestimated. “Y’know, you can’t ignore Alice. When you say ’70s, and you say (David) Bowie, and Elton (John), and you say. . . y’know, you can’t say KISS without saying Alice. That whole era of theatrical rock — you really can’t mention that era without mentioning Alice. I don’t know how you can keep pretending like we didn’t happen. I mean, we were like the beginning of all that! And on top of that, if we were just the beginning and didn’t — and weren’t successful, if would be different — but, I mean, we had 14 top 40 singles, we sold 50 million albums — very hard to ignore Alice.”

He went on to tell us that he’s proud that tonight the original Alice Cooper band will be on hand, reunited, firing on all cylinders and fully prepared to devastate the industry audience at the Waldorf. “We’re gonna get up there, the original band, we’re gonna do three or four songs,” he said. “And the original band’s playing really good; Neil (Smith), Dennis (Dunaway), and Mike (Bruce) are playing great — and we added Steve Hunter as the other guitar player now to take Glen (Buxton’s) place, so you’ve got one of the great American lead guitar players of all time up there — and it sounds really darn good!”

Highlights of the 2010 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame will air on Sunday, March 20 on the Fuse network.

Alice thanks his fans for his induction and listeners of his “Nights With Alice Cooper” radio show here:

The new Alice Cooper album “Welcome 2 My Nightmare” with be released The album features some other familiar faces from Cooper’s past. The original Nightmare tandem of Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner played on the album, while Vince Gill plays on a track called ‘Runaway Train’. And surviving Cooper band members Michael Bruce, Dennis Dunaway and Neal Smith reunited on the track ‘When Hell Comes Home’. “I was going to go in and say, ‘What I want this thing to have is this live, ’70s sound – but I didn’t have to say that. That’s just the way they play,” Cooper tells

Nightmare 2, meanwhile, will have plenty of similarities to its predecessor. “There are certain songs where we let some of the themes from (the original) ‘Nightmare’ slip in,” Cooper says. “All of a sudden you’ll hear the little piano part from ‘Steven’ or from ‘The Awakening.’ I wanted (the albums) to be married together. I think we even make reference to a couple of characters from the original (album).”

Cooper is planning a full-fledged Nightmare 2 show for 2012.

John Soeder from Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer chatted with Cooper recently and talked about his illustrious career:

Cooper on the early days: ““The original band did all the groundbreaking work. We were the ones who started in a garage, brought theater to rock ’n’ roll and paid the price for it. I mean, people hated us. Not just the press. Other rock ’n’ roll fans hated us. They didn’t like the idea of where we were taking the future of rock.”

Cooper on the late Glen Buxton: “Buxton was a total original. He wrote the riff on ‘School’s Out,’ one of the most memorable riffs of all time. And he had his moments of being an absolutely brilliant guitar player. Nobody played liked him. . . . Glen was the heart and soul of the band.”

Cooper on their outrageous stage show overshadowing the music: “People said, ‘If you have to do theater, you’re not a very good band. It took a long time for our records to sink in. . . . Then Bob Dylan mentioned that I was one of his favorite lyricists. And John Lennon said that Elected was one of his favorite records. When people like that start talking about your records – not your theatrics, but your songs – then all of a sudden other people go, ‘Oh, OK!’”