Tuesday, April 24, 2012

2012 Big Easy Music Awards

Marie Lovejoy, Big Easy Awards executive director, with Female Entertainer of the Year Meschiya Lake

The 24th annual Big Easy Music Awards ceremonies were held last night at Harrah's Casino amid much revelry and glitz and down home New Orleans flavor. Executive producer Margo Dubos and executive director Marie Lovejoy put together a showcase of some of New Orleans's biggest show business names and the music community came together to honor one another with a very diverse and talented line-up of stars.

Drummer Johnny Vidacovich ("Astral Project") took to the stage as the master of ceremonies for the evening as Honorary Music Chairman, arriving in a cloud of smoke and a drum set that afforded him the opportunity to emulate different styles of play. Later, he called his wife Debbie to the stage to "sing" the rules for eligibility to the tune of "Basin Street Blues" while he tapped out a beat with his drumsticks.

Top recognitions went to the Rebirth Brass Band, recent recipients of a Grammy Award for their Basin Street Records release "Rebirth of New Orleans." The Rebirth Brass Band won for the award as 2012 Entertainer of the Year, presented by their former member Kermit Ruffins as well as the Best Album of 2011 and the award for Best Contemporary Brass Band of 2011.

Jazz performer Meschiya Lake, also a presenter and last year's Female Entertainer of the Year recipient, repeated that award for 2011.

Trombone Shorty, absent from the ceremonies, won the Male Entertainer of the Year Award for 2011. New Orleans Jazz Fest executive director Quint Davis and jazz educator and performer Germaine Bazzle accepted the award on his behalf.

Irma Thomas presented the 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award to Walter "Wolfman" Washington, a former member of her band. Earlier, Washington was surprised by Mac Rabennack - Dr. John - who won the award for Best Rhythm and Blues 2011 and insisted on presenting it to him as a token of his appreciation.

The 2012 Ambasadors of New Orleans Award was presented to the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, who also picked up the award for Best Traditional Jazz of 2011.

Performances by Irma Thomas and the Professionals, Los Po-Boy-Citos with Blac Sol, the Stooges Brass Band, Gal Holiday and the Honky Tonk Revue and Big History were interspersed between awards. The final jam session in honor of Washington had Washington on guitar, Ivan Neville and Dr. John on keyboards, George Porter Jr. on electric bass and Vidacovich on drums.

Special recognition awards went to Dithyrambalia for "The Music Box," a performing space on Piety Street dedicated to musicians and to the Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living, who were given the 2012 Business Recognition Award by Margo and Clancy Dubos on behalf of The Foundation for Entertainment Development and Education, which funds the Big Easy Entertainment Awards for Theater, Music and Classical Arts.

The 2012 WWOZ Guardian of the Groove Awards were presented to volunteer Eric Ward and on-air personality Gene "Jivin' Gene" Mark for their longtime dedication to the radio station.

A special video tribute to the late executive director Gloria Powers was also seen by audience members, who remembered her dedication to making the awards shows bigger and better for the more than two decades she served. Powers died February 7 and a memorial service was held in her honor on February 17, her birthday.

Other awards presented were:
Best Gospel Choir 2011 - Tyrone Foster and the Arc Singers
Best Gospel Grop/Individual 2o11 - Trin-I-Tee 5:7
Best World 2011 - Debauche
Best Latin 2011 - Los Po-Boy-Citos
Best Mixed Bag 2011 - The New Orleans Bingo! Show
Best Roots Rock 2011 - Honey Island Swamp Band
Best Cajun 2011 - Lost Bayou Ramblers
Best Zydeco 2011 - Nathan Williams and the Zydeco Cha-Chas
Best Funk 2011 - Galactic
Best Blues 2011 - Tab Benoit
Best Traditional Brass Band - The Storyville Stompers
Best Rock 2011 - GIVERS
Best Hard Rock/Heavy Metal 2011 - Haarp
Best Contemporary Jazz 2011 - Helen Gillet
Best Rap/Hip Hop 2011 - Big Freedia
Best DJ/Electronica 2011 - Mannie Fresh
Best Country/Folk 2011 - Hurray for the Riff Raff
Best Emerging 2011 - Brass-A-Holics "Gogo Brass Funk" Band


Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Philadelphia Kid

Dick Clark (©Billboard.com)

As a child growing up in the Sixties, I was very much aware of the music coming over the local radio stations. New Orleans was a major breakout center for singles in the nation as was Baltimore at that time. But when it came to a national center for breaking out new artists, there was only one city that was mentioned with reverential tones that bordered on a rock and roll religion. That city was Philadelphia and if there was a prince of broadcasting there, it was Dick Clark. Clark, with his lean, good looks and easy demeanor was a natural for the camera lens and was beloved of most every boy and girl who turned on his "American Bandstand."

Through the years his fuzzy black and white image became sharper and more focused as color broadcasting was the norm. And the music changed with the times. The Doo Wop sound of the American streets became the mop top harmonies of the British invasion, eventually giving way to the psychedelic era of the Woodstock generation, the anti-war protests of the Vietnam War era and the me first generation of the Eighties. Through it all was Dick Clark, a man who changed with the times and changed the times through his constant search for new, pertinent music performers and styles. He made no distinction about race or ethnicity. If there was talent to be found and a worthy sound to be heard, he brokered those deals and received the gratitude of younger generations, who looked upon him as one of their own.

Eventually, his many productions became instrumental for a host of different TV and radio programming, his American Music Awards, Golden Globes and Rockin' New Year's Eve broadcasts ushering in year after year. Even after a debilitating stroke in 2004, Clark showed his capacity to be resilient and viable for millennial audiences. I remember working in college radio where Dick Clark Productions (DCP) provided weekly programs available on transcription discs. The programming was free of charge as long as embedded commercials - most of whom were from the U.S. Army - were broadcast. It was a stroke of genius. Most college radio stations were not looking for recruitment ads, but they were hungry for good, solid programming. DCP filled that bill and the only requirement was that the shows be aired during prime time.

It is incredible to think that the man who helped introduce America to Bill Haley and the Comets, Roy Orbison, Dion and the Belmonts, Chubby Checker, the Supremes, the Temptations, and the Jackson Five was the same man who gave Madonna and Aerosmith some of their early breaks. In the end it was, as Clark himself admitted, all about the music. While dance shows have gone the way of the 78 rpm disc and the record industry has undergone a paradigm shift, there is still an abundance of music to be had, much of it still waiting for a visionary like Dick Clark to introduce it to contemporary audiences. Yet, there is a sadness, an acknowledgment by most in the know, that there will never be another icon like Clark. The music business is so fractured and the popularity of music sharing and downloading services and websites so different from the way it was in the past that much of the only way musicians and singers can make money these days and achieve fame is through touring and merchandising. Back in the heyday of the record business, hundreds of performers made millions of dollars. Today the sad news is that millions of performers are making hundreds of dollars. Even a tireless producer like Dick Clark would not be up to the challenge of today's music scene. Rest in peace, Dick. Your legacy will live on as those whom you touched remember you as the broadcasting pioneer and music legend you were.