Otis Rush Wins Muddy Award
Mon Jan 10 18:55:44 EST 2000
Blues Beat Magazine
By Rich Schneider
Here they are once again, The 1999 Muddy Awards, presented by Blues Beat
Magazine. You know of course, that the awards are named in honor of the
greatest bluesman of all time, Muddy Waters. These selections are not
intended to be simply a "best" listing, but rather an opportunity to honor
some artists who have distinguished themselves in 1999. As usual, there are
a few new categories, while some have been deleted. Two noteworthy additions
are awards honoring a bassist and drummer. These guys are the backbone of
any band and seldom get the recognition they deserve. Besides, Muddy was
very fussy about his rhythm section, and they included many of the legends of
For the uninitiated, I might explain that there was no balloting or
committees involved in the selection process. Each of the awards was decided
by the editor (That's me!). Once again, we will dispense with the awards
ceremony, sparing our victors the warmed over buffet and boring thank you
speeches. Each of the winners will receive their prized certificate, as well
as our sincere congratulations at an appropriate moment.
A drum roll, Keith, if you please!
National Artist of the Year: Otis Rush
Consistent with his past, 1999 presented its up and downs in the career of Oti
s Rush. It was certainly distinguished with many high moments, including a
long deserved Grammy, an exceptional album, and a string of spectacular live
performances. The incredible combination of his vocal and guitar brilliance
may never be equaled. Although some familiar demons again plagued him, we're
proud to honor one of greatest living Blues artists.
Local Artist of the Year: Barbara St. Clair
While enjoying the performance of a new vocalist recently, I said to myself,
She sounds almost as good as Barbara St. Clair! At that moment I realized
that Barbara had become my standard for female vocalists. And she is. A
recent News article dubbed her a Diva. I would take issue with that term.
To me, a Diva is someone who demands attention and deference from others in
order to feed their ego. Down to earth Barbara would tolerate none of that.
She is a talented Lady who exemplifies class and elegance.
Most Promising New Talent: Chris Beard
What a year for the Prince! Appearances at the Chicago and Pocanos
Festivals, a Handy nomination, and an album recorded for an international
label. At last his unlimited potential is being realized and recognized.
Someday we'll say we knew him when.
Most Promising Local New Talent:Eric McConnell
Not since Tommy Z, has a young Blues guitarist caused such excitement.
Blazing speed, masterful licks and an creative streak are all in the package.
He's still got a ways to go, but the future certainly looks promising for
the Project R&B star.
Label of the Year: Music Makers
This tiny North Carolina label produced two of my favorite albums of '99 by
Etta Baker and Algia May Hinton, as well as important issues by Neal Pattman,
Guitar Gabriel and Cootie Stark. All are artists who might very well never
have been recorded except for the vision of Tim Duffy. Best of all, the
label contributes to the well being of indigent Blues musicians and their
Performance of the Year: James Cotton
We were indeed fortunate once again to witness a bounty of memorable
performances. Shemika Copeland, Jimmie Lee Robinson, Roy Gaines, and Son
Seals at the Poconos, Johnny Laws, Johnnie Johnson, Taj Mahal, as well as
Joe and Chris Beard at the Chicago Festival, Otis Rush at Founders Hill,
Melvin Taylor and Sugar Blue at Rosa's, were all outstanding. However none
could quite match the emotional appeal of James Cotton's triumphant set at
the Chicago Festival, assisted by Mojo Buford. Although the voice we love
has been silenced, James' harp sang eloquently enough.
Local Performance of the Year: Rock Bottom
There were fewer national acts in town this year, but still plenty to enjoy.
Lil' Ed tore up the Tap Room (twice), Sleepy LeBeef wowed us at the Mohawk,
Clarence Spady, Eddie Kirkland, Larry Garner all put on sensational shows at
the Blues Room and Big Jack Johnson's final appearance at Debbie's has stayed
with me. But the night I (and I believe the audience) had the best time,
was a hot July night at the Blues Room when Rock Bottom came to town. He's a
master showman, as well as musician who never forgets that the audience is
there to be entertained. While his voice doesn't remind me of Julio
Inglaisias, I'll wager Julio can't blow harp or share Rock's edgy sense of
humor. I wonder if the folks in South Florida realize how fortunate they are
to have this remarkable artist around.
Band of the Year: Coupe de Villes
It's always a swift, smooth ride with the Coupes. With master vocalist Lex
Beyers behind the wheel, fueled by the fiery guitar licks of Tommy Bianchi
and potent piano of John Ciancola, propelled by the mighty rhythm section of C
hris DeFazio and George DeMott, the miles fly by. Three distinguished CD's
of original tunes that their fans know by heart, a national radio
performance, and a slew of openers for everyone from B. B. King to Irma
Thomas, sets them in the pole position. The Coupe de Villes provide the
model of talent and professionalism for any regional band.
National Festival Promoter: Michael Cloeran
Not only has he made the Pocanos Festival one of the finest in the world, but
he's done so with exceptional sensitivity, carefully choosing artists based
on their talents, rather than their reputations. That requires considerable
homework and a devotion to excellence often lacking in the business. Equally
rare, but welcome is the respect and consideration he exhibits towards
musicians and, come to think of it, everyone he meets.
In Muddy We Trust!
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