Monday, March 11, 2002

Cammys show pays tribute to a city and its musical heritage

By Jim Knippenberg and Chris Varias
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The best musicians in Cincinnati played for each other, honored each other, complimented each other and exchanged hugs at the sixth annual Cammy Awards Sunday at Jillian's.

        Set in the club's banquet room under an array of colored lights that cast pastel shadows over the room, the lively mix of music and awards honors the achievements of local musicians.

  Listen to a selection of this year's nominated artists:
  Chris Collier: Galaxie 500
  Kathy Wade: Spice of Life
  Buckra: Trophey
  Messerly & Ewing: Drive
  Tonefarmer: Save the Day
  Sonny Moorman: Souled Out
  Freekbass: Baby Baby
  Prizoner: Voodoo
  Pike 27: Wrecking Yard
  Ryan Adcock Band: Spain
  Kelly Richey: Nothin to Do With Love
  Saving Ray: Different Angle
  Clabbergirl: Whites
  The Stapletons: Down the Line   List of Cammy winners
        But it doesn't feel local. As music fan Ronn Rucker said, “Really, you'd think this was a national show, we have so much amazing talent. I'd say there are definitely some Cincinnati musicians about to become national figures.”

        “There really are some great artists here,” agreed Jim Engelhardt, grandson of Syd Nathan, there as part of the Lifetime Achievement Award honoring Mr. Nathan's King Records.

        The Cammys were founded in 1997 to honor the memory of musician Michael Bany, who was murdered in 1995 in a robbery attempt after a performance at an Over-the-Rhine club. Today, they raise funds for deserving music students.

        Mr. Bany would approve, one musician said. Noah Hunt, singer with the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band, said, “This gets better every year. The only drawback is Michael Bany isn't here. Because no one would enjoy it more than him. That's the only thing that makes me sad.”

        Cammy fan Dave Wall agreed: “I've been to every Cammy show so far. Mike was a close friend of (his wife) Betty and I. These Cammys, they're a great thing for the future of music in Cincinnati. And they extend Mike's memory.”

        Some rock 'n' roll heavy hitters turned out for the event.

        Guitar legend Lonnie Mack did a solo set on acoustic guitar toward the end of the night, then was joined by the Warsaw Falcons for some high powered rock 'n' roll.

        Mr. Mack was also generous in his praise for drummer Philip Paul, one of the early King Records musicians being honored: “What a great thing, what a great honor. It's about time. He's the Cincinnati drummer. Without him, there would be no us.” Mr. Paul's wife, Juanita, was equally generous about her husband: “I think it's wonderful. He deserves it. He's worked really hard and he had to to play on 350 records.”

        Terry Stewart, president and CEO of the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland was also there. And impressed: “Cincinnati should be very proud of this event. It's first class. Lonnie Mack is the first record I bought. The record's called The Wham of That Memphis Man. It was on Fraternity, which was a King records imprint.”

        The quality Mr. Nathan brought to Cincinnati's early music scene lingers today. At least according to several of the musicians, including Premium, the youngest band to play.

        Dressed in khaki cargo shorts and white shirts, Premium is four St. Xavier High School students and one Mariemont High School student, invited to play after winning Bogart's High School Band Challenge.

        “We're here because we won that,” said lead singer Matt Hagerty. “But those guys out there, they're the big deal. They really deserve to be here.

        “I don't want to jump the gun, but yeah, I think we got a shot at being one of them next year.”

        Ryan Adcock of the Ryan Adcock Band, accepted his award — barefoot because that's how he performs, and never mind the cold concrete floor — for Best Alternative-Rock Band and threw out more praise: “We played 200 gigs in 23 cities last year and saw a lot of music scenes.

        “We forget what we have here on the local scene. A lot of cities don't have anything that even comes close.”

        Mr. Adcock wasn't the only one to hand out praise. Keyboardist Steve Schmidt, winner of six Cammys for solo work and five for work with other bands, was asked how he felt losing the Best Jazz Instrumentalist award to the late Cal Collins: “Cal's been such a big part of the city for so long. He's taught us so much. I was lucky to be nominated with him. I was happy he won. I just wish he was here.”

        Even out-of-towners heaped on praise. Bernie Worrell, the legendary P-Funk keyboard player and veteran of David Letterman's late night band, was in from New Jersey. “I think it's one of the best things that could happen to Cincinnati with all of the racial crap that's happening now. It can help bring people together.”

        Mr. Worrell was there with Cammy winner and Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Famer Bootsy Collins, a show-stopper in his long gold great coat, gold pants and red turban-like affair on his head.

        That drew some attention from the stage. Dallas Moore, accepting his 10th Cammy, pointed and said, “I'd like to say what's up to Bootsy Collins. Because he's the only (person) here tonight that's got a cooler hat than me.”to thank m

        Mr. Collins appreciated the attention. Pointing at Mr. Moore, “That cat, man he's just a bomb cat, man. That's him just showing his humble side.”

        Chris Collier, Best Folk/Bluegrass Vocalist, was also showing her humble side: “I guess the third time's the charm. I'm honored just to be in this company,” she said. (She was a non-winner the first two years she was nominated.)

        Mr. Moore echoed that: “You know, we've won a lot, and we've lost a lot. It doesn't matter. It's an honor just to be included.”

        For sheer exuberance, you couldn't beat Eugene Goss accepting his Best Jazz Vocalist award: “I will be truly inspired by this award, so when you come out to see me, put on your seatbelts because Vrooooom. We got places to go.”

List of Cammy winners

- Cammys show pays tribute to a city and its musical heritage
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