Milwaukee, Wisconsin 2021-09-16 10:47:17 –
Celebrating 40 years, The Wisconsin Area Music Industry (WAMI) will bring the state’s music community back together during its 40th Awards Show. This year’s show will take place Sunday, Oct. 17, at Turner Hall Ballroom. Doors open at 6 p.m., with the WAMI Awards Show beginning at 7 p.m.
A party celebrating the nominees on Sunday, Sept. 19 at 7 p.m. at The Saloon on Calhoun will feature live music from Ben Mulwana, The Keystones and Big Spoon. The party is free and open to the public.
The Wisconsin Area Music Industry is a volunteer organization dedicated to educating and recognizing the achievements and accomplishments of individuals in the Wisconsin music industry.
The group also provides opportunities for youth to perform in an annual Youth Music Showcase, while encouraging students and emerging artists by awarding scholarships to assist with their music education.
2021 Hall of Fame Inductees
Semi-Twang formed in the mid ‘80s and quickly gained the music industry’s attention with a country-tinged, roots rock sound that would only later be described as Americana. The band, led by John Sieger, signed with Warner Bros. Records and released their debut album, Salty Tears, to critical acclaim in 1988. After a considerable break, Shank Hall owner Peter Jest asked the band to do a reunion show in 2009 for the venue’s 20th anniversary, and they discovered they still enjoyed playing together. Semi-Twang released their second album, Wages of Sin, in 2011. They’ve since released two more albums, with their latest, Kenosha arriving in 2018.
At 107, drummer Viola Smith was likely the oldest, still playing professional musician before passing away in 2020. Though Smith enters the WAMI Hall of Fame for contributions to music that go far deeper than her incredible longevity.
Smith, who grew up in Mount Calvary, was among the country’s first professional female drummers and paved a path for women behind her. In the 1920s and 1930s, Smith played in the Schmitz Sisters Family Orchestra founded by her father. She gained notoriety as the “world’s fastest girl drummer.”
Viola played with the NBC Symphony Orchestra. She performed with Ella Fitzgerald and Chick Webb. She also performed at President Harry Truman’s inauguration in 1949.
Viola played “The Ed Sullivan Show” five times and was the onstage drummer for the original 1960s Broadway production of Cabaret.
Interestingly, an accomplished and familiar voice from the world of Southern rock hails from the Dairyland. Kevn Kinney, a native of Milwaukee, developed here as a performer before moving to Atlanta in 1985. He went on to become a founding member of Drivin N Cryin.
Drivin N Cryin is already part of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. Their front man will now be inducted into the WAMI Hall of Fame. The band quickly became a favorite in Atlanta’s club scene and later drew faithful audiences as a touring act. Their first commercially successful album, 1991’s Fly Me Courageous, received gold certification.
The songwriter, vocalist and guitarist formed the Americana and roots rock project, Sun Tangled Angel Revival, in 2002. He released an album with the Golden Palominos in 2011.
Milwaukee’s Esquires represent an important chapter within the city’s strong R&B history. The Esquires formed in 1957 and was originally made up of siblings Gilbert, Alvis and Betty Moorer. They went through some line-up changes by the time they broke out of Milwaukee and left their mark on a national audience. They signed with Bunky Records and their 1967 debut
record, “Get on Up,” climbed the charts. The single reached number 3 on the R&B charts and number 11 on the pop chart. Upon its popularity, they played Chicago’s Regal Theater and the Apollo Theatre in New York City. The Esquires released subsequent singles and one full-length album. Their 1971 single, “Girls in the City,” reached 18 on the U.S. R&B chart.
WAMI’s newly created Wall of Honor recognizes the excellence of musicians more broadly known as entertainers. It also recognizes the organizations and people who often work behind the scenes to enrich Wisconsin through music.
Wall of Honor
The 2021 inductees to the WAMI Wall Of Honor is an impressive cast.
There are few musicians woven into the community fabric of Milwaukee and Southeastern Wisconsin as extensively as Eddie Butts. Most everyone has seen the Eddie Butts Band and they’ve become synonymous with celebration in the region whether it’s the wedding reception, community festival or a day at Summerfest or the Wisconsin State Fair.
The drummer and vocalist established his band in 1974. They’ve sustained an audience over more than four decades with skilled musicianship and a blend of R&B, pop and jazz.
A perennial favorite, Butts has received several WAMI Awards through the years in categories including adult contemporary artist, R&B artist, pop artist, blues artist and percussionist.
The national acclaim gathered by Milwaukee’s Summerfest is a testament to its leadership’s dedication, knowledge and love of music. No one has demonstrated those traits quite like Vic Thomas, who serves as associate entertainment director for the festival. Thomas, a Milwaukee native, worked his first Summerfest on the grounds crew in 1974. It was right after he graduated high school as a means to earn money for college. Through college and a stint in the Air Force, he returned home for Summerfest and took on roles including hospitality
and security. Since 1986, Thomas’ role has included booking acts, negotiating contracts and coordinating entertainment staff. During the festival, he’s ever present on the grounds from open to close, managing entertainment from street performers to the main stages. Thomas has shown his love of music beyond the festival. He’s a former WAMI president and continues to serve as a member of its advisory committee.
She has one of the few voices that most anyone in Milwaukee would recognize. Marilynn Mee, who most recently served as the midday personality on 96.5 WKLH, has served up the rock and kept listeners company via the airwaves in Milwaukee for more than 30 years. Mee previously spent 18 years with the former Lazer 103, having joined the station at its inception. Her roles there included midday host and musical director. She was part of the Bob and Brian morning program.
Off the air, Mee is well known for her animal advocacy, having lent her name and time to humane societies and animal rescue groups. She’s the founder of MPD K9 Foundation. She’s known for her love of music and serves as proof that listeners tune into local radio for more than their favorite songs. She has also earned national recognition from the likes of Billboard magazine and Radio & Records.
If you’re from the Fox Valley and love live music, it’s more than likely came across the late Gary Shaw. Shaw learned he would receive a place on the Wall of Honor before he passed away in 2020. If you’re a guitarist in the Fox Valley, chances are you’ve got some support and made some purchases from him. Shaw had long been regarded as a brilliant guitarist and was a regular player in the region for decades. He was most recently nominated for a WAMI in the guitarist category in 2018.
But for all Shaw accomplished with the instrument, he’s just as much known for the assistance he gave others along their musical paths. Shaw was manager of Henri’s Music of Appleton from 1977 through its closure in 2010.
Through Shaw’s efforts, Henri’s was a major contributor to a growing Fox Valley music scene. As other stores focused on pianos and band instruments, Shaw set Henri’s apart as the region’s rock and roll store and it became a gathering point for players. Shaw, meanwhile, was tireless in meeting the needs of working musicians. He later went to work for Island Music in Neenah.
Madison Area Music Association
The nonprofit organization Madison Area Music Association has honored and supported Madison area artists for nearly two decades while simultaneously planting the seeds for the next generation.
The Madison Area Music Association began in 2003 as the Madison Area Music Awards. It was founded by Rick Tvedt as a means of acknowledging the extensive music talent in the Madison scene. Their first Grammy-style awards show was held on March 28, 2004, and the Orpheum Theater and has continued annually.
In following years, the MAMAs grew into an active nonprofit with a mission that extended to putting musical instruments into the hands of children. They’ve donated more than $75,000 in funds and gear to Madison Area music programs. Their goal is a future in which any child will have the chance to play music regardless of race, sex or economic background.
The organization has sought to support musicians in ways beyond recognition of their art. Its MAMA Cares program has raised and donated more than $20,000 to musicians and their families during time of medical need.
Tickets for the awards show are on sale now and available at https://www.pabsttheater.org/
2021 WAMI Award Nominees
Artist of the Year:
Unity The Band
Rose of The West
Them Coulee Boys
Chicken Wire Empire
Album of the Year:
Black Belt Theatre, Power Petting
Stulo – Thiel, Ghosts Around Here
Chicken Wire Empire, What Moves Mountains
Goran, Under a Nashville Sky
Testa Rosa, Testa Rosa IV
Wisconsin Vinyl Collective, Volume Three
Kurt Gunn, Northern Town
Song of the Year:
The Keystones, “2010”
Bascom Hill, “Our Love Burning”
Nickel & Rose, “Another Man’”
Betsy Ade & the Well-Known Strangers, “Light Up My Summer”
Zach Pietrini, “Like the Pain”
Zed Kenzo, “Not Froze Yet”
Krestfall, “Where Do I Belong?”
Rose of the West, “Loves Lies Bleeding”
New Artist of the Year:
The Last Bees
Ben Harold and The Rising
The Midnight Purchase
Laura Jean Bomber
Male Vocalist of the Year:
Female Vocalist of the Year:
Sammy Ray Marshall
Singer/Songwriter of the Year:
Rising Star of the Year:
Alternative Rock/Rock Artist:
Jamie Fontaine & The Level
Marielle Allschwang & The Visitations
Chicken Wire Empire
Them Coulee Boys
Feed The Dog
The Mascot Theory
The Band Eden
Altered Five Blues Band
Reverend Raven and The Chain Smokin’
The Jay Stulo Band
Cash Box Kings
Gregg Hall & The Wrecking Ball
Face For Radio
Five Card Studs
The Roving Scallywags
Derek Byrne & Paddygrass
Nickel & Rose
Hard Rock Artist:
The Homeland Conspiracy
Black Belt Theatre
Leading The Blind
These Fading Visions
Lords of The Trident
The First Rule
Mark Thierfelder & Janet O’Mahony
The Meade Street Collective
The November Criminals
Ralph Thull The Goodtime Dutchmen
Pop Rock Artist:
Rose of The West
Laurel Sulfate & Her Ladies of Leisure
Hip Hop/Rap Artist:
Barbara Stephan Band
Charles Walker Band
Ms. Lotus Fankh
The Pocket Kings
Unity The Band
Something To Do
The Carlos Adames Group
In Black ‘n White
DJ King James
Horn/Big Band Artist:
Stephen Cooper and The Nobody Famous
Extra Crispy Brass Band
Hot & Dirty Brass Band
Cold Sweat & The Brew City Horns
FBI & The Untouchable Horns
Big Band Reunion
Mama Digdown’s Brass Band
The Prince Experience
The Salford Lads Club
Aces High – A Tribute to Iron Maiden
The Glam Band
The Rush Tribute Project
Samuel P. McClain Jr.
Katie Del Giacco
Kevin Van Ess
Marisa Rose Sheppard
Ernest Brusubardis IV
Best Studio Engineer/Producer:
Best Recording Studio:
Howl Street Recordings
Steel Moon Recording Studio
The Exchange Recording Complex
Cherry Pit Studios
Best Live Club/Venue:
Short Branch Saloon
The Saloon on Calhoun
High Noon Saloon
Deja Vu Martini Lounge
Paulie’s Pub & Eatery
Anodyne Coffee Roasting Co,
Best Live Engineer Sound/Lights: