Friday, March 07, 2008


Once again the Washington Area Music Association manages to ignore some of those who made so much substantial contributions to blues and traditional R&B are passed over popularizers and imitators are the winners. Actually I am convinced that most who vote have not listened to most of the nominees. I do note that Bobby Parker, Memphis Gold, Jerome MacKall, The Hardway Connection, Lady Mary, and Lil Margie were not nominated in any category this year. When you look at the list of winners and realize that Bobby Parker and Jesse Yawn never won Wammies and look at some of the winners for Blues Vocalists over the years, well your eyes start to roll. I do make one correction (10/14/09). Bobby Parker did win a Wammie in 1994 for best duo/group.

What really gets to me is that the one area where recognition can be provided is the Hall of Fame, which the WAMA board can correct the oversights of the membership. Sonny Warner pased away this year and while it would have been too late to honor him when he could have appreciated it, it would have been wonderful to have seen him get the recognition he deserved from his hometown, especially since the WAMMIES were held a few blocks away from where he lived. It might have given me a reason to attend. Anyway this rant has a history to it so I think its time to make it public.

Last year I sent Mike Schreibman, WAMA's head the following email that vented my frustration over this.

I must confess I find the Wammies, especially as they relate to blues, hard to take seriously. The fact that two or the area's premiere blues artists like Bobby Parker and Jesse Yawn have never won an award says something about the voting membership and their lack of knowledge of blues. But the Hall of Fame is a WAMA Board selection than it represents an opportunity of the Board to recognize these talents that deserve proper recognition. You have had an opportunity to rectify this and show some appreciation to them. Sorry, Tommy Lepson is a fine blues-soul popularizer but he is no Bobby Parker. Another fellow that should have been inducted by WAMA long ago is Haywood 'Little Sonny' Warner, who lives within walking distance of the State Theatre and has been featured on cover stories in Real Blues Magazine and the British Blues & Rhythm. I ran into Sonny today when grocery shopping and found out he is undergoing chemotheraphy. The following is what I posted to two internet Blues Lists, which should indicate why he should have been honored a long time ago. Sonny is someone I had mentioned to you the last time I had seen you and I was surprised you had not been aware of him. {I have omited this material from this blog post}

Ron Weinstock

Mike's response was

Hi Ron
I've been concerned about your letter for sometime. It amazes me that you take no part in the process and do nothing to encourage others to take part. Yet, you judge our members and the Board so harshly. WAMA's membership is very strong in blues and there is probably
much overlap with the Blues Society membership.

I'll pass your email on to the Board. But, this is something that should have happened before the Wammies The way to move people to your point of view is to get involved. If you think someone should be in the WAMA Hall of Fame and we're misguided, let us know. When it comes time to verify the nominations join in the process.

Bobby Parker has been proposed for Hall of Fame several times and it didn't work out. That doesn't mean his name won't come up again and be selected.

My guess is that the problem for Jesse Yawn is that he plays mostly in Baltimore and is not generally thought of as a Washington artist.

As for Tommy Lepson, we didn't give him a Hall of Fame award for being a blues singer. He received his award for his many contributions to the local music scene, as well as his great musical talent. Tommy has been in many bands playing many styles of music. Whenever there is a need to raise money for a cause or another musician, Tommy is always first to sign up. He is a treasure in a town of many treasures.

Thanks for writing, but there must be a better approach than belittling WAMA and its members.


I responded to Mike in part as follows: Mike What triggered my email to you was the Hall of Fame Awards and I did not intend it as a slap to Tommy Lepson (who at least some media suggested was inducted as a blues performer, but I am aware of his talents) but frustration over the fact that some of DC's musical treasures have been ignored especially since it is a Board chosen award. BTW, what is the problem with Sonny Warner being in the Hall of Fame?

Mike never responded to this.

This past summer after Sonny Warner's death I had passed on some material to a WAMA member who submitted it to the WAMA board and obviously they choose to ignore it. I sorta like Mike's comment regarding Jesse Yawn perhaps being thought of as a Baltimore artist. This year the WAMA board selected Francis Scott Key. What was his contributions to the Mid-Atlantic area music scene.

I also point out that everything Mike says about Tommy Lepson applies to Bobby Parker. Mike said "Whenever there is a need to raise money for a cause or another musician, Tommy is always first to sign up." Well, Bobby Parker is the same way, at least every time I have suggested him to those putting on a benefit. When we did a benefit for the first DC Blues Festival, Bobby gladly gave his time and more recently for the Society's Memphis Gold benefit, he was one of the first to sign on. I also point out there are so many musicians who are never asked that would be more than willing and add some variety to the benefits. As far as musical talent, no one in this town towers over Bobby. He also has influenced so many. Go ask Bobby Radcliffe, Chuck Brown, Carlos Santana and Stevie Winwood, as you can no longer ask John Lennon. I cannot see any objective reason Bobby has not been honored. Perhaps some board members have a personal vendetta against Bobby. I would hope not.

As for Sonny Warner, Mike never answered my query as to why he was not in the Hall of Fame. But go ask Wilbur Fletcher, Bobby Parker, Jackie Lee, Lamont Savoy as a start for his contributions or the musicians who turned out for a benefit for him.

Last year I went private with my feelings, this year after many years of being quiet I am making my feelings public.

Let the slings and arrows come flying.

One postscript.
A few names that also merit Hall of Fame consideration, Little Royal, Curtis Pope, TNT Tribble, Frank Motley, Lloyd Price, Bill Boskent.

No comments: