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GA Music Hall of Fame Awards



2011 Georgia Music Hall of Fame Awards

The 33rd Annual Georgia Music Hall of Fame Awards will take place in Atlanta on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011 at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. Individual seats are $75 – $100 and are available at HERE. Premium seating is also available and includes program advertising and VIP reception. For more information contact Friends of Georgia Music Festival at (404) 491-9494, ext. 15.

The 2011 class of inductees to be inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame include:

Toni Braxton

Performer Category

Toni Braxton was discovered by impresarios Antonio “L.A.” Reid and Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, who signed her as the first female on their Atlanta-based label, LaFace Records, in 1991. Two years later, with the debut of her self-titled album debut, Braxton began a meteoric rise as a multi-platinum artist with a decade of hit singles including “Another Sad Love Song,” “You’re Making Me High” and the chart-topping, R&B/adult contemporary staple, “Un-Break My Heart.” Throughout the 90s, she earned multiple Grammys and since then, has ventured into film, television (with an appearance on “Dancing with the Stars) and Broadway and headlined her own show in Las Vegas. Her latest studio album, Pulse, was released on Atlantic Records in 2010.

Mother’s Finest

Group Category

Mother’s Finest, like Sly and the Family Stone before it, is one of the earliest bands to have integrated deep funk, heavy guitar-oriented rock and soulful R&B. Founded in Ft. Lauderdale in the early 70s by singers Joyce “Baby Jean” Kennedy and Glenn Murdock, the group soon moved to Atlanta where the original lineup was anchored by guitarist Moses Mo, bassist Wyzard, drummer B.B. “Queen” Borden and keyboardist Mike Keck. Based on the strength of the first two albums for Epic Records, Mother’s Finest and Another Mother Further, the band toured relentlessly and as an opening act, stole shows from major rock headliners. Electrifying live performances and great albums aside, the group never enjoyed commercial radio play and struggled with being characterized as too black for rock radio and too rock for R&B radio. Undeterred, Mother’s Finest has continuing to record and tour for over three decades, bringing their loyal fan base in the States and in Europe their signature brand of no-holds-barred funk rock.

Kenny Leon

Non-Performer Category

One of the foremost African-American directors on Broadway, Kenny Leon first earned acclaim as director of Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre Company from 1988 until 2000, after which he founded the city’s True Colors Theatre Company. In 2010, his Broadway show, Fences, garnered 10 Tony nominations – the most ever for a play revival – and received the Tony award for Best Revival of a Play, Best Actor and Best Actress. In 2009 in London, he directed Flashdance: The Musical and he served as Stage Director on Alicia Keys’ “As I Am” world tour. He has produced many works including Disney and Elton John’s Elaborate Lives: The Legend of Aida and Pearl Cleage’s Flying West and Blues for an Alabama Sky and he staged the world premiere of  Toni Morrison’s opera, Margaret Garner, featuring mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves. Leon is a graduate of Clark Atlanta University, holds several honorary doctorates and has been the recipient of numerous prestigious awards.

Paul Cochran

Pioneer Category

As a young coach living in Clearwater, Florida, Paul Cochran began organizing dance shows for youth in the area, which led to him co-promoting a Stars Spectacular show with a local radio station featuring Dion and Bobby Vee. In 1961 and 62, he continued to promote shows with rock and roll artists including Del Shannon, Roy Orbison and others. He met Alabama promoter Buddy Buie and the pair eventually formed a company and combined the acts they managed including the Roemans, the Classics IV, The James Gang and The Webs. Later Cochran and Buie moved to Atlanta where they became involved in publishing with Bill Lowery. His work with Buie, Lowery and J.R. Cobb evolved into the formation of Studio One and later he worked with legendary Georgia producer and songwriter Chips Moman in his production and publishing companies.

Jan Smith

Chairman’s Award

She’s the guiding force behind some of the music industry’s most recognizable voices, including Justin Bieber, Usher, Rob Thomas, India Arie, Keri Hilson and many more. As a vocal coach and vocal producer, she has lent her expertise to over 4,000 artists in every genre for over 20 years and has repeatedly been recognized by her students and clients for passionately bringing out the best in them. She operates Jan Smith Studios in Atlanta and became the envy of teen girls worldwide when she appeared in Bieber’s documentary, Never Say Never, earlier this year. An Atlanta native who ardently supports her hometown, Smith is also a nationally recognized singer, songwriter, arranger and performer who has recorded albums both solo and with her various projects, including Jan Smith Band and the Eclectic Cowboys. Recently, she founded Plumbline Music Group with partners Andre Young and Jeffrey Wooten to offer a full spectrum of music industry ervices and with the publication of a book, Smith has added author to her incredible and ever-evolving list of accomplishments.

Posthumous Category

Judy Argo

She began singing in Atlanta clubs at just age 15 and by age 17 was fronting Little Phil and the Night Shadows, an R&B show band playing the Southern college circuit. For 30 years, Judy Argo continued to perform in Atlanta, singing jazz and even release three charting country singles, but years of depression, drug and alcohol abuse derailed her career until she found redemption and recognition in the 90s. In 1994, she recorded the album, True Love Ways, which featured musicians including Gerry Mulligan and Ray Brown and about which Rex Reed wrote, “We can all stop worrying about when and how the next great singer will come along to carry on the tradition of Billie, Ella, Bessie and Sarah, Judy Argo is here.” The following year, she debuted in London, where the Independent called her “an impeccably smooth, exquisitely phrased, bracingly professional, wee small hours jazz vocalist” and back in the States, the Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs named her the Best Female New York Debut Performer. by In 2004, Argo died in her sleep in Atlanta in 2004 just hours after visiting one of her favorite spots, Libby’s Cabaret.

Hall Johnson

Born in Athens to an A.M.E. minister in 1888, Hall Johnson taught himself to play violin as a boy, graduated with a music degree from the University of Pennsylvania and moved with his wife to New York City in 1914, where he joined Vernon and Irene Castle’s dance orchestra. He became interested in choral music, forming the Hall Johnson Negro Choir in 1935 and arranged music and conducted the choir in over 30 Hollywood films and in Broadway productions, including a folk opera he wrote, Run, Little Chillun, which premiered in 1933. As UGA’s John Haag noted in the New Georgia Encyclopedia, Johnson is recognized “as an American choral director, composer, arranger and violinist who dedicated his career to preserving the integrity of the Negro spiritual as it had been performed during the era of slavery.” He died in New York City in 1970.

Sonny Terry

Though many biographies say he was born in Greensboro, North Carolina, the fact is that legendary blues harmonica player Sonny Terry was born Saunders Terrell in Greensboro, Georgia in 1911 and moved to North Carolina with his family as a boy. He lost his sight at age 16 and unable to work on the farm, he began playing music to earn a living. In the mid-30s, he began playing and traveling with guitarist Blind Boy Fuller. Through Fuller, he met guitarist Brownie McGhee and when Fuller died in 1941, the pair moved together to New York City where they performed regularly, recorded numerous albums, both solo and together, and appeared on Broadway. They were embraced during the folk movement of the 50s and 60s and Terry added his distinctive harmonica style, known as whoopin’, to albums by Woodie Guthrie and Pete Seeger, among others. In his later years, Terry wrote an instructional book, recorded a Johnny Winter-produced album for the Alligator label and was slowing down when he died in Mineola, New York, in 1986, the same year he was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame.



Check with The Backstage Beat for exclusive coverage, interview and more! Let’s all support Georgia Music!

(information provided by Georgia Music Magazine)

Artists to Watch

Cry With Us! Puddles Pity Party in Orlando



Ange Alex

I owe him a poem:

Here’s a story of a sad clown who one night in February was traveling through O-town. 

He brought a suitcase and a lot of gum, he brought music and videos and tons of fun.

He sang high but mostly he sang low, and he put of one hell of a good show.

He gave a bearded guy a cupcake and danced with a lady, a wolf he would make

There is no doubt he is a boss sir, he even got love from Kevin Costner.

Fans filled the plaza for a night of delight as the 7 foot clown gave us some real insight.

He sang Bowie and Queen and even some Who, also Cash, Lorde and “Let it go” too

Videos played of pets and babies crying, also beautiful artwork and people smiling.

Last night Orlando was anything but mad as we showed much love for a clown that is sad.

Ok, I’d cry too after that poem. Here’s some more info:

If you haven’t been to see a Puddles Pity Party show, you are missing out. 

The show had me smiling and laughing so hard my stomach hurt, but I was also moved so many times by the range of Puddles voice. True entertainment never gets old and I have a feeling he is going to last forever.

I loved the interaction he had with the crowd. He pulled numerous people up to help him on stage and all of them were good sports, one man even singing the entire song, “All by myself” karaoke style! The show was so well thought out and planned but with room for some hilarious improv. Especially at the end when he pulled the 3 fans from the audience dressed like clowns. At the end of them performing together, Puddles suddenly remembers that he is scared of clowns! Genius! 

Hands down one of the best performances I’ve seen in years.


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Holiday Fun

Kingsized Holiday Fun! Big Mike is Back at the Variety Playhouse!



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Big Mike Geier and his Kingsized Rock ‘n Roll Orchestra, along with the Dames Aflame Dancers, Lil’ Santa and other special guests, bring tidings of comfort and joy with their signature glitz and glamour in what has become a tinsel-time tradition at the Variety Playhouse. The all-ages 90-minute show features your Holiday favorites by the likes of Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Andy Williams, Heat Miser, The Grinch and more!

Photo: Emily Butler

We caught up with Big Mike to ask a few questions.

TBB: Big Mike! It’s been a couple years since we had the pleasure of seeing you perform live. We are so excited to be back in Atlanta and we are ready for this show. What can you tell us about this years event?

Big Mike: Welcome back to Atlanta, Ange! We’re also excited to be in town for another wild and wonderful Holiday Jubilee. We like to honor the tradition that the Jubilee has become and don’t mess too much with the format. You can expect the always magnificent sounds of the 12-piece Kingsized Rock ‘n Roll orchestra performing your favorite holiday classics and the dazzling Dames Aflame dancers providing the glamour. The show is all about holiday nostalgia, whatever that means to you: Bing Crosby, Andy Williams, Donnie Hathaway, The Grinch, Rankin Bass, Peanuts, the Dreidel Song? It’s all in there.

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Music Gallery

Turkuaz at Aisle 5



Brooklyn based funk band Turkuaz played at Aisle Five in Atlanta last week and here are some shots from the show!

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