In all the excitement of last Thursday’s Special Awards ceremony in Raleigh, it seems we neglected to publish a report on the proceedings, or share any of Frank Baker’s photos.
The Special Awards are honors handed out to the non-musical parts of the industry, the people who provide important support to the artists whose music we all enjoy. They include songwriters, broadcasters, event producers, graphic designers, and writers.
Distinguished Achievement Awards were also presented to fiddler and philanthropist Fletcher Bright, Silver Dollar City in Branson, MO, songwriter Louise Branscomb, Bluegrass Today, and flatpicking icon Norman Blake.
Special Awards winners for 2017 were:
- Print/Media Person of the Year – John Lawless, Bluegrass Today
- Best Liner Notes of the Year – Bill Nowlin for J.D. Crowe & the New South 40th Anniversary Edition
- Graphic Design of the Year – Casey Campbell and Gina Leslie for Mandolin Duets: Volume One
- Bluegrass Broadcaster of the Year – Cindy Baucom, Knee Deep In Bluegrass
- Bluegrass Songwriter of the Year – Tim Stafford
- Event of the Year – Pickin’ In Parsons, Parson, WV
A high point of the acceptance speeches was Casey Campbell ambling to the microphone and, speaking of the cover of his Mandolin Duets album, said sheepishly, “It’s a picture of two mandolins.” The irony – and humor – was not lost on the audience.
The Distinguished Achievement presentations are always a mix of fun and emotion, as they tend to be given as a recognition of a lifetime’s work. Two of the awardees, Fletcher Bright and Norman Blake, were unable to attend, but those assembled enjoyed taking a trip through their life’s work in video and photos. Bill Evans narrated an overview of Bright’s long career in bluegrass, including more than 70 years with his band, The Dismembered Tennesseans.
Tim O’Brien told the story of Norman Blake, from his itinerant flatpicker days through his long performing career with his wife, Nancy, on cello. Blake’s agent, Scott O’Malley, accepted on his behalf.
Jeanette Williams and Dale Ann Bradley tag-teamed Louisa Bransomb’s presentation, looking at her more than 200 songs written, and her career as a psychologist, while Kimberly Williams brought up D.A. Calloway to accept for Silver Dollar City’s long association with bluegrass in Branson. Bluegrass Today had Jerry Salley present the story of how principals Terry Herd and yours truly started with a dream of banjo notoriety, only to eventually find a career in brodcasting and journalism.
Entertainment was provided by Boston-based Mr. Sun, headed by fiddler Darol Anger who has been at the forefront of progressive bluegrass and Dawg music since its inception. He was ably assisted by Joe K. Walsh on mandolin, Grant Gordy on guitar, and Aidan O’Donnell.