What's in a Name?

Slammies no more -- it's the Riverfront Times Music Awards

When outraged moms storm our office, demanding to know why their brilliant teenagers' bands were so cruelly slighted; when the phone calls and the e-mails begin to spew forth, all variations on the same theme (e.g., "Why wasn't my band nominated?" "Can I nominate myself?"); when the people downstairs start giving us stuff to proofread -- all these delightful events converge to remind us that spring has sprung. Ah, April, the sweet showers of which pierce the drought of March and inspire Radar Station to go on a pilgrimage! Lovely April, the month before the annual Riverfront Times Music Awards!

That's right: The Awards Formerly Known as the Slammies shall henceforth be called the Riverfront Times Music Awards -- the ballot can be found elsewhere in this paper.

We submit herewith a list of frequently asked questions about the RFTMA ballot-making process:

Question: Why did you change the name from the much-cleverer, downright-venerable "Slammies" to the acronym-resistant, unwieldy "Riverfront Times Music Awards"?

Answer: We are afraid of being sued by those litigious drips at the Recording Industry Association of America, the corporate drones behind the Grammy Awards, who apparently believe they own the exclusive rights to the syllables "am" and "ee." All the weeklies in the New Times empire have been advised to drop any name that rhymes with you-know-what. Why don't we fight the good fight and take a stand for the First Amendment, you ask? Alas, lawyers cost too much -- the publishers can barely keep us music editors in cashmere and Vicodin as it is.

What really gripes our particular ass, however, is that we don't have a cute, concise little handle for the awards now. Suggestions for RIAA-friendly, lawsuit-proof nicknames have been scarce: The Sloscars? The Rifties? The Roofies? We begged our corporate overseers to let us replace "Slammies" with a symbol, like the artist formerly known as the artist formerly known as Prince, but no such luck.

So it's the Riverfront Times Music Awards now, or the unpronounceable RFTMAs. But look on the bright side: Maybe a rival publication will stage its own music awards to protest all the extra publicity we're getting. As our cyberpal Becker observed, the St. Louis American Music Awards has an especially nice ring to it.

How are nominees selected?

Recently Radar Station sent blank ballots to approximately 150 people on the local music scene -- club-hoppers, talent bookers, bar owners, radio programmers, record-store employees, various members of the Fourth Estate and assorted boozehounds, drug fiends and cranks. Each nominator was asked to submit the names of five artists or bands for each category. We then counted all the ballots and tried to fit the artists with the most votes into the appropriate categories.

Why is [insert artist/band name here] in the [insert category name here] when any [insert obscene noun here] knows they belong in the [insert some other category name, possibly one unique to that artist/band]?

This aspect of creating the ballot caused us the most consternation. Many artists could easily have gone in any number of categories, and some, quite frankly, might be better suited somewhere other than the slot in which they ended up. Take Nadine, for instance, a band we stuck in Roots/Americana. We wanted to put them in the regular old hyphen-free Rock category, but to do this we would have had to take another band out of Rock and stick them somewhere else. Whether it's the result of an overly rockist scene or the overly rockist preferences of the industry insiders who bothered to return their ballots we cannot say, but more artists were nominated in Rock than in any other category, making the competition much tougher than it was in, say, Reggae/World. All pissed-off rockdudes who didn't make the cut this year are urged to start a juju band.

How do I become a nominator next year?

Write or e-mail Radar Station and tell us why you belong on the list. (Just being in a band doesn't mean you're qualified.)

Why wasn't my band nominated?

This one's easy: You didn't get enough votes. Start sucking up to the industry insiders now -- eventually it should pay off!


Mere months after James Crutchfield's death, Radar Station is sad to report the loss of another fixture on the St. Louis blues scene, Big Bad Smitty (né John H. Smith). The 62-year-old singer/guitarist was born in Schlater, Miss., and grew up in the Jackson area; he came to St. Louis in the '70s and worked as a mover when he wasn't moaning the blues at area clubs. A hardcore Delta belter in the tradition of Howlin' Wolf, Big Bad Smitty recorded three albums and performed for huge crowds at European blues festivals. He suffered some bad breaks -- diabetes led to a stroke and the amputation of both legs -- but kept gigging until the bitter end. "He loved the blues," says his common-law wife, Vonzetta Dickerson. "He lived the blues. I told him one time he couldn't do but two things in the world: thump a guitar and drive a truck."

In addition to Dickerson, Big Bad Smitty is survived by his daughter, LaWanda Smith, of East St. Louis, Ill.; five stepchildren; and three grandchildren. His funeral will be held Saturday, April 13, at the Alpha Omega Baptist Church in Jackson, Miss.

 
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