The 2004 RFT Music Awards

SBB bassist (and founding member) Art Dwyer is, understandably, pleased by the attention. "St. Louis has got a great blues audience, and they've really supported us over the years. We're really grateful for that."

But when asked about the SBB consistently winning the poll category that includes many of the group's musical mentors, Dwyer shows little interest in getting inside voters' heads. Maybe some of the older performers are unknown to younger listeners, he muses, or have been around so long that people take them for granted. "They're the older cats, and so much of the music industry is thought about in terms of what's brand new," he notes.

What Dwyer really wants to talk about is the respect and love that he and his bandmates, past and present, feel for the musicians who have preceded them and their gratitude for being able to spend time with and learn from Johnson, Smith and Townsend as well as now-departed performers such as Doc Terry, Tommy Bankhead and Oliver Sain. "Here are these veterans who are great virtuosos, masters at what they do. There's so much there to be gleaned," says Dwyer. "There's always been a huge amount of respect and 'going to school' on those guys, and people like Henry, Oliver, Tommy and others always had time to talk. I could never tell you how indebted we are to all of them."

Though there have been lineup changes and distinct musical periods in the SBB's long career, Dwyer resists the notion that the band has had a lot of turnover. Then, while naming some of the longer-tenured members, he gets to the tenth musician who spent at least six or seven years working with the group, stops and chuckles: "I guess it is a pretty big school, but some of the guys hung around for quite a few years."

Indeed, on any weekend night, ex-members of the SBB are playing key roles in a half-dozen other bands around town, further testimony to their enduring influence on the local blues scene.

Distinguished as the alumni association may be, the current incarnation of the SBB, featuring guitarists John Mondin and Bob Kamoske and trombonist John Wolf, has developed its own distinct character that both upholds and extends the band's tradition. With a new CD, Trickle Down Blues, out this month and a live follow-up recording planned, the Soulard Blues Band's musical legacy keeps on growing.

"Going around the block with the blues is a lifetime project," says Dwyer. "We're just getting started." -- Dean C. Minderman Best Club DJ Steve-O

Steve-O (the knowledgeable DJ, not the moronic daredevil) continues to electrify St. Louis clubgoers year after year. But how does he do it when there are so many local DJs? Does his friendly persona automatically emanate musical wisdom and nocturnal nightclubbiness? To put it bluntly: Yes. What about his record collection -- any good? Nearly infinite and great. So it must be a combination of all these essential elements along with his bad-ass ability to get -- and keep -- asses on the dance floor. Yes, that superhuman combo seems to be what it takes to be chosen king of the club DJs year after year. Hell, he didn't even have to show up at the Music Awards Showcase this year to be crowned -- that's how great he is. And he had some tough competition.

All that competing aside, though, Steve-O's listeners can truly dig the familiarity of the old-school soul he mixes in with his Chicago-style house sets. Laying down some funk definitely helps draw the newbies in, and the tracks' vocals easily hook them. This common ground reassures the neophyte, and that comfortable vibe makes unfamiliar house beats and tracks more palatable. And more fun.

So this is how Steve-O attracts new fans, but how does he keep them? Seasoned clubbers are impressed with a skill and reliability that's never stale. They know that Steve-O has been on the scene since the early '90s -- the Italian St. Louis native knows how to throw a party. And for the past twelve years, he has been manipulating musical celebrations and keeping the groove going with his records. Check him out at Faces on the east side, the Pepper Lounge downtown and the Upstairs Lounge on South Grand -- this club diversity shows his accessibility to all kinds of crowds, everywhere. -- Alison Sieloff

Best Eclectic/ Uncategorizable The Whole Sick Crew

What H.L. Mencken would have made of the Whole Sick Crew is still open to debate; that he nailed something about them isn't: "There comes a time when every man feels the urge to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag and start slitting throats." When the group first appeared in the summer of 2002, the WSC played its Clockwork Orange-tinted punk with the determination of lunatics breaking into the asylum's liquor cabinet. The bandmates found pirates cool and anarchy even cooler. No matter that their most threatening weapon was an accordion. Were they punks picking on folk music? Were they young folkies getting their rocks off? Who cared? No other band in St. Louis sounded quite so bloodthirsty and quite so fun.

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