The 2015 SAMMY Awards

The SAMMY awards dinner held upstairs at Dinosaur BBQ in Syracuse on March 6 brought together music fans, musicians and promoters alike to honor some of Syracuse’s finest at the Syracuse Area Music Awards

With emcee Dave Frisina of of 105.9 introducing special guests the honorees included a music educator, producer, local band, early rock ‘n’ roller, guitarist and a muumuu wearing drummer.

SAMMY Hall of Fame Awards Dinner. Photo by Jack O Bocchino
SAMMY Hall of Fame Awards Dinner. Photo by Jack O Bocchino

Stacey Waterman of Eastern Artists presented Professor David Rezak of the Bandier School at Syracuse University with the Music Educator award. She joked that 90% of his graduates work in the industry while the other 10% are musicians, while referencing notable alumni who Prof. Rezak has been a mentor and teacher to over the course of his career. Upon taking to the podium, Rezak responded by noting “It’s all about the music, it’s all about the song. I am happy to have been a part of the music of Syracuse”

State Senator John A. DeFrancisco took the podium to share proclamations for all honorees this evening, noting that “music and arts in this community are the heart and soul of Syracuse.Jim Houle - SAMMY's 2015-3

Guitarist Loren Barriger, who at 6 years old played the Grand Ol’ Opry, emotionally thanked family and friends who encouraged him throughout this life of music. Ron Wray introduced Bobby Comstock, who was on the original American Bandstand, wrote a rock version of “Tennessee Waltz”, worked with Alan Free who coined the term ‘Rock n Roll’ and played Madison Square Garden 50 times. Upon taking to the podium, Bobby said “I did all that?”, while reflecting on playing with Chuck Berry, in Chicago with blues greats but noted that every story comes back to Syracuse. Comstock had a great deal of memories and thank you’s to give from his storied career.

Jim Houle - SAMMY's 2015-8

Chris Goss, producer and musician (Masters of Reality, Queens of the Stone Age, Kyuss) has been a major influence on the desert rock genre and was honored as such. Referring to his career path, he said “It’s not a job, it’s a vocation; you do it out of love.” He mentioned that Seattle, a dark and dreary city, much like Syracuse, gave birth to Soundgarden and Nirvana, because instead of going outside, kids would go inside, look inward and listen to music. “Good music comes out of dark places.”

The Works
The Works

The Works, a local act who did it their way and in their own style are one of the most storied local Syracuse acts and were known for playing local clubs on a weekly basis in the 70s and 80s. If you weren’t playing music, you were seeing local music and supporting local music, a sentiment that is relevant in towns and cities across the state and country. As The Works put it, “It’s a brotherhood.”

Jon Fishman
Jon Fishman

Jon Fishman was introduced by his father, Leonard, who spoke of his late wife Mimi’s memory and presence at early Phish shows playing the vacuum with her son. He received great laughter and applause saying “I don’t know if you know this, but my son wears a dress”. While it is well known among his fans that Fish is a self-educated drummer who still practices daily, Jon cited Dave Hamlin and Bob Gulloti who taught him how to play the drums. Having been in only one band his entire career, the adventurous and spiritual unit of Phish has allowed him to make a living by moving music out of his parent’s basement to UVM, then to Goddard College, and on the road with Phish, and now with his wife and 5 children.

At 50, Jon says he still feels like he is 8 years old when playing the drums and is “still getting away with this … I’m just drumming.” He found it odd to be receiving a lifetime achievement award at 50 but recognizes that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” referencing both the band and the community of Phish.

Fish also came clean and told his father that he snuck out on more than one occasion in the late 1970s to walk a mile to Manley Field House to see Frank Zappa and King Crimson, incredibly influential shows for the young Henrietta that led him down his career path towards recognition from his peers in his hometown of Syracuse.

On Friday, March 6 at The Palace Theater on James Street, the SAMMY awards were handed to a cadre of local musicians who had earned recognition of their peers and fans.

The Palace Theater
The Palace Theater

Best Pop: Nick & Noah
Best Blues: Castle Creek
Best Rock: William Gruff
Best Country: Megan Lee
Best Alterative: Leah Shenandoah
Best Jam Band: Joe Driscoll & Sekou Kouyate
Best Jazz: Nick Ziobro
Best Americana: Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers
Best R&B: Brownskin Band
Best Hip-Hop/Rap: Nick Case a.k.a. Decoy
Best Other: Samba Laranja
Best Hard Rock: Nineball
Best Singer/Songwriter: Alanna-Marie Boudreau
Brian Bourke Award for Best New Artist: Spring Street Family Band

People’s Choice awards included:
Best Artist: Briana Jessie
Best Venue: Kegs Canal Side
Best Festival: FoxFest

Winners via

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