Reelin' In the Years

Well, the Music Awards are in their 14th year, and Racket thought this as good a time as any to take a look back through the archives. And what a story they tell.

Back in 1990, a Bush was in the White House and the economy -- especially the local economy -- was in the toilet. Seinfeld and The Simpsons debuted on the tube. Here it is 13 years later, and those shows are on four times a day, another Bush is on Pennsylvania Avenue, and the economy's at its worst since, well, about 13 years ago.

Some things happened back then that haven't happened since. Despite vast hype, the lambada fizzled on the dance floor. Bette Midler's "Wind Beneath My Wings" and Bonnie Raitt's Nick of Time were all the rage on the pop and rock radio, while Houston's own Clint Black ruled pre-Garth country radio. It was the most disgraceful year in Grammy history, as Milli Vanilli won and later had to surrender its tainted statuette.

Also, 1990 was the year the Press got into the music awards game, with similarly unpredictable results. But for that account and many more, you'll have to read on...

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The Big Story: It's not surprising, but the first awards issue was probably the worst one. A committee of Houston music scribes from the Post, the Chronicle and the Press painstakingly cobbled together a ballot of all their favorite bands in town. Trouble was, they also added in ZZ Top, Kirk Whalum, Clint Black, La Mafia and K.T. Oslin. While those certainly were the most famous acts from Houston at the time, few of them played more than one show here or even lived here full-time at that point.

The Subplot: Commercial Art, Pearl Murray, Yard Band and Velvet Hammer were almost the only current, full-time non-major-label Houstonians to win. Also, there was no showcase -- just a ballot.

Shape of things to come: Pierre & the Zydeco Dots.

Where Are They Now? Yard Band bassist Orville Adams owns and operates Yard Sound recording studio in Missouri City. Mystical rockers Velvet Hammer, 1990's Best New Act, moved to Austin, broke up and re-formed in the mid-'90s with new members as Dream Trybe, a band that still gigs here periodically.


The Big Story: Most of the glitterati were sent to the sidelines, and for the first time bona fide local acts had a chance. Justice and its stable made its first big splash -- the label was honored, as were Jesse Dayton's Road Kings, Sebastian Whittaker and 18-year-old Wendi Slaton.

The Subplot: This marked the first ever Press showcase. The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Beat Temple, Wendi Slaton and the Road Kings performed at the Tower Theater on Lower Westheimer. Ten bucks got you in the door -- two more than you'll pay 12 years later for 71 more bands.

Shape of things to come: Miss Molly, the Basics, Shake Russell, the Mucky Duck, Rockefeller's and Fitzgerald's all won their first awards.

Business As Usual: Zydeco Dots.

Where Are They Now? Some of the Bayou Pigs ended up in San Francisco. Beat Temple keyboardist Rick Thompson is in Moses Guest. Wendi Slaton has switched from performing in clubs to musical theater and lives in Austin. (When she's here, she sometimes works alongside her mother at the Zydeco Diner.) Bliss Blood of the Pain Teens lives in New York, where she plays in the Moonlighters, a Hawaiian-style slack-key guitar and ukulele band. Her former bandmate Ralph Armin is now in 2003 nominee Swarm of Angels. Miss Molly now lives in Louisiana and doesn't perform much. Shake Russell is based out of Austin.


The Big Story: The 1992 showcase was held in D2R, an address that housed a nightclub but has since been home to Lebanese and Salvadoran restaurants. Carolyn Wonderland won for Best Up-and-Coming, the first of dozens of awards. Global Village and dead horse won for the first time.

The Subplot: The Basics beat out Mike Barfield's Hollisters precursor the Rounders and Dayton's Road Kings for Best Pop/Rock. Def Squad defeated Scarface for best hip-hop. Denied the right to vote for Clint Black, Press readers voted in his brother Kevin instead.

Business As Usual: The Zydeco Dots, Justice Records, Basics, Shake Russell and Jack Saunders, Miss Molly.

Where Are They Now? Mike Haage of perennial Best Metal winners dead horse will release an album -- said to be a brilliant one -- from his new band Plus and Minus Project next year. Basics guitarist Lupe Olivarez has gone solo, though his old band did reunite for the 2003 Houston International Festival.  


The Big Story: Bill Clinton's first year in office was Shake Russell's year at the Press Music Awards. The veteran folkie won plaques for his singing, and his duo with Jack Saunders won awards for songwriting and the album of the year, Listen with Your Heart.

The Subplot: Wonderland won only one award -- the last time she would do so for years. Trish & Darin's reign as local rock royalty begins with their Best Pop/Rock victory.

Shape of things to come: Mucky Duck, Blanco's, Elvia's and Cactus.

Business As Usual: The Zydeco Dots, Kevin Black, Global Village, dead horse.

Where Are They Now? Trish and Darin both moved to Austin, where both now have solo careers. Darin is also drumming for Patricia Vonne and former Houstonian Johnny Goudie. Current reggae/hip-hop decknician supreme DJ Cipher emerged out of 1993 rap winners 3 Wise Min. Sunset Heights guitarist Vince Converse now has a solo career as a blooze guitar shredder.


The Big Story: Wonderland and Russell-Saunders tied for top honors with three awards apiece. Wonderland bassist Chris King won the inaugural Local Musician of the Year award, mostly for his efforts on the Bloodfart project.

The Subplot: Youth was finally served -- a little bit. This was the last big year for the 1980s old guard.

Shape of things to come: Planet Shock! won best rap.

Business As Usual: Zydeco Dots, Justice, Mucky Duck, Cactus.

Where Are They Now? Best New Act winner Hadden Sayers is still living in town, but makes most of his money on the road. Country winners Sisters Morales moved to San Antonio. Planet Shock! broke up a few years later. Half the band re-emerged as Aftershock, and later Shock 13, both of which went on to win awards. Another former Planet Shock! member, Rick Partida, now is in 2003 Best New Act nominee Dubtex.


The Big Story: Wonderland and various Imperial Monkeys (Chris King, Eric Dane, Leesa Harrington-Squyres) won really big for the first time -- five awards.

The Subplot: Young acts continued their timid emergence amid Wonderland's deluge.

Shape of things to come: Toy Subs, D.R.U.M., Big Easy and the Jinkies won for the first time.

Business As Usual: The Zydeco Dots, Russell & Saunders, the Hunger, dead horse, Paul English, Cactus, Mucky Duck, Elvia's, Global Village.

Where Are They Now? Jinkies guitarist Carlos DeLeon is living in New York. His brother, Jinkies drummer Michael, handled the same chores in 2002 Best Indie/Alt rock winners Westbury Squares and is currently banging the traps for 2003 nominees the John Sparrow. Dane and Harrington-Squyres are now two-thirds of 2003 nominee Jimmy's Pawn Shop, and Dane also plays guitar with another nominee, Greg Wood.


The Big Story: The Hollisters (three awards) emerged to rival Wonderland's stranglehold on the proceedings.

The Subplot: Wonderland's "No Really, I Can Drive" kicked off a boom of songs about substance abuse, winning top honors, a trend that continued the next year with the Suspects' mild "Caffeine," in 1999 with Poor Dumb Bastards' immortal "My Dad, Two Whores, and a Crack Pipe," the year after that with South Park Mexican's weed ditty "High So High," and in 2000 with Rodney Crowell's "Telephone Road," which had a line in it about getting stoned off the pesticidal emissions of the Jacinto City mosquito dope truck. Booze, coffee, crack, pot and DDT -- we love us some drugs down on the bayou. Davin James's "Magnolia," last year's winner, was almost drug-free, but there is a line in there about "cool mint juleps." Here's predicting that Hayes Carll's "Highway 87," with lines about drinking for six straight months and a cocaine stash, takes the cake this year.

Business As Usual: Zydeco Dots, Global Village, Russell-Saunders, Paul English, La Mafia, Miss Molly, Justice, Cactus, Elvia's.

Where Are They Now? Galactic Cowboys folded in 2000. Galactic singer-guitarist Wally Farkas now co-owns Clout, a music distribution company.


The Big Story: Soundwaves upset Cactus for the first and, thus far, only time. It was another big year for Wonderland.

The Subplot: The Suspects emerged with two victories.

Business As Usual: Virtually everything.

Where Are They Now? Many of the Suspects are in this year's Best New Act nominee Clouseaux. Another Suspects offshoot, Three Fantastic, has just released a fine debut CD.  


The Big Story: Destiny's Child won Best Funk/R&B. Who says this event doesn't anoint a global superstar every now and then?

The Subplot: Middlefinger (three awards) finished a strong second to Wonderland, who shared seven with her band. The Hollisters won a total of two. Chlorine won Best Rock and imploded. Sean Carnahan won the first DJ/Dance trophy.

Business As Usual: Zydeco Dots, the Gypsies, Sisters Morales, Jesse Dayton, Norma Zenteno, the usual venues.

Where Are They Now? Destiny's Child is everywhere, though two of the original members are gone. Nobody knows or seems to care where Chlorine is. Hollister Mike Barfield has a solo career based out of -- you guessed it -- Austin.


The Big Story: Free Radicals won three awards and finally knocked Wonderland, who had just moved to Austin, from her perch. Texas Johnny Brown and Sisters Morales won two awards each. Tony Avitia's Broken Note took out Justice as the top label in town.

The Subplot: Jug o' Lightnin' won Best New Act.

Shape of Things to Come: Blue October won its first award.

Business As Usual: Zydeco Dots, Norma Zenteno, Cactus and the usual venues.

Where Are They Now? Secret Sunday, who won Best Album honors, evolved into MenMechanical and Pale.


The Big Story: South Park Mexican busted out of the box with five wins and another for his label.

The Subplot: SPM outdrew national act 8STOPS7 at his showcase gig.

Business As Usual: Almost everything aside from SPM.

Where Are They Now? SPM is serving 45 years in TDCJ.


The Big Story: South Park Mexican and Japanic won three each. Fitz's ended the Satellite's run at the top of the rock clubs.

The Subplot: Moses Guest interrupted Blue October's reign atop the rock/pop category.

Business As Usual: Zydeco Dots, Norma Zenteno, El Orbits, the usual venues.

Where Are They Now? Sevenfold, Clandestine and Japanic all broke up. Clandestine piper E.J. Jones and singer Jen Hamel have solo careers. Members of Japanic are in 2003 nominees James Catholic, and front man Tex Kerschen is in Swarm of Angels with members from previous winning bands such as Rusted Shut and the Pain Teens.


The Big Story: John Evans and Little Joe Washington picked up five awards between them.

The Subplot: Westbury Squares, Flying Fish Sailors, Drifter, Davin James, Rozz Zamorano and Solar Flare Records picked up their first wins.

Business As Usual: Zydeco Dots, Norma Zenteno, El Orbits, Cactus, the usual venues.

Where Are They Now? Westbury Squares are defunct and Best Funk/R&B winner Simpleton is dormant. Simpleton's bassist Marc Armaos is now in Faceplant, while drummer Beans Wheeler is in Los Skarnales.


The Big Story: From an event saluting the obvious -- yes, ZZ Top and Clint Black are still bound to win a popularity contest in this town -- the Music Awards have progressed into the official holiday of Houston's music community in most if not quite yet all of its multiethnic multiplicity.

The Subplot: Evidently we all like to alter our minds with various substances. A lot.

Business As Usual: We hand out trophies, and the bands take them on the moving truck with them to Austin, or New York, or San Francisco, or prison, or wherever the hell all our favorite bands go. Big ups to all the bands that have won and stayed put.

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