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Not bad for a guy who, according to the liner notes for 1986's Atlantic Blues Box, died sometime back in the mid-'80s. While those notes couldn't have been more wrong, the music they accompanied couldn't have been more right. Three of Brown's early recordings (made with Amos Milburn) reissued on that set -- "There Go the Blues," "The Blues Rock" and "Bongo Boogie" -- helped to reacquaint the blues world with a talent who had wandered too long in the thickets of obscurity.

After all, this is the man who wrote the title track to Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Bobby Bland's Two Steps from the Blues, perhaps the greatest single document to ever have emerged from the Bayou City. Elvis Costello thinks so, anyway; in Vanity Fair he recently pegged it as one of the 500 most essential CDs of all time. The hoi polloi agree, as it was the most commercially successful blues album in history until Robert Cray's Strong Persuader eclipsed it in 1986, the year Brown "died." Then factor in (among other plums) his touring with Junior Parker and the fact that he gave I.J. Gosey some of his first lessons on the six-string, and you have one ace résumé.

So while the rumors of his demise were greatly exaggerated, praise of Texas Johnny Brown never can be. -- John Nova Lomax
Critic's pick: Aaron Loesch

Best Blues Venue
The Big Easy Social & Pleasure Club
Blues lover, club owner and damn fine harmonica player Tom McLendon may have to build another shelf just to hold all his trophies, as this marks the seventh consecutive year his no-frills juke joint on Kirby Drive (a.k.a. the House of Mixology) has taken this award. In fact, McLendon and his place have a lot in common: Both are loud, boisterous and full of a joie de vivre that celebrates real blues music and the men and women who make it.

While its small stage regularly hosts local favorites like Rick Lee, Joe "Guitar" Hughes, and Luther and the Healers, the club also has showcased traveling national acts like Greg Piccolo and Allan Haynes. It knows how to treat royalty, too: It threw the 86th birthday bash for Houston blues legend Big Walter The Thunderbird. And even when there's no live music, we defy you to find a better blues jukebox in town. And Sunday is zydeco night!

"It's not a bar, it's a church," McLendon said after winning a previous award. "And people come here to testify!" -- Bob Ruggiero
Critic's pick: Miss Ann's Playpen

Best Rock Venue
Fitzgerald's
Though there have been changes in personnel, booking practices and increased competition from places like Rudyard's, this venerable and lovably ramshackle venue takes top prize this year for the best place to see rawk and roll. And no matter how old you are, Fitz always has that magical ability to make you feel a lot younger -- and that's not just because of the median age of the crowd upstairs at the mosh-friendly shows. In fact, the cavernous upstairs stage has played host to everyone from the Jayhawks, Sir Mix-A-Lot and John Paul Jones to, well, just about everybody local. The downstairs stage is a perfect showcase for smaller acts and solo artists like Rozz Zamorano and his thumping bass. And the recent increase in booking of rap, reggae, punk and metal proves that what some might see as fringe music will always have a home on White Oak. -- B.R.
Critic's pick: Fabulous Satellite Lounge

Best Industrial/Noise
Bozo Porno Circus
I once tried to describe to my brother-in-law exactly what Bozo Porno Circus does on stage, and though he occasionally muttered "Really?" and "No shit!" it still didn't prepare him for this self-described "super group of super freaks" -- and he's been to prison.

Taking this category for the second straight year, BPC combines loud, grinding, balls-out industrial music (both arranged and improvised) with hell-bent-for-leather-and-rubber stage costumes, audience participation and, oh, a trio of female dancers called the PoRnStaRZ who like to spank each other. Now that's family entertainment! But really, what would you expect from a band that has headlined both the S&M and Vampire balls?

With a new record coming out this fall and an accompanying North American tour, Chris O, Ken Gerhard, Chris Crispy, and the rest of the boys and girls will show the country what Houston has known for so long: Stephen King's Pennywise has nothing on these killer clowns. -- B.R.
Critic's pick: Bozo Porno Circus

Best Alternative; Best Keyboardist (Rob Smith); Album of the Year (Social Disease)
Japanic
When Japanic did its nine o'clock set at Cabo for the big Music Awards showcase/hootenanny, lead vocalist Tex Kerschen took it upon himself to appease the teeming audience by hanging upside down from the ceiling beams and performing a few verses there. "I know that we've never been there before, so I don't think it was planned," says co-vocalist Margeaux Cigainero. "I think it might've attributed to him not winning Best Male Vocalist -- maybe a little bit."

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Greg Barr
Contact: Greg Barr
Mike Emery
Aaron Howard
Craig D. Lindsey
Contact: Craig D. Lindsey
Paul J. MacArthur
Bob Ruggiero has been writing about music, books, visual arts and entertainment for the Houston Press since 1997, with an emphasis on classic rock. He used to have an incredible and luxurious mullet in college as well. He is the author of the band biography Slippin’ Out of Darkness: The Story of WAR.
Contact: Bob Ruggiero
Chris Smith