Ameripolitan Weekend Marks Storied Hernando’s Hideaway Grand Reopening

The Ameripolitan Music Awards celebrated its 7th iteration on Monday, capping a weekend full of activity that included the grand reopening of legendary Memphis venue Hernando’s Hideaway. Tanya Tucker made a surprise appearance at Hernando’s; the historical society placed a plaque on the building; and festival co-producer Dale Watson celebrated his twenty-fifth year as a recording artist. Joined by Jason D. Williams, Dale Watson, and His Lonestars, Tucker sang “Help Me Make It Through the night” and dueted with Dale on “I’ll Fly Away.” Meanwhile, the awards reached new heights this year.

The awards themselves were hosted by Big Sandy (of Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys) and pinup Doris Mayday. Legendary drummer JM Van Eaton, who played on Sun Records by Johnny Cash, Conway Twitty, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, Billy Lee Riley, and more counting over 260 songs) received the Founder of the Sound Award from Jerry Phillips (son of Sam). Phillips poignantly said, “If JM Van Eaton hadn’t played on all those records, I’m not sure my father would have had the success he had.”

2020 Ameripolitan Music Award winners

Western Swing Female – Georgia Parker
Western Swing Male – Dave Stuckey
Western Swing Group – The Farmer & Adele
Honky Tonk Female – Sarah Vista
Honky Tonk Male – Charley Crockett
Honky Tonk Group – Country Side of Harmonica Sam
Master Award – Duane Eddy
Founder of the Sound – J.M Van Eaton
Musician – Sean Mencher
Venue – Luckenbach Dance Hall (Luckenbach, TX)
Festival – Bristol Rhythm & Roots (Bristol, TN)
DJ – Eddie White (Cosmic Cowboy Café 2RRR 88.5FM, Sydney, Australia)
Rockabilly Female – Laura Palmer (of Laura Palmer & Screamin’ Rebel Angels)
Rockabilly Male – Bloodshot Bill
Rockabilly Group – The Lustre Kings
Western Swing Male winner Dave Stuckey emotionally thanked awards producers Watson and Celine Lee (as did most of the winners) for “giving the island of misfit Americana fans a home to live in.” Honky Tonk Female winner Sarah Vista notably thanked filmmakers John Ford and Sam Peckinpah for helping start her journey. The end of the show served as an impromptu tribute to Carl Perkins, with the 2020 Rockabilly Male nominees, Shaun Young, Bloodshot Bill, Jittery Jack, and Eddie Clendening, all performing together, singing Perkins’ “Gone Gone Gone”; and a grand finale with Watson, Tammi Savoy, Jim Heath, Jerry Phillips, Jittery Jack, Dave Stuckey, Nick 13, Laura Palmer, and more singing Perkins’ “Boppin’ the Blues.” Other performance highlights included “a sultry country classicist with a tremble in her voice” (NY Times) Whitney Rose, rising honky tonker Summer Dean, and Texas legend James Hand. The house band included Lonestars bassist Chris Crepps and Lonestars drummer Mike Bernal; pedal steel ace Don Pawlak; Italy-to-Memphis guitarist Mario Monterosso; and Earl Scruggs’ grandson, member of Marty Stuart’s band, and Grand Ole Opry regular Chris Scruggs.