Lewis, Stuart among musicians honored at state Grammy gala

Published 7:02 pm Friday, April 27, 2007

In nearly a half century of Grammy Award winners and nominees, artists including B.B. King, Mary Stuart and Faith Hill have represented the state of Mississippi on music’s biggest night.

To pay tribute to those artists and future Grammy prospects from the state, Gov. Haley Barbour, joined by Peavey Electronics and the Mississippi Development Authority, hosted a $1,000-a-ticket gala at the Jackson Marriott Hotel Thursday. Proceeds from the event went to the Mississippi Blues Foundation, which is placing Blues Trail markers at places important to the history of the blues in the state.

The idea for the event started in 2005, but was delayed due Hurricane Katrina, Barbour said.

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“Mississippi is the birthplace of American music,” Barbour said.

Guests entering the ballroom were led down a curtained corridor and into a roped off photo area with the official Grammy blue background and oversized Grammy Award replica, transported to the state from Los Angeles.

“It’s an amazing legacy here,” said Jon Hornyak, senior executive director of the Memphis chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, who attended the event with various members of the academy.

Grammy Award winner Jerry Lee Lewis, a longtime resident of Nesbit, a tiny Mississippi town just south of Memphis, Tenn., was one of the event headliners. He opened the show with “Roll Over Beethoven.” His songs “Great Balls of Fire” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On” are both in the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Lewis, a recipient of The Recording Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Award and one of the first artists inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, has been on tour promoting his latest album, “Last Man Standing,” which features duets with the likes of Kid Rock, B.B. King and Mick Jagger.

Also headlining the event was country music icon and four-time Grammy winner Marty Stuart, who said the event felt like “coming home.” Stuart was born in Philadelphia, Miss. Though he was excited to take the stage in his home state, the country star said he was looking forward to watching Lee’s performance.

Stuart, a member of The Grand Ole Opry for two decades, is a past president of the Country Music Foundation. He started performing bluegrass as a teenager and later joined Johnny Cash’s band in 1980 before branching out on his own.

Other performers included gospel group The Williams Brothers, blues influenced rock ’n’ roll band North Mississippi All Stars, and Swedish pop star Carola, who has gained international success with songs associated with Tupelo-born Elvis Presley.

At a reception at the Governor’s mansion prior to the show, Grammy winners and nominees were presented with the Peavey Award, a rectangular-shaped glass award with a pointed top and photo of a guitar displayed on it.

“We’re deciding who gets it,” said Chris Chew, of the trio North Mississippi All Stars, which received one award as a group.

Another award recipient was Hattiesburg native Eddie Hodges, 60, who won a Grammy nearly 50 years ago for his work on the soundtrack for the musical “The Music Man.”

“I have never stopped playing the guitar and never stopped writing songs,” said Hodges, who now works as a mental health counselor.

The award is named after Hartley Peavey, owner of the Meridian-based music and electronics business that is known for its guitars and its loudspeakers.

“As a state, people tend to dismiss Mississippi,” Hartley Peavey said.

Peavey and Barbour both expressed hope that the gala will become an annual event. He has already designed next year’s Peavey Award.

“Eventually, it is going to be a glass guitar headstock,” he said.

On the Net:

Grammy Awards: http://www.grammy.com/

Peavey Electronics: http://www.peavey.com/

Mississippi Development Authority: http://www.mississippi.org/