Best in local music honored at 23rd Annual RAMI Awards

Staff Report

The 23rd Annual RAMI (Rockford Area Music Industry) Awards Ceremony was held Friday night, April 11, at Tebala Shrine Center.

The event, which honors area musicians and music supporters, included performances by Verne K. Smith Music Scholarship recipient Christian Collins; 2014 RAMI Youth Charity Jam winner Justin “Boots” Gates; Olivia Dvorak; Radio Stars; Sweet Lucy; Missing Links; Big Daddy Woo Woo; Big Earl & the Falcons; and On My Six.

Sarah Flygare of Stillman Valley High School; Erkan Bertram of Rockford Guilford High School; Christian Collins, a student at The Music Academy of Rockford; and Jocie Nerius, also a student at The Music Academy of Rockford, were awarded scholarships at the event.

The following, by category, were named 2014 RAMI Award winners at the ceremony:

Acoustic Rock/Folk — Three Good Men

Acoustic Rock/Folk: Originals — Kelly Steward

Blues — Lizzi Neal Band

Christian/Gospel — Tania Nicholson

Classic Rock — Audio Drive

Country — Jamie Campbell & the Redneck Romeos

DJ — Jordan Chance

Female Lead Vocalist (tie) — Amy Nickle and Melissa Ridgeway

Funk/R&B — Can’t Touch This

Hard Rock/Metal — Pulse 18

Hard Rock/Metal — Original Barenuckle Bullseye

Indie/Alternative — Sons of Many Bitches

Jazz — Frank Calvagna

Latino — Grupo Escape

Lighting Technician — Steve Knaack

Live Sound Engineer — “Johnny B” MacDowell

Male Lead Vocalist — Dan Curington

New Act — Bun E. Carlos and The Monday Night Band

Oldies — Pablo & the Rhythmix

Pop — Sweet Lucy

Recording Studio — The Midwest Sound

Stage Hand/Rigger — Bruce Woodrow

Stage Manager — Luis Lara

Studio Sound Engineer — Jeramy Engler

Tribute Band — Tattoo You

Artist of the Year — Olivia Dvorak

Favorite Venue — Whiskey’s Roadhouse

Radio Station — Q98.5 WXXQ

Special Event — Phantom Regiment Show of Shows

Album of the Year — Lizzi Neal Band, So Long Heartache

Song of the Year — Olivia Dvorak, “Tell Her She’s Pretty”

Composer of the Year — Ron Rawhoof

Lifetime Achievement — Al Paluzzi Sr.

In Memoriam recipients — Johnny Spence, Lee Pizzuto and James “Preacher” Thomas

Community Service — Angie Fellows

For more about the RAMIs, visit

A tribute to Lee Pizzuto

Rockford lost one of its favorite entertainers when Lee Pizzuto, pianist, died June 16 at 94 years of age. He began his professional career in Rockford at age 15; for much of his life, he was one of Rockford’s premier pianists. He played at Jacks or Better, the Mandalay Room at the Lafayette Hotel, the Manor in South Beloit, and many other fine restaurants, besides performing with the Rockford Symphony Orchestra. Classically trained, he obtained his bachelor of music degree from the University of Illinois, but played all types of music from boogie-woogie to Broadway. In 1976, he moved to Northridge, Calif., with his wife Linda, and continued to perform in many fine restaurants there.

In 1993, they moved to Elizabeth, Colo., where he lived the rest of his life. He is survived by his wife Linda; his daughters, Lynne Erickson and Toni Lee Prine; his son, Mike Pizzuto; stepson Scott Carmody; stepdaughter Kelly Carmody; seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. He was much beloved by Rockford residents and will be missed by all who knew him.

His son, Mike, said: “He was my hero, my mentor, and my best friend. Growing up, I admired everything about him and wanted so much to be just like him. He had a sunny disposition and a happy approach to life that rubbed off on everyone. His sense of humor was deep and wide … he could tell jokes and stories as well as anyone I’ve ever known. He had movie star good looks and an infectious smile. He was a world-class pianist and shared that talent with many thousands of listeners. … I have very special memories of the three Father and Son Concerts that we did together in 1981, 1984 and 1989. The final one was a Three Generation Concert, which included my son, Jan. Those performances produced some of the most enjoyable moments of my musical career. Sharing ideas and practicing together deepened the already strong bond, which we had always had. The love that we had for music and for each other shone brightly to the audiences on those wonderful evenings. … When I was a kid, he had a big Harley-Davidson motorcycle, and he’d put me on the back of it and take me up to Indian Ford, where we’d rent a boat and go bow-fishing. … He also took time to teach me to build model airplanes, which later became a big hobby for me. Dad told me that he picked me up one day and said, ‘What do you want to do today, son?’ I said, ‘I don’t care what we do, Dad, as long as I’m with you.’ He was so pleased with that response, he must have told and re-told that story a hundred times. It was absolutely true.”

From the April 16-22, 2014, issue

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