MAMA Hall of Fame shakes up awards to recognize more Madison musicians and bands

Final round of voting ends April 20
cluster of different musicians
The first inductees of the Madison Area Music Awards Hall of Fame include (clockwise from top): Perry Weber representing The Jimmys; Jimmy Voegeli; JAH Boogie representing Natty Nation; Andy Wallman of The Gomers and Gabby Parsons.

The final round of voting for the 2020 MAMA Awards — presented by the Madison Area Music Association — ends April 20, and several perennial winners will give up their eligibility to be on the ballot for inclusion in the association’s new hall of fame.

This change to the annual music awards means categories dominated by certain artists year after year will be competitive once again, possibly ushering in first-time winners at the MAMA Awards show on May 31 at the Overture Center for the Arts.

“Some bands haven’t wanted to enter” because the same ones win every year, MAMA treasurer and co-founder Rick Tvedt says. The establishment of the hall of fame and a weighted, three-tiered voting system opens up the contest to more Madison musicians, including those who haven’t been previously recognized.

“All the improvements we’ve made [to the MAMA Awards] have been to make it as fair and balanced as it possibly can be,” Tvedt says. While all MAMA members can vote (it costs $5 to become a member), the votes cast by musicians are given more weight than those cast by fans because MAMA considers it a peer review. “Not just a popularity contest,” Tvedt says.

A band, solo musician or other figure in the local music scene is eligible for inclusion in the MAMA Hall of Fame after winning the same annual MAMA Award category five times. The new system — which applies retroactively to all artists who have received awards since the MAMA Awards started 17 years ago — has resulted in nine individuals and bands being eligible for the hall of fame. The first class of MAMA Hall of Fame inductees was honored last October at the High Noon Saloon. They included:

Jimmy Voegeli (Best Piano Player, 2010, 2012-2017) and his band The Jimmys (Best Blues Performer, 2013-2018)
A Monticello-area dairy farmer by day and Madison keyboardist/blues bandleader by night, Jimmy Voegeli leads the blues and R&B band The Jimmys, which has won MAMA Awards in several categories over the years, including best blues album. For six straight years, The Jimmys shut out all others vying for best blues band. (The Jimmys also nabbed gold for best blues band in Madison Magazine’s Best of Madison poll in 2015, 2016,2019 and 2020.) Voegeli — who also played in the Grammy-nominated Westside Andy and Mel Ford blues band for 18 years — has won multiple times for his piano playing.

Natty Nation (Best World Performer, 2008-2018)
Despite having gone through numerous lineup changes since its founding in 1995, the hard roots rock and reggae band Natty Nation has remained a perennial local favorite. As of 2019, the group had collected 31 MAMA awards, including 11 consecutive awards for world performer of the year. The popularity of the band has remained steady while the band’s makeup has not. The group’s Wikipedia page lists 29 former members. Demetrius “JAH Boogie” Wainwright (bass, percussion, vocals and lyrics) is the sole original member in the group.

The Gomers (Best Cover Band Performer, 2008-2013)
The Gomers went on indefinite hiatus in 2016 after the death of founding member and bassist Gordon Ranney, ending the band’s 31-year run as a comedic rock and punk band. Although they no longer play their original material, the members are as busy as ever playing a repertoire of 3,000-some cover songs under three monikers — Rockstar Gomeroke (the backing band for karaoke singers at weddings and corporate events and gigs at the High Noon Saloon), Happyoke (which plays during happy hour on the first and third Fridays at High Noon) and Kiddyoke (which plays karaoke for children, occasionally on the Rotunda Stage at Overture Center of the Arts).

Gabby Parsons (Best Local Music Radio Personality, 2011-2016)
Gabby Parsons spent nearly 20 years at 105.5 Triple M, much of that as music director, before she retired in the fall of 2018, capping a 47-year career in broadcasting. Parsons is most appreciated by area musicians for creating and hosting “The Local Hour,” a show on Triple M dedicated to made-in-Madison music. The show is still broadcast at 8 p.m. Sundays. Last June, Parsons received the MAMA Lifetime Achievement Award, putting her in the company of the late drummer Clyde Stubblefield, pianist Ben Sidran, bassist Richard Davis, former University of Wisconsin–Madison band director Michael Leckrone and rock drummer and record producer Butch Vig.

The MAMAs also named Cathy Dethmers, former owner of the O’Cayz Coral and High Noon Saloon, as an honorary hall of fame inductee.

Four other winners of multiple awards were eligible last year for hall of fame honors but will be inducted at a later date. In the mean time, they too will no longer compete for MAMA Awards. Those artists include Lords of the Trident (hard rock/punk performer, five-time winner), Sarah Warmke (top local music fan, eight-time winner), Mike Zirkel (local recording studio engineer, seven-time winner) and Lonya Nenashev (local live sound engineer, five-time winner).

Joel Patenaude is associate editor of Madison Magazine.