The Dale Watson-organized Ameripolitan Awards happened Monday night (2-24) in Memphis at The Guesthouse at Graceland, where many awards were given out, and many performances transpired (see winners and recap). But there was a moment near the end of the show that’s feels like it was worth separating out from the rest of the presentation and shining a spotlight on, since it embodied the reason things like the Ameripolitan Awards, or even a site like Saving Country Music exists.
Handing out the award for Best Rockabilly Male were rockabilly legends Jim Heath of The Reverend Horton Heat, and Nick 13 of Tiger Army—both who are best known for fusing rockabilly and punk in the “psychobilly” subgenre. As opposed to the regular canned statements ahead of handing out the award, Nick 13 spoke about the importance of not just rockabilly, but all roots music that is going ignored in mainstream music.
“Rockabilly music by all accounts was first recorded right down the way at Sun Records in 1954, but it’s a music that has spread all over the world, and its influence has been felt as diverse as The Beatles, The Sex Pistols, and The Smiths,” Nick 13 said. “Its as American as blues or jazz, but for some reason it doesn’t get the respect it should in my opinion.”
“That is what the Ameripolitan’s is about,” he continued. “It’s about the music that the mainstream has forgotten. That’s the music that we all in here remember. And the music that the mainstream has cast aside, that’s the music we’re taking and we’re holding dear to our hearts, and we’re bringing it into the future. Western swing, rockabilly, honky tonk, they don’t think it’s important, but we know there’s real value in all of those American roots musics.”
When it was Jim Heath’s opportunity to speak, he smiled and said, “I don’t think I can add anything to that!” But then he found important words that equaled Nick 13’s. “It’s my dream to bring back mid-century music to the masses. And one reason that I think mid-century music was so great, and not just rockabilly, but everything served in the singers and standards was because before our legacy of recording technology hit, it had to be great players, and they had maybe one or maybe two chances to get it right. And now really for the last 40 years, music can be pieced together unlike how they used to do it. But there was some kind of dreaminess to that era that I think all of these guys have latched on to.”
When you see something like the Ameripolitan Awards, or hear a band playing what many consider an older style of music, it’s not just about participating in some hipster version of nostalgia. It’s about taking modern music back to a time when the words and songs were just more meaningful compared to much of the music today that leans on the crutch of technology.
The moment can see at about the 2 hour, 55 minute mark on the video below, along with the entire 2020 Ameripolitan Music Awards presentation.