(photos by Clark Fisher, except as noted)


The biggest crowd we’ve ever had at an awards ceremony; the place is hoppin’, and we start out smokin’ with The Fat Tones!

MCs Mark Bryan and Alice Roberts welcomed the crowd, and introduced The Fat Tones.The Tones pumped up the entire crowd, shakin’ us to the core with their hot rockin’ blues. Their nominations for “Best Blues Guitar” and “Best Blues Band” were highly visible during their one-hour set!At the completion of the Fat Tones, while everyone was cooling down from dancin’, MC’s Mark & Alice kicked off the awards.

The first category was "Best Writer for Inside Blues." Nominated were Craig Heimbigner, John Millner and Marva Ulleland, all in attendance. This category is for people who have written articles for the IEBS newsletter “Inside Blues,” of which there are never enough! Mike Pope, Ted Todd, Scott Higgin, and Craig Heimbigner are all previous winners of this category, and now John “Bear” Millner has been added to the list. John was (nearly) speechless for a moment, then exhorted the crowd to continue to support blues festivals, societies, and live music. Congratulations John! 

Next up was "Best Blues Radio Program," and the nominees were: Friday Blues Mix @ Six (KEWU), Down Home Blues with Brion Foster (KPBX), and The Blues Buzzards (KZBD). This year has an interesting twist, as The Blues Buzzards with Scott Higgin and Mike Hays was canceled when, after 20 months, the radio station changed formats. Past winners of this category include The Blues Show with Ted & Dean (KKZX), and The Blues Review with Tina Bjorklund (KPBX).

Scott & Mike win (the crowd goes wild) note that they’ll be unable to duplicate their effort, and while thanking the crowd for listening, Scott mentioned that on October 23rd he became half of the Blues Show with Ted and Scott, as 13+ year co-host Dean Davis began a one year hiatus.

 Nominated this year for “Best Blues Drummer” are Zach Cooper (Too Slim and the Taildraggers) Mike Dietrich (Lockdown) and Ralph Tew (Cool Stack). The three nominees were all on the edge of their seats! Possibly our most storied category, as 1997 saw Chris “Crash” Klettke of Nothin’ Personal and John Cage of Too Slim & the Taildraggers tied; in 2001, Bill Bancroft of Pat Coast and Out of the Blue, and Zach Cooper of The Bone Daddies tied! Bill Bancroft was our first ever winner in 1995 while he was with Chip & the Bushwackers, then reached Hall of Fame status with a three year run while playing for Café Blue and Pat Coast & Out of the Blue, 1999 thru 2001. John Cage of Too Slim & the Taildraggers attained Hall of Fame for his 1996-1998 wins, and picked up the award in 2002 & 2003. Mike Hays of the Fat Tones won this award in 2004. Drum roll ….. Zack Cooper, ever gracious, thanked the fans, and Too Slim & the Taildraggers for their support. 

Roxy McDaniel (Lockdown), Dave Nordstrom (Too Slim and the Taildraggers), and Dave Sammartano (Laffin’ Bones) were all nominated for “Best Blues Bassist.” Roxy McDaniel came here from Germany and has toured Europe for the past 20 years, while Dave Nordstrom is the bassist for Too Slim and adds vocals also. Dave Sammartano, in addition to his Laffin’ Bones duties, also fills in with the Doghouse Boyz. Roxy McDaniel adds his name to the list of fine bass players to win this award. Our only “Hall of Fame” winner in this category was Ramiro Vijarro, for his 2002-2004 wins.

“Best Blues Instrumentalist (Other)”
is the category that includes instruments such as Saxophone, Trumpet, Trombone, percussion, tambourine, and whatever else that doesn't have a specific category. The nominees this year are Mark Bryan (saxophone, Cool Stack/Papa Glenn), Charlie Butts (Saxophone, Filtertips) and Shawn Gunn (Saxophone, Lockdown).  This is the first top three nomination for both Mark & Shawn, and Charlie has won this category in 1996, 2000, and 2002. Other winners have been Mike Lenke, trumpet, in 1995, 2001, and 2004; Dan Frazu, percussion in 1997 and trumpet in 2003; Chuck Swanson, saxophone, 1998; and Bob Spittal, saxophone, 1999. Adding another notch on his saxophone case is Charlie Butts, and as Charlie was playing a gig that night, it was accepted on his behalf by Ted.

"Best Blues Keyboardist": the nominees are Roger Butler (Cool Stack), Rory Marrero (Riverside R&B Revue) who won this category in 1999 with The Filtertips, and 2004 with the Border Run Band; and Lindell Reason (Lindell Reason Band) who also was nominated last year. Band mate and “Best Female Blues Vocalist” nominee Jennifer Kemple accepted the award for Rory, who was unable to make the event.5 time winner Dave Winslow got his awards in 1997 & 98, then reached the pinnacle with a Hall of Fame in 2001-2003; Steve Lime of the Sammy Eubanks Band won in 2000; Mike Nikula of Charlie Butts & the Filtertips in 1996; and Keith Lewis of Café Blue won in 1995.

The “Best Blues Harmonica” nominees were Tuck Foster (The Howlers), Carl Rey (The Blues Gators) and Bob Tortorici (Crosstown). Chip Busch garnered this award in 1995 & 1996, then again in 1998; Dan Frasu in 1997 and again in 2003; Carl Rey made Hall of Fame for his 1999 through 2001 wins; Charlie Butts in 2002; and Don Millard in 2004. Tuck Foster of the Howlers wins, and humbly accepts the award.


This year’s nomination for “Best Female Blues Vocalist” are Jennifer Kemple (Riverside R&B Revue), Julie Perzentka (Lockdown) and Janice “JJ” White (Cool Stack). This is Julie and JJ’s first nomination and Jennifer’s second. This must be an impossible choice, with three such talented ladies nominated! Jan Bounds was not only our first winner, but our first Hall of Fame in this category, winning 1995 thru 1997; Tina Denning our second Hall of Fame winner for 2000 thru 2002; Anita Royce won in 1998; Samantha Carston in 1999; and Rhonda Monge in 2003 & 2004. Julie Perzentka won the 2005 “Best Female Blues Vocalist!”

Nominated for "Best Male Blues Vocalist" are Pat Barclay (Big Mumbo/Filter Tips), Sammy Eubanks (Sammy Eubanks) and Tuck Foster (The Howlers). Sammy Eubanks was also nominated last year. Three very different vocalists! Chip Busch won in 1995, 1996, 1998; Dan Frasu in 1997; Sammy Eubanks in 1999, 2000, and 2002; Carl Rey in 2001;, Pat Coast in 2003 & 2004. El Presidente Carl Speer accepted the award on behalf of Pat Barclay, who was playing a gig with the Filter Tips at Bluz at the Bend.

This year we add a new category: “Best Blues Performer,” Male or Female. This was added to single out any performer who ‘just knocked your socks off,’ someone who always gives a memorable performance. This could be a guitarist, saxophone, harmonica, singer, or anything. A performer who just stands out during a performance. This year’s nominees are Tuck Foster (The Howlers), Ray Roberson (solo) and Janice “JJ” White (Cool Stack). Tuck certainly provides a memorable performance, and accepted his award with humility.

“Best Blues Guitarist” is one of the hottest contested categories. Bobby Paterson (Fat Tones), Pat Barclay (Big Mumbo Blues Band) and Perry Roper (The Howlers) are all stellar guitarists, and last years’ winner, Bobby Patterson was again weak-kneed to find he’d won.
Tim Langford dominated this category for years with his Hall of Fame from 1995-1998, and again in 2002 & 2003; Pat Coast won Hall of Fame for 1999 through 2001.

Neil Elwell (The Doghouse Boyz), Don Millard (solo) and Ray Roberson (solo), were the "Best Blues Slide Guitar" nominees. Past winners include Tim “Too Slim” Langford (Hall of Fame, 1998-2000) Pat Coast (2002-2004) also Hall of Fame and Paul Brasch (2001). This is Don and Ray’s second year in a row of being nominated. Neil Elwell wins this award with much table pounding, floor stomping acceptance by the crowd. Congratulations Neil!

This year’s nominees for “Best Acoustic Blues Act” were The Doghouse Boyz, Don Millard and Roberson & Beese. The Doghouse Boyz (Neil Elwell & Ramiro Vijarro) and Don Millard are always nominated in several categories as that is the level of talent they possess, and Roberson & Beese, while a new duo, are very hot! Don Millard won in 1997& 2001. 5 time winner Paul Brasch won in 1995, 96, 98-2000. Tim Langford won in 2002. The Doghouse Boyz, who won in 2003 and 2004, completed their 3 year requirement, and place themselves in the “Hall of Fame.”

The "Best New Blues Band or Artist" includes new bands or artists, and bands that have reformed in the last two years. This years nominees are Cool Stack, Crosstown and Lockdown, who won in 2003. At that time they were ‘Tina Denning and Lockdown.’ Since the band has ‘reformed’ this starts their two-year eligibility. Winners of this category are offered the opening slot at the next years' "Empire Awards." Past winners are Paul Brasch (1995); The DeSotos (1996); The Crawdaddies (1997); DC Black & the Healers (1998); The Bone Daddies (1999); Aaron Richner & the Blues Drivers (2000); Blue Tattoo (2001); and Delta 88 (2002). Crosstown takes the win, and happier guys would have been hard to find!

“Best Blues Band”: always a hard one to decide. Last year the votes were counted three times to make sure of accuracy, and this year is no exception. This years nominees were The Fat Tones, (last years “Best New Blues Band,”) The Howlers, (last years winners) and Lockdown (who this year is nominated for this and “Best New Blues Band.”) As you can see, this is tough competition. Too Slim & the Taildraggers picked up a Hall of Fame for 1995-1997, and won again in 2003; Mumbo Jumbo in 1998; Café Blue in 1999; and Pat Coast & Out of the Blue won Hall of Fame for 2000-2002. The Tones are walkin’ on clouds tonight! 

The nominations for “Best Blues Album (N.W. Region)” are Beer and Barbeque Chips (Too Slim and the Taildraggers), and last year’s Blues Train (Ray Roberson) and Doghouse Blues (Doghouse Boyz). Consistant winners Too Slim & the Taildraggers have won in 1995, and 1996; tied with Pat Coast in 2000; and Tim won with his 2002 solo project. Pat Coast won in 1999, tied in 2000, and won again in 2001 & 2003; Mumbo Jumbo picked up a win in 1998; and two Northwest band have won the award, the Charles White Band (1997), and The Randy Oxford Band (2004). Zach Cooper steps up and eloquently accepts the award on behalf of Too Slim & the Taildraggers. This e-mail came from Tim a couple days after the awards: “Tell everyone over there that we appreciate the support all these years. We go back in the studio in a few weeks, we'll see if we can one up "Sin and Redemption."

“Best Blues Event (Inland Empire).” This category is for any event that stands out for the year. This years’ nomination are the 10th Annual Bronze, Blues and Brews in Joseph, OR., The 12th Annual Ritzville Blues Festival (Ritzville, WA.) and Rock Cut Blues Festival (Orient, WA.) Ritzville Blues Festival is a past Hall of Fame winner (1997-1999) and won again in 2003 & 2004. The Whitehorse Bluez Festival in Spirit Lake, Idaho scored in 1995 & 1996, while the Winthrop Rhythm & Blues Festival made their mark in 2000 & 2002, and the 6th Annual Joseph Bronze, Bronze Blues and Brews won in 2001. Each of these festivals have something that makes them the greatest event. And the Ritzville Blues Festival reaches the “Hall of Fame” level with this years’ win!

“Best Blues Club/Venue” is always a tough one. Venues that only have blues once in a while, often with national acts, in competition with smaller local clubs that offer local blues on a regular basis. Last year’s winner the Bronco Inn is nominated again this year along with Bluz at the Bend, a new venue, and the Wine Cellar. The Wine Cellar is a past nominee. This category has a long history of changing as venue’s come and go and the only venue to get Hall of Fame is Capone’s (2000-2002) in Coeur d’Alene. Past winners are The Fort Spokane Brewery in 1995 & 1996; Tubs in Coeur d'Alene in 1997; Mad Daddy's in Coeur d'Alene in 1998; The Masonic Temple in Spokane in 1999; and I Dunno's in Coeur d'Alene (2003). Newcomer Bluz at the Bend garners the award for 2005.

The final category was "Keeping the Blues Alive," which we describe as "an individual who has displayed exceptional achievements or involvement with the blues." Nominated this year are Clark Fisher, Craig Heimbigner and Carl Speer. This is the second year of nominations for Clark and Carl. Craig is a past winner of this category along with Ted Todd and Scott Higgin. Ted won “Hall of Fame” last year. Complete silence. A long silence. Carl Speer, Carl Speer, Carl Speer!

Ending the awards portion of the show, Mark and Alice announce the 2005 Washington Blues Society “Best Blues Band” nominee, Blues Alliance. Hot from the first notes, this group of great musicians provided us with two hours of great vocals and harmonies, and the dance floor was packed!








Welcome to the 2005 Inland Empire Blues Society

"Empire Awards"

by Carl Speer and Ted Todd