2016 – George Wesley
Unfortunately, we lost our dear friend George a shortly before the SMAs took place. We knew he was excited both to receive his award and to perform. We truly loved George and consider ourselves lucky to have know him, call him a friend, be inspired by his art and to have been able to honor him. – Joe Caviston.
George Wesley has been a touring musician and part of the North Eastern Pennsylvania musical landscape for well over four decades. Music is in Wesley’s blood; he counts Charles Wesley, composer of the classic, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” as ancestor.
Wesley’s musical career began at an early age, when he performed as a member of his father’s country and western band. By his teenage years, George was already touring and delivering his original musical stylings to the Eastern half of Pennsylvania.
Early success came in the form of Wesley’s Caribbean flavored song, “Jamaica,” in the 1970’s and early 80’s. Alongside server groups of talented musicians, Wesleyfocused his attention on colleges, universities, festivals, and bars throughout the Northeast. The popularity and experience garnered during these years would serve as a springboard to propel George into the national spotlight as a touring and recording artist.
During the mid 190’s Wesley’s “The Wesley Rodgers Band,” toured and recorded with the Grammy Award Winning, Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, also known as the Riddim Twins. In the late 80’s George would partner with David “Ikril” Walker and Evon “Laza” Lazarus from “Soul Power and Sound” to form The Irietations. The Irietations quickly gained international notoriety, even landing a sponsorship from Red Stripe Beer and recorded in Barbados with Eddy Grant for his label, World Beat Records.
Over the years, Wesley has shared the stage with The Wailers, Jimmy Cliff, Black Uhuru, Matisyahu, Culture, Mykal Rose, Judy Mowatt, Merl Saunders, The Jerry Garcia Band, Santana, Dave Matthews and many, many more.
In 2004, Wesley was officially endorsed by Martin Guitars in Nazareth, PA and worked closely with them on the development of their “Aleternative X-Midi” guitar. Wesleywas named the “Best Singer-Songwriter” in 2008 and “Best Old School Band/Musician” in 2010 by the Electric City / Diamond City Magazine. In 2015, The GeorgeWesley Band received the Steamtown Music Award for “Best Jam / Raggae / Funk Act of the Year.”
Wesley currently performs with The George Wesley Band in a 3-piece or 10-piece format. He has also developed the extremely popular “Small Axe Orchestra,” which is a solo performance outlet which features the “live looping” technique. In addition to his original music, Wesley also performs a Tribute to Bob Marley on occasion.
In addition to receiving the “Lifetime Achievement Award” at the Third Annual Steamtown Music Awards, Wesley will also perform at the event.
– Dedication written by Alan Stout
2015 – Bret Alexander
The Electric City Music Conference is proud to announce that Bret Alexander will be the recipient of this year’s “Life Time Achievement Award” at The Steamtown Music Awards. He will be presented with the award at our event in September at the 2015 Steamtown Music Awards. For more than two decades, Alexander has been perhaps the most respected person within the musical community of NEPA.
As a founding member of The Badlees, he served as the band’s principal song writer for 24 years, penning radio hits such as “Fear of Falling” and album gems such as “Luther’s Windows” and “A Place To Call Home.” As early as 1993, critics were calling The Badlees “Pennsylvania’s best band” and Alexander the “soul and the conscious” of the group. In 1995, he produced the band’s milestone album, “River Songs” at a small Harrisburg studio, and when the group was later signed to Polydor/A&M Records, the label opted to re-release the music exactly as Alexander had produced it, with no changes.
The Badlees “River Songs” tour, which lasted nearly two years, including shows with Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, The Allman Brothers and Bob Seger. A video for “Angeline Is Coming Home” starred Emmy Award winning actress Julianna Margulies and appeared on VH1. In 1999, The Badlees were signed to a second national recording contract, this time inking a deal with Ark 21/Universal Records, which was founded by Miles Copeland, who is credited with helping launch the careers of The Police and R.E.M.
Over the past 15 years, Alexander also released a solo album, “Gentleman East” and recorded and performed with a side project, The Cellarbirds, which also received critical acclaim and national airplay. In 2014, he left The Badlees and formed Gentleman East, an explosive new project featuring former Badlees bassist Paul Smith, drummer Ron Simasek and former Breaking Benjamin guitarist Aaron Fink. The band recently released its debut EP, “Oh Yesterday.”
His work has also been featured on national commercials, with MTV Books and on MTV and on the television broadcast of the Winter Olympic Games. It has also been included in several feature films. A gifted songwriter with the ability to create cinematic images within the lyrics of his songs . A powerful vocalist. An engaging guitarist and a multi-instrumentalist. They are all just a part of Alexander’s musical legacy. The other is the place that countless area musicians have spent countless hours. It is the place he produces records: Saturation Acres Recording Studio.
Over the past 15 years, hundreds if not thousands of solo artists and bands have recorded with Alexander at Saturation Acres. There, he helps shape their music, capture their songs, develop their sound and help them be the best at what they love to do most: make music. Alexander is not an engineer. He is a producer. He can help arrange a song, and if need be, he can play on it. He takes an artist’s own creative vision, helps bring it into to focus, and makes it better. For an acoustic album, his records come with a distinct warmth and textured moods. And his rock records sound just as big as any release from a major label.
His musical scope includes all genres and he has produced everyone from The Badlees to Pan.a.cea, from k8 to Ed Randazzo, from Eddie Appnel to Graces Downfall, from Dustin Douglas to The NonRefundables and from MiZ to Breaking Benjamin. Some call him a bandmate. Some call him a mentor. Some that he has produced affectionately call him “The Godfather.” And many within the NEPA music scene call him a friend. Today, we call him the 2015 recipient of our “Lifetime Achievement Award.”
And thanks for the music.
– Dedication written by Alan Stout
2014 – Alan Stout
We are happy to announce that the 2014 “Lifetime Achievement Award” will be awarded to Alan K. Stout. We are proud to honor Alan, along with his years accomplishments and contributions to the NEPA music scene. Alan has been an instrumental part of the Scranton music scene for years and his work as a music journalist, Radio DJ, and producer of “Concert for a Cause” has not only left a permeant mark on local music, but the local community as a whole.
The Times Leader:
Also honored for their musical involvement was Weekender and Times Leader contributor Alan K. Stout, who received a special Lifetime Achievement Award.
“When it comes to local music, you don’t get more local than Alan Stout,” said event organizer Joe Caviston.
Among the people to speak on Stout’s behalf was former Weekender editor Mike Lello.
“I can count on one finger the amount of people who have done for local music what Alan Stout has done,” Lello said.
Stout recalled attending a concert in 1982 for a band called The Who while accepting his award.
“What I saw there that night changed my life. I saw the power, I saw the beauty, of rock and roll,” Stout said.
The Steamtown Music Awards helped NEPA see the beauty and the power of music and don’t plan on stopping the tradition.