DeBraun Thomas accepted the Lexington Music Award for best radio DJ, but he was fairly certain the honor was for something else.
“Any other year, I’d say I could go toe-to-toe with any other DJ in this town,” Thomas said, award in hand. “This year, I don’t think DJing was my accomplishment.”
Thomas, a host on WUKY-FM 91.3 and an area blues musician, was a leader in the Take Back Cheapside movement that led to the removal of statues of Confederate figures Thomas Hunt Morgan and John C. Breckenridge from in front of the old Fayette County Court House, which is a former slave auction site.
“I accept this award on behalf of all the people in Lexington who said they were willing to stand up against oppression, and who were willing to stand up and say they wanted to be on the side of history that was working for change,” Thomas said.
His award and acceptance was one of several moments that gave Sunday night’s ceremony a “ripped from the headlines” feel. In addition, Devine Carama spoke of his community service in accepting the best hip-hop/rap award, and the late Troy Gentry’s daughter, Taylor Gentry, accepted Montgomery Gentry’s lifetime achievement award.
“I’m sure he’s got one of those big ol’ smiles on his face right now,” Gentry said of her father. “I know he’s lived in Nashville the last 20 years, but he’s never forgotten his roots here in Lexington.”
Gentry died in September in a helicopter crash in New Jersey the afternoon before a scheduled Montgomery Gentry concert. The duo had been inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 2009 and the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame in 2015.
Carama, who presented two late-fall marathon performances on the Robert F. Stephens Courthouse Plaza to collect coats for children, celebrated hip-hop in accepting his award.
“It was for poor people that were underserved, that were misrepresented and not represented at all in other genres of music, in media overall, and then came hip-hop,” Carama said. “2017 was rough year for me, and I used hip-hop to get through it. ... This is an honor for the beautiful craft of hip-hop music.”
It was the fourth year for the Lexington Music Awards, founded by musician and music teacher David McLean to highlight and promote the area music scene. The Lyric Theatre ceremony appeared more lightly attended than the last couple years, particularly among award winners.
Hosts Bill Meck and Angie Bevin of WLEX-TV 18 noted that the awards occurred on the night of the televised Grammy Awards, music’s biggest honor, and Kentuckian Chris Stapleton won three Grammys. McLean said the schedule conflict resulted in part from trying to avoid the Super Bowl next Sunday. The local event included house band The Twiggenburys, which presented a bit of Montgomery Gentry’s hometown pride anthem, “My Town,” in its in-memoriam segment.
Here is the complete list of winners from Sunday night:
Album of the year: “Silhouettes” by A Little Bit More
Song of the year: “Tried and Crucified” by Whitney Acke and Ray Adams
Critics’ choice: Italian Beaches
Community service: Twisted Cork Songwriters in the Round
Best Americana/folk: The Local Honeys
Best blues: Tee Dee Young
Best classical: Lexington Philharmonic
Best bluegrass: The Wooks
Best country: Sundy Best
Best hip-hop/rap: Devine Carama
Best jazz/Latin/big band/world: (Tie) Gayle Winters and Zach Brock
Best singer-songwriter: Whitney Acke
Best pop: Brother Smith
Best rock: Magnolia Boulevard
Best cover band/variety act: Rebel Without a Cause
Best funk/R&B/reggae: Driftwood Gypsy
Best female vocalist: Taylor Hughes
Best male vocalist: Derrick Spencer
Best drummer/percussionist: Tripp Bratton
Best guitarist: Ben Lacy
Best bassist: Bob Bryant
Best keyboardist: Raleigh Dailey
Best wind/brass: Miles Osland
Best strings: Raymond McClain
Best live music venue: The Burl
Best music store (instruments): The DooWop Shop
Best music store (CDs, etc.): Pops Resale
Best recording studio/producer/engineer: Long Island (Steve Nall)
Jay Flippin Music Educator Award: Paul Felice
Best live sound tech: Matt Florez
Best DJ (radio): DeBraun Thomas, WUKY-FM
Best instrument repair/builders/customization: Wilcutt Guitar
Rich Copley, @copiousnotes