Northwest Arkansas Music Awards Celebrates 15 Years

Free Weekly Staff

The Northwest Arkansas Music Awards, an event that honors all Northwest Arkansas musicians and pays tribute to the area’s top performers, will be April 29 at Dickson Theater. NAMA will celebrate its 15th anniversary this year.

Winners are selected in a variety of musical categories by popular vote. Voting will begin April 8 at A private reception for musicians will begin at 6:30 p.m. Doors will open to the public at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 at the door.

This year’s showcase bands perform at the event are: Wade Ogle and Black Elk, The Declaration, LaFuSo and Randall Shreve.

Masters of Ceremonies will be Bob Cochran, Arkansas music historian and director of the Center for Arkansas and Regional Studies, and Kyle Kellams, KUAF news director and host of “Ozarks at Large.”

Each year NAMA honors individuals or groups that have significantly contributed to the NWA music scene. This year’s honorees will be veteran musician Liz Lottmann and early Northwest Arkansas music promoters, Lois Stratton and the late Dayton Stratton.

Lottmann has a 46-year career as a performer. She has toured through blues and jazz clubs of the U.S., Europe, Japan, South and Central America and Canada. While touring with her own bands, she also frequently sang with Donn McMinn’s Memphis Blues Revue, whose players include Willie Hall and Doug Dunn of The Blues Brothers, and Jeff “Stick” Davis and Billy Earheart of The Amazing Rhythm Aces.

She has recorded, performed and jammed with artists such as Taj Mahal, The Nighthawks, ZZ Top, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Dizzy Gillespie, George Benson, Bob Margolin, Furry Lewis, Alex Chilton, Willie Big Eyes Smith, Spyro Gyra and members of the Bar-Kays.

The Jonesboro native worked as a session singer in Memphis on recordings by Jerry Lee Lewis, Isaac Hayes, Michael McDonald, Carla Thomas and others and was discovered by music producer Jud Phillips, nephew of the legendary Sam Phillips. Lottmann was signed with Sam Phillips and was the only female artist who ever recorded under contract with him. She was also the first female songwriter to be signed with Knox Phillips Music Publishing.

When Lottmann left the road and moved back to Arkansas in 1995, she was soon asked to join a band with Coy Hurd and David Johnson called Lectric Liz & Livewire. The group won the 2003 NAMA “Best New Band” award and released a CD, “Bridgin’ the Blues.” The same year, Lottmann and her brother, Andy McClish, formed Ginnin’ Cotton Records, and produced several recordings, including Lottmann’s latest CD, “Memphis Revisited.” Her latest project is the Latin/soul/funk band LaFuSo (see Band of The Week).

In addition to her stage work, for the past seven years, Lottmann has worked with the Ozark Blues Society and currently serves as president.

The late Dayton Stratton and his wife, Lois, began bringing music to NWA in the 1950s. Dayton was born in Whittier, Calif. in 1931. When he was 13 his mother was killed in a car accident. Shortly after that he came home from school to find the house empty. His father had abandoned him. Dayton hitchhiked from Whittier to Elkins, Ark., to live with his grandparents.

Dayton soon got a job working in the kitchen at George’s Majestic Lounge for Mary and Joe Hinton. He then joined the Army and served in the Korean War. In 1954 he opened the Tea Table Club on South U.S. 71B where Dennis Home Furnishings is now. He brought in many upstart rock ‘n’ roll musicians like Carl Perkins. He next operated The Bubble Club where Motel 6 is today. The club was later renamed The Shamrock Club.

After that, he and musician Ronnie Hawkins teamed up to open The Rockwood Club in Fayetteville. Hawkin’s band, Ronnie Hawkins and The Hawks regularly played the club. Most members of the group went on to form The Hawks with Levon Helm and eventually The Band.

Other musicians that Dayton brought to town include Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Buchanan, Roy Orbison, Ray Charles, Conway Twitty, Leon Russell, Charlie Daniels and David Gates of Bread.

After The Rockwood Club sold, Dayton opened clubs in Tulsa and Norman, Okla., and helped Lois operate The Roller Rink on South School Avenue.

In 1965 the Strattons built The Fayetteville Entertainment Center, popularly known as The Rink, near Farmington. The Strattons brought in Van Morrison and Them, Ike and Tina Turner, Joe Walsh and The James Gang, ZZ Top, Mitch Ryder and The Detroit Wheels, The Shirelles and the Shindogs (Delaney Bramlett, Jimmy Seals (Seals and Croft), Billy Preston and Leon Russell).

Dayton also booked concerts into Barton Coliseum in Little Rock, Barnhill Arena and venues in Tulsa and Dallas.

His last job was working with Bill Graham on the 1974 Bob Dylan and The Band tour. During a break from that tour, Dayton died in the crash of a small plane that he was piloting.

After Dayton’s death, Lois and son Randy took over booking The Rink, bringing in acts such as Bonnie Raitt, Tower of Power, Hank Williams Jr., Huey Lewis and The News and Micky Gilley.

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