BY MELISSA RUGGIERI
Peter Buck jammed with Drivin’ N’ Cryin’, Sam Moore took everyone to church and Ed Roland and a gospel choir paid a classy musical tribute to deceased Georgia Music Hall of Fame anchor Dr. Bobbie Bailey at Saturday’s 37th award ceremony at the Georgia World Congress Center.
The only bum note was the absence of inductee Gregg Allman, a late scratch after falling at home on Friday and injuring his leg.
Allman, who received the Songwriter award (he is already inducted with the Allman Brothers Band) was still given his video tribute and induction speech by Live Nation Atlanta President Peter Conlon, who read a congratulatory letter to Allman from President Jimmy Carter.
Conlon, who first crossed paths with the Southern rock legend in 1969 when the band was playing in Piedmont Park, called Allman, “the oak tree in a forest of pines.”
The 2 ½-hour event, which aired live on Georgia Public Broadcasting, launched with a powerful duet of “Georgia On My Mind” between Moore, who received the Performer award, and Third Day frontman Mac Powell, a last-minute replacement for Allman.
Highlights were numerous throughout the show, which was breezily hosted by Robin Meade and Jeff Dauler.
- Moore, his hands stuffed in the pockets of his black pants, leaned back and unleashed “Rainy Night in Georgia, his incredible voice undiminished. “I gotta get the hell out of here, but thank you!” he said, but not before launching into a “Soul Man” so spirited, it catapulted the audience to its feet, had Amy Grant twirling her scarf to the rhythm and cemented his legacy in about three minutes of music.
- Miss America, Betty Cantrell, had a small window to eat her banquet dinner (while a security guard with earpiece stood stationed behind her chair) before taking the stage to belt Carrie Underwood’s “Flat on the Floor.” In her Disney princess gown and crown, Georgia’s Cantrell, who was making her first local appearance since winning the title earlier this month, ditched her talent for operatic singing and dug deep into her gritty side with a performance that showed what she’s made of as a vocalist – and it’s far beyond pageant material.
- Speaking of opera, scholarship award winner Amy Smithwick, a student at Kennesaw State University, showcased her vocal gifts with an ovation-worthy operatic performance.
- To officially honor Bailey, Roland and an ace gospel choir took the stage, with the Collective Soul frontman – a hall of famer with both his band and as a songwriter – playing a soulful piano version of “Shine.”
- R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck seemed thrilled to induct Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ (Group award inductees), a band he said, “is still my favorite.” “They were the epitome of everything I loved about rock ‘n’ roll,” Buck said. “They didn’t get the Lear jets, the limos…it was the white van, the Days Inn… (and) for 30 years, every night they walked onstage they were the best band on the planet.” The band, led by singer Kevn Kinney, tore through “Let’s Go Dancing” and “Honeysuckle Blue” and was joined by Atlanta’s Michelle Malone and Buck (now on mandolin) for “Straight to Hell.” The band closed the ceremony with a full-throttle assault on their best-known song, “Fly Me Courageous.”
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