Big show, sad news mark Magic City Music Awards

The 16th annual Magic City Music Awards on Sunday drew big crowds, threw off waves of youthful energy and included a sad, shocking announcement from Jared Stewart, the guitar master who has won more of the awards than anyone else.

The evening also included a tribute to Norrine “The Outlaw Queen” Linderman, who has been singing, yodeling and playing guitar in these parts since the late 1940s. She was this year’s recipient of the Freeman Lacy Award, established to recognize musicians with a long history of contributing to the Billings music scene.

Stewart, a 45-year-old Crow Indian bluesman with a long record of such contributions himself, stunned the crowd by announcing, just before playing the last song of a 25-minute set, that he would be retiring because of recent “problems” that made it hard even to hold a guitar.

After his set, he elaborated by calling it an “indefinite retirement,” and said he’d begin performing again if he can recover from an as-yet unknown medical condition.

He said his troubles started last March, when a bad cold turned into strep throat and pneumonia. Still later he was diagnosed with diverticulitis, a painful colon infection. He thought he had recovered from that when, in recent months, he began experiencing a general weakness.

He said he had hardly played for two months leading up to Sunday’s awards show, at which he was named guitar player of the year and picked up another award for best blues/soul/R&B/funk band.


Ed Kemmick/Last Best News

Bluesman Jared Stewart stunned the audience Sunday when he announced he was indefinitely retiring from music to deal with health problems.

He seemed to be as adept and energetic as ever, but he said “it’s getting pretty hard to hold my guitar.”

“My bass player noticed it tonight—missing here and there,” he said. “I’m usually much more precise.”

Stewart said he is seeking medical help and hopes to figure out what’s wrong with him and how to get better. Until then, he said, he’s done with music. Stewart has been winning Magic City Music Awards since the first event 16 years ago, when they were known as the Tuneys.

To the best of his knowledge, he said, he and his band have won 35 or 36 Magic City Music Awards, including nine in one year.

The annual awards show was sponsored for the first 15 years by The Billings Outpost. After that weekly newspaper folded last January and publisher David Crisp joined Last Best News, this online newspaper took over sponsorship of the event.

Most of the work on this year’s event was done by Scott Ninnemann, a guitarist who plays with Ellen and the Old School and Becky Sappington and the Bitter Road. Ninnemann said 1,318 votes were cast this year, twice as many as last year and the most since voting for the Magic City Music Awards went online five years ago.

The big winner Sunday night was Chelson Michael Romero, a hip hop artist formerly known as Prodiga1 and now known as Chez. He won three first-place awards—for best solo performer, songwriter and male vocalist—and second place for best hip hop/rap group. Chez, who also happens to be the nephew of Billings musical legend Chan Romero, did not attend the awards show.

Norrine the Outlaw Queen did show up, despite a recent injury that left her with a broken hip. David Crisp and Ed Kemmick, in presenting her with the Freeman Lacy Award, said, in part:

“The winner of this year’s Freeman Lacy Award could not possibly go to a more deserving person. In a town with ever-growing numbers of talented, hard-working musicians, there can be none who’ve worked harder or longer than Norrine Linderman, known far and wide as Norrine the Outlaw Queen.

“Norrine was born and raised in Illinois, but she knew where she needed to be, and almost 70 years ago, fresh out of high school, she traveled by train to Billings, where some family friends lived, to start her singing career.

“She’s been at it ever since, singing and performing cowboy songs, western swing, ballads, jazz, pop standards and straight-ahead country music. She’s performed solo, played with duets, trios and full bands, cut records and performed on the radio. And for many, many years she has donated her time and talents to provide music for the Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners at the Montana Rescue Mission.

“With her first husband Doug Linderman, of the famous Red Lodge rodeo family, she ran a club in Red Lodge—The Swinging Doors—for many years, hiring countless bands from around the state and region.


Scott Wagers

Norrine “The Outlaw Queen” Linderman was the winner of the 2016 Freeman Lacy Award.

“She continues to perform regularly, in Red Lodge, Billings and other towns, and just a few years ago she was the grand marshal for the Red Lodge Fourth of July Parade. If you’ve ever seen her perform, you’ll never forget her obvious love of music, her enthusiastic delivery or her thousand-watt smile.

“Norrine was recently involved in an accident and is still recovering from her injuries. A benefit for her will be held on Sunday, Nov. 13, from 3 to 8 p.m. at the VFW Post 637, on Anchor Street in the Heights. Please stop by if you can.”

The event was hosted, as it has been for many years, by the Garage Pub at the Yellowstone Valley Brewing Company. A tally showed that 186 people paid the $5 cover Sunday night, for a total of $930. As always, after expenses the rest of the take will go toward support of local music and musicians.

Counting dozens of musicians who didn’t have to pay the cover, the Garage Pub and its outdoor patio were packed with more than 200 people.

It seems safe to say that the most enthusiastic reception of the evening was given to Silverbow Society, a punk band made up of two 16-year-olds and two 15-year-olds, all of them students at Skyview High School.

They played all five original songs from their CD, “The Giant Benevolent Lizard,” and they performed with a passion and professionalism that drew sustained applause and cheers. They were also the only band with a merch table, set up on the patio.

They won second place in the punk band category, but this listener thought their music was too melodic, and too technically proficient, to fit neatly into that category. A better description might be unbridled, hard-driving rock ‘n’ roll.

And let it be said that the loudest cheers for Silverbow Society seem to be coming from the members of Yellowstoned, another young band that filled the first row of seats in front of the Garage Pub stage.

That band, fronted by three brothers, Evan Crocker, 18, Reed Mullins, 21, and Drew Mullins, 22, won two first-place Magic City Music Awards, for best hip hop/rap group and best new band.

The emcee for the night was Art Hooker, longtime host of the “Blue Light Boogie” show on Yellowstone Public Radio and also the emcee for Magic City Blues. Shan Cousrouf, who worked for The Outpost for many years, also helped organize the event.

In addition to Stewart, Silverbow Society and Yellowstoned, performers Sunday night were Mandie Castro, who tied for second in the best female vocalist category; The Henge, which won second place for best Americana/folk/bluegrass band and third place for best new band; and Downtime, which came in second in the classic rock band category.

Here is a complete list of winners and second- and third-place runners-up in the 2016 Magic City Music Awards:

Country: 3rd place, Only Threads Left; 2nd place, Jon Buck and Reckless; Winner, Bucky Beaver Ground Grippers.

Americana/Folk/Bluegrass: 3rd place, We Three Bears; 2nd place, The Henge; Winner, Satsang.

Blues/Soul/R&B/Funk: 3rd place, John Roberts Y Pan Blanco; 2nd place, Hubba Hubba; Winner, Jared Stewart.

Jazz: 3rd place, Treo; 2nd place, Rimrock Hot Club; Winner, Alex Nauman Organ Trio.

Classic Rock: 3rd place, Ellen and the Old School; 2nd place, Downtime; Winner, Midlife Chryslers.

Alt/Indie: 3rd place, Not Your Boyfriend’s Band; 2nd place, Parker Brown Band; Winner, Alder Lights.

Metal: 3rd place, In Rapture; 2nd place, Righteous Vendetta; Winner, Stranded By Choice.

Punk: 3rd place, Snow Bored; 2nd place, Silverbow Society; Winner, No Cigar.

Hip Hop/Rap: 3rd place, Poetic Intelligence; 2nd place, Chez; Winner, Yellowstoned.

Solo Performer: 3rd place, Alex Nauman; 2nd place, Wes Urbaniak; Winner, Chez.

New Band: 3rd place, The Henge; 2nd place, Alder Lights; Winner, Yellowstoned.

Bass: 3rd place, Zach Ostwalt; 2nd place, Kaleb Barkac; Winner, Parker Brown.

Drums/Percussion: 3rd place, John Culbertson; 2nd place, Keller Paulson; Winner, Bart Barkac.

Guitar: 3rd place, Wes Urbaniak; 2nd place, Alex Nauman; Winner, Jared Stewart.

Keyboard: 3rd place, Chris Lutton; 2nd place, Samm Bauer; Winner, Erik Olson.

Horn: 3rd place, Tully Olson; 2nd place, Kevin McBride; Winner, John Roberts.

Stringed Instrument: 3rd place, Lauren Carr; 2nd place, Trevor Krieger; Winner, David Cleaves.

Female Vocalist: 2nd place, Mandie Castro/Jordyn Armstrong (tie); Winner, Jessica Lechner.

Male Vocalist: 3rd place, Drew McManus/Dylan Petit (tie); 2nd place, Jake Goldberg; Winner, Chez.

Songwriter: 2nd place, Wes Urbaniak/Jake Goldberg (tie); Winner, Chez.

Spoken Word Artist: 3rd place, Pete Tolton; 2nd place, A.J. Williams; Winner, Anna Paige.

Album: 3rd place, In Rapture, “Oceans to Arsenic”; 2nd place, Satsang, “The Story of You”; Winner, Parker Brown, “We Were Young.”

Show: 3rd place, In Rapture, CD Release Show with Engage the Unseen and No Cigar; 2nd place, Chez live at The Island; Winner, Alder Lights, CD Release Show.

Live Venue: 3rd place, The Railyard; 2nd place, Yellowstone Valley Brewing Company-Garage Pub; Winner, The Pub Station.

Radio DJ: 3rd place, Sam Talkington; 2nd place, McLovin (Justin Hutchinson); Winner, Big J (Jason Harris).

Club DJ/Electronic Dance Music Artist: 3rd place, DJ Exodus; 2nd place, Chris Lutton a.k.a. Beautiful Existence; Winner, DJ Benefit.


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