Don't be surprised if Rusted Root jumps a few old-timers to become the first rock band inducted into the Pittsburgh Rock 'N Roll Legends Awards.
The honors, which began last year by inducting promoted Rich Engler, have expanded in 2015 to include one group/individual selected from three different categories of nominees:
Modern Era Legends (Groups or solo artists with 20-plus years in the business): Billy Price, Donnie Iris, Joe Grushecky, Rusted Root.
Legacy Legends (Groups or solo artists with 40-plus years in the business): Del Vikings, Lou Christie, Skyliners.
Non-performer/music professional (Individuals with 20-plus years in the business): Joe Rock, Nick Cenci, Pat DiCesare, Porky Chedwick.
This is a big upgrade over last year in that the Legends Awards, co-chaired by Mary Ann Miller, who runs her own communications firm, will have multiple inductees and will also involve the public in the voting, along with a 12-member Nominating Committee and a larger Academy of 178 industry professionals (including me). They are weighted at Academy and Nominating Committee 40 percent each and the public at 20 percent. Winners will be announced March 19 and the ceremony is April 23.
The Modern and Legacy Legends are a good addition, but you can see the flaw in setting the bar at 20 years in the business. We have 71-year-old New Castle native Donnie Iris, who started his career in the early '60s and went to No. 2 on the charts as a member of the Jaggerz in 1969 with "The Rapper," on the same ballot as Rusted Root, which formed in 1991.
We've seen enough awards shows to know how frontrunners can split the vote. It happened at the Grammys this year when indie-rocker Beck took album of the year over a foursome of popular Top 40 stars: Beyonce, Pharrell Williams, Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith.
There's a chance that older voters will split between Iris, Grushecky and Price (all varying in style) and younger voters will rally around Root for the win, clearly messing with the chronological integrity of the event. It would be a little like Green Day going in before the Beatles, on a much smaller scale.
The other categories are more of a fair fight. The Legacy Legends all broke within seven years: The Del Vikings ("Come Go With Me") in late 1956, the Skyliners ("Since I Don't Have You") in early 1959 and Lou Christie ("The Gypsy Cried") in 1963.
The non-performers all launched their careers from the late '40s to the mid '50s. It's a no-brainer to honor the Daddio of the Raddio, Porky Chedwick, who should have been the very first inductee, having hit the airwaves in 1948. He died last year at 96.
Although the Del Vikings beat the Skyliners to the charts, they were servicemen from other cities stationed at the regional Air Force base. The hometown Skyliners, led by the still-active Jimmy Beaumont, are the best choice there.
As for the trickiest category, Rusted Root is a deserving Modern Legend. But not even close to yet. Grushecky is the embodiment of working-class Pittsburgh rock 'n' roll and Price is an R&B icon, but, chronologically, I gotta go with King Cool ... Donnie Iris.