NASHVILLE, Tenn. (August 23, 2022) — Today, the Americana Music Association announced this year’s slate of Lifetime Achievement Award honorees for its 21st Annual Americana Honors & Awards show on Wednesday, September 14. This group of top-honor recipients includes the Fairfield Four (Legacy Award, co-presented by the National Museum of African American Music), Al Bell (Executive), Chris Isaak (Performance), Indigo Girls (Spirit of Americana Award, co-presented by the First Amendment Center), and Don Williams (President’s Award, posthumous). This year’s honorees will be celebrated during the prestigious ceremony held at the Ryman Auditorium, which serves as the hallmark event of the association’s annual AMERICANAFEST, taking place Sept. 13-17 in Nashville, Tenn.
The Legacy of Americana Award will be presented to the Fairfield Four, in partnership with the National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM). The Four transformed American gospel music from the 1930s onward with its rhythm-and-blues influenced a cappella singing. Launched at the Fairfield Baptist Church 101 years ago as a youth group, the Fairfield Four went national after Rev. Sam McCrary took over as leader in the 1930s. They found an audience on radio station WLAC and toured relentlessly, becoming a key influence in their genre and beyond, including Elvis Presley and B.B. King.
Chris Isaak will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award for Performance. Isaak took rockabilly revival and country noir mainstream in the 1990s with a warm, resonant voice, throwback cool and some boosts from his super fan, filmmaker David Lynch. Isaak’s songs “Wicked Game,” “Somebody’s Crying” and “Baby Did A Bad Bad Thing” were highlights of a diverse creative career. As an accomplished actor, Isaak appeared in productions directed by Lynch and Bernardo Bertolucci, as well as two TV series under his own name.
The Spirit of Americana Award, presented in partnership with the First Amendment Center, will be presented to the Indigo Girls. When they launched their harmony-forward folk-rock duo in the mid 1980s, the idea of out lesbians commanding a huge fan base was radical, but that changed, thanks in part to Emily Saliers and Amy Ray’s advocacy and example. The lifelong friends honed their artistry in high school and college in their native Atlanta, GA before their first album did well and was picked up by Epic Records. Even as their music career soared, they kept social issues in the spotlight, chiefly LGBTQ rights, the death penalty, and the environment.
Al Bell — one of the most impactful African American music executives, having steered Stax Records in Memphis to some culture-shaping moments before moving on to run Motown Records in the 1980s — will receive the Jack Emerson Lifetime Achievement Award for Executive. As a young DJ, Bell played records by artists from Memphis on the Stax label. In 1965, Bell joined Stax as head of promotions and would go on to own the company, in the meantime overseeing 1972’s legendary Wattstax festival and elevating the careers of Isaac Hayes and the Staple Singers.
The President’s Award will go to the late Don Williams, the laid back Texas-born singer and songwriter who quietly stormed the country charts between 1974 and 1991. His breakout came with the Pozo-Seco Singers folk group, and he was ushered into Nashville by Cowboy Jack Clement. Williams’ style and relatable hits like “You’re My Best Friend” and “I Believe In You” helped “The Gentle Giant” become a global star who entered the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2010.
“This year’s Lifetime Achievement honorees represent the diverse sounds that contribute to American roots music,” said Jed Hilly, Executive Director of the Americana Music Association. “Our honorees have inspired this community individually and have collectively changed the landscape of the music industry. I can’t wait for this show!”
In addition to these top Lifetime Achievement Awards, the association also honors distinguished members of the music community with six member-voted annual awards, revealing the winners on Americana music’s biggest night at the Ryman Auditorium. View this year’s nominees here.
Described by Emmylou Harris as “the shining star of Nashville and music everywhere,” the Americana Honors & Awards has been broadcast in years past on CMT, Austin City Limits via PBS, AXS TV and via SiriusXM Radio, BBC2, WMOT, WRLT, WSM, Voice of America and Circle Network.
For more than two decades, the prestigious ceremony has celebrated pioneering mainstays and trailblazing newcomers, while featuring unforgettable moments in musical history including Johnny Cash & June Carter Cash's last live performance together, as well as offering show-stopping appearances by k.d. lang, Van Morrison, Mavis Staples, Bob Weir, Buddy Guy, George Strait, Don Henley, the late John Prine with Bonnie Raitt, Gregg Allman, The Avett Brothers, The Lumineers, Mumford & Sons, Alabama Shakes, Solomon Burke, Rosanne Cash, the late Dr. John with Dan Auerbach, Irma Thomas, Levon Helm, Robert Plant and many more.
Tickets to the Americana Honors & Awards will go on sale to the general public tomorrow, August 24, here. Tickets are on sale now for AMERICANAFEST Conference Registrants and Americana Music Association members. For more information on the association or to purchase passes to AMERICANAFEST, please visit www.americanamusic.org.