The show provided the perfect setting to announce the nominees and final picks for this year’s recipients of the 2014 Valley Star Awards, selected by Winter Texans who cast well over 2,000 ballots in this year’s voting.
Robert and Billie Ferguson produced the show, while the Winter Texan Times published the ballots and tabulated the votes for this year’s awards.
While excitement was in the air as the audience awaited the announcement of the winners of each of this year’s awards, there was plenty of top-notch, Branson quality entertainment provided by six different groups of performers putting on a show like none other in the Rio Grande Valley.
The show started with a remarkable performance by Dave and Daphne who immediately won over the audience as they sang “Lonesome Me” as their introduction. Then Dave mesmerized the crowd with his guitar pickin’ abilities, playing “Orange Blossom Special.” Daphne came right back, amazing the audience with her phenomenal voice as she sang Etta James’, “At Last,” followed by Dave’s incredible duet of “Flight of the Bumblebee” and “Dueling” on the banjo. Daphne then wooed the ballroom full of Winter Texans with Whitney Houston’s version of Dolly Parton’s song, “I Will Always Love You.”
Following their performance the first two awards were presented. Making the presentation were Robert and Billie Ferguson, Jim Brunson, publisher of the Winter Texan Times, and Kathy Olivarez, editor.
The award for Country Western Band of the Year went to Jack Nelson and County Line. Others nominated for the award were Sweet Water, Louis Gomez & Texas Country, and Dixon & Company.
Named Rock and Roll Band of the Year was Ralph and the Cruisers. Nominees included the Agency, Renaissance Rockers, and Hot Rods.
In all, 12 awards were presented at the Valley Star Awards Show, including 11 different categories and one for overall Entertainer of the Year. Again this year, the ballots poured in for Winter Texans’ favorite performers, with some very close vote tallies in several of the categories.
John Sager held onto a strong lead to capture Male Vocalist of the Year for the third year in a row, although Jeff Gordon pulled some strong support from his fans’ votes to secure a solid second place, followed by Bill Chrastil and Jackson Haney.
Leslie Blasing polled nearly 200 votes more than her nearest competitor to win Female Vocalist of the Year. Betty Rydell, Rainy and Susan Hudson Carman were the other nominees for Female Vocalist.
Amber Waves closed out the evening’s performances, but it was Redhead Express that captured the most votes for Family Musical Group of the Year. Other nominees were Amber Waves, Mama’s Wranglers, and Goldwing.
Nominees for Musical Group of the Year (Not Related) were Razz Ma Taz, Senior Ambassadors, Boxcar Bob, Cactus Willie & The Drifter, and From the Heartland. But it was Boxcar Bob who was called to the stage to accept the award for 2014 Musical Group of the Year (Not Related).
Duet Musical Group of the Year was another tough category, as four excellent nominees all gathered a fair share of the votes. Nominees were Gordy & Debbie, Dave & Daphne, Diego and Edith, and Wade & Theresa Landry. But Gordy and Debbie are this year’s recipients of the award for a fantastic show.
Bernie & Red were voted Comedy Show of the Year. Gary Crain (Gomer Pyle) was runner-up.
Ron O’Neil was named Novelty Act of the Year. The other nominees for this category were Jim Greeninger (guitarist), Aloha ‘n Texas and Rich Bellert (cowboy poet).
For Gospel Group of the Year, it was the Punches Family that won the hearts of Winter Texans by a landslide. The other groups nominated were Ambassadors of Grace, Spoken 4 Quartet, and the Prowell Family.
Bluegrass Group of the Year was awarded to CrossStrung, although they faced stiff competition from Lindley Creek, Kenaston Family, and the Farnum Family, who all pulled strong numbers in the voting, showing their popularity with Rio Grande Valley audiences.
The big award – Entertainer of the Year – was presented at the end of the three-hour, fast-moving, highly entertaining show. While last year’s Entertainer of the Year, John Sager, was very close this year – by a margin of just a few votes – it was Leslie Blasing who was named the 2014 Entertainer of the Year. Billy Chrastil came in just a few votes less to capture third place, and Jack Nelson received the next highest number of votes.
Contributing to an amazing collection of talent performing on stage at this year’s Valley Star Awards Show was master guitarist Jim Greeninger, who stunned the audience with his incredible ability. Greeninger, who has taught guitar at Julliard and performed at Carnegie Hall in New York City, played a variety of songs from different genres such as “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” a duet of “Flight of the Bumblebee” and “Double Boogie,” “You Were Always on My Mind,” “You Are My Destiny,” and “In the Garden.”
Jeff Gordon was the next performer in the night’s power lineup of talent, showing great talent with vocals and guitar as he performed a lively “Rocky Mountain Music,” followed by “Slow Hand,” “ Ring of Fire,” “She’s a Lady,” and “Oh, Lonesome Me.” Gordon concluded with Elvis’ version of “How Great Thou Art.”
Susan Hudson Carman put on a highly entertaining show, totally delighting the audience. Her showmanship was superb as she combined truly great humor with Nashville quality vocals to carry the audience to a whole new level of entertainment they hadn’t imagined they’d experience on a Rio Grande Valley stage. She started with “Everybody Start Movin,” followed by “Rockin’ Robin.” She moved to “Under the Boardwalk” and concluded with “Why Do Fools Fall in Love.”
Folks in the audience had no idea what was in store when Billy Droze took the stage, backed up on guitar by Dave Salyer, of Dave and Daphne fame. The two musicians showed incredible showmanship as they blended two amazing talents into one tremendous performance. Billy lifted the spirit of everyone in the sound of his voice with “Freeborn Man,” “Just a Ghost in This House,” “You Never Know,” “Oh Baby, Mine,” and a medley of the “Crawdad Song” and “Darned if I Do.” With each song, the guitar pickin’ of Dave Salyer added to the delight of all as he displayed his incredible talent and versatility – all on the fly as he followed Billy’s cue.
The last group to perform on the show was Amber Waves, a family band from Colorado. While 13-year-old Sean’s fiddlin’ skills, combined with that of his sisters’s mastery of the guitar and banjo thrilled the crowd, it was the amazing vocals of this family band that turned applause and foot-tappin’ into ooos and ahhhs of sheer enjoyment.