Takoma scores big at WAMMIEs
Feb. 23, 2000

by Luke Mines

Staff Writer

Saxophonist Ron Holloway played his first-ever gig at the old Takoma Park Recreation Center as a teen-ager, kicking off a career that would eventually take him on a world tour with jazz legend Dizzy Gillespie.

Ruthie Logsdon moved to Westmoreland Avenue in Takoma Park 17 years ago, long before she formed the group Ruthie and the Wranglers and the band worked its way onto radio play lists across the country.

So it's safe to say that when Holloway and Ruthie and the Wranglers swept four of the top prizes at this year's WAMMIE awards, Takoma Park was well-represented.

In the Washington Area Music Association's Feb. 6 awards presentation, Ruthie and the Wranglers scored a triple crown, winning Artist of the Year, Album of the Year for "Life Savings" and Song of the Year for "What Momma Don't Know."

Holloway walked away with Musician of the Year honors at the ceremony. And that was just in the General Awards category, cutting across all musical genres.

In the more specific categories Ruthie and the Wranglers took awards for Best Country Group and Best Country Recording, again for "Life Savings."

In the Traditional Jazz category, Holloway took top prizes for Best Group, Best Instrumentalist and Best Recording for his most recent album, "Groove Update."

Holloway, who already has a closet full of Wammies, seemed somewhat nonplussed by his victory.

"Since its inception in 1985 I have now won 31 Wammies," said Holloway, who performed at the ceremony with one incarnation of his band that included Latino Vocalist of the Year Nicki Gonzalez.

Logsdon was decidedly more excited about her Wammie victories than Holloway.

"I was actually very shocked [to win] 'cause I was in the same category with a lot of national artists and artists that had won before," Logsdon said last week from her Takoma Park home.

She mentioned some sources of personal musical inspiration are among the 1,300 voting members of the music association, including Bill Kirchen and Mary Chapin Carpenter.

"I think they probably voted for me which made me feel good," said Logsdon.

Besides winning multiple Wammies, the past year has seen other milestones for Ruthie and the Wranglers, whose members are scattered around suburban Maryland.

"We've gotten a lot of national TV exposure," said Logsdon. "We did the Crook and Chase talk show on [cable station] TNN. ... It's kind of like being on Carson but the Carson of the country world," referring to the "The Tonight Show" once hosted by comedian Johnny Carson.

The band also recorded a new album called "Live at Chick Hall's Surf Club" recorded at one of their weekly Wednesday night gigs at the Bladensburg club.

Despite the exposure on the country-oriented TNN, "We don't consider ourselves a traditional country band," Logsdon said. "We consider ourselves American roots music. When we play other peoples music it tends to be from '50s or '60s."

Logsdon mentions artists like Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Wanda Jackson and Buck Owens as major influences.

Locally, the band gets play on the Annapolis-based WRNR-FM and sometimes on WAMU-FM.

As for her home in Takoma Park, "I love it here it's a real nice neighborhood," said Logsdon, mentioning that she likes being near HMT, the House of Musical Traditions.

For Holloway, the association with Takoma Park goes way back, to his early teens.

"I lived in Takoma Park from about 13 until I was 20 years old. So those were the very formative years," the tenor saxophonist said. When his family moved to Takoma Park from D.C., "we moved into a house with a big basement with cabinets for my father's record collection that numbered in the thousands."

It was in that basement, listening to old jazz records and practicing, that Holloway honed his chops. He also played in school bands at Takoma Park Junior High and at Blair High.

Before long Holloway was sitting in with jazz luminaries like Sonny Rollins and Freddy Hubbard when they swung through town and playing in local acts such as Root Boy Slim and the Sex Change Band.

In 1977, Holloway caught on with jazz poet Gil Scott-Heron's band, which he played with until1989 when he earned a spot in bebop originator Gillespie's band. Holloway stayed with Gillespie until the great trumpeters' death in 1993.

Holloway continues to be active in a number of musical projects, in jazz and a variety of other styles. He has released four jazz albums under his own name on the Milestones/ Fantasy Records label .

Ron Holloway will play March 4 at Dumbarton Church, 3133 Dumbarton St., N.W. Washington, D.C. Ruthie and the Wranglers will play March 4 at Paddy Mac's Irish Pub, 8241 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring.