During the last week of January – and in a prelude to the kick-off of Black History Month – the Chicago Music Awards took place Jan. 24, to honor the city’s talented artists both past and present.

Alhambra Palace, 1240 Randolph St. was the site of the 29th annual awards show, founded by Ephraim Martin. This year’s Lifetime Achievement Awards were given to: soul music legend Etta James; country singer and producer Calvin Martin; radio legend Lucky Cordell; Polka star Bruce Korosa; and Henry Cardenvas, a veteran producer and promoter.

Marshall Thompson, a 50-year partner of the legendary Chi-Lites was also recognized. The group lost one of its members, Robert ‘Squirrel” Lester, 67, who died on Jan, 26. The Cook County Board passed a resolution honoring Lester during the last week of January.

Many Chicago-area artists performed, including Jeremih, Cal Starr, Gula Rivera, and Twista – all rocking the house that evening. Martin’s wife, Judge Shelvin Hall, introduced all of the Lifetime Award winners, and during her speech she asked that everyone keep the Haitian people in their prayers and to help the victims. 

In accepting his award, Lucky Cordell said he accepted on behalf of staff and management at WVON during his tenure as general manager. 

Korosa said he thought everyone had forgotten about Polka and was honored to receive the award.

Bluesman Frank Pelligrino and NBC5 fitness guru Saran Dunmore were the show’s hosts. This year’s motto for The Chicago Music Awards was Unity is Strength, Forward Together, Music Shall Conquer.

According to Ephraim Martin, “Chicago was once the “Mecca for the music industry. But when we started the music awards 29 years ago, there were no forums for recognition of Chicagoland entertainers, and still to this day, Martin’s International is the only organization paying respect to the Chicago music industry.”

Among the attendees at the gala were Rev. Reginald E. Bachus, pastor of Austin’s Friendship Baptist Church, 5200 W. Jackson. Judge Hall’s parents, the late Shelvin and Lucy Hall, were pastor and First Lady of Friendship for more than 50 years. They were married for 62 years. The couple died 20 days apart from one another in May 2007.