Latin Conference & Awards

Billboard Bits: Pioneer Awards, Polo Montanez, Littrell

News on Pioneer Awards, Polo Montanez, Littrell

NellyThe Rhythm & Blues Foundation has announced its 2003 Pioneer Awards honorees, to be presented Feb. 20 in New York, as part of the events during Grammy Week, Billboard Bulletin reports.

The Supremes, Dell-Vikings, and the Dixie Cups will receive Pioneer Awards in the group category. Koko Taylor, Johnny Nash, and Clarence "Frog Man" Henry will be recognized in the blues category, while George Clinton and Maceo Parker will be the songwriter honorees. Dionne Warwick, celebrating her 40th anniversary in music, will receive the foundation's lifetime achievement award, and the late Jackie Wilson will be honored with a special legacy tribute.

Last year's ceremony honored singers Fontella Bass and Dee Dee Sharp, saxophonist Big Jay McNeely, songwriters Holland/Dozier/Holland and Allen Toussaint, and recording acts the Emotions, the Impressions, and Sly & the Family Stone. Louis Jordan received the legacy tribute, while Al Green was honored with a lifetime achievement award.

-- Gail Mitchell, L.A.

NellyCuba's leading commercial artist of the past 15 months, Polo Montanez, died late Monday of head injuries received in a Nov. 20 car crash near Havana. His stepson was killed and his wife injured in the accident, which followed a family celebration.

Montanez, 47, soared to fame in mid-2001 as a guajiro (country peasant) artist in the vein of the internationally renowned Eliades Ochoa, another guajiro specialist. He topped Cuban radio airplay lists in the second half of 2001 with his hit, "Un Monton De Estrellas" from his debut album, 'Guajiro Natural'. This album and his recent set, "Guitarra Mia," were both launched via international release by French label Lusafrica.

Montanez, whose real name was Fernando Borrego, was especially successful in Colombia as well as other Latin American countries. He continued to fill stadiums and plazas in Cuba until his death.

-- Howell Llewellyn, Madrid

NellyThe Backstreet Boys' Brian Littrell and his wife Leighanne welcomed their first child last night (Nov. 26). Baylee Thomas Wylee Littrell was born in Atlanta, and weighed in at 6 lbs., 7 oz. "God has blessed our family in so many ways, and we are proud and very excited to welcome our new healthy baby boy into the world," the new parents said in a statement.

The baby came just a day after the Backstreet Boys filed a $75 million suit against Zomba Recording Corporation, the parent company of Jive Records. As previously reported, the suit alleges breach of contract, intentional interference with contract, trademark infringement, and unfair competition and seeks to void all stipulations remaining from the group's 1994 contract with Zomba.

-- Barry A. Jeckell, N.Y.