Saturday, March 05, 2022

Tom Kenny & The Hi-Seas to Headline Sammy Awards 2022; Kenny to Be Inducted Into Hall of Fame

LIVERPOOL, SYRACUSE, NY — Since 1993, the Syracuse Area Music Awards have been bestowed upon a wide variety of area musicians and music-industry professionals.

Founded by Frank Malfitano, then director of the historic Landmark Theatre, the awards were modeled after the Grammys or the Oscars. Like those famous awards, at the early Sammys local music professionals voted for the winners in wide number of categories and genres. In recent years, however, the awards have focused specifically on recorded work.

A committee assesses submitted CDs from more than 150 area artists, and makes nominations in 11 recording categories, from Best Jazz to Best Hip-Hop. This year, there are 47 nominees overall, which can be viewed by visiting

The 2022 Sammy Awards show will be held at 7 p.m. Friday, March 4, at the OnCenter Crouse Hinds Theater, 411 Montgomery St. in downtown Syracuse. Tickets cost $25 at Online streaming will also be available for $15.

The show will be headlined by Tom Kenny & The Hi-Seas, a Los Angeles-based pop-soul outfit. In the 1980s, Kenny fronted a Syracuse pop band called The Tearjerkers and was a member of the Generic Comics. After moving to California, Kenny became an actor and in 1999 was hired to voice the title character of Nickelodeon’s animated smash hit, SpongeBob SquarePants, a job he has held for nearly a quarter century.

The awards show will also feature performances by Jon Rogalia & The Swamp Boys, Letizia and The Real RAW Breed. Awards will be presented in 11 recording categories, as well as the People’s Choice awards for Best Artist or Band, Best Event or Music Series, Best Academic or Musical Organization and Best Venue. The Brian Bourke Award for Best New Artist sponsored by will also be announced.

Readers can get in on the Sammys’ action by voting in the annual People’s Choice categories. Each year the web-based competition allows fans to support their favorites in four categories: Artist or Band, Event or Music Series, Academic or Musical Organization and Venue. Voting is free and open to the public through Feb. 28 at

Hall of Fame inductees

The day before the awards show, at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 3, Kenny will be among five inductees to the Sammys Hall of Fame, Upstairs at the Dinosaur Barbecue, 246 W. Willow St., downtown.

Kenny, 59, is being honored for his lifetime achievements. Liverpool bagpiper and teacher J. Avery Head will accept the music educator of the year award. The other HOF inductees are roots-rock band Los Blancos (Colin Aberdeen, Mark Tiffault and Steven T. Winston), trumpeter Jeff Stockham, drummer Bobby Avery, real name Bob Tousignant, who recorded hits with such bands a The Music Explosion and Crazy Elephant, and Among the new inductees is yours Russ Tarby, longtime music critic and promoter Russ Tarby.

Tickets for the induction dinner cost $30;

‘Best job ever’: Tom Kenny credits ‘SpongeBob’ success to Syracuse roots (interview)

“SpongeBob SquarePants” star Tom Kenny is back in his hometown of Syracuse, N.Y., to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Syracuse Area Music Awards, the local version of the Grammys known as the “SAMMYS.”

Kenny, a 1980 graduate of Bishop Grimes High School, will be honored Thursday night during the SAMMY Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and then attend the 2022 SAMMYS on Friday, where local musicians will receive awards for recordings released in the past year. He’s previously won three Annie Awards (for his work as a voice actor on the animated series “Adventure Time” and as the voice of SpongeBob) and two Emmys, but there’s something special about being recognized where he grew up.

“It feels great. It’s just really nice and it makes my mom proud,” Kenny said in an interview with | The Post-Standard.

“Syracuse is in my bones, it’s where I grew up. My mom still lives in the house from when I was born,” he continued. “It’s a great place. Really, Bobcat (Goldthwait) and I talk about this all the time. This place made us. It formed us. Syracuse is the — I want to say petri dish, but — the oven or refrigerator, that we were formed in... It’s more of a freezer than an oven.”

Kenny is especially fond of the people, and the teachers, that encouraged him and Bobcat Goldthwait to pursue their careers, even when they were just high school students trying to get started in standup comedy. For a time, Kenny performed as “Tomcat” alongside his best friend and Bishop Grimes classmate, who first developed his gruff, high-pitched “Bobcat” persona in Skaneateles with Barry “Bearcat” Crimmins; “Tomcat” and “Bobcat” also formed the local comedy sketch troupe “Generic Comics.”

“A lot of people in other towns would’ve said get out of here, but they said yes,” Kenny recalled.

Kenny also loved music, joining the local Charlie Robbins-founded rock band The Tearjerkers at the suggestion of The Flashcubes’ Gary Frenay. Today, he writes songs for “SpongeBob” and other projects, plus performs live as the frontman for Tom Kenny & The Hi-Seas; the high-energy 12-piece band from California will perform at the 2022 Syracuse Area Music Awards show at The Oncenter Crouse Hinds Theater on Friday.

Tom Kenny & The Hi-Seas will also headline a concert at the King of Clubs in downtown Syracuse on Saturday night; tickets are on sale for $10. Special guest Andy Paley, who co-wrote classic “SpongeBob” songs like “Don’t Be A Jerk, It’s Christmas” and “Best Day Ever” with Kenny, will also perform with The Damselles.

Kenny, who lives in Los Angeles, has been in Syracuse since Sunday, though an extended visit doesn’t leave him with enough time to do all the things he wants to do. His first priority is to see friends and family, but he also expressed love for Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, Heid’s hot dogs, and the famous frittata at Mother’s Cupboard.

“There’s never enough time when I’m here,” Kenny admitted. “There’s sisters and brothers and nephews and nieces and cousins, and the time goes very quickly, you know?”

Kenny’s also very busy in general — which is a good thing in his line of work. He’s done more than 500 movies and TV shows, including the still growing “SpongeBob SquarePants” universe where he voices SpongeBob, Gary the Snail and other characters. A fourth “SpongeBob” movie is headed to theaters and multiple spinoffs and films are also coming to Paramount+, in addition to the still-running Nickelodeon series that premiered in 1999; he also became the show’s voice director, which he said makes him feel like he’s doing a 1950s radio play with other voice actors.

“This is the best job ever,” Kenny said.

His credits also include “Adventure Time,” “Powerpuff Girls,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “Transformers,” “Ultimate Spider-Man,” “Rick and Morty,” “Scooby-Doo,” “Woody Woodpecker,” “Doc McStuffins,” “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe,” “Star Trek: Lower Decks,” “American Dad!” and the animated “Guardians of the Galaxy.” He’s also had a handful of live-action roles, such as in Goldthwait projects like “Shakes the Clown,” “Misfits & Monsters,” “God Bless America” and “World’s Greatest Dad.”

The one project he wishes more people saw was the original “Mr. Show with Bob and David,” the ‘90s sketch comedy series starring Bob Odenkirk and David Cross. Kenny was a regular cast member on the Emmy-nominated HBO show, along with his wife Jill Talley, but it was never as successful as later Odenkirk and Cross projects, like “Better Call Saul” and “Arrested Development,” respectively; Kenny reunited with them for a brief revival series, “W/ Bob and David,” in 2015.

“That did not get an audience at the time,” Kenny said. “It was under, under the radar.”

The life of an actor often includes auditions, rejections and overall anxiety about where your next job is coming, whether a pilot will get picked up for a series, or whether a series will get another season order. But Kenny didn’t have to audition for “SpongeBob,” as he previously worked with series creator Stephen Hillenburg on “Rocko’s Modern Life” as the voice of Heffer; Hillenburg asked Kenny to bring SpongeBob to life, a gift he’s forever grateful for.

Kenny said he’s forever grateful to Hillenburg, who died in 2017, for the “amazing” show and would be devastated if it ever ends: “I’ve been mentally preparing myself for ‘SpongeBob’ to end since, like, season 3.”

In fact, Kenny loves the job so much that he doesn’t mind that he had to work while in Syracuse this week, turning his childhood bedroom closet into a temporary recording studio.

“One thing the (Covid-19) pandemic taught us is we can work from anywhere,” Kenny said of being a voice actor for cartoons. “It’s probably the one thing in show business, the one kind of show that you can make 100% remotely.”

His mom still lives in the East Syracuse house where he grew up, so he put blankets up on the wall and connected a microphone to his laptop, right next to where he shared a room with his brother.

“It’s pretty weird,” Kenny acknowledged, recalling screaming in the closet like James Brown as a kid. And now he screams like SpongeBob in that same closet, as a 59-year-old man today.

“In a weird way, this is what I always wanted,” Kenny said.

“For me, the work is the reward... I love voice acting, I love doing cartoons, I love working with animation and (making) a product that makes people happy and smile when they need it.”

Tickets are still available for Friday night’s SAMMYS award show at; prices are $25 for admission and $15 to livestream the event online. Thursday’s Hall of Fame Induction Dinner is sold out, but can be streamed online at starting at 8 p.m.


Watch SpongeBob SquarePants and The Patrick Star Show on Nickelodeon, YTV and Nick+ and 200 episodes of SpongeBobThe SpongeBob Movie: Sponge On The RunKamp Koral: SpongeBob's Under Years and The SpongeBob Musical on Paramount+! Try it FREE at

Listen to The SpongeBob Musical here!

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Originally published: February 23, 2022.

Original source: Eagle News Online.

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