Latest news on the Chicago Music Awards: A new and improved Chicago Music Awards ceremony seems set for March 10 at Metro. The event, now in its third year, has operated thus far under the auspices of the Illinois Entertainer, which did a rather ragged job the first year and a fairly defensible one the second, when the Smashing Pumpkins and their album Gish took home most of the trophies. A 1993 version scheduled for last fall was postponed after Metro owner Joe Shanahan and WXRT program director Norm Winer got in on it, and now it seems likely to be a pretty creditable affair. Biggest headache: coordinating the event with the complex schedules of likely winners the Pumpkins, Urge Overkill, and Liz Phair. Thus far, the organizers have received assurances that Billy Corgan and company will at least attend the show, though there’s no commitment at this point to a performance.

How are the awards chosen? The magazine polled critics (Hitsville included) and industry people for likely nominees, editor Michael Harris says. The top five in a variety of categories (along with a space for write-ins) were put before IE readers. Those ballots have been tabulated already, though Harris isn’t vouchsafing any results. The Entertainer will also be polling those critics and industry types again for a lineup of critics’ awards to accompany the readers’ choices. Hitsville has one suggestion: pay attention to the music industry around town as well as the artists. What’s wrong with a best producer award, or best local music video?

Course of Empire: Pat Daly, the unflappable publisher of the Empire Monthly fanzine and co-owner of Empire Records, says the store is closing down next month after just shy of ten years in business. In its remaining weeks, he’s selling off the stock cheap. The store’s at 4350 N. Cicero; the phone’s 545-2005. The whimsically titled magazine (it comes out about once a year) will apparently continue, though Daly’s not saying when the next issue will see the light of day.

Deacon blues: Hitsville met Greg Hinderyckx through the Mertz brothers, T.J. and Michael, years ago. Hinderyckx (it’s pronounced “Hendrix”), Michael’s roommate at the time, was a Medill graduate; he was a free-lance writer (mostly for New City) and a musician on the side: you could see him blowing sax with the Deacons, and onstage with Sleepy LaBeef whenever he came through town. He was also an early connoisseur of Jay Elvis, the unsoiled, slightly demented Elvis impersonator who held court at the Grand Opening bar. Two months ago, Hinderyckx moved to Indianapolis to work for a travel magazine. Back in town for the holidays, he went to a Christmas Eve party at the Mertzes’ (they’d grown up together in Evanston) before going home to his parents’ house. He died in his sleep Christmas morning. There’s no word yet on the cause; he wasn’t into drugs and had no health problems anyone knew about. Hitsville sends condolences to his family and friends.

What would you pay? Tickets to John Hiatt’s fourth Chicago show–a benefit gig at Schubas February 26–were auctioned off by WXRT late last week. Even after Hiatt sold 2,300 tickets for the Riviera, 750 for the Park West, and 350 for Lounge Ax, fans still bid up to $1,000 a pair to see him do an acoustic show in cozy Schubas. (The lowest qualifying bids were $400 a pair.) Seating was held to 100; ‘XRT marketing director Teri Gidwitz says the show raised more than $22,000 for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

Buzz bin: The Chicago bands of the month are Red Red Meat and Veruca Salt. The latter–an extremely melodic hard-pop foursome led by Louise Post and Nina Gordon–just finished up ten days of recording with Brad Wood at Idful and are going back into the studio in March to finish up an album scheduled for June release. In the meantime, Jim Powers’s Minty Fresh label is releasing a single, due out the second week in February, of “Seether” backed with “All Hail Me.” Red Red Meat’s second album, Jimmywine Majestic, also produced by Wood, will be out the first week of February on Sub Pop, the label’s first release by a Chicago band. A Brad Miller photo of the group in full drag adorns the upcoming February issue of Subnation.

Cath Carroll update: The British-born chanteuse’s first U.S. release will be a single (“My Cold Heart” backed with “Into Day”) on Mark Robinson’s Teen Beat label. Ironically, it was Robinson’s band, Unrest, that gave Carroll some unwanted attention last year when they plastered her likeness on their Perfect Teeth LP and included on it a song with the provocative lyric “Cath Carroll is gonna take me for a ride.” The single should be out before March. Carroll plays Saturday night at the Avalon along with new frothy pop band Oo Oo Wa (whose debut is out on Chicago’s Limited Potential records).

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Jim Alexander Newberry.