AMOA-New York Honors Betson’s Nina Byron as Industry Person of the Year. Congrats Nina!
NEW YORK CITY — The Amusement and Music Owners Association of New York bestowed its 2017 Jukebox Artist of Year Award on American pop singer B.J. Thomas, whose notable singles include “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” and “Hooked On A Feeling,” among many others. Simultaneously, the trade association presented its Person of the Year Award to Nina Byron, a finance executive of Betson Enterprises, the first woman to receive the honor. AMOA-NY’s awards were presented during a gala dinner on Monday, April 24, in midtown Manhattan at Ben & Jack’s Steakhouse. Jukebox operators, Betson officials and industry members from around the country packed the house.
Byron is financial services manager of Betson Enterprises, the equipment distribution division of H. Betti Industries Inc. She’s worked for the Betson organization for almost 18 years, “earning vast respect from her peers,” according to AMOA-NY president Ken Goldberg of Emerson Amusement (Woodside, NY). Byron entered the industry in 1977, as a teenager, working in collections for Mondial Distributing, a former competitor of Betson in the Northeast.
“When you look at the career of Nina Byron, you can’t help admire how she handles one of the toughest jobs at Beston and in the industry — financing and accounts receivable,” Goldberg said. “Nina has exhibited skill, patience and tolerance. She has nurtured business relationships and mentored many customers. She has accomplished this during her almost 40 years in the industry, and has earned an outstanding reputation in the business community and among industry members, who sometimes can be challenging, to say the least.”
Goldberg presented the award to Byron alongside her bosses and longtime Betson colleagues Kevin Fritz, vice-president of financial services, and Bob Geschine, president and chief financial officer of HBI, the man who hired her in 1999. Fritz and Geschine are past AMOA-New York honorees, too. “It’s a tribute to Nina that she has become the first woman that AMOA-NY has honored,” Goldberg said. “Unlike Hillary, Nina has indeed broken a glass ceiling.”
“Someone once told me that you are not remembered by what you do, but rather by how you make people feel,” Byron said. “This is so important. We need to remember that the heart of any business is its people. How we behave and how we treat each other is at the core of our success.”
In addition to honoring the achievements of an industry leader, AMOA-New York has created a jukebox awards program to acknowledge singers and songwriters who have a close connection to the jukebox. AMOA-NY is the only association that presently recognizes artists in the framework of the jukebox, which was once a prevalent part of the music industry. After declining in the mid-1980s through the late ’90s, the jukebox has made a steady comeback in the age of the Internet, touchscreen and mobile app. The industry is dominated by boxes and music networks built and administered by TouchTunes and AMI Entertainment, which partner with independent operating companies, including members of AMOA-NY. Previous AMOA-NY jukebox award winners are Tony Orlando (2016), The Stylistics (2015), Judy Collins (2014), Dionne Warwick (2013) and Peter Yarrow (2012) of Peter, Paul and Mary fame.
This year’s winner was raised in and around Houston, TX. As a teenager, Billy Joe “B.J.” Thomas sang in a church choir and joined the musical group the Triumphs. During his senior year in high school, he became friends with Roy Head of Roy Head and the Traits. The Traits and the Triumphs held several “battle of the bands” events in the early 1960s. The Triumphs, and Thomas as a solo artist, enjoyed some commercial success in the mid-’60s.
The AMOA-NY honoree’s career took off in 1968, first with “The Eyes of a New York Woman,” then five months later with “Hooked on a Feeling,” a big hit that featured the sound of Reggie Young’s electric sitar. “Hooked on a Feeling” became Thomas’s second million-selling record, according to sources. A year later, the 1969 film “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” featured Thomas’s performance of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head,” which won the Academy Award for best original song that year and hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in January 1970. Its sales exceeded one million copies, with Thomas being awarded his third gold record. In 2013, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences announced that the single would be inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Today, Thomas maintains a busy tour schedule and continues to record music. Check out his upcoming performances here.
“It seems only like yesterday that I would constantly hear ‘Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head,'” Goldberg said. “That was 1970; I was a young man starting to work in my father’s jukebox business, and I was amazed at how many plays that song got. In terms of jukebox music, B.J. Thomas and ‘Raindrops’ became an economic jackpot.”
Goldberg pointed out that Thomas’s jukebox popularity was not limited to that memorable hit, which is still widely played on all outlets. “I Just Can’t Stop Believing,” “I’m So Lonely I Could Cry,” “Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song” and “No Love At All” are some of the singer’s other jukebox classics. “My favorite is ‘Hooked On A Feeling,'” the AMOA-NY president said.
Founded in the 1940s, AMOA-NY Inc. is a nonprofit group that represents the interests of businesses that own and install coin-operated amusement and music equipment in locations throughout New York State. The association has won numerous legislative victories in the past decade that have helped advance amusements. In New York State, it was instrumental in repealing a gambling law preventing amusement devices from awarding free credits, and in Nassau County it worked effectively to rescinded a COAD tax. In New York City it has racked up more than a half-dozen legal wins. These include raising the number of pool tables and amusement games allowed in a location without requiring billiards and arcade licenses. It also succeeded in replacing the term “coin-operated amusement device” with “player-operated amusement device” in the city’s administrative code.