Tony Denikos has been named the grand prize winner in the 2012 Mid-Atlantic Song Contest produced by the Songwriters’ Association of Washington. The Sykesville, Maryland-based contemporary folk-Americana singer-songwriter was honored during an awards gala on Jan. 7 at Jammin’ Java in Vienna, Virginia.

Tony Denikos

Tony Denikos

Denikos was recognized for his song, “Tip of My Tongue,” which was previously named the first place (Gold) winner in the contest’s Folk/Acoustic category. The song, which appears on Denikos’ 2012 release, Under the Church, tells about an elderly man sitting alone, slowly losing his memory, but trying to remember the name of his only true love whom he’d lost as a young man.

The song was inspired, at least in part, by Denikos’ personal experiences the previous year. In the spring of 2011, his father, then 82, had a heart attack. Surgery and a long recovery process followed. Denikos recalls visiting him during the summer as he worked through various ailments and began to recover> Later that summer, his mother fell down the stairs at her home, and he spent several weeks visiting and watching her struggle to regain her health in a geriatric rehab center. Toward the end of the year, in a rush to complete his fourth CD, Denikos wound up aggravating and ignoring some health issues of his own and found himself completely immobilized on a sea island in South Carolina, wondering if he’d ever walk again.

“Although my head told me I would, it sure didn’t feel like it,” he said. “Anyway, the isolation, loneliness and fear of having been stranded with a debilitating injury gave me a tiny glimpse of what it must be like to go through what I had witnessed so many elderly folks going through as I walked past their rooms in the hospitals and rehab centers.” Denikos recovered and returned home to Maryland after a few days, where he gingerly sat up one December morning and wrote “Tip of my Tongue.” Says Denikos, “I often write story lines in my songs to make a listener feel a certain way that my own loosely related experiences had made me feel. It’s the sharing of those feelings, I think, that makes our humanity precious. This was one of those songs.”

Visit for a free download of “Tip of My Tongue,” and for more information on Under the Church, an album that Denikos says goes to places both darker and more lighthearted than his previous releases and enables him to reclaim his working-class roots, reveal his small town disposition, and provide commentary on our current political climate.

In addition to Denikos, other songwriters honored during the awards gala included Susan Greenbaum, who captured Second Place Overall for “On My Way,” a song that had previously been named the Gold winner in the Gospel/Inspirational category, and Peter F. Nostrand, the Gold winner in the Instrumental category, whose song “Come Home” took Third Place Overall.

Established in 1979, the Songwriters’ Association of Washington (SAW) is a nonprofit organization that seeks to further excellence in songwriting through hosting educational programs and providing networking and performance opportunities for its members. SAW hosts open mics and showcases, workshops on the art and business of songwriting, and monthly Songwriter Exchange peer critique sessions. It also publishes a monthly e-newsletter.