Cowboy Corner

Cowboy Corner
By Michael W. Stout

State Fair Goes Country Again

The temperatures are sweltering, it's H3 (hazy, hot, and humid) in the Derby city, and the first day of school is just around the corner, meaning only one thing: IT'S KENTUCKY STATE FAIR TIME!!!!! And country music fans needn't fear, as the fair will be chock full of country music as it has been for the past several years. Kicking the fair off this year on Thursday, August 16 will be none other than Toby Keith and "Bocephus" himself, Hank Williams, Jr. Probably the highlight of all the country concerts this year will be Saturday, August 18 when the "Girls' Night Out" Tour rolls into Freedom Hall with newcomers Carolyn Dawn Johnson and Jamie O'Neal, Sara Evans and an incredible duo of country redheads: Martina McBride and Reba McEntire. Country outlaw Travis Tritt will bring Chad Brock along as he will perform in Cardinal Stadium on Friday, August 24. And closing out this year's State Fair on Sunday, August 26 will be Kenny Chesney and the 1980's Artists of the Decade, supergroup Alabama. Tickets for all of these concerts are already on sale and can be purchased at all Ticketmaster locations, or by calling the box office at (502) 361-3100.

If your wallet fancies free concerts a little better, then you're in luck. The Oak Ridge Boys will return for the umpteenth consecutive year on Sunday, August 19, while the "Redheaded Stranger," Willie Nelson will play Cardinal Stadium gratis on Tuesday, August 21, and the legendary "Possum," George Jones will perform a free concert on Thursday, August 23.

If you are torn between choosing just one paid concert to attend, I would recommend the "Girls Night Out" Tour as I have read rave reviews of this reported 4 ½-hour concert full of country girl power! Newcomer Carolyn Dawn Johnson reportedly opens the show with three songs, followed by the reigning Academy of Country Music Top New Female Vocalist, Jamie O'Neal, who performs a few songs, including her smash debut "There Is No Arizona." Sara Evans paves the way for the redheaded duo with a set of a half-dozen songs, which leads into 55-minutes crammed with twelve songs for Martina McBride, rounded out by sixteen songs by Reba McEntire. Following Reba's hour-long set, Martina joins Reba for an incredible rendition of Reba and Linda Davis' award-winning duet "Does He Love You." All five gals return to the stage to close out the show with tunes such as Aretha Franklin's "(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman," the Eagles' "Heartache Tonight," and the most appropriate closer, The Judds' "Girls Night Out."

Country Losses

The country music family has taken a huge blow in the last month or so, as it lost two of its members: the legendary "Mr. Guitar," Chet Atkins, and Grand Ole Opry member Johnny Russell. 77-year-old singer, record producer and guitarist extraordinaire. Chet Atkins, who was born Chester Burton Atkins on June 20, 1924, lost his battle with cancer at his Nashville home on June 30. Besides being the most recorded country solo instrumentalist, Chet is best known for having developed the country-pop musical style known as the "Nashville Sound" along with Owen Bradley. During his illustrious career, Chet was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and won fourteen Grammy awards, numerous Country Music Association Instrumentalist of the Year trophies and even the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences' (NARAS) Lifetime Achievement Award. The life and music of Chet Atkins was celebrated during a funeral service at the historic Ryman Auditorium. Eddy Arnold, Connie Smith and Marty Stuart were among the many famous mourners. Atkins is survived by his wife of 56 years, Leona, daughter Merle Russell, grandchildren Amanda and Jonathan Russell and a sister, Billie Rose Shockley.

Grand Ole Opry star Johnny Russell, best known as the songwriter of the classic "Act Naturally," died of complications from diabetes on July 3. On April 17 of this year, Johnny's health had deteriorated so much that both of his legs were amputated below the knee. This past March, some of Johnny's friends and fans, including Garth Brooks, Vince Gill and Porter Wagoner, staged a benefit concert at the Grand Ole Opry House, raising $80,000 to help cover his medical expenses. Although Russell gained chart success as a singer with tunes such as "Rednecks, White Socks and Blue Ribbon Beer," "Catfish John," "The Baptism of Jesse Taylor" and "Hello I Love You," he gained even more success as a songwriter, having written tunes such as Porter Wagoner & Dolly Parton's "Making Plans," George Strait's "Let's Fall To Pieces Together," and Gene Watson's "Got No Reason Now For Goin' Home," among others. Johnny's funeral was held at the Grand Ole Opry House and included Vince Gill, Stu Phillips, Ricky Skaggs, Jeannie Seely, Connie Smith, Steve Wariner, and Cheryl and Sharon White of The Whites.

Condolences are also in order for Tracy Byrd and his entire family upon the recent passing of his grandmother. Seventy-seven-year-old Mavis Vaughn died of heart failure in Texas on July 7. Tracy dedicated his brand new album, Ten Rounds, to his beloved grandmother, whom Tracy called "NaNa."

The widow of the Country Music Hall of Famer Marty Robbins passed away last month. Seventy-year-old Marizona Robinson (Robinson was Marty's birth name) passed away at her Brentwood, TN. home July 10 after a bout with cancer. We would like to extend our deepest sympathies to the entire Robinson family.

Upcoming Country Music Hall of Fame Inductees

Historically, the Country Music Hall of Fame inducts two or three brand new members to its elite club each year, but this year will be a very rare and special exception. Grand Ole Opry member Bill Anderson will be inducted in the Open Category this year, while record executive Sam Phillips will be inducted in the Non-Performer Category. The Country Music Foundation decided to induct an additional ten members this year in honor of the grand opening of the brand new Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in downtown Nashville. CMA Executive Director Ed Benson recently stated, "With the special induction of ten members along with our regular inductions for 2001, we are able to significantly increase the breadth and range of honorees in the Country Music Hall of Fame." These ten special inductees include: The Delmore Brothers; The Everly Brothers; songwriter Don Gibson; comedy/musical duo Homer & Jethro, Waylon Jennings; The Jordanaires; record executive Don Law; The Louvin Brothers; record executive Ken Nelson and the late Webb Pierce. These twelve honorees will be officially inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame during a dinner in Nashville on October 4 and will be publicly recognized during the 35th Annual Country Music Association Awards program, which will air live on CBS-Television on November 7.

Congratulations to all the inductees!

In Trouble With The Law

Country music stars have made the news quite a bit lately due to various run-ins with the law. Carlene Carter and Trace Adkins were each arrested recently. Forty-five-year-old Carlene Carter, daughter of June Carter Cash (of The Carter Family descent) and Carl Smith, and best known for hits such as "I Fell In Love" and "Every Little Thing," was arrested in Albuquerque, New Mexico on June 26 along with her longtime boyfriend, Howie Epstein of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. When Carlene was pulled over for speeding, it was discovered that the 2001 Jeep Grand Cherokee she was driving had been stolen from a Santa Fe car dealership, and 2.9 grams of black-tar heroin and drug paraphernalia were found in the vehicle. She was charged with receiving or transferring a stolen vehicle and possession of a controlled substance, while Howie was only charged with receiving or transferring a stolen vehicle. The couple was released from jail after posting bond and charges against them were dismissed "without prejudice." As if this weren't enough, Carlene was also arrested (and released upon posting $400 bond) recently in Santa Fe for failing to appear in court on a bad check charge.

The tall and lanky Trace Adkins was arrested just south of Nashville July 5 and charged with driving under the influence and implied consent (for refusing a breathalyzer test). Adkins was pulled over for speeding as he was heading from his farm in Rutherford County to his home. Trace remained in jail for a little more than three hours and was released when he posted the $1000 bond. His publicist released a statement regarding this arrest. The statement claims: "There was an opened beer bottle in his truck, and Adkins was cited for an open container violation and speeding. Due to the officer's assumption on the issue of sobriety, Adkins declined to take further tests and he was automatically charged with driving under the influence as provided by Tennessee's implied consent statutes. No breath or blood test was administered. Adkins feels embarrassed and concerned about the incident."

Dixie Chicks Sued By Record Label

Natalie Maines, Martie Siedel and Emily Robison, better known as the Dixie Chicks, got a big surprise last month as Sony Music, which owns the Chicks' record label Monument, sued the trio for breach of contract for trying to leave the label. The Chicks signed a seven-album contract with Monument Records, which requires them to release five more albums. The lawsuit was sparked by the recent rebroadcast of an episode of CBS-Television's 60 Minutes II in which the Chicks told Dan Rather that it is depressing how little money they have seen from the nearly 20 million albums Wide Open Spaces and Fly have sold. Sony released a statement following the filing of this lawsuit stating: "We take great pride in the work we have done in establishing the Dixie Chicks as the most popular and biggest selling female country group of all time. We have tremendous respect for all of the Dixie Chicks, as well as for their extraordinary music." Sony further estimated that the record company would lose "no less than $100,000,000" if the Dixie Chicks were to break their contract and leave the label. In the meantime, the Chicks have zipped their lips and are not commenting on this lawsuit.

Country Engagements

Country newcomer Chalee Tennison, who has already walked down the aisle of matrimony three times, will soon be making a fourth trip. Chalee and guitarist Mark Gillespie recently became engaged after dating a mere four months. Mark popped the big question and gave his sweetie an engagement ring, which included a diamond from his great-grandmother's engagement ring.

According to a report in the Nashville newspaper The Tennessean, Australia-born country crooner Keith Urban popped the big question to his girlfriend, Laura, last month. No official statement has been made regarding this engagement as Keith wants to maintain his privacy (can't blame a guy for that)!

No word on details of either of these future exchanges of vows, but keep reading in the months to come for more details. Congratulations to Chalee and Keith, as well as their soon-to-be spouses!

Well, that's it for yet another month. I hope to see you all out at the country concerts at the State Fair this month. Always remember: "Keep your boots shined up and your hat on straight, `cause country music is comin' your way."