Cowboy Corner

Cowboy Corner
By Michael W. Stout

George Strait Festival Heading to Town

The Fourth Annual George Strait Country Music Festival, which kicks off at the end of next month, is coming back to Louisville in May. Strait's tour was last town in 1999, bringing along Tim McGraw, the Dixie Chicks, Kenny Chesney, Jo Dee Messina, Mark Wills, Asleep At The Wheel and Alecia Elliot. This year, Strait has gathered another stellar group of musical friends to hit the road with him, including Alan Jackson, Sara Evans, Lonestar, Lee Ann Womack, Brad Paisley and Asleep At The Wheel.

George and the gang will play at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on Sunday, May 27 during Memorial Day Weekend. I have no information on ticket prices nor of the date tickets will go on sale. Keep reading in the months ahead as I will pass along ticket info as it becomes available.

Bush Inauguration Goes Country

Amid the festivities surrounding the inauguration of George W. Bush as the 43rd President of the United States of America, several country stars could be spotted around our nation's capitol. After all, our new President hails from Texas, where everyone lives and breathes country music (well, almost everyone). Lee Ann Womack and Asleep At The Wheel performed for the Texas Congressional delegation on December 18 at Washington, D.C.'s Hard Rock Café, which was co-hosted by Austin City Limits and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Brooks & Dunn and country's hottest new couple, Lorrie Morgan and Sammy Kershaw, were on hand to perform at the Presidential Inaugural Committee's opening ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial two days prior to the inauguration along with gospel singer Sandi Patti, pop's Destiny's Child and the Latin lover himself, Ricky Martin. The ultimately patriot and "God Bless The U.S.A." singer Lee Greenwood performed at Dick Cheney's Salute to Veterans at the Washington Convention Center. On Inauguration Eve, Travis Tritt performed at the Senators Ball hosted by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, while Asleep At The Wheel, Clint and Lisa Hartman Black, Mark Chesnutt and Lyle Lovett played at the Texas State Society's Black Tie & Boots Ball. Hank Williams, Jr. performed at the Wyoming State Society's reception. On the evening of the inauguration, Linda Davis emceed the Ohio Inaugural Ball, and Larry Gatlin emceed the Florida Inaugural Ball.

Congratulations to each of these country stars for kicking off our new President's reign in style!

Faith Hill Continues to Dominate Awards

Faith Hill's current winning streak is showing no signs of waning anytime soon. She was recognized at the People's Choice Awards and the American Music Awards just last month. At the January 7 People's Choice Awards, Faith was named the Favorite Female Musical Performer, beating out Britney Spears and Shania Twain. Mega-star Garth Brooks captured the title of Favorite Male Musical Performer, beating out Ricky Martin and George Strait. Faith was also the big winner at the American Music Awards the following night, capturing trophies for Favorite Female Country Artist, Favorite Country Album for Breathe and Favorite Pop/Rock Female Artist (a category in which she competed against Christina Aguilera, Celine Dion and Britney Spears). Faith's beloved hubby, Tim McGraw, was named Favorite Male Country Artist and the Dixie Chicks were named Favorite Country Band, Duo or Group, while 12-year-old Billy Gilman became the youngest country artist to win an AMA trophy when he was crowned Favorite New Country Artist.

In addition to all of the above mentioned accolades bestowed upon Faith, she was also recently included not in Mr. Blackwell's infamous "Worst-Dressed List," but rather his "10 Best-Dressed Women of 2000" list, labeling her as a "fabulous fashion independent." Faith was joined on this list by actresses Halle Berry and Wynonna's baby sister, Ashley Judd.

Congratulations to Faith and all the other winners!

Country Grammy Nominees

When the nominees for the 43rd Annual Grammy Awards were announced early last month, crooner Vince Gill topped the country list with four nods, followed by Faith Hill with three. Vince will compete for Best Male Country Vocal and Best Country Song, both for "Feels Like Love"; Best Country Vocal Collaboration with his wife Amy Grant for "When I Look Into Your Eyes" and Best Country Album for Let's Make Sure We Kiss Goodbye. Faith will vie for Best Female Country Vocal for "Breathe," Best Country Album for Breathe and Best Country Vocal Collaboration with hubby Tim McGraw for "Let's Make Love." Brad Paisley will compete against Shelby Lynne, Papa Roach, Sisqo and Jill Scott for the title of Best New Artist. Faith Hill's "Breathe" (written by Stephanie Bentley and Holly Lamar) and Lee Ann Womack's "I Hope You Dance" (written by Mark D. Sanders and Tia Sillers) will vie for the overall Best Song of the Year from all genres of music.

The country nominees are: Best Country Male Vocal: Johnny Cash, Vince Gill, Billy Gilman, Tim McGraw and Dwight Yoakam; Best Country Female Vocal: Faith Hill, Jo Dee Messina, Dolly Parton, Lee Ann Womack and Trisha Yearwood; and Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal: Alabama, Asleep at the Wheel, Brooks & Dunn, Riders In The Sky and the Wilkinsons.

Best Country Album: Vince Gill's Let's Make Sure We Kiss Goodbye, Faith Hill's Breathe, Alan Jackson's Under The Influence, Lee Ann Womack's I Hope You Dance and Trisha Yearwood's Real Live Woman; and Best Country Song: "Breathe," "Feels Like Love," "I Hope You Dance," "One Voice," and "The Way You Love Me."

Be sure to tune in to CBS on February 21st as the Grammy Awards ceremony will be broadcast live from Staples Center in Los Angeles.

The End of a Country Era

The careers of the legendary Johnny Wright and his wife, Country Music Hall of Famer Kitty Wells, drew to a close this past New Year's Eve. The "Queen of Country Music" and her husband, who made up half of the duo Johnnie & Jack, have been married 62 years and retired following their December 31 performance at the Nashville Nightlife club. Friends and fellow country artists Ricky Skaggs, Connie Smith, Marty Stuart and The Whites were on hand as Johnny and Kitty performed their last show. Back in 1952, Kitty became the first female to hit #1 on the country charts with her "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels," her answer to Hank Thompson's "The Wild Side Of Life."

And while we're on the subject of duets, country fans can expect some brand new and pretty special duets in the very near future. Lorrie Morgan and Sammy Kershaw have not only joined personally, but they've also joined professionally to record a duet album. Titled I Finally Found Someone, this album will include six duets, including the first single "He Drinks Tequila," and three solo cuts by each of the pair. The happy couple will reportedly tour to support this new album, which is slated to hit stores in April.

Grand Ole Opry member Pam Tillis and her legendary father, Mel Tillis, joined in the studio just last month for their magical debut duet. Pam and Mel recorded "Waiting On The Wind," which will appear on Pam's upcoming album titled Thunder And Roses. Fans can find this album and duet in stores March 6.

New Job for Reba

Country's redheaded firecracker, Reba McEntire is expanding her resume to include Broadway actress. That's right, Reba began her portrayal of Annie Oakley in Annie Get Your Gun just last month on New York's famed Broadway. Reba's no stranger to Annie Oakley, though, as she portrayed Annie in the made-for-television movie Buffalo Girls a few years ago. In addition to her new role on Broadway, Reba may be popping up on the small screen in the near future. Reba is reportedly in the very early stages of discussions with television producers concerning starring in a possible new show titled Sally.

Congratulations and best of luck, Reba! As they say, break a leg!

Country Health Watch

Country music's trio of Johnnies - Johnny Cash, Johnny Paycheck and Johnny Russell - are all suffering from serious health problems these days. It was announced a few years ago that the legendary "Man In Black," Johnny Cash, suffers from Shy-Drager Syndrome, a neurological disorder. Then about a year ago, Johnny's doctors announced that the singer was in fact not suffering from Shy-Drager Syndrome, but rather from autonomic neuropathy, which affects the central nervous system.

Grand Ole Opry members Johnny Paycheck and Johnny Russell were each in the hospital last month suffering long-term health problems. Johnny Paycheck was admitted for a lung infection, complicated by emphysema and asthma, while Johnny Russell underwent surgery on his legs.

We would like to send our prayers and best wishes to the Johnny's for a speedy recovery!

Country on the Tube

The reigning Country Music Association Horizon Award winner Brad Paisley will become the latest member of the famed Grand Ole Opry on February 17. If you are unable to cruise down to Nashville to witness Brad's induction in person at the historic Ryman Auditorium, then you are in luck, as this historic moment will be aired live at 8:30 p.m. (EST) on Grand Ole Opry Live on The National Network (TNN, formerly known as The Nashville Network).

Jo Dee Messina fans will have the opportunity to see their favorite redhead for an entire week this month. Jo Dee will appear in her very own square on the popular game show Hollywood Squares February 12-16, co-starring with the likes of Whoopi Goldberg and Caroline Rhea. Hollywood Squares airs locally each weeknight at 7:30 pm (EST) on WHAS-11 (ABC).

Well, that's it for yet another month. Always remember: "Keep your boots shined up and your hat on straight, `cause country music is comin' your way."