Cowboy Corner

Cowboy Corner
By Michael W. Stout

Tim McGraw Living Large These Days

Tim McGraw's career keeps on getting hotter and hotter. First of all, McGraw added another trophy to his mantle at last month's People's Choice Awards. McGraw picked up the County Male Singer trophy, while Shania Twain was named Country Female Singer and Brooks & Dunn were crowned Country Group.

Secondly, McGraw's critically acclaimed acting debut is now available on video store shelves. The DVD version of Friday Night Lights, in which McGraw co-stars as a high school football player's abusive father alongside Billy Bob Thornton, offers McGraw fans a special treat. Included on the disc is a bonus feature titled "Tim McGraw: Off the Stage," which chronicles McGraw's transformation from the concert stage to the big screen.

And lastly, following the great success of his multi-platinum selling Live Like You Were Dying, McGraw headed back into the studio last month to work on his next album. Fans who bought season tickets to the Nashville Kats arena football team (of which McGraw recently became a co-owner) got a sneak preview of one of the superstar's upcoming new songs to be included on the album. The highly anticipated tune is titled "Let's Get Drunk and Fight." Unfortunately, due to this previously scheduled Nashville concert at the Gaylord Entertainment Center, McGraw was unable to attend a Hollywood gala during which the American Film Institute (AFI) celebrated Friday Night Lights as one of the best films of 2004.

And in other Tim McGraw news, last month marked the first anniversary of the death of the country superstar's father, the famed baseball star Tug McGraw. The elder McGraw passed away January 5, 2004 at his son's Nashville area home after suffering from brain cancer. Tim is helping his father's legacy live on and is helping brain tumor survivors and their families. In addition to recently helping dedicate the Tug McGraw Center for Neuro-Oncology Quality of Life Research at Raleigh, N. Carolina's Duke University, he has teamed up with Team McGraw in helping design and fund bracelets made from the seams of baseballs. Each bracelet is inscribed with Tug's uniform number, 45 and YGB, standing for Tug's trademark phrase, "Ya gotta believe." Bracelets cost $4.50 and can be purchased by visiting www.tugmcgraw.com

. All proceeds from these bracelets will go to the Tug McGraw Center.

Wynonna Has a Busy Month Ahead of Her

Ashland, Kentucky native and the queen of country-soul, none other than Wynonna Judd, has an extremely busy month ahead of her and her fans will be thrilled. She'll kick the month off on February 1 as she performs her life story in song, Her Story: Scenes from a Lifetime at Nashville's Grand Ole Opry House. This special concert celebrating her 20th anniversary in the music business will be filmed for the diva's first-ever solo concert DVD. The taping will reportedly be free and open to the public, so hop in the car or grab a Greyhound bus ticket for this must-see show. The concert will not only include hits from her illustrious solo career and her highly-awarded, long-running stint with mama Naomi as one of the most popular country duos of all time, The Judds, but also hits by an array of artists from all genres of music who have influenced her throughout the years.

Fans will also be happy to hear that Wynonna will be hitting the small screen later this month. She recently followed in her actress sister Ashley's footsteps when she headed to New York to film a two-part episode of ABC-Television's Hope & Faith sitcom starring Faith Ford and Regis Philbin sidekick Kelly Ripa. Wynonna appears as a spoiled rich wife and mother in a spoof of the popular reality series Wife Swap when she swaps places with Ford's character. No exact airdate has been released, so keep checking television schedules. Hope & Faith airs on ABC at 9 p.m. Fridays.

And if you're an avid reader, you won't want to miss the February issue of Ladies' Home Journal which includes a cover photo and feature article on Wynonna and Ashley and their involvement with the YouthAIDS organization. And if you still haven't gotten your Wynonna fix, she is wrapping up her first literary effort, her very first book. There have been vague details of the book's exact content, but it is reportedly due sometime during late summer or early fall. Keep reading "Cowboy Corner" in the months to come for further details.

Country Comes to Town: Washington, D.C.

Several country artists were hob-knobbing with friends in high places when they headed to our nation's Capitol for President George W. Bush's second Inauguration last month. Asleep at the Wheel, Sara Evans, Lyle Lovett, Neal McCoy and Clay Walker were among the entertainers who performed at the Black Tie & Boots Inaugural Ball at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel on the eve of the Inaugural ceremony. This gala celebrated the 100th anniversary of its sponsor, the Texas State Society of Washington, D.C., which "fosters and encourages a fraternal spirit among the Texans at the national capitol."

Earlier the same day as the Black Tie & Boots ball, Kenny Chesney, Nicholasville, Kentucky's own John Michael Montgomery and Darryl Worley all took part in the Celebration of Freedom concert at the Ellipse, honoring United States military personnel. Montgomery performed his recent smash hit "Letters from Home," while Worley sang his anthem, "Have You Forgotten."

Toby Keith & Sawyer Brown Heading to Mardi Gras

New Orleans' Bourbon Street is going country for this year's Mardi Gras celebration this month. Toby Keith and Sawyer Brown are headed south to participate in the festivities. Sawyer Brown will join celebrity monarch Keith in the Krewe of Orpheus parade through uptown New Orleans on February 7. Following their ride along the parade route, Mark Miller and his fellow Sawyer Brown boys will be on hand to entertain the party revelers at the Orpheuscapade gala.

Country Pioneers to be Honored by Grammys

When the 47th Annual Grammy Awards are handed out in Los Angeles this month, the ceremony will have quite a country flavor. Two country pioneers will be honored by the Recording Academy the evening prior to the big awards gala. Eddy Arnold, one of the top-selling country artists of all time and the late members of the groundbreaking Carter Family will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award for their huge contributions to the music industry. Other honorees include jazz artist Art Blakey, conductor and composer Morton Gould, Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, Jerry Lee Lewis, Jelly Roll Morton, blues pianist Pinetop Perkins and gospel-soul band The Staple Singers.

Tim McGraw was recently announced as a performer on the Grammy Awards program, which will air live on CBS-Television February 13. Logically, he should perform "Live Like You Were Dying," which earned him a nomination for Best Male Country Vocal Performance, as well as Best Country Album for his smash album of the same name.

Just to jog your memory, Butcher Holler, Kentucky's own "Coal Miner's Daughter," Loretta Lynn, leads the pack of country nominees with five nods. Lynn will vie for Country Album of the Year for Van Lear Rose, Female Country Vocal Performance for "Miss Being Mrs.," Country Collaboration with Vocals along with Jack White on "Portland Oregon," and two songwriting nods for "Miss Being Mrs." and "Portland Oregon." Newcomer Gretchen Wilson trails Lynn with an impressive four nominations, including Best New Artist, Best Female Country Vocal Performance and Best Country Song for "Redneck Woman," and Country Album of the Year for Here for the Party.

Congratulations to all the nominees!

Brad Paisley Helps Home State

When it comes to charity, country crooner and guitarist extraordinaire Brad Paisley has a heart of gold, especially when it involves his home state of West Virginia. Paisley recently received a letter from a 15-year-old boy from Wheeling, near Paisley's hometown of Glen Dale, stating that the city had no place for the young people to skate. The teenager is part of the Wheeling Skate Park Committee which is petitioning for a free concrete skate park which will reportedly cost between $200,000 and $250,000. When Paisley read the request, he immediately got the checkbook out of the glove box in his pickup truck and sent an undisclosed amount of money to help build the skate park.

When Paisley's "Muds & Suds Tour," co-starring Sara Evans and Andy Griggs, made its second tour stop in Wheeling last month, the show was appropriately dubbed "Mudstock in the Valley." Proceeds from this special show went to the Northern Panhandle Long Term Flood Recovery Committee for flood relief in the Upper Ohio Valley. The concert raised an amazing $102,000 for flood victims.

And while we're on the subject of charity work, Paisley's tour-mate Sara Evans was recently appointed to the American Red Cross' fourth annual national celebrity cabinet to help promote the nonprofit organization. Evans joins the likes of boxer and master griller George Foreman, actress Julianne Moore and famed movie director Spike Lee.

Hats off to Brad and Sara for all their charity work. They are two country stars who have definitely not gotten "above their raisin'."

Leslie Floyd Wilburn Dies

Country musician and music publisher Leslie Floyd Wilburn passed away at his Nashville-area home on January 15. Leslie may not have been one of THE Wilburn Brothers, but he was a Wilburn brother none-the-less. Leslie was the older brother of Teddy and Doyle Wilburn and joined his little brothers as a member of their road band and appeared alongside them on their nationally syndicated television show in the early 1960's. The elder Wilburn's greater contribution to country music came in the form of the family's music publishing company, Sure Fire Music. Wilburn was 79 years old.

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