When the 41st Annual Country Music Association Awards were handed out in Nashville last month, Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood were the big winners, each walking away with two trophies. Chesney captured his third Entertainer of the Year trophy, as well as the award for Musical Event of the Year (along with Tracy Lawrence and Tim McGraw) for "Find Out Who Your Friends Are." Having been nominated for Male Vocalist seven times, Paisley finally took home the honor this year, in addition to the trophy for Video of the Year for "Online." Underwood held onto the title of Female Vocalist for the second straight year, also picking up the Single of the Year honor for "Before He Cheats."
Much to their surprise, Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush, who make up Sugarland, beat out Brooks & Dunn for the title of Vocal Duo of the Year. Teenage newcomer Taylor Swift earned the coveted Horizon Award. While accepting the award, she beamed, "This is definitely the highlight of my senior year."
There were some special awards and presentations prior to and during the awards ceremony. Prior to the ceremony, Pikeville, Kentucky native Dwight Yoakam was presented the Country Music Association's International Artist Achievement Award for his great strides in spreading country music around the globe, as he has toured Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the UK. During the ceremony, the CMA recognized the latest inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame: famed singer/songwriters Mel Tillis and Vince Gill and country radio and television personality Ralph Emery.
Chock full of unusual and collaborative performances, the awards show highlights included Kellie Pickler's tearfully heart-felt rendition of her self-penned "I Wonder," Sugarland's passionate performance of "Stay," Reba McEntire and LeAnn Rimes' duet on "When You Love Someone Like That," and The Eagles' first CMA awards performance with "How Long."
And the winners are: Entertainer of the Year: Kenny Chesney; Female Vocalist of the Year: Carrie Underwood; Male Vocalist of the Year: Brad Paisley; Vocal Duo of the Year: Sugarland; and Vocal Group of the Year: Rascal Flatts.
Horizon Award: Taylor Swift; Single of the Year: Carrie Underwood's "Before He Cheats"; Song of the Year: George Strait's "Give It Away," written by Hall of Famer Bill Anderson, Buddy Cannon and Jamey Johnson; and Album of the Year: George Strait's It Just Comes Natural.
Music Video of the Year: Brad Paisley's "Online"; Musical Event of the Year: Tracy Lawrence, Tim McGraw & Kenny Chesney's "Find Out Who Your Friends Are"; and Musician of the Year: Jerry Douglas (Dobro).
Congratulations to all the winners!
The 2007 American Music Awards were handed out last month and it looked like a rerun of American Idol. The two top winners were the 2005 AI winner and country sweetheart, Carrie Underwood, as well as the 2006 AI rocker cast-off Chris Daughtry (frontman for band Daughtry). Underwood made country music prouder than a first-time parent as she was named Favorite Country Female Artist and she received the trophy for Favorite Country Album for her multi-platinum debut, Some Hearts and was honored with the T-Mobile Text-In Favorite Artist of all genres of music.
In the other country categories, Tim McGraw was named Favorite Country Male Artist and Rascal Flatts was crowned Favorite Country Band, Duo, or Group.
Congratulations, Carrie, Tim and Rascal Flatts! Keep making country music proud!
Country music lost the voice and face of the legendary Grand Ole Opry when the 80-year-old, rhinestone-wearing Porter Wagoner succumbed to lung cancer on October 28 in a Nashville hospice facility. At the time of his death, Wagoner was surrounded by his three children, Richard, Debra and Denise, as well as his most famous duet partner, his "girl singer," Dolly Parton. Parton had visited with her musical mentor in the days leading up to his death and had written a letter to the Opry on Wagoner's behalf stating the severity of his condition. Just prior to his passing, Parton prayed with Wagoner and sang for him.
Porter Wayne Wagoner was born on a farm in the Ozark Mountains in Missouri on August 12, 1927. He began performing on local radio in West Plains, Mo., leading up to performances on the Ozark Jubilee. He first signed to RCA Records in 1952 and went on to enjoy chart success with hits like "A Satisfied Mind," "Green, Green Grass of Home," and "The Carroll County Accident." After moving to Nashville in 1956, Wagoner became a member of the Opry in 1957 and began hosting the highly popular syndicated television show simply called "The Porter Wagoner Show" in 1960, which ran until 1981. It was in 1967 that Wagoner's original "girl singer," Norma Jean, left his show and he replaced her with the young Dolly Parton - the birth of one of the most popular duos in country music history. Parton worked with Wagoner until 1974, when she made the difficult decision to leave the show and the direction of Wagoner, sparking her writing the ever-popular "I Will Always Love You" about her mentor and friend.
A staple on the Opry throughout the years, Wagoner celebrated his 50th anniversary as an Opry member this past May with Parton right beside him. The legend himself was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2002.
Hall of Fame member Hank Thompson, 82, also lost his battle with lung cancer on November 6 at his home near Fort Worth, Tex. Henry William Thompson was born September 3, 1925 and got his first guitar at 10. He frequently won a Saturday morning talent contest that was broadcast on local radio when he was still a child, leading to his very own local morning radio show before he went to school.
Following a stint in the U.S. Navy, Thompson returned to hosting his own radio show. It was on his radio show that he interviewed actor/singer Tex Ritter, who landed Thompson on Capitol Records. He went on to gain great chart success with songs like "Wake Up Irene," "A Six Pack to Go," and "The Wild Side of Life," which was answered by Kitty Wells' "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels." He was instrumental in the early careers of Opry star Jean Shepard and rockabilly singer Wanda Jackson.
Before his death, Thompson completed his autobiography, My Side of Life. He is survived by his second wife, Ann.
Our condolences go out to the Wagoner and Thompson families.
These days, concert ticket prices seem to be unfortunately on the rise, but fortunately artists seem to be attempting to give the fans a little more bang for their buck. Big-name artists are tending to hook up with one another for co-headlining concerts. Reba McEntire and the original American Idol, popster Kelly Clarkson teamed up this year for a smash duet of Clarkson's "Because of You" and the pairing has led to the "2 Worlds 2 Voices Tour" kicking off in Dayton, Ohio on January 17. Louisville country fans will be happy to hear that this duo, both managed by McEntire's husband, Narvel Blackstock, will hit the Derby City on the second night of the tour, January 18 in Freedom Hall. McEntire and Clarkson will share a band and will each perform solo sets, as well as a heaping portion of duets, of course including "Because of You." Tickets for this sure-to-be-unforgettable show can be purchased through Ticketmaster. I'm sure country and pop fans alike on your holiday shopping list would love a pair of tickets to this show in their stocking on Christmas morning!
Two of country's hottest acts going right now are also planning to tour together beginning January 31. Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood will perform their "Love, Pain & the Whole Crazy Carnival Ride Tour" to fans in 24 cities in the eastern portion of our country. Both artists are equally looking forward to this magical co-headlining tour. As of press time, there is no word of the tour's schedule, so keep reading for more details as they become available to see if Louisville will land this tour.
CMA Entertainer of the Year Kenny Chesney recently announced that his 2008 tour will be called the "Poets & Pirates Tour" and will feature special guest LeAnn Rimes. Tour specifics are currently in the planning stages and no details have been released yet. I'll pass along more information as it becomes available.
Actor Matt Damon may have been named Sexiest Man Alive by People magazine this year, but that doesn't mean country music was not well represented in the special double issue of the magazine that hit newsstands last month. Country crooners Tim McGraw, Brad Paisley, Josh Turner and Keith Urban were named country music's Sexiest Men Alive (I'll let you ladies judge that for yourselves-I merely report the news-MWS). Looks aside, these gentlemen are four of the most talented artists in the current crop of country crooners and for that, both female and male fans alike celebrate.
Country music and reality show fans alike are bound to be pleased with some interesting new television shows about to hit the airwaves. Flatwoods, Kentucky native Billy Ray Cyrus is hotter than ever, thanks to his co-starring role with real-life daughter Miley Cyrus on the Disney Channel's Hannah Montana. CMT began airing the four-part special "Billy Ray Cyrus: Home at Last" on November 24, with subsequent episodes airing December 1, 8 and 15. The show follows Cyrus in Hollywood, on tour and at home with wife Tish, daughter Miley and the rest of the Cyrus clan. And as a side note, international superstar Dolly Parton (who just so happens to be Miley's real-life god-mother) will make her second appearance as Hannah Montana's godmother, Aunt Dolly, on the December 7 episode of the hit tween show.
Blake Shelton is as country as they come, so it will be interesting to see his involvement in a brand new series on NBC-Television December 17-20. Shelton will assemble a 20-person choir in his hometown of Oklahoma City for "Clash of the Choirs," competing against other celebrities' hometown choirs. Can we say "a little out of one's comfort zone"? Curiosity's gonna kill the cat on this one as we'll all have to tune in to check Shelton's progress out.
The 2008 People's Choice Awards will be sprinkled with a decent portion of country music throughout the ceremony next month. When nominees were announced last month, Tim McGraw and Rascal Flatts landed two nods each. McGraw will compete against John Mayer and Justin Timberlake for Favorite Male Singer. His duet with wife Faith Hill, "I Need You," will compete against Kenny Chesney's "Never Wanted Nothing More" and Rascal Flatts' "Stand" for Favorite Country Song. In addition, Rascal Flatts is up against Daughtry and Maroon 5 in the Favorite Group category. The awards ceremony will air on CBS-Television on January 8.
Gazillionaire Donald Trump hit NBC's airwaves a few years back with his own reality competition called "The Apprentice." Well, come January, his "Celebrity Apprentice" will debut with celebrities competing in business-related challenges to raise money for their favorite charities as they vie for the top prize of an additional $250,000 for charity. Among the celebrity contestants will be long-legged country baritone Trace Adkins. Personally, I hope Adkins kicks fellow contestant KISS bassist Gene Simmons' hind end in the competition, as well as actor Stephen Baldwin and "America's Got Talent" judge Piers Morgan. Other celebrities competing include Playboy Playmate of the Year Tiffany Fallon (who by the way is married to Joe Don Rooney of Rascal Flatts), model/actress Carol Alt, Olympic gold medalist gymnast Nadia Comaneci, Olympic softball gold medalist Jennie Finch, television executive Nely Galan, "Taxi" actress Marilu Henner, heavyweight boxing champ Lennox Lewis, "The Apprentice" cast-off Omarosa, Ultimate Fighting Champ Tito Ortiz and "The Sopranos" actor Vincent Pastore.
Best wishes to Blake and Trace on their competitions!
Well, that's it for another month and another year. Here's wishing you and your family the happiest holiday season ever. If able, please remember the less fortunate this holiday and help out in whatever way you can. Always remember: "Keep your boots shined up and your hat on straight, 'cause country music is comin' your way."