Cowboy Corner

Cowboy Corner
By Michael W. Stout

Underwood Sweeps 2006 Billboard Awards

When the 2006 Billboard Awards were handed out last month, country's very own Carrie Underwood was the queen of the ball, taking home a whopping five trophies. She was crowned Female Country Artist of the Year and New Country Artist of the Year and her Some Hearts was named Country Album of the Year. In addition, her debut album was named the Album of the Year for all genres of music and she was named the Female Billboard 200 Album Artist of the Year.

Kenny Chesney was the other country winner of the evening, taking home trophies for Male Country Artist of the Year and the Country Songs Artist of the Year.

Congratulations, Carrie and Kenny!

Top Country Tours of 2006

Three of country music's biggest acts landed in the top 10 highest - grossing concert tours of 2006, according to Billboard magazine. Country music's reigning "First Couple," Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, had the most successful country tour of the year with their "Soul2Soul II Tour," bringing in $88.8 million. The McGraws wound up the fifth highest - grossing tour of all genres of music last year. The McGraws' close pal, Kenny Chesney, landed at the #8 spot with his "The Road & The Radio Tour," raking in an impressive $66 million. The top 10 tours were: 1) Rolling Stones - $437 million, 2) Madonna - just under $195 million, 3) Bon Jovi - $131 million, 4) U2 - $96 million, 5) McGraw & Hill - $88.8 million, 6) Cirque du Soleil's Delirium - $78.5 million, 7) Barbra Streisand - $76 million, 8) Chesney - $66 million, 9) Dave Matthews Band - $58 million and 10) Aerosmith - $58 million.

Congratulations to the McGraws and Kenny! Keep up the good work!

Dolly Parton Receives Kennedy Center Honor

International country music superstar Dolly Parton made quite a splash in our nation's capitol last month. Parton was recognized as a recipient of one of the 2006 Kennedy Center Honors handed out by President George W. and First Lady Laura Bush in Washington, DC on December 3. During the ceremony, fellow country songtress Reba McEntire and actress and Dolly fan extraordinaire Reese Witherspoon spoke of Parton's accomplishments as an entertainer and humanitarian. Several singers paid tribute to Parton in song, including Carrie Underwood and Kenny Rogers on "Islands in the Stream," Vince Gill on "I Will Always Love You," Alison Krauss on "My Tennessee Mountain Home" and "Jolene," and Shania Twain on "Coat of Many Colors" along with harmony by Krauss. The most-publicized performance of the evening was popster Jessica Simpson's botched version of "9 to 5," during which she forgot the words and ran off the stage in tears upon completion. The ever-optimistic Parton wrote Simpson's poor performance off as nervousness and stage fright.

In addition to Parton, conductor Zubin Mehta, Smokey Robinson, Steven Spielberg and Andrew Lloyd Webber were honored with Kennedy Center Honors.

Congratulations, Dolly! You make country music proud!

Troy Gentry Pleads Guilty

As I've been reporting lately, Montgomery Gentry's Troy Gentry has been facing charges for his involvement in killing a bear in captivity in Minn. back in 2004. Gentry pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge on November 27, claiming that he killed the captive bear as a trophy then falsely registered it as a wild bear. Felony charges for possessing illegally registered wildlife were dropped against Gentry and he forfeited the bear hide and the bow he used to kill the bear, in addition to paying a $15,000 fine. As a result, he will not be allowed to fish, hunt, or trap in Minnesota for five years.

Dixie Chicks & Underwood Dominate Grammy Nominees

When Rascal Flatts helped announce the nominees for the 49th Annual Grammy Awards, which are to be handed out February 11 in Los Angeles, the top country nominees were the Dixie Chicks and hot newcomer Carrie Underwood. The Chicks landed five nominations, including Record of the Year (all genres), Song of the Year (all genres) and Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for "Not Ready to Make Nice" and Album of the Year (all genres) and Country Album of the Year for Taking the Long Way. Underwood will vie for New Artist (all genres), Song of the Year (all genres), Female Country Vocal Performance and Country Song of the Year for "Jesus, Take the Wheel."

And the country nominees are: Female Country Vocal Performance: Miranda Lambert's "Kerosene," Martina McBride's "I Still Miss Someone," LeAnn Rimes' "Something's Gotta Give," Carrie Underwood's "Jesus, Take the Wheel," and Gretchen Wilson's "I Don't Feel Like Loving You Today"; Male Country Vocal Performance: Dierks Bentley's "Every Mile a Memory," Vince Gill's "The Reason Why," George Strait's "The Seashores of Old Mexico," Josh Turner's "Would You Go With Me," and Keith Urban's "Once in a Lifetime"; Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal: Dixie Chicks' "Not Ready to Make Nice," The Duhks' "Heaven's My Home," Little Big Town's "Boondocks," Rascal Flatts' "What Hurts the Most," and The Wreckers' "Leave the Pieces"; and Country Collaboration with Vocals: Bon Jovi & Jennifer Nettles' "Who Says You Can't Go Home," Solomon Burke & Dolly Parton's "Tomorrow Is Forever," Kenny Rogers & Don Henley's "Calling Me," Rhonda Vincent & Bobby Osborne's "Midnight Angel," and Trisha Yearwood & Garth Brooks' "Love Will Always Win."

Country Album: Dixie Chicks' Taking the Long Way, Alan Jackson's Like Red on a Rose, Little Big Town's The Road to Here, Willie Nelson's You Don't Know Me: The Songs of Cindy Walker and Josh Turner's Your Man; Country Song: Dierks Bentley's "Every Mile a Memory," Gretchen Wilson's "I Don't Feel Like Loving You Today," Carrie Underwood's "Jesus, Take the Wheel," Alan Jackson's "Like Red on a Rose," and Rascal Flatts' "What Hurts the Most"; and Country Instrumental Performance: Casey Driessen's "Jerusalem Ridge," Tommy Emmanuel's "Gameshow Rag/Cannonball Rag," Bryan Sutton & Doc Watson's "Whiskey Before Breakfast," Chris Thile's "The Eleventh Reel," and Jim VanCleve's "Nature of the Beast."

Other country artist nominations include: Alan Jackson's Precious Memories and Randy Travis' Glory Train for Southern, Country or Bluegrass Gospel Album; Ralph Stanley's A Distant Land to Roam for Traditional Folk Album; Rosanne Cash's Black Cadillac and Mark Knopfler & Emmylou Harris' All the Roadrunning for Contemporary Folk/Americana Album; Walk the Line for Compilation Soundtrack Album for Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media; Dolly Parton's "Travelin' Thru" for Song Written for Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media; Alan Jackson's Like Red on a Rose for Engineered Album, Non-Classical; and Big & Rich's "8th of November" for Short Form Music Video.

Congratulations to all the nominees!

Newfield Says "Goodbye" to Trick Pony

Country trio Trick Pony as we know it, Heidi Newfield, Ira Dean and Keith Burns, performed their last concert together last month at Wildhorse Saloon in downtown Nashville. Lead vocalist Newfield recently decided to pursue a solo career and thus leave the band, which got its start at the Wildhorse ten years ago, the same spot in which they landed a recording contract. The trio only had one top 10 hit during its decade-long tenure, "On a Night Like This," but you might also remember them for "Pour Me" and "Just What I Do." Trick Pony recorded this last concert on December 13 for a live album to be released on Curb Records sometime later this year.

Remaining band members Dean and Burns are currently auditioning singers to replace Newfield and they are expected to choose singer-songwriter Aubrey Collins.

Best wishes to Heidi in her solo efforts and Ira and Keith in their continuation with Trick Pony!

Country Stars Touring with USO

Carrie Underwood has been quite busy lately attending awards shows at which she has collected some serious trophies. The country sweetheart is going to take some time sometime this winter to perform a USO tour in the Persian Gulf for our men and women of the military fighting for freedom on foreign fields. Specific details regarding dates and location of the tour have not been revealed for security reasons.

In other USO tour news, Darryl Worley and Mark Wills also headed to the Persian Gulf last month as part of the USO's "Hope and Freedom Tour 2006." The country stars entertained the troops along with members of the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, comedian Al Franken and Kenneth Preston, the Sgt. Maj. of the United States Army.

Hats off to Carrie, Darryl and Mark for entertaining the troops during the holidays!

Loose Ends

Before closing for the month, we have a few country loose ends to tie up. Our best wishes for a speedy recovery go out to Lonestar lead singer Richie McDonald, who recently underwent back surgery. McDonald had not recuperated enough to perform at a charity concert early last month in Hidalgo, Texas, so fellow country crooner and American Idol alum Josh Gracin stepped in and performed lead vocals for the band's show, following his own opening set. The guys of Lonestar had a good time with Gracin as they sang several older songs that Gracin was familiar with that the band had not performed in years.

Love has struck twice for Little Big Town's Kimberly Roads. Roads' previous husband passed away of a heart attack back in 2005, but love has come again. She and real estate mogul Stephen Schlapman were married November 28 on a private island in the Caribbean. Roads' bandmates, Karen Fairchild, Phillip Sweet and Jimi Westbrook were in attendance to share the joyous occasion. Congratulations to Kimberly and Stephen!

Our condolences go out to Tanya Tucker and her family upon the November 23 passing of her father, Beau Tucker, from lung cancer. Her father played a major part in her career, kick-starting it with "Delta Dawn" when Tanya was a mere 13-years-old. Tucker continued to manage his daughter's career for many years.

Well, that's it for another month. Here's wishing you and yours the Happiest New Year ever. Always remember: "Keep your boots shined up and your hat on straight, 'cause country music is comin' your way."