Cowboy Corner

Cowboy Corner
By Michael W. Stout

Good Ole Country Christmas

If you're looking for a country Christmas getaway this holiday season, then Tennessee is bursting with options for your family. If you've never experienced Christmas at Gaylord Opryland Hotel, then you'll want to cruise to Nashville for their 25 th Annual "A Country Christmas" celebration. In addition to millions of spectacular holiday lights, Opryland will offer Santa Claus and the world-famous Rockettes in the "Radio City Christmas Spectacular" through December 28. Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas! will come to life in ice sculptures in ICE! now through January 4. And fans of good country cookin' and good country music will be in hog heaven at Louise Mandrell's "Joy to the World" Christmas dinner and show now through Christmas day. Mandrell will offer sounds of the season, high-energy dancing, and comedy in this show which also includes a family-style traditional holiday feast.

Nothing gets you in the mood for the season more than the Smoky Mountains in the month of December. And while you're in the Gatlingburg/Pigeon Forge area, you MUST visit Dolly Parton's "Smoky Mountain Christmas" festival at Dollywood. The festival will include several different styles of holiday music, Broadway-style Christmas productions, over four million holiday lights, a nightly "Parade of Lights," and the debut of "The Polar Express 4-D Experience" which will turn the soon-to-be classic Polar Express movie starring Tom Hanks into an unforgettable experience.

And before you head back home from Pigeon Forge, be sure to make reservations for the family at Dixie Stampede for their special "Christmas at Dixie" dinner show. While you're enjoying a four-course feast, the Stampede's cast of performers and 32 horses will take you on a "nostalgic holiday trip with all of your favorite Christmas songs."

CMA Crowns Chesney Entertainer of the Year

Kenny Chesney walked into the 42 nd Annual Country Music Association Awards ceremony last month in Nashville with seven nominations, but he walked away with just a single trophy. That one trophy just so happened to be the top honor of the night, though: Entertainer of the Year, presented by country superstar Shania Twain, who made her first public appearance since separating from husband "Mutt" Lange earlier this year. This was Chesney's fourth Entertainer of the Year award.

Co-hosts Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood held onto their titles of Male and Female Vocalist of the Year, while Paisley also captured the trophy for Music Video of the Year for "Waitin' on a Woman." This was Paisley's second Male Vocalist and Underwood's third Female Vocalist awards. "The Cowboy" George Strait, rightly called "The King" throughout the ceremony, walked home with two trophies: Album of the Year for Troubadour and Single of the Year for "I Saw God Today." The only other repeat winner of the evening was Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles who captured the Song of the Year award for writing "Stay" and Vocal Duo of the Year along with partner Kristian Bush.

Probably the two biggest surprises of the evening were Lady Antebellum's crowning as New Artist of the Year and the fact that Taylor Swift walked away empty-handed. In addition to the presentation of the traditional awards, the newest inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame were recognized by Vince Gill during the ceremony. This year's inductees are Olive Hill, Kentucky native Tom T. Hall, Emmylou Harris, the Statler Brothers, and the late Ernest V. "Pop" Stoneman.

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.

New Artist of the Year: Lady Antebellum; Album of the Year: George Strait's Troubadour ; Single of the Year: George Strait's "I Saw God Today"; and Song of the Year (awarded to songwriter) : Jennifer Nettles for writing Sugarland's "Stay."

Music Video of the Year: Brad Paisley's "Waitin' On a Woman"; Musical Event of the Year: Robert Plant & Alison Krauss' "Gone, Gone, Gone"; and Musician of the Year: Mac McAnally (guitar).

Congratulations to all the winners!

Other Country Honors

On November 9, some of country music's finest were honored with their very own stars on the Walk of Fame in the Hall of Fame Park across the street from the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum in downtown Nashville. The latest round of honorees included Trace Adkins, Martina McBride, traditionalist Randy Travis, and former CMA executive director Jo Walker-Meador, in addition to pop music's Michael McDonald, the "King of Rock & Roll," Elvis Presley, and original rocker Little Richard.

Country Music Hall of Famer George Jones will receive one of the nation's highest honors from President Bush on December 7. Jones will be honored during the 31 st Annual Kennedy Center Honors for "lifetime achievements in the performing arts" in Washington, D.C. He will be honored along with actor Morgan Freeman, singer Barbra Streisand, choreographer Twyla Tharp, and singers/musicians Pete Townshend and Roger Daltry of the Who.

On December 13, Martina McBride will receive a coveted honor from Nashville's Symphony. She will be recognized with the Harmony Award during the annual Symphony Ball at Nashville's Schermerhorn Symphony Center, having demonstrated "continued support of music in Nashville" and having made "significant contributions to the development and appreciation of Nashville's music culture." McBride will join an elite list of country artists who have been bestowed this honor: Chet Atkins, Vince Gill, The Judds, Lyle Lovett, Dolly Parton, Rascal Flatts, LeAnn Rimes, and Trisha Yearwood.

Next April, George Strait will be honored with one of the highest titles given by the Academy of Country Music. Strait will be named Artist of the Decade and will be honored with a special concert to be taped in Las Vegas for CBS-Television on April 6, the day following the annual ACM awards ceremony. Strait is only the fifth recipient of this title: Marty Robbins was the 1960's Artist of the Decade, Loretta Lynn the 1970's, Alabama the 1980's, and Garth Brooks the 1990's.

"You're Gonna Miss This," made famous by "Celebrity Apprentice" runner-up Trace Adkins, was named Song of the Year at the recent Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) awards. The honor went to songwriters Ashley Gorley and Lee Thomas Miller. Casey Beathard was named Songwriter of the Year for songs like Kenny Chesney's "Don't Blink," George Strait's "How 'Bout Them Cowgirls," and Rodney Atkins' "Cleaning This Gun (Come On In Boy)." Alan Jackson and Brad Paisley tied for Best Songwriter-Artist of the Year and the inaugural Mentor Award was given to Bob Beckham, former head of Combine Music. Songwriters Matraca Berg, John Hiatt and Tom Shapiro were inducted into the Nashville Songwriter's Hall of Fame during the awards ceremony.

Congratulations to all these honorees!

Underwood & Rascal Flatts Top People's Choice Nominations

When the nominations for the 35 th Annual People's Choice Awards were recently announced, country music was well-represented, thanks to Carrie Underwood and Rascal Flatts, each earning two nominations. Underwood will compete for Favorite Female Singer along with Alicia Keys and Rihanna and her "Last Name" is up for Favorite Country Song. Rascal Flatts is up for Favorite Group of the Year along with Coldplay and Maroon 5, as well as Favorite Country Song for "Take You There." Kenny Chesney and Brad Paisley will compete with Chris Brown for Favorite Male Singer. Competing against Underwood and Rascal Flatts for Favorite Country Song will be Taylor Swift's "Love Story."

Fans can vote for the People's Choice Awards by logging on to The winners will be revealed in Los Angeles on January 7.

Reba McEntire Jumps MCA Ship

Reba McEntire, one of the most successful female artists in country music history, has made a huge leap, leaving her longtime record company, MCA Nashville, for Valory Music Company, the sister label of Big Machine Records, which was established in November 2007. McEntire did not make this transition blindly, though, as she will be reunited with Scott Borchetta, MCA's former senior president of promotion. Borchetta is now president and CEO of Big Machine and Valory Music. McEntire will now be labelmates of Emerson Drive, Jewel, and Jimmy Wayne, along with Big Machine labelmates Jack Ingram, Taylor Swift, and Trisha Yearwood.

McEntire will release her first single for Valory Music in early spring, most certainly in time for her hosting duties of the Academy of Country Music Awards at Las Vegas' MGM Grand Garden Arena on April 5. Fans can expect a new album sometime next summer. In the meantime, MCA recently released McEntire's 50 Greatest Hits , a three-CD boxed set spanning her career from "How Blue" to her smash duet "Because of You" with Kelly Clarkson.

Country Health Watch

"Bye, Bye" singer Jo Dee Messina will change her tune soon, as she and husband Chris Deffenbaugh are expecting their first child late this month or early next month. The couple recently celebrated their first wedding anniversary. Following the birth of their child, Messina won't have a lot of time to sing lullabies; she'll be busy getting back into shape, as she is scheduled to film the video for her next single, "Unmistakable," just six weeks after childbirth!

"The Okie from Muskogee," 71-year-old Merle Haggard, is recovering from recent surgery in Bakersfield, California. The Country Music Hall of Famer had a cancerous growth removed from his right lung on November 3. The malignant tumor had been discovered back in May. Haggard's wife Teresa recently said her legendary husband is "doing better and better every day. Merle and I both believe strongly in our Lord Jesus Christ and His healing powers. After all, He is the greatest physician of all. Believing in our prayers to be answered is the key."

Congratulations to Jo Dee and Chris, and best wishes for a complete and speedy recovery, Merle!

Legal & Financial Woes

Singer/songwriter/producer John Rich, who makes up half of country duo Big & Rich, has gotten himself into a little hot water with the law. On October 17, Rich allegedly threw a glass at Jerry Montano, the former bassist for the heavy metal group Danzig, in West Hollywood, California's Mondrian Hotel, following a reported disagreement with a woman in his hotel room. Montano has sued Rich, claiming assault and battery in this altercation, which supposedly led to Rich striking him with his fist, his ring and a drinking glass, claiming Rich caused "serious injuries" and "permanent scarring" on his face, lips, nose, and jaw.

"Something in Red" singer Lorrie Morgan recently filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Nashville's federal court. Morgan reported assets between $500,000 and $1 million, but estimated her debts between $1 million and $10 million. In the filing, she listed creditors including attorneys, financial institutions and the IRS. This is the second time Morgan has filed for bankruptcy — she filed in 1992 but dropped the petition after settling more than $800,000 in debts.

Well, that's it for another month, and another year. My family and I would like to wish you and your family the happiest of holiday seasons. And if you have the ability this year, please remember those that are less fortunate than you. Always remember: "Keep your boots shined up and your hat on straight, 'cause country music is comin' your way."