Cowboy Corner

Cowboy Corner
By Michael W. Stout

HullabaLOU is No More

Churchill Downs' inaugural HullabaLOU music festival, which featured country acts like Kenny Chesney, Zac Brown Band, Loretta Lynn, Sara Evans, Dierks Bentley, and Dwight Yoakam back in July, was a big success with concertgoers, but was a financial disaster. The three-day event lost more than $5 million and for that reason, Churchill Downs has announced it has disbanded its Churchill Downs Entertainment division and will not stage future HullabaLOU festivals. Despite this huge loss, CDE had initially planned to hold HullabaLOU in some incarnation in 2011, but Churchill Downs President and CEO Robert L. Evans has announced that no special events unrelated to horse racing will be held at the historic racetrack during these struggling economic times. He recently stated, "It has become clear that launching new, upscale entertainment events in the current economy, particularly with the persistently high levels of unemployment, is extremely difficult. While we received exceptionally high marks from the nearly 80,000 people who attended our CDE events, we fell short of the attendance levels necessary to operate these events profitably."

In addition to hard economic times, HullabaLOU's large deficit is also attributed to extreme heat indexes of 105 degrees during the three-day event, leading to lower-than-expected attendance

Paisley, Lambert & Shelton Big Winners at CMA Awards

When the 44th Annual Country Music Association awards were handed out last month, there were several "firsts." Brad Paisley, who once again did an excellent job co-hosting the ceremony with Carrie Underwood, won his first-ever highly coveted Entertainer of the Year trophy, delivering one of the most emotional and heartfelt acceptance speeches ever, thanking the fans and his late grandfather, who inspired him to be a country singer and musician. Miranda Lambert was definitely the lady of the evening as she didn't win just her first one or first two CMA's, but her first three trophies. She was named Female Vocalist of the Year, her Revolution CD was named Album of the Year, and her tender video for "The House That Built Me" was named Video of the Year. In addition, "The House That Built Me" writers Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin received the Song of the Year trophy.

Lambert's fiancé, Blake Shelton didn't walk away empty-handed either, as he claimed his first Male Vocalist of the Year trophy, as well as Musical Event of the Year along with Trace Adkins for "Hillbilly Bone." Lady Antebellum also took home two trophies: Vocal Group of the Year and trio members Hillary Scott, Dave Haywood, and Charles Kelley were honored with Single of the Year for "Need You Now," along with producer Paul Worley

If you weren't fortunate enough to watch the live awards ceremony broadcast, you missed some serious musical highlights: Reba McEntire's rendition of Beyonce's "If I Were a Boy"; Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson's rousing duet on "Don't You Wanna Stay"; actress Gwenyth Paltrow's first live country performance of the title track to her upcoming movie with Tim McGraw, "Country Strong," proving that she really can sing; Zac Brown Band & Alan Jackson's collaboration on "As She's Walking Away"; and the stirring Loretta Lynn tribute as Miranda Lambert and Sheryl Crow honored the legend by performing "Coal Miner's Daughter," during which Lynn herself made a surprise appearance to finish the song with the duo

And the winners are: Entertainer of the Year: Brad Paisley; Female Vocalist: Miranda Lambert; Male Vocalist: Blake Shelton; Vocal Duo: Sugarland; Vocal Group: Lady Antebellum; and New Artist of the Year: Zac Brown Band

Album of the Year: Miranda Lambert's Revolution; Single of the Year: Lady Antebellum's "Need You Now"; Song of the Year: Miranda Lambert's "The House That Built Me"; Music Video of the Year: Miranda Lambert's "The House That Built Me"; Musical Event: Blake Shelton & Trace Adkins' "Hillbilly Bone"; and Musician of the Year: MacMcAnally (guitar)

Congratulations to all the winners!

Sugarland Settles Lawsuit Out-of-Court

Kristen Hall, who co-founded the insanely popular country trio Sugarland with Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush back in 2002, filed a lawsuit against her former bandmates back in July 2008 after leaving the trio due to stressful demands of the music business. Hall claims that she created the band's name and that each member of the trio agreed to equally share profits and losses. She went on to claim that since her departure from the group in late 2005, she has not received 33 percent of profits due her for helping make the group such a success. Hall was suing Nettles and Bush for more than $1.5 million and the case was set to go to trial in U.S. District Court in Atlanta on November 15, but the three reached an out-of-court settlement on November 12. Details of the settlement are confidential

Garth Brooks Sells Out Nine Nashville Benefit Concerts

Several country artists rallied together to raise funds for victims of Nashville's spring flood, but the timing just wasn't right for mega-entertainer Garth Brooks. Well, now the time is right for Mr. Brooks and his lovely bride, Trisha Yearwood. Last month, Brooks joined several Tennessee and Nashville politicians and dignitaries to announce that he would be performing a benefit concert at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena on December 17 with all proceeds benefiting flood relief. This sure-to-be unforgettable concert was scheduled to be the first concert with Brooks' full band since his retirement from country music over a decade ago. Well, when tickets went on sale Saturday morning, November 6, the tickets (which cost a mere $25) sold out immediately, two additional shows were quickly added and sold out, and when all things were said and done, Brooks had completely sold out NINE benefit concerts, more than 140,000 tickets raising more than $3.5 million for the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee

Brooks and Yearwood will perform two concerts per day on December 16, 21, and 22, and one concert per day on December 17, 19, and 20. If you did not have the good fortune to purchase tickets to any of these concerts, Brooks continues his acoustic performances at the Encore Theater at the Wynn Las Vegas Encore Resort. In addition, if Brooks fans missed the premiere of Lifetime's "Unanswered Prayers" movie based on Brooks 1991 hit, be sure to check television listings as I'm certain it will air numerous times in the upcoming months. Brooks was executive producer for the film produced by his Red Strokes Productions

Gaylord Opryland Resort Reopens Following Flood, Just in Time for Christmas

Ever since Nashville's devastating flood in May, when the banks of the Cumberland River swelled onto the Opryland complex, the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center has been closed, but that changed on November 15. Following nearly $270 million of repairs and upgrades, the glorious hotel reopened for business just in time for the holidays, introducing several new restaurants and the Porter Wagoner Suite a luxurious suite complete with an embroidered wall created by Manuel Cuevas, the tailor known for decking out the late rhinestone-studded, Grand Ole Opry member Porter Wagoner

The 27th Annual "A Country Christmas" at Gaylord's Opryland Resort will continue through January 2. In addition to the millions of dazzling Christmas lights and decorations, guests can celebrate the season with the "Radio City Christmas Spectacular' featuring the world-famous Radio City Rockettes, "ICE!" featuring ice sculptures of the classic holiday television program "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town," and last, but definitely not least, my pal Louise Mandrell will once again perform her holiday show titled "Louise Mandrell's 'The Gift' Christmas Dinner & Show."

Underwood & Other Country Acts Earn People's Choice Award Nominations

When the nominees for the People's Choice Awards were announced last month, Carrie Underwood was the top country nominee, garnering three nods. Underwood will vie for Favorite Country Artist, Favorite Female Artist for all genres of music, and Favorite TV Guest Star for her role on How I Met Your Mother. Taylor Swift will compete with Underwood in the Favorite Country Artist and Favorite Female Artist categories. Lady Antebellum, Keith Urban, and Rascal Flatts will also compete for Favorite Country Artist, and Tim McGraw was the sole country artist nominated in the Favorite Male Artist category

The People's Choice Awards ceremony will be broadcast live on CBS-Television on January 5

Congratulations to all the nominees! You continue to make country music proud!

Country Divorces

Country crooner Randy Travis's 19-year marriage to his manager, Elizabeth "Libby" Hatcher Travis, is officially over. Their divorce was finalized on October 29 after Travis was reportedly caught having an affair with his dentist's wife. After suspecting foul play, Hatcher is said to have confirmed the nightmare by placing a hidden camera on her husband's tour bus, capturing the affair on tape. Travis owes his career to Hatcher, as she discovered the troubled 17-year-old performing in Charlotte, N.C. back in 1976, helped him clean up his act (as he had had several run-ins with the law), and led his career to country music superstardom. Travis's publicist recently stated, "Elizabeth and Randy Travis have agreed to part ways. Elizabeth will remain Mr. Travis' personal manager. They do not intend to comment any further and ask for your respect for their privacy during this time."

Billy Ray Cyrus broke onto the country music scene lamenting his "Achy Breaky Heart," and he has now come full circle as he is personally experiencing an "Achy Breaky Heart" as he and his wife of 17 years, Tish, have filed for divorce. Although the divorce documents state the cause of the breakup as irreconcilable differences, it has been reported that Tish and rocker Bret Michaels had an affair earlier this year when Michaels and the couple's famous daughter, Miley Cyrus recorded a duet for Michaels' latest album, although both Tish Cyrus and Michaels deny the reports. In a statement, the Cyruses recently said, "As you can imagine, this is a very difficult time for our family. We are trying to work through some personal matters. We appreciate your thoughts and prayers."

Well, that's it for another month, and another year. This holiday season, if you are in a position to help those less fortunate, I urge you to do so. My family and I would like to wish you and your family the merriest of Christmases and the happiest of New Years! Always remember: "Keep your boots shined up and your hat on straight, 'cause country music is comin' your way."