Cowboy Corner

Cowboy Corner
By Michael W. Stout

Country Artists Respond to Recent Tornadoes

Following the deadly tornadoes that ripped through Indiana and Kentucky March 2, the country music community has displayed an outpouring of love and support. Soon after the tragedy, red-hot Miranda Lambert, who was scheduled to bring her "On Fire" Tour to the KFC Yum! Center on March 24, announced that she was donating 100% of all proceeds from the remainder of the nearly 2500 unsold tickets (starting at $25.75 each) to the American Red Cross's Kentucky and Southern Indiana Disaster Relief Fund to help tornado victims. In cooperation with Lambert, Ticketmaster agreed to waive ticket fees for this great cause, and the KFC Yum! Center agreed to waive all facility fees.

Just a few days before the tornadoes hit our area, Lady Antebellum announced its "Own the Prom Night," urging high schools to submit videos featuring their hit single "Own the Night" and proving to the trio why their high school should win a private concert by Lady A at their prom. Well, following the destruction of Henryville High School, Henryville students created and submitted a moving video of the student body's unity despite the fact the 2012 graduating class will not be attending or graduating at their previous building. The video not only focused on the determination and togetherness of Henryville High School, but the entire community. As if Henryville's submission wasn't moving enough, several other schools across the country urged Lady A to choose HHS as the contest winner, sacrificially admitting they deserve the honor. Among those schools which campaigned for HHS was the high school in Harrisburg, Illinois, a town which also suffered much damage from tornadoes just a few days prior to our local tornadoes, DC Everest High School in Weston, Wisconsin, and Henryville's neighboring school, Silver Creek High School in West Clark county, Indiana. Although there's typically a strong rivalry between HHS and SCHS, SCHS students opened their hearts and devoted their video submission to their friends and neighbors, and it was actually their video that Lady A chose, earning HHS the once-in-a-lifetime concert. Although Lady A has a scheduling conflict and will not be able to perform at HHS's actual prom, on March 20, via a video on its website, the band announced it will "throw a bigger event on May 16 in nearby Louisville, Kentucky for the school's Juniors and Seniors, followed by a benefit for the community." As of press time, specific arrangements had not yet been made, but all I can say is, "Hats off to Charles, Hillary, and Dave for their love, compassion, and generosity to the folks of Henryville." Lady A is the real deal!

Upcoming Live Country Music

Country fans should be as happy as pigs in mud with all the country concerts heading to the area over the next few months. Fans of fun, commercial country music won't want to miss Sugarland's April 14 "In the Hands of the Fans Tour 2012" rolling into the KFC Yum! Center, featuring Canaan Smith and American Idol runner-up Lauren Alaina. If you prefer more traditional country music, that same night, you can head across the river to hear the "Red-headed Stranger," Willie Nelson, perform at the Horseshoe Casino in Elizabeth, Indiana. Trace Adkins will perform an intimate show at the Louisville Palace on April 18. And what would the Kentucky Derby Festival be without some good ole country music? Lee Brice will perform at 4th Street Live on April 26, while the legendary Charlie Daniels Band will be featured at the Chow Wagon at Kroger's Fest-A-Ville on the Waterfront on May 4 — a free show if you're wearing a Derby pin.

It looks like "Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not" duo Thompson Square is going to heat things up at the Waterfront Independence Festival at Waterfront Park on July 3. Keep reading in future months as more details are released. Gary Allan will also be turning up the heat at Horseshoe on July 13. And most of the highly-anticipated Kentucky State Fair shows on the main stage in Freedom Hall have been announced and country fans are going to be quite pleased. "Bocephus" himself, Hank Williams, Jr., will be kicking off the fair on Thursday, August 16, along with rocker George Thorogood. Tickets went on sale March 23 and cost $49 and $39. Although ticket information has not yet been released for "The American Band Tour" hitting Freedom Hall on Saturday, August 18, you'll want to keep your eyes and ears open for the on-sale date for tickets for this incredible show starring some of country's hottest bands: Rascal Flatts, Little Big Town, Eli Young Band, and Edens Edge. Although no official word has been released concerning the free concerts during the fair, I have a sneaky suspicion about a few acts which might be coming to the fair. It is predicted that the Oak Ridge Boys will make their annual appearance in the old Cardinal Stadium on Sunday, August 19, followed by Ronnie Milsap and B.J. Thomas on August 21, and Jake Owen on August 22. Keep reading in upcoming months for more concrete details as the fair draws closer.

Next Class of Kentucky Music Hall of Fame

Last month, the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame announced its next batch of inductees, honoring some of the finest musicians haling from the Bluegrass State. Country music will be well-represented in the 2013 induction class with the inclusion of Exile, The Kentucky Headhunters, and the late Skeeter Davis. Exile was founded by lead singer J.P. Pennington originally as a rock band in Richmond, Kentucky back in 1963. Exile is best known for "Kiss You All Over," "I Don't Want to Be a Memory," and "Woke Up In Love." The Kentucky Headhunters, best known for hits "Dumas Walker" and "Oh Lonesome Me," formed in Glasgow, Kentucky as Itchy Brother back in 1968, evolving into the Headhunters in 1986. The band landed their first recording contract three years later. The late Grand Ole Opry star Skeeter Davis was born in Dry Ridge, Kentucky and began performing along with Betty Jack Davis and Wanda Rose Rader as The Davis Sisters in the late 1940's. The Davis Sisters are best known for "I Forgot More Than You'll Ever Know," and upon the death of Betty Jack Davis in an auto accident in 1953, Skeeter Davis retired from music for the next five years before launching her solo career which produced the smash hit "The End of the World." Davis died of breast cancer in 2004.

Contemporary Christian great Stephen Curtis Chapman will join Exile, The Kentucky Headhunters, and Skeeter Davis in the contemporary category next year. The pioneer category's inductees include pop vocal group the Hilltoppers, as well as Emory & Linda Martin and Old Joe Clark, all of which performed on the Renfro Valley Barn Dance.

Congratulations to all the inductees!

Country Music Hall of Fame Announces Upcoming Inductees

During a ceremony at the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum last month, Kix Brooks introduced the next three members of the country music community to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. In the Recording and/or Touring Musician Active Prior to 1980 category, studio musician Hargus "Pig" Robbins will be inducted. Robbins has been blind since the age of four but has not let that hamper his career in country music, having played on smash country hits since 1959, including Patsy Cline's "I Fall to Pieces" and "Walkin' After Midnight" and George Jones's "White Lightning." He made a wise investment of $125 to join the musicians union when he first started out over half a century ago, and now he is extremely excited to be in the Hall of Fame with his musical hero, fellow pianist Floyd Cramer.

Mrs. Marty Stuart, the legendary Connie Smith, will be inducted in the Veterans Era category. An Ohio wife and mother, Smith was discovered by country singer/songwriter Bill Anderson in August 1963 and the following May, Anderson invited her to Nashville to record demos of songs he had written. His manager took these demos to RCA and Chet Atkins offered her a recording contract the next month. In July of that year, Smith recorded a song Anderson wrote specifically for her, the life-changing "Once a Day." The very next year, in 1965, Smith fulfilled a dream of hers by becoming a member of the legendary Grand Ole Opry. She is excited to be in the great company of the likes of Kitty Wells in the Hall of Fame.

This year's Hall of Fame inductee in the Modern Era category will be none other than Oklahoma boy Garth Brooks. Brooks took the music industry by storm back in 1989 with hits like "Friends in Low Places," "The Dance," and "Unanswered Prayers," helping him become the top-selling artist since sales have been tracked by Nielsen SoundScan, having sold nearly 130 million albums. Always the humble artist, despite his appreciation for being chosen as an inductee in the Hall of Fame, Brooks feels he is not nearly as deserving as the likes of Ricky Skaggs, Randy Travis, and the late Keith Whitley.

Robbins, Smith, and Brooks will be officially inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame during a medallion ceremony later in the year.

Reminder: ACM Awards on April 1

If you haven't already done so, set the DVR right now for the 47th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards ceremony which will air live from Las Vegas on CBS-Television on April Fool's Day. Kenny Chesney tops the list of nominees with an amazing nine nods. He will vie for Entertainer of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year, Song of the Year along with Grace Potter for "You and Tequila," Album of the Year for Hemingway's Whiskey, and Single Record of the Year and Vocal Event of the Year for "You and Tequila." He actually received two nominations each for the latter three nominations, one as the artist and one as co-producer. He will compete with Jason Aldean, Brad Paisley, Blake Shelton, and Taylor Swift for the coveted Entertainer of the Year honor. Aldean goes into the awards with six nods, followed by Lady Antebellum with five and Brad Paisley with four.

Taylor Swift, who will vie for three awards, including Entertainer of the Year, Female Vocalist of the Year, and Video of the Year, will have a special date when she attends the awards ceremony. Victoria McGuire created a Facebook page urging Swift to take her brother, 18-year-old Sterling High School senior (located in Somerdale, New Jersey) Kevin McGuire to his prom. Swift was unable to attend the prom with McGuire, who is currently amidst his second battle of leukemia, but instead invited him to be her date at the ACM awards. Needless to say, McGuire quickly accepted Swift's invitation, and will hopefully be able to attend as he is currently undergoing treatment at a Philadelphia hospital.

This awards show will be chock-full of live performances including Jason Aldean, The Band Perry, Luke Bryan, Kenny Chesney, Eric Church, Toby Keith, Lady Antebellum, Miranda Lambert, Tim McGraw, Rascal Flatts, Chris Young, and Reba McEntire's awards ceremony co-host, Blake Shelton.

Country Family Album

As I reported last month, George Strait recently became a proud first-time grandfather, but he's not the only one claiming stakes on that honor. Thanks to his son Jesse Dunn and his daughter-in-law, Ronnie Dunn became a first-time grandpa on February 26. Dunn was proud to announce that his grandson, Huxton "Huck" Wayne Dunn, was born on the legendary Johnny Cash's birthday.

"Boots On" and "Anything Goes" singer Randy Houser is singing plenty lullabies these days as he and wife Jessa Lee welcomed their first child into the world early last month. Baby boy West Yantz Houser was born March 6 in Nashville.

"Gimme That Girl" and "Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off" singer Joe Nichols and his wife Heather recently announced that they are expecting their first child together this spring, "after trying to have a baby for so long." Although this will be Heather's first child, Joe has a 13-year-old daughter named Ashelyn from a previous relationship.

In contrast to all of the happy country baby news, our condolences go out to Thompson Square members Shawna and Keifer Thompson upon the recent passing of Shawna's father, George Michael "Mickey" McIlwain. The duo canceled their performance at the Country Radio Seminar's New Faces Show in late February to head to Alabama to be by her father's side. They were fortunately able to join Shawna's father and other family members prior to his February 23 passing after a battle with cancer. Following their missed CRS performance, David Nail filled in for his pals on their scheduled shows with Lady Antebellum in Detroit and Evansville.

Congrats to the Dunns, Housers, and Nichols, and our deepest sympathy to Shawna, Keifer, and the entire McIlwain family!

Well, that's all for this month. I'd like to wish everyone a safe and happy Thunder Over Louisville and upcoming Derby Festival. Always remember: "Keep your boots shined up and your hat on straight, 'cause country music is comin' your way."