Cowboy Corner

Cowboy Corner
By Michael W. Stout

Taylor Swift Dominates AMAs

When the 2011 American Music Awards were handed out in late November, 22-year-old superstar Taylor Swift was not only the big country winner, but she was the big overall winner among all genres of music. Not only was Swift named the Favorite Female Country Artist of the Year and her Speak Now CD named the Favorite Country Album, but she was also named the overall Artist of the Year, besting Adele, Lady Gaga, Lil Wayne, and Katy Perry. Upon receiving the top honor, Swift gushed, "I just am so shocked and stunned and absolutely out-of-my-mind happy about this. The fact that the fans have been there for me — more and more each year — it just blows my mind."

In addition to Swift's trio of trophies, Blake Shelton was named Favorite Male Country Artist and Lady Antebellum was named Favorite Country Band, Duo or Group. The entire list of country winners is as follows: Artist of the Year: Taylor Swift; Favorite Female Country Artist: Taylor Swift; Favorite Male Country Artist: Blake Shelton; Favorite Country Band, Duo or Group: Lady Antebellum; and Favorite Country Album: Taylor Swift's Speak Now.

Congratulations, Taylor, Blake, and Lady A!

Jason Aldean Dominates ACAs

When the 2nd Annual American Country Awards were handed out last month, the top fan-voted winner was Jason Aldean, who took home a half-dozen guitar trophies. Aldean has had the ride of his life this year with his first-ever headlining tour and he ended the year with a bang by being named the ACA Artist of the Year, his My Kinda Party was named Album of the Year, the title track was named the Male Single of the Year, his "Don't You Wanna Stay" duet with Kelly Clarkson was named the Vocal Collaboration Single of the Year and Duo, Group or Collaboration Music Video of the Year, and he was honored with the Touring Headline Package of the Year guitar.

Carrie Underwood trailed behind Aldean with three guitar trophies of her own, including Female Artist of the Year, and Female Single and Music Video of the Year for "Mama's Song." Blake Shelton and Chris Young were the only other repeat winners of the evening. In addition to the yearly awards, Toby Keith was named Artist of the Decade and performed a rowdy, crowd-pleasing version of his quirky "Red Solo Cup."

And the winners are: Artist of the Decade: Toby Keith; Artist of the Year: Jason Aldean; Artist of the Year: Female: Carrie Underwood; Artist of the Year: Male: Brad Paisley; Artist of the Year: Duo or Group: Lady Antebellum; Artist of the Year: New Artist: Scotty McCreery; and Artist of the Year: Breakthrough Artist: Chris Young.

Single of the Year: Chris Young's "Voices"; Single of the Year: Female: Carrie Underwood's "Mama's Song"; Single of the Year: Male: Jason Aldean's "My Kinda Party"; Single of the Year: Duo or Group: Thompson Square's "Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not?"; Single of the Year: Vocal Collaboration: Jason Aldean & Kelly Clarkson's "Don't You Wanna Stay"; Album of the Year: Jason Aldean's My Kinda Party; and Touring Headline Package of the Year: Jason Aldean.

Music Video of the Year: Blake Shelton's "Who Are You When I'm Not Looking?"; Music Video of the Year: Female: Carrie Underwood's "Mama's Song"; Music Video of the Year: Male: Blake Shelton's "Who Are You When I'm Not Looking?"; Music Video of the Year: Duo, Group or Collaboration: Jason Aldean & Kelly Clarkson's "Don't You Wanna Stay"; and Music Video of the Year: New Artist: Thompson Square's "Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not?"

Congratulations to all the winners!

Aldean, Shelton & Swift Top Grammy Nominations

When the nominees for the 54th Annual Grammy Awards were announced recently, Jason Aldean, Blake Shelton, and Taylor Swift were the top country nominee grabbers with three nods each. All three will vie for Best Country Album and Best Country Solo Performance. Aldean and Kelly Clarkson will vie for Best Country Duo/Group Performance for their "Don't You Wanna Stay," while Shelton and Swift will each vie for Best Country Song for "God Gave Me You" and "Mean," respectively. In addition, the brother-sister trio The Band Perry will compete against Bon Iver, J. Cole, Nicki Minaj, and Skrillex for the title of Best New Artist.

And the nominees are: Best Country Solo Performance: Jason Aldean's "Dirt Road Anthem," Martina McBride's "I'm Gonna Love You Through It," Blake Shelton's "Honey Bee," Taylor Swift's "Mean," and Carrie Underwood's "Mama's Song"; Best Country Duo/Group Performance: Jason Aldean & Kelly Clarkson's "Don't You Wanna Stay," Kenny Chesney & Grace Potter's "You and Tequila," The Civil Wars' "Barton Hollow," and Thompson Square's "Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not?"; Best Country Album: Jason Aldean's My Kinda Party, Eric Church's Chief, Lady Antebellum's Own the Night, Blake Shelton's Red River Blue, George Strait's Here for a Good Time, and Taylor Swift's Speak Now; Best Country Song: "Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not," "God Gave Me You," "Just Fishin'," "Threaten Me with Heaven," and "You and Tequila"; and Best New Artist: The Band Perry, Bon Iver, J. Cole, Nicki Minaj, and Skrillex.

In addition to the above awards which will be handed out during a ceremony airing live on CBS-Television on February 12, three country classics will be inducted into the 2012 Grammy Hall of Fame. Gene Autry's 1942 single "Deep in the Heart of Texas," Flatt & Scruggs' 1957 album Foggy Mountain Jamboree, and Freddy Fender's 1975 single "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights" will each be inducted this year.

Alabama Reuniting & Touring

Alabama fans can thank Brad Paisley for reuniting the supergroup's founding members Randy Owen, Teddy Gentry, and Jeff Cook last year to appear on his #1 single, "Old Alabama." The tune left fans begging for more "Mountain Music" and after appearing on last month's American Country Awards broadcast, Cook turned his back to the crowd so they could read the back of his t-shirt which read, "We're Back," announcing the band's reunion. Although drummer Mark Herndon will not be involved in the reunion, the remaining three members will perform 15-20 shows this year, the first being at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo on February 28. Fans can also expect a newly recorded album from Alabama sometime later in the year, and if all goes well, the band hopes to embark on an overseas tour next year.

Billboard Ranks Country's Best of 2011

Billboard Magazine, the music industry standard publication, recently released its "best of" lists for last year and Taylor Swift dominated two-thirds of the country charts. She was named the Top Country Artist of 2011 and her Speak Now was the Top-Selling Country Album. Eli Young Band had a banner year with their first #1 single, "Crazy Girl," which was the Top Country Song of 2011. The top 10 artists of the year were: Swift, Jason Aldean, Lady Antebellum, Zac Brown Band, Blake Shelton, The Band Perry, Rascal Flatts, Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley, and Luke Bryan. The top 10 albums of the year were: Swift's Speak Now, Aldean's My Kinda Party, Rascal Flatts' Nothing Like This, Lady A's Need You Now, Zac Brown Band's You Get What You Give, Lady A's Own the Night, The Band Perry's self-titled CD, Sugarland's The Incredible Machine, Keith Urban's Get Closer, and Chesney's Hemingway's Whiskey. The top 10 songs of the year were: Eli Young Band's "Crazy Girl," Jake Owen's "Barefoot Blue Jean Night," Rodney Atkins' "Take a Back Road," Chris Young's "Tomorrow," The Band Perry's "You Lie," Dierks Bentley's "Am I the Only One," Chesney & Grace Potter's "You and Tequila," Shelton's "Honey Bee," Trace Adkins' "Just Fishin'," and Billy Currington's "Let Me Down Easy."

Country Family Album

"The Only Place That I Call Home" and "Backwoods" singer Justin Moore became a second-time father on November 21. He and wife Kate welcomed another daughter, 7 lb., 18.5 inch long Kennedy Fay Moore, into the world in their home state of Arkansas. Baby Kennedy joins 21-month-old big sister Ella Kole.

News broke last month that Rodney Atkins has filed for divorce from his wife of 13 years, Tammy Jo McDonald Atkins, following his arrest on domestic assault charges on November 21. McDonald called 911 claiming her husband had attempted to smother her with a pillow following a long night of arguing. She claims he was intoxicated and part of the argument was acted out in front of the couple's 10-year-old son, Elijah. In a statement released by his attorney, Atkins says his wife's claim is "completely untrue" and he "realized that he would have no recourse but to file a complaint of divorce." The statement goes on to say, "The police did not witness any assault because none occurred. The police did not witness any violence between Mr. and Mrs. Atkins. It is entirely based on her word."

Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles surprised fans when news broke that she and her boyfriend said, "I do" two days after Thanksgiving. Nettles and Justin Miller, who appeared in Sugarland's 2006 video for "Want To," had been dating for more than two years — fans got a glimpse of Miller sitting in the audience with Nettles during the November 9 CMA awards. The intimate November 26 sunset ceremony took place at a chapel nestled in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains in East Tennessee. The small gathering of family and close friends included Nettles' musical partner, Kristian Bush.

"Guys Do It All the Time" singer Mindy McCready has had numerous run-ins with the law over the last few years and last month she was accused of abducting her five-year-old son, Zander, from her mother, Gayle Inge, who has legal guardianship of the youngster. McCready, who is currently pregnant with twins, felt her son was being abused and decided to take him from her mother's Cape Coral, Florida home. When McCready ignored court mandates to return the child, she and Zander were eventually found hiding in the closet of an empty vacation house in Heber Springs, Arkansas. McCready took her story to national television where she told ABC's Good Morning America that she was merely protecting her son because his grandmother was beating him with a wooden spoon, leaving scars on his back, legs, and bottom.

Country Codas

In recent weeks, the country music family has been hit hard with numerous deaths. Back in November, Chet Atkins' guitar-playing sideman, 76-year-old Paul Yandell, passed away following a lengthy illness. In August, Atkins' daughter, Merle, and guitarist extraordinaire Steve Wariner gave Yandell the final Atkins "C.G.P" (certified guitar player) honor during a ceremony at the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum. Longtime country percussionist Tom Roady had been battling cancer when he died in his sleep from heart problems on November 28. The 62-year-old musician was scheduled to play drums with Ricky Skaggs in Clemson, South Carolina the day he passed away.

Last month, Willie Nelson's 62-year-old bassist, Dan "Bee" Spears, died from accidental exposure at his Nashville-area home. The musician slipped and fell outside his motor home late December 8 and passed away as the outdoor temperature dropped to 25 degrees overnight. "The Queen Mother of Country Music," 74-year-old Billie Jo Spears, passed away at her home in Vidor, Texas on December 14. Spears topped the country charts in 1975 with "Blanket on the Ground" and entered the Top 10 with "Mr. Walker, It's All Over," "Misty Blue," "What I've Got in Mind," and "If You Want Me."

Well, that's it for this month. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you for continuing to read "Cowboy Corner" and I'd like to wish you and your family the happiest New Year ever! Always remember: "Keep your boots shined up and your hat on straight, 'cause country music is comin' your way."