Garth To Play Rodeo Houston in 2018


By Joey Guerra


Updated 8:18 pm, Thursday, March 16, 2017

Garth Brooks is finally coming back to RodeoHouston.

The country superstar will open and close the 2018 RodeoHouston season at NRG Stadium, playing Feb. 27 and March 18.

He appeared briefly in person Thursday at the Stars Over Texas Stage just outside the carnival rides.

"I thought we were opening or closing. I didn't know we were doing both until they said that," he said.

"One's gotta outdo the other one somehow. We'll do something different (at each show)."

A big crowd gathered even before a black SUV pulled up to the gates. Brooks sported a ball cap, beard and boots. He took time to answer questions from every reporter and posed for selfies with giddy fans.

Brooks previously played RodeoHouston twice, way back in 1991 and 1993.

"This is where it all started for us," he said. "This was the first place we wore the wireless headsets to get to the people and stayed with it the rest of our career because of this show right here."

Brooks said "raising up babies" and his own successful solo tours kept him from coming back. But when the invitation came again, he couldn't say no.

Garth Brooks performs at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo in the Astrodome, Feb. 22, 1993.  Photo: Ben DeSoto, Houston Chronicle

"We were all freed up. I said, 'I'm not gonna bat an eye at this.' I wanted this so bad," he said.

"They called every year. They've been so sweet about it."

Earlier in the day, Brooks tweeted, "On my way to Austin, via Houston? Hmmmm. I have an announcement to make! love, g #AskMeHowIKnow."

Rodeo Houston Concert Reviews

Chris Stapleton performs at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, at NRG Park, Thursday, March 9, 2017, in Houston. ( Karen Warren / Houston Chronicle )

Sweaty soul pours out of Chris Stapleton

By Joey Guerra


Updated 11:27 pm, Thursday, March 9, 2017


The moment Chris Stapleton tore into "I Was Wrong" Thursday night inside NRG Stadium, you could almost feel RodeoHouston shift into the next gear.

The season has so far seen solid sets from Texas country stalwarts Aaron Watson and Cody Johnson. Both brought energy and charm to the revolving stage.

KEEPING IT COUNTRY: Cody Johnson plays at RodeoHouston's Armed Forces Appreciation Day

But Stapleton was something different, a dynamic mix of style, genres and star power. It set a sky-high bar for the rest of the month's shows.

"I Was Wrong" boiled over with a sweaty soul, pouring out of Stapleton and his band like hot wax. It was the kind of thing that makes you close your eyes, tap your foot and settle into a mean frown.

He shared gorgeous harmonies with wife Morgane Hayes during "You Are My Sunshine," turning the song into an aching plea.

Every moment mattered on that stage. The southern rock snarl of "Midnight Train to Memphis" (recorded with his old band The SteelDrivers). The searing interplay between band members during "Outlaw State of Mind." The sweet and wistful melody of radio hit "Traveler."

DREAMS COME TRUE: Aaron Watson makes his RodeoHouston debut 

Stapleton opened with a bit of "Houston" by Larry Gatlin & the Gatlin Brothers Band, which gave way to his own "Nobody to Blame." The screens behind him flickered with an American flag and a bald eagle.

"Unbelievable. I've never seen anything like this in my life," he said to the crowd of 72,803.

He debuted a jangly new song, "The Second One to Know," from a new album due in May. It was the first time he'd performed it live. Set closer "Tennessee Whiskey," of course, was a crowd favorite.

Beyond the whiskey-soaked voice and powerful lyrics, what stood out about Stapleton was his sincerity. He seemed genuinely humbled by the size and reaction of the crowd.

MAYBE NEXT YEAR? Chron reporter loses rodeo Celebrity Goat Milking Competition for the seventh year in a row

He said that the first time a crowd sang a song back to him was in Houston.

"Was it Warehouse Live?" he asked, referencing a 2015 show. "It almost knocked us down it was so powerful to hear people singing the songs that we were playing."

That song was "Fire Away," and when Stapleton sang it Thursday, he asked the crowd to hold up their phones and sing along. The stadium lit up and was filled with voices.

"Y'all gon' make me cry now," he said. "I love you so much."

Texas singer keeps it country at RodeoHouston's Armed Forces Appreciation Day

By Joey Guerra

Rodeo replacement makes the most of his opportunity

Cody Johnson performs at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, at NRG Park, Wednesday, March 8, 2017, in Houston. ( Karen Warren / Houston Chronicle )

Cody Johnson said he'd waited his entire life to play the RodeoHouston stage. But it wasn't supposed to happen this year.

Johnson was a last-minute replacement for Old Dominion, who dropped out Monday because of a death in a band member's family.

ON THE BIG STAGE: Aaron Watson makes his RodeoHouston debut

The former rodeo rider and prison guard made the most of the opportunity and turned NRG Stadium into the world's biggest Texas honky tonk.

Following Aaron Watson's solid Tuesday show, it was a Texas country double play.

Wednesday was also Armed Forces Appreciation Day, and several military personnel in uniform were peppered throughout the audience. Johnson took time to salute them and first responders.

"I honestly don't care who you voted for. We still live in the greatest country in the entire world," he said.

CAN'T MISS: 7 RodeoHouston acts you need to see this year

Johnson was born in Sebastapol, a speck on the eastern shore of the Trinity River, and grew up in Huntsville. He's made a name for himself throughout Texas on the strength of a traditional sound.

"Do you still believe in country music?" he asked the crowd of 60,011. Cue the roars of approval.

Johnson's sixth album, "Gotta Be Me," was released in August and continued to expand his sound far beyond Texas borders. It debuted at No. 2 on Billboard's Country Albums chart and at No. 11 on the all-genre Billboard 200.

He has a raspy mumble of a voice that at times echoed George Jones. It adds a layer of sincerity to his songs, including "I Ain't Going Nowhere Baby," "Ride With Me" and "The Only One I Know (Cowboy Life)."

He was backed by a tight band of Texans who seemed equally excited to be there.

The wry word play of "Grass Stains" and "Me and My Kind" could be radio hits for Brad Paisley. But the Lone Star singalong Johnson inspired during "Texas Kind of Way" was entirely his own


Aaron Watson Opens RodeoHouston as the Underdog That Roared

Aaron Watson.  Photo by Eric Sauseda




As country music’s most unlikely, and likable, newly minted star, the only real danger Aaron Watson is likely to face on the road ahead is letting his biography overshadow his material. Luckily for him, both sides of the ledger are pretty compelling: Once rejected by Nashville for his lack of “commercial appeal,” as he told Tuesday’s RodeoHouston crowd in his debut on the revolving stage, Watson retreated to his native Texas, where he played gig after gig until 2015’s The Underdog became the first independently released album by a solo male artist to top Billboard’s Country Albums chart. He’s back there this week with new LP Vaquero, still without a label or major distribution deal, only kept out of the top spot this time by the mighty Little Big Town

Seriously, the people who made Friday Night Lights — either the film or the series — ought to think about commissioning a screenplay on this guy. Watson is a red-state archetype without the ungainly political baggage: a happily married father of three who stands tall for faith, family and first responders. (It really was First Responders Day at the rodeo, made all the more poignant by the passing of Houston Fire Department Captain "Iron Bill" Dowling a few hours before Watson took the stage.) Watson, too, has seen real tragedy in his life, losing a daughter at a young age, the genesis of The Underdog’s “Bluebonnets (Julia’s Song).” Artists like him aren’t necessarily supposed to be successful in 2017; the world has long grown too cynical, or so we are led to believe.


Photo by Eric Sauseda


And yet the reason Aaron Watson sells records is not because of his backstory, or at least not completely. Trends come and go within country music, all too often at the expense of art, but somehow real and honest songwriting endures; the connection a song like “Bluebonnets” forges with an audience, whether instantly or long-term, is simply impossible to manufacture. Tuesday, Watson told the crowd he wasn’t sure he could get through it without breaking down, but rather than tears, the only thing it provoked was the firefly effect seen in thousands of smartphone lights.

Yet as goosebumpy as it was, to single out the most emotional moment of Watson’s set would not be entirely fair to the rest of the songs, because in the dizzying amount of territory he covered in about 45 minutes, nothing felt anything less than 100 percent authentic. Other songs touched on rodeo life (“God Loves Cowboys”), disabled veterans like his dad (“Raise Your Bottle”) and windows-down summertime highway music (“Outta Style”). If that last one is not blaring from every pickup from Watson's hometown of Amarillo to the shores of Lake Ontario two months from now, there really is no hope for commercial country radio.

Photo by Eric Sauseda

Elsewhere, the self-admitted lifelong George Strait fan’s “That Look” carried the same sly delivery as Strait’s vintage ’80s valentines. The introduction to “Fence Post” went on a little long, but the song itself stood as a fine example of what a powerful motivator a chip on the shoulder can be; besides, a punch line like “I’d rather be a fence post in Texas than the king of Tennessee” is worth a little extra buildup. And if he wants to crank it up with his band, Watson can do that just fine as well, as on the supercharged Texas swing of “Real Good Time” and the Pat Green-style rocker “Getaway Truck.” He also had some fun using NRG Stadium’s closed-captioning board Tuesday to “score some points” with his wife. 

As someone who admitted to waiting his whole life for his turn on the rodeo stage, Watson deserves more than a one-and-done shot. The announced crowd of 51,586 may have been on the modest side, but that’s still nothing to sneeze at, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a performer at RodeoHouston more in tune with the audience in the stands. Tuesday, his modern-throwback aesthetic was probably best articulated in “Like They Used To,” which extols the virtues of fried chicken, Patsy Cline and John T. Floore’s Country Store, and by extension artists who slog through years of lousy gigs until one day they’re thanking their kids for skipping school to come see daddy play at the Houston rodeo. They don’t make ’em like they used to, all right, except for when they still do.

Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.



Eric Church Is ‘Holdin’ His Own’ On 2017 Headlining Tour


 ANNIE REUTER • FEBRUARY 17, 2017 - 12:56 PM


Eric Church is taking a cue from Bruce Springsteen’s playbook by powering through a three-and-a-half hour set night after night on his 2017 Holdin’ My Own Tour. The country singer has no opening acts on his tour and instead gives everything he has to his audience for close to four hours much like The Boss, who is a major inspiration to The Chief and the source of his 2012 hit “Springsteen.”

The singer paid homage to several of his musical heroes, including Springsteen, Thursday night (Feb. 16) at his sold-out show at Infinite Energy Center in Duluth, Ga. Before his performance of “Springsteen,” Church covered the legend’s “Thunder Road” alone on acoustic guitar center stage. Later, after singing “funny how a melody sounds like a memory” off his own song about the singer, he told the audience that the lyric is why he first picked up a guitar.

Eric Church; Photo by Reid Long

“When a melody meets a memory your life changes forever,” he explained. “If you have one of those moments, kind of like me tonight, it gets frozen in time. When you have that happen, that’s the power of music.”

Church himself gave the sold-out crowd a night of memories they’ll never forget with his marathon set. Early in the evening, he paid tribute to two of music’s greatest songwriters who departed from us last year — Leonard Cohen and Merle Haggard. Church kicked off his set with the audio of Cohen’s “Hallelujah” played on the speakers as a spotlight shone on a microphone on the empty stage. Soon after, he’d perform “Mistress Named Music” while a local children’s choir shared the stage with him. Later, after closing “Pledge Allegiance to the Hag,” an image of Haggard was revealed above the stage as Church raised his hand and took a few moments to look above to remember the Hag.

Church no doubt has a reverence for those who came before him while at the same time continues to carve out his own distinct path in country music. He left everything he had on the stage Thursday evening, despite suffering a cold, and urged the audience to give him the same energy.

“Tonight, I’m giving everything I have. I’m gonna try to kill you,” he said several songs into his set to screams from the audience. “I want you, to try to kill me. We are going to drink to the victory when we do. So, that being said, are you guys up for the challenge? Here’s my first punch right here.”

And with that he transformed the audience into a rowdy bar performing hit after beer soaked hit with “Drink In My Hand” as he frequently took a swig of Jack Daniel’s.

“Think you can do this for three-and-a-half hours?” he later asked after a brief intermission. “From this song to the end, it’s gonna be guns blazing. I don’t care if you work tomorrow, you’re at Church!”

Throughout his set, Church segued seamlessly from the high-energy, guitar driven tracks to the slower and sentimental. Much like his introduction, one moment he’d have the venue at church backed by a choir and the next he’d be filling up shot glasses of Jack Daniel’s for his band before performing the rollicking “Creepin’.”

Highlights throughout the evening included a beat-driven and raucous-fused “Chattanooga Lucy” off 2015’s Mr. Misunderstood which showcased Church’s falsetto alongside gritty guitar accompaniment. He’d then follow with a reinterpretation of “Two Pink Lines” off his 2006 debut Sinners Like Me.

“When we were working up rehearsals for this tour I had the idea of bringing this song back and doing it a little differently then when we cut it,” he said of the song. “It’s still one of my favorite songs and if you are a hardcore Church Choir fan than you’ll know this one.”

Church’s set spanned his decade-plus career with fans showing as much excitement for his latest single “Kill a Word” as his debut, “How ‘Bout You.” It was when he was performing the more poignant songs, like “Three Year Old” inspired by his oldest son, that fans got a closer look at The Chief.

“I’ve got two little boys,” he told the audience before performing “Three Year Old.” “I never thought I could learn so much from a kid. This song is as real as it gets for me. This song, in my entire career, is one of those that means the world to me.”

He’d follow the beautiful song with the riff-heavy “Before She Does” before segueing into fan favorite “These Boots” where hundreds of fans in the audience held up their cowboy boots and a few threw them to the stage for Church to autograph.

Church didn’t fall back on his promise to “go as long as you guys can go” and closed the show shortly before midnight. After playing several songs he hadn’t in years, he came out for an three-song encore by himself which included “Holdin’ My Own,” “Those I’ve Loved” and “Lightning.”

“I want to thank you for an incredible night,” he said at the close of his set.

By the screams of the audience throughout Church’s nearly four-hour show, it was the fans that ought to thank him for his epic, marathon headlining set.

Listen to Dustin Lynch’s Sweet Ode to Home, ‘Small Town Boy’

 KELLY BRICKEY • FEBRUARY 17, 2017 - 9:41 AM


Dustin Lynch - Small Town Boy; Cover Art Courtesy of Broken Bow Records

We are all products of the places that raise us up, and Dustin Lynch is giving a shoutout to his home in his new love song, “Small Town Boy.”

The smooth, slowed down track romanticizes the idea that where you come defines you even within a loving relationship and nothing can change the authentic identity someone develops by growing up in the town they call home. Lynch emphasizes that it’s the simple things that create a person’s true identity and the song is all about loving every true thing about what that person was raised on.

“‘Small Town Boy’ is about being in love with someone for who they are and what makes them unique. I grew up in the small town of Tullahoma, TN, and that town made me who I am. It’s somewhere I long to always go back to and visit … my family is still there,” said Lynch about the track. “So this song reminds me of my hometown, and what true love really is – and that’s being in love with the real in somebody and not the fake.”

Written by Rhett Akins, Ben Hayslip and Kyle Fishman, “Small Town Boy” comes as a cool follow-up to his current rocking hit, “Seein’ Red.” While a title and date for his forthcoming album have yet to be announced, “Small Town Boy” gives another inside look at what sound Lynch is going for on his third studio record.

Take a listen to Lynch’s “Small Town Boy” and add the track to your Spotify playlistnow.

Miranda Lambert, Keith Urban and Maren Morris Lead 2017 ACM Award Nominations



Miranda Lambert, Keith Urban and Maren Morris came out as the top nominees for the 2017 ACM Awards.

Lambert’s highly-anticipated release The Weight of These Wings earned an Album of the Year nod, while her lead single “Vice” is up for Song of the Year, Single of the Year and Video of the Year.


Keith Urban’s hit record Ripcord helped him snagged the most nominations for the 2017 ACM Awards. Not only is he up for the coveted Entertainer of the Year award, but also Male Vocalist of the Year,  Single and Song of the Year for “Blue Ain’t Your Color” and Album of the Year for Ripcord.

Breakthrough artist Maren Morris, who just received her first Grammy award last week, also grabbed six nominations. This year, she’s up for Female Vocalist of the Year, New Female Vocalist of the Year, Album of the Year and Single of the Year for “My Church.”

The 2017 ACM Awards, hosted by Luke Bryan and Dierks Bentley, will be held at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nev. on April 2. Fans can watch the live broadcast on CBS beginning at 8 p.m. ET.

2017 ACM Award Nominees

Entertainer of the Year

Jason Aldean
Luke Bryan
Florida Georgia Line
Carrie Underwood
Keith Urban

Male Vocalist of the Year

Jason Aldean
Dierks Bentley
Thomas Rhett
Chris Stapleton
Keith Urban

Female Vocalist of the Year

Kelsea Ballerini
Miranda Lambert
Maren Morris
Kacey Musgraves
Carrie Underwood

Vocal Duo of the Year

Big & Rich
Brothers Osborne
Dan + Shay
Florida Georgia Line
Maddie & Tae

Vocal Group of the Year

Eli Young Band
Little Big Town
Old Dominion
Rascal Flatts
Lady Antebellum

Album of the Year

Black, Dierks Bentley
Dig Your Roots, Florida Georgia Line
Hero, Maren Morris
Ripcord, Keith Urban
The Weight of These Wings, Miranda Lambert

New Male Vocalist of the Year

Kane Brown
Chris Janson
Chris Lane
Jon Pardi
Brett Young

New Female Vocalist of the Year

Lauren Alaina
Brandy Clark
Maren Morris

New Vocal Duo or Group of the Year

A Thousand Horses
Brothers Osborne
Dan + Shay
Maddie & Tae

Video of the Year (Awarded to Producer(s) / Director(s) / Artist(s))

“Fire Away,” Chris Stapleton
“Forever Country,” Various Artists
“Humble and Kind,” Tim McGraw
“Peter Pan,” Kelsea Ballerini
“Vice,” Miranda Lambert

Vocal Event of the Year (Awarded to Artist(s) / Producer(s) / Record Label(s))

“Different for Girls,” Dierks Bentley feat. Elle King
“Forever Country,” Various Artists
“May We All,” Florida Georgia Line feat. Tim McGraw
“Setting the World on Fire,” Kenny Chesney feat. Pink
“Think of You,” Chris Young feat. Cassadee Pope

Single Record of the Year (Awarded to Artist(s) / Producer(s) / Record Label(s))

“Blue Ain’t Your Color,” Keith Urban
“H.O.L.Y.,” Florida Georgia Line
“Humble and Kind,” Tim McGraw
“My Church,” Maren Morris
“Vice,” Miranda Lambert

Song of the Year (Awarded to Songwriter(s) / Publisher(s) / Artist(s)

“Blue Ain’t Your Color,” Keith Urban (Clint Lagerberg, Hillary Lindsey, Steven Lee Olsen)
“Die a Happy Man,” Thomas Rhett (Thoomas Rhett, Sean Douglas, Joe Spargur)
“Humble and Kind,” Tim McGraw (Lori McKenna)
“Kill a Word,” Eric Church feat. Rhiannon Giddens (Eric Church, Luke Dick, Jeff Hyde)
“Tennessee Whiskey,” Chris Stapleton (Dean Dillon, Linda Hargrove)
“Vice,” Miranda Lambert (Miranda Lambert, Shane McAnally, Josh Osborne)

Songwriter of the Year

Ashley Gorley
Luke Laird
Hillary Lindsey
Shane McAnally
Lori McKenna

Nashville nabs Grammy gold


Juli Thanki , Dave Paulson and Cindy Watts , The Tennessean Published 11:01 p.m. CT Feb. 12, 2017 

Maren Morris beat out country's top artists including Keith Urban, Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert and Brandy Clark to win Best Country Solo Performance for her debut single "My Church." "Oh my goodness, this is so crazy," Morris exclaimed from the stage. "Eleven years ago I went to the first ever Grammy camp. Sturgill Simpson: The Grammys' man of mystery Grammys 2017: Sturgill Simpson wins best country album A Grammys sweep for Nashville Symphony Hillary Scott & Scott Family accept early Grammy Awards Video by Jessica Davis/ The Tennessean

Nashville won big at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles Sunday, as Music City-based artists racked up nearly 20 trophies and delivered some of the most memorable performances over the course of the recording industry's biggest night.

Though local artists were shut out of the all-genre awards — Chance the Rapper beat out singers Maren Morris and Kelsea Ballerinifor Best New Artist and Sturgill Simpson watched Adele take home the night’s biggest prize, Album of the Year — Nashville dominated the roots, country, classical and Contemporary Christian categories.

Simpson earned his first Grammy when his album “A Sailor’s Guide to Earth” was named Best Country Album. He came into the show as one of the night's least-known nominees outside the country and roots music world.

“Sturgill Simpson is here and Google just crashed from everyone typing ‘Who the hell is that?’” host James Corden joked in his opening monologue. But Simpson certainly made himself known on Sunday. During the ceremony he delivered a striking performance of “All Around You” with the Dap Kings’ horn section

"Six years ago, I was in Utah, working on a railroad, writing songs at night," Simpson said from the podium after his Best Country Album win. "My wife made me quit that job and move to Nashville. So thank you, babe. About two and a half years ago, our first son was born, right around the time my last record came out. So I spent the first year of his life on the road, missing him and her. And if it hadn't been for them, I wouldn't have written this record. So I have to dedicate this to my family."

Morris was another first-time winner. Her hit “My Church” was named Best Country Solo Performance. From the stage, the young star thanked her record label, her mom and her fans for giving her "the most incredible year of my life." Morris returned to the stage later in the evening with R&B's Alicia Keys for a powerful performance of the song "Once."

Beyoncé’s show-stopping performance was one of the night’s highlights. Clad in gold and surrounded by dancers, the megastar — who recently announced that she and husband Jay-Z are expecting twins — performed “Love Drought” and “Sandcastles,” two songs from “Lemonade.

After “Lemonade” was named Best Urban Contemporary Album, Beyoncé delivered a moving acceptance speech: “We all experience pain and loss, and often we become inaudible. My intention for the film and album was to create a body of work that will give a voice to our pain, our struggles, our darkness and our history. To confront issues that make us uncomfortable. It’s important for me to show images to my children that reflect their beauty, so they can grow up in a world where they look in the mirror…and see themselves, and have no doubt that they’re beautiful, intelligent and capable. This is something I want for every child of every race. And I feel it’s vital that we learn from the past, and recognize our tendencies to repeat our mistakes.”

Last year, Lori McKenna shared the Best Country Song Grammy Award with fellow “Girl Crush” co-writers Liz Rose and Hillary Lindsey. This time around, she accepted the trophy herself as the sole songwriter of “Humble and Kind,” which Tim McGraw took to the top of the charts last summer. "This is such an honor…Tim McGraw made a moment out of this little, tiny, simple prayer that I wrote for five kids,” McKenna said during her acceptance speech. Backstage, she called it a "school day song," telling the press, "I dropped my kids off in the morning and sat in my yoga pants and wrote.  It’s a very simple song, talking about things I want my kids to know. And I tried to make sure I had a line to apply to each of my kids."

This was McKenna’s only win Sunday night, although the singer-songwriter was nominated in four categories, including Best American Roots Song.

That trophy went to "Kid Sister," the song Vince Gill wrote about his Time Jumpers bandmate Dawn Sears. Sears, a vocal powerhouse who was the heart of the Western Swing band, died in late 2014, fewer than three years after being diagnosed with lung cancer. In his acceptance speech, Gill said, "I wish you all would have had the chance once in your life to hear the voice of the woman I wrote this song about…She's one of the best voices you'll ever hear in your life. I encourage you to find her voice."

In another emotional moment, Joey + Rory’s “Hymns” was named Best Roots Gospel Album, nearly a year after Joey Martin Feek’s death. “My wife’s dream was to make a hymns album,” Rory Feek explained from the stage. “So she sang her vocals in hotel rooms while she did chemo and radiation.”

He also told the audience how he promised his wife he’d attend the awards ceremony if the record was nominated, and her words to him: “Remember, if we win, I’ll know before you will.”

Also during the pre-telecast, Hillary Scott and the Scott Family — her mother Linda Davis, father Lang Scott and sister Rylee — tearfully accepted two awards: Contemporary Christian Music Album for their release “Love Wins” and Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song for “Thy Will,” written by Bernie Herms, Hillary Scott and Emily Weisband. "We've been crying since this project started....Our prayer, from day one and throughout, was that it would permeate to people that would hear it that are in need, and it would give them comfort and encourage them," said Lang Scott.

Nashville also cleaned up in the classical music categories. "Daugherty: Tales Of Hemingway" — which features the Nashville Symphony and Giancarlo Guerrero as conductor — won Best Classical Instrumental Solo, Contemporary Classical Composition and Classical Compendium in the span of five minutes during the pre-telecast. That equals two more Grammys for Guerrero (bringing his total to five); he's part of the first two awards, but "composition" goes solely to the piece's composer. He wasn't present at Sunday's ceremony, but cellist Zuill Bailey thanked him "for conducting this live performance that I’ll never forget. It taught me to fight fear.”

Megadeth picked up their first Grammy for Best Metal Performance. The win comes a couple years after frontman Dave Mustaine and his family moved to the Nashville area. Another big rock award went to a band whose members (mostly) call Nashville home. Cage the Elephant won best rock album for their 2015 album, "Tell Me I'm Pretty." It's also the first Grammy win for the band, which emerged from Bowling Green, Kentucky a decade ago.

“Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin,” produced by Nashville’s Buddy Cannon, won the Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album Grammy. It is Cannon’s first Grammy as a producer, and Nelson’s eighth award. The record came about after the country legend was awarded the Library of Congress’ Gershwin Prize for Popular Song in 2015.

Nashville winners 

Rock Album: "Tell Me I'm Pretty," Cage the Elephant

Metal Performance: "Dystopia," Megadeth

Traditional Pop Vocal Album: "Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin," Willie Nelson; Buddy Cannon, producer

Country Solo Performance: "My Church," Maren Morris

Country Duo/Group Performance: "Jolene," Pentatonix featuring Dolly Parton

Country Song: "Humble and Kind," Lori McKenna (performed by Tim McGraw)

Country Album: "A Sailor's Guide to Earth," Sturgill Simpson

American Roots Song: "Kid Sister," Vince Gill, songwriter (performed by The Time Jumpers)

Bluegrass Album: "Coming Home," O'Connor Band with Mark O'Connor

Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song: "Thy Will," Hillary Scott and the Scott Family; Bernie Herms, Hillary Scott & Emily Weisband, songwriters

Contemporary Christian Music Album: "Love Wins," Hillary Scott and the Scott Family

Classical Instrumental Solo: "Daugherty: Tales Of Hemingway," Zuill Bailey; Giancarlo Guerrero, conductor (Nashville Symphony)

Classical Compendium: "Daugherty: Tales Of Hemingway"; "American Gothic"; "Once Upon A Castle"; Giancarlo Guerrero, conductor; Tim Handley, producer

Contemporary Classical Composition: "Daugherty: Tales Of Hemingway"; Michael Daugherty, composer (Zuill Bailey, Giancarlo Guerrero and Nashville Symphony)

Roots Gospel Album: “Hymns,” Joey + Rory

Best Song Written for Visual Media: "Can't Stop the Feeling!" Max Martin, Shellback & Justin Timberlake, songwriters

Read more Grammy Awards coverage:

Sturgill Simpson: The Grammys' man of mystery
Grammys 2017: Sturgill Simpson wins best country album
Rory Feek gives emotional speech after win
A Grammys sweep for Nashville Symphony 
Lori McKenna wins Best Country Song
Hillary Scott & Scott Family accept early Grammy Awards
Photos: Stars hit the 2017 Grammys red carpet
2017 Grammy Awards: Adele takes song, record and album of the year
Photos: 2017 Grammy Awards show
Grammys 2017: Beyonce urges to 'learn from the past' in speech
Keith Urban at Grammys: “Carrie Underwood, I’m gonna be your fighter”
Grammys 2017: Maren Morris wins first Grammy
Grammys 2017: Kelsea Ballerini, Lukas Graham perform

Randy Travis: 'Damaged,' but still fighting after near fatal stroke

(Photo: Larry McCormack / The Tennessean)


Cindy Watts , USA TODAY NETWORK - Tennessee Published 3:00 p.m. CT Feb. 7, 2017 | Updated



Doctors told her to pull the plug.

Randy Travis had already flatlined, and now he was fighting an infection that specialists said he had virtually no chance of surviving. Even if he did, they told his wife, he'd likely be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

Three years and three months later, Travis walked on stage last fall to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. He stood throughout his induction and then stunned the room, singing “Amazing Grace.”

But the road back has been grueling, Travis told The Tennessean during his most in-depth interview since the 2013 stroke that nearly took his life. Travis' speech is halting, and he mostly maneuvers around his upscale Nashville condo via a wheelchair.

Asked whether he is happy, the singer paused for several seconds.

“Well … no,” he admitted, before another long pause. "Damaged."

But his wife, Mary, who defied doctor’s advice and fought to keep her husband alive, predicts he’ll sing again on Wednesday night during an all-star tribute to the seven-time Grammy Award-winning singer at Bridgestone Arena. Garth Brooks, Chris Young and Jamey Johnson are among the 30 artists who will pay tribute to Travis.

Travis isn’t so sure he’ll sing. Seated beside his wife, he leaned over, blocked his mouth with his hand and, grinning, delivered a drawn-out “no” when his wife suggested it.

Although Travis is still working to regain his conversation skills, he can sing — at least a few songs.

“There is a perfectionist in him that knows he’s not singing exactly like he used to that keeps him from enjoying it like I wish he would,” she said. “I know the world when they hear him, they can tell it’s Randy Travis, and the more he does it, the better it’s going to get.”

Travis changed the course of pop-leaning country music in 1986 with the release of his multiplatinum-selling “Storms of Life.” In the next three decades, he charted 16 No. 1 songs and his traditional country baritone rang on hits including “Forever and Ever, Amen,” “Deeper than a Holler” and “On the Other Hand.”

“I can’t find another artist in any format in the history of music that turned a format 180 degrees right back into itself, a mirror of what it was, and made it bigger than it was before,” said Brooks, who has counted Travis among his biggest influences.

Added Brad Paisley: “Randy showed up on the scene with a voice that was both retro and fresh, songs that were brilliant and charisma that could never be duplicated.”

'Hitting a brick wall' 

Lightly stroking her husband’s hand with her thumb, Mary Travis recounted the days after the stroke, describing them as “hitting a brick wall at 100 miles per hour.”

On the Fourth of July 2013, Travis spent his usual three to four hours working out in his gym. July 5 he sat through an all-day business meeting. The next day, he complained of congestion in his airways and went to a nearby emergency room, where he was diagnosed with walking pneumonia.


Although Randy Travis is still working to regain his conversation skills more than three years after a stroke, he can sing. “There is a perfectionist in him that knows he’s not singing exactly like he used to that keeps him from enjoying it like I wish he would,” his wife, Mary Travis, said. “I know the world when they hear him, they can tell it’s Randy Travis, and the more he does it, the better it’s going to get.” (Photo: Larry McCormack / The Tennessean)

The morning of July 7, Travis told his wife: “I can’t breathe at all. It’s much worse.” When she took him back to the hospital, both of his lungs had filled with fluid. He was transferred to a larger hospital, where he flatlined. It took doctors three-and-a-half minutes to revive him. At 5:30 a.m. July 8, he was transferred to The Heart Hospital Baylor Plano and put on life support.

“I’m in a fog,” Mary Travis recalled. “You don’t really have time to think about how you’re feeling. You’re answering questions, you’re making decisions and scared to death.”

At The Heart Hospital, Dr. Michael Mack diagnosed Travis with viral cardiomyopathy, a virus that settles in the heart. The singer’s heart had started to shut down, which caused his lungs to accumulate fluid. (The Travises think the singer picked up the virus five weeks before on a sweltering movie set in a 50-year-old chemical, feed and seed store in Louisiana.)

It was not until he came out of a coma 48 hours later that doctors realized he had suffered a stroke. Reaction from the doctors was swift. Mary Travis tearfully recalled being told that lifesaving surgery would be required. And even with surgery, Travis had only a 1 to 2 percent chance of survival.

“At this point, the 1 to 2 percent chance is 100 percent chance over zero,” Mary Travis said. “I prayed hard, ‘God, please let me have him back, any way, shape or form.’ ”

After surgery, Travis spent nearly six months in hospitals in Texas and Tennessee. Of that time, he spent about six weeks in a coma, Mary Travis said. He had two brain surgeries, got pneumonia three times, was intubated seven times, had three tracheotomies and a feeding tube. While hospitalized in Nashville, Travis caught staph infections from hospital-borne bacteria and doctors spent two weeks telling his wife he was going to die.

Travis was in a coma state when she entered the room, took his hand and asked: “Do you want to keep fighting, baby?”

She said he squeezed her hand and a tear rolled down his cheek.

“I knew then he wasn’t ready to quit fighting,” she said. “I went back and told the doctors, ‘It’s not our choice to decide that. … And I suggest that everybody get on board and do everything they can do to save him.’ ”

Still fighting  

Soon after, the Travises switched doctors. His new specialist put him on a more powerful antibiotic, and within three days Travis started to show improvement. Five days after that, the doctor told Mary Travis she could start planning her husband’s trip home. “Home” meant seven more weeks in Texas hospitals before she wheeled him out, a bag of laundry in his lap, just in time to spend Thanksgiving at their ranch in Tioga, Texas.

Randy Travis contracted viral cardiomyopathy and had a massive stroke in 2013. Now, with the love and support of his wife, Mary, he can walk, shower unassisted and get himself dressed. 

When asked how it felt to leave, Travis flashed a wide smile, threw his hand up in the air and said, “Bye.”

Travis spent four hours a day in rehab for two-and-a-half years. He can now walk, shower unassisted and get himself dressed. At one point in the rehab, his wife says, Travis stopped wanting to go. And if she did get him there, he just shut down. They started venturing out into the community, having dinner with friends, going to concerts and making grocery store runs.

She said hope and her faith in God are what kept her pushing forward. For Travis, she thinks it was his music, which she said played constantly in his hospital room.

Travis remembers all of his song lyrics and can use his left hand to run the chords on his guitar neck. He’s still regaining use of his right arm and leg. He says it feels “good” to sing again.

Asked where he wants to be in his recovery five years from now, Travis smiled and shrugged his shoulders.

“I think our goal for five years is to remain hopeful and keep our heads up high and not throw in the towel and be happy with wherever God has us,” Mary Travis said. “If it’s back up on that stage singing, hallelujah.”

Reach Cindy Watts at or 615-664-2227 and on Twitter @CindyNWatts.


When he had a massive stroke more than three years ago, Randy Travis' wife, Mary, defied doctor’s advice and fought to keep her husband alive. Although his speech is halting, the singer can now walk, shower unassisted and get himself dressed. (Photo: Larry McCormack / The Tennessean)

If you go

What: 1 Night. 1 Place. 1 Time: A Heroes and Friends Tribute to Randy Travis featuring Garth Brooks, Chris Young, Jamey Johnson, Scotty McCreery, Josh Turner and more than 20 additional country singers. 

When: 7 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Bridgestone Arena, 501 Broadway in Nashville

Tickets: $25 to $80 through Ticketmaster, 1-800-745-3000 or

Proceeds from the evening go to benefit the Randy Travis Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit that raises money for stroke research and rehabilitation.

Inside the mind of Nashville's co-writer to the stars

Tom Carter. (Photo: Shelley Mays/The Tennessean)


Nate Rau , Published 10:02 a.m. CT Feb. 3, 2017 | Updated 21 hours ago


Some country star’s tour bus will be rolling through Kansas, or South Carolina or wherever, and they'll come and find him to pour their hearts out. Carter is the co-writer for the autobiographies of George Jones, Merle Haggard, Reba McEntire, Ronnie Milsap, Ralph Emery and others.

His books have topped various best sellers list and his career has given him life experiences that very few others could claim.

To achieve the most honest, compelling work, Carter embeds himself with the artists whose autobiographies he puts to paper. He travels with them on extended tours and shadows them in the recording studio.

And that work means waiting days, sometimes weeks, for the artist to open up.

“I told every one of them, ‘I know you’re busy. You have many people pulling on you. But we will not write this book by appointment,’” Carter said. “So I said, ‘If you do this book we will write it on your times.’ If you rely on appointment, they’ll always cancel the appointment.

“So, I’d go out (on tour with them) and ride on the band bus. Then they’d do a show and it’d go great, and next thing you know it’s 3 o’clock and they can’t sleep, so they’d call the band bus. And the whole convoy stops. So I get out of the bunk on the band bus, put my clothes on, walk back to the celebrity’s bus and usually because the hour’s late and the miles are long and no one is pulling on them and I’m in this tiny cubicle going down the road at 75-miles an hour, that’s when their inhibitions drop.”

Carter’s career is a sort of Music City archetype - young man moves to Nashville searching for artistic fame, risking everything to pursue a career out of pure passion for the music. Only, unlike the typical Nashville success story, Carter didn’t come here to be a country artist or a songwriter, he came to Nashville to tell the stories of the city’s biggest stars. His books are the time capsules for Nashville’s music industry.

Carter’s own life story parallels the artists he wrote about in another way – it was full of sharp pitfalls due to his battles with substance abuse. Carter has been sober for 11 years and his career is on the brink of a renaissance. His first novel will be available in book stores on Feb. 7. A life lessons book Carter wrote with country star Jason Aldean will also be available later this year.

The art of writing autobiographies, Carter says, is about capturing the voice of the artist as they spill their guts about their stories and their art. But the job also means getting them to tell the truth in the first place. It’s a skill Carter has mastered over a 40-year career that began as a music writer for the Tulsa World newspaper and then took him to the parking lot behind WSM, the iconic country radio station.

Carter, who had just co-written his first book for Milsap, had been writing Emery letters for months asking if he could help write his autobiography. Emery, who hosted his own radio and television shows, declined for months before finally relenting, and that book hit The New York Times best seller list for 26 weeks and then was printed for multiple editions and in paperback.

“I climbed over a fence out there at the old Nashville Now parking lot,” Carter said. “And I knew where he parked his car… I had to go out there six times badgering him saying, ‘I know you can write a book, I know it’ll be a hit,’  before he finally said yes.”

Co-writing Emery’s book took Carter’s career full circle since, as with millions of other people, it was WSM that got him interested in country music in the first place.

“Turning the dial, I found this faraway late-night clear channel station called WSM in Nashville, Tennessee,” said Carter, who grew up in Moline, Ill. “And Ralph Emery was the disc jockey and he would have celebrities on there like Marty Robbins and Johnny Cash. They’d be right there in the studio, and they’d play guitar or piano, and I thought it was so fascinating.

“My dad would tell me to turn off that radio and go to sleep and I wouldn’t. I’d put it under my cover and I’d put my ear on the radio of this little speaker of this electric table radio.”

After Emery’s autobiography was a smashing commercial success. It opened doors for Carter to lucrative advances to co-write the books of various other country stars.

Usually the challenge was Carter convincing the stars to put on the record the most interesting anecdotes from their lives, since he knew the more intimate the book the better it would sell. But most stars wanted to keep the details of their private lives off the record  – with the exception of Jones.

Nashville author Tom Carter stands in his Bellevue home office with some of autobiographies that he has written of the years, including Reba, George Jones.  (Photo: Shelley Mays)

“I always thought if George Jones would tell it all, it’d be a blockbuster,” Carter said, adding it took four years to convince Jones to write his autobiography. “He made no bones about it. He thought he suffered brain damage from alcohol and drug use. He said, ‘I want you to talk to everybody starting with my childhood. Go out to Texas in the big thicket and talk to people who knew me, talk to my sister and brother-in-law, then walk through the steps of my life. When you get to Nashville, everybody in Nashville will want to tell stories on me.’

“That’s exactly what happened. I interviewed 75 people, everyone wanted to be a part of this book. So his deal was, ‘I don’t remember anything, but if you talk to these people and bring it back to me, it’ll draw my memory. And no matter what they say, if it’s the truth, I’ll put it in that book.’ There are passages where the pages are so hot they want to leap from your hand.”

Carter said his time on the road with the stars exposed him to drugs and alcohol, and although he never used while he was working on a project, he developed addiction that temporarily sidetracked his career. He’s been sober now for 11 years, and appears poised for another successful sales run. The project with Aldean will be released in 2017 as well.

And this week, Carter’s first novel, “Nashville: Music and Murder,” which tells the tale of a group of people who are mysteriously trying to murder a country music star, will be released. The fictitious story draws on Carter’s life experiences and his behind-the-scenes insight into how iconic country stars live.

“I think it’s a pretty good yarn. It was a change to tell my own story, but I have to say I am proud of how it came out,” Carter said.

Reach Nate Rau at 615-259-8094 and Follow him on Twitter @tnnaterau.

About Tom Carter

*Former reporter for the Tulsa World

*Began co-writing autobiographies in 1989

*Six times appeared on the New York Times best-seller list and two times on the USA Today list

*Two books were turned into primetime television specials

*First novel publishes this week and will be available on and

*A life lessons book with Jason Aldean is due out in 2017

Rodeo Country Review: What The Hell Canada Hits Calgary

On a cold & snowy Friday Night.... Dierks Bentley's 'What The Hell' Tour with his pals Cole Swindell & Jon Pardi came to the Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta to PARTY.  And party they did with ten thousand of their loyal rowdy fans.  From the stage front 'party pit' to the rafters in the back, it was time to connect with three performers whose music perfectly reflects the sound of today's country music.

The trio of Dierks Bentley, Cole Swindell & Jon Pardi with the aptly named 'What The Hell' Tour is two weeks into a six month string of arena dates across North America and so far both the performers and audiences are loving it!  Several times Friday night, headliner Bentley talked about how much he was enjoying making it back to the Saddledome since his first appearance in  2004 opening up for George Strait.

 This time he was at top of the bill after several performances around town over the last thirteen years at Cowboys, Ranchman's, The Whiskey, Stampede's Coca-Cola Stage & the Jubilee Auditorium.  He was very appreciative of the steady journey to playing larger places like the 'Dome' even singing from a mini stage at the rear of the arena floor to play to fans in the rafters, a nod to his days of attending country concerts in the 90's. 

On the ice in Calgary 

No doubt over the last 13 years or so, Bentley has had a steady rise to the top rung of A List Country Acts.  He his set list Friday night was wide ranging...opening with bluegrass from his 2010  'Up on the Ridge' CD, to several of his best party songs and mid tempo ballads.  He moved effortlessly through all styles backed by a top notch group of musicians,

It's hard to be pick a favourite, although the standouts would be his recent #1 Hit, Different for Girls, last year's mega hit 'Somewhere on a Beach' and 'Home' which he dedicated to his love for the Western region of North America (and love for Alberta & Hockey).  

Bentley during his set also shared the stage with his tour partners performing some George Strait  with Jon Pardi and helping out on Cole Swindell's latest 'Flatliner'.

The encore saved the best for last featuring the monster hit, 'Drunk on a Plane' complete with a mock 747 Jet on stage with Bentley dressed for the role, doing his best impression of a drunk pilot (shades of Sun Wing?).

Returning to Calgary in the middle slot was Georgia's Cole Swindell riding high with a hot string of #1 Hits including the recent "Middle of a Memory'.  Definitely he was a crowd favourite....with many folks singing along to hits like 'Ain't Worth the Whiskey, 'Let Me See Ya Girl and his debut 'Chillin It'.  

Although best known for up tempo party anthems, Swindell shone best on the touching Remember, Boys & You Should Be Here (written in tribute to his late father). 

Those in attendance who arrived early were treated to thirty minutes of California flavoured Honky Tonk from Jon Pardi,  The thirty one year old is currently riding high on the charts with 'Dirt on my Boots' the followup to last year's #1, 'Head Over Boots'.  Pardi is a star on the rise and a good bet to return to town in the near future with lots more stage time.

me, @coleswindell and @JonPardi. almost every weekend. thru august. crazy thing for me to even think about! love these guys.

Rodeo Country Radio is proud to be present our Spotify "What the Hell Tour" Rewind Playlist featuring hits from Dierks Bentley, Cole Swindell & Jon Pardi.




Five Years ago, Rodeo Country Broadcasts Began with George Strait Special

Tomorrow on February 1st, 2012, Rodeo Country aired its first program, an hour long podcast featuring George Strait.  A few months later, was born with 24/7 broadcasts of country music with daily rodeo & country news stories.  Tens of thousands of people from all over the world have listened to the program on the life & music of the King of the Cowboys...Mr. George Strait.  And well over a half million folks too over the last five years have visited and make us the Go To Location for rodeo & country music news, the latest rodeo results, entertainment & lots more.  Thank You for your support...its greatly & humbly appreciated.

To help celebrate that special day five year ago, when the very first Rodeo Country program aired featuring the only and only George Strait....Let's Ride Back in Time & Relive the Memories...

Stephen Dorff’s New Film ‘Wheeler’ Gives Fans an Authentic Look at Music Row


 CHUCK DAUPHIN • JANUARY 30, 2017 - 10:00 AM

Music runs in the bloodline of actor Stephen Dorff. However, rather than follow in the songwriting family footsteps of his father Steve (“I Cross My Heart”) and late brother Andrew (“Neon Light”), he has made a name for himself in such theatrical releases as The Power of One and Somewhere. His latest project, Wheeler, allows him to combine both acting and music as never before.

Starring: Stephen Dorff, Kris Kristofferson, and Audrey Spillman Wheeler Official Trailer 1 (2017) - Stephen Dorff Movie WHEELER is the story of an aspiring musician from Kaufman, Texas, who travels to Nashville with the lifelong dream of trying his hand at country music.

The film stars Dorff as Wheeler, a Texas native who has decided to come to Nashville to try his hand at a music career. While the industry has been front and center in such films as Robert Altman’s Nashville and the Robert Duvall film Tender Mercies, what sets Wheeler apart is the fact that the film takes the viewer on a real-life stroll through the creative community of Nashville with Dorff’s character trying to get his music heard by a variety of the city’s top writers, such as Bobby Tomberlin. With a last name so recognized by many in the industry, Dorff knew that the only way to see if his songs passed the test was to try to be noticed as somebody other than himself. Donning heavy make-up and prosthetics, Dorff makes the rounds of the bars around the city. He tells Sounds Like Nashville that it was a unique process, but one that had to be taken to be authentic.

“I wanted to look different if we were going to try to infiltrate Nashville and create a buzz in the open mic scene, we had to make it real. People had to believe it, and they had to believe Wheeler and his performance. I didn’t want them going ‘Oh, that’s the guy from Blade.’ That would have ruined it for me. We could have just done a normal movie with a script and actors,” he said, “but I wanted to do one with real people. If you worked at this bar, and I was doing a scene with you, the thought would have been ‘Oh, they’re doing something for YouTube or this singer’s website.’ I think by doing that, we created a much more original-feeling film.”

Having appearances from writers like Tomberlin, as well as Country Music Hall of Famer Kris Kristofferson lent a feeling of realness to the project. “We had a movie at the end of the day, and a solid album. I thought ‘Whoa. This is like a two-part art project. It’s a movie and an album. It was really a tribute to songwriting, and where I come from with my father and my brother.”

“Pour Me Out Of This Town,” the lead single from the project was written by Stephen, along with Tomberlin and his brother Andrew, who passed away last month. Stephen said that his passing gives a bittersweet feeling to the project. “This has become a tribute to him. I hope that people will be touched by the movie. It’s kind of weird – some of the things that happen in the movie, and some of the things I’m dealing with personally right now. I don’t know what to do. I’m just trying to get through it.”

Dorff said that going incognito turned out to be a very rewarding way to approach the project. “I felt that if I [put] some sheets on my face, I could fill this character with an accent and a voice where nobody would know it was me. For about eighty percent of the movie, we got away with it, which was awesome. All of the musical performances were live. There were no playbacks. I sang and wrote everything, which was rare. I never wanted to be a singer, but I got a gift from my dad. I’m able to write music, which helps me with my performances in movies. I wanted to do a real music film where it was a character portrait, and the songs build. The music is really what is driving the story. I hope people feel something from it.”

Tomberlin believes the movie will make such an impact, in that it shows the way the town operates. “One of the scenes in the film was at the Bluebird Café. The audience had no idea it was Stephen. They thought it was just a character from Texas. They loved him. The applause was great. It was cool to have moments like that – to see if the talent was there, and to see if it really connected with people. I think they will come away from it with a story that really captures the journey of a dreamer in Nashville. I think it’s really true to form.”

Will Dorff be led to record more music as a result of Wheeler? He doesn’t know, but allows that its appeal is something he definitely feels – though he didn’t pursue it as a career. “Music, to me, is such an intense art form. I guess because I grew up with it – sitting on Ray Charles’ lap, and people around the house like Lionel Richie – all these people that my dad was working with when I was a baby. Music has always hit me. I play by ear, I don’t read music, I’m able to play piano and speak a different language through that. That always heals me. I think that creative people want to create. There are some actors who are great musicians, and some musicians that are great actors. Then, there’s a lot of fluff in between, where it gets a little cheesy, and I think it’s more ego. For me, it’s all about the music. My next music venture might be something very different. I don’t sing Country normally. I was playing a character. I found a Country sound, and a lot of people have responded to it. Who knows, maybe I’ll be playing Stagecoach as a new Country act?”

Dorff will play the Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman Auditorium on Friday, February 3 – the same day the film hits theaters and On Demand.

Stephen Dorff Plays an Aspiring Country Singer in Faux-Documentary ‘Wheeler’


Well, this looks… interesting. Momentum Pictures just released the trailer for an upcoming faux-documentary about the music industry. Or at least about a really common theme in it. Wheeler follows an aging Texan looking to make it in country music by heading to Nashville.

Stephen Dorff throws on a hat and his best country accent (and a notable amount of scruff) to play titular character Wheeler. He visits some iconic spots, like the Ryman Auditorium and Bluebird Cafe. While at the cafe, he catches the ear of some people who want to help him “make it.”

You know, just like real life.

The “catch” of the whole thing is that Dorff wore prosthetic makeup to help him “infiltrate” the town. He supposedly talks to real people and performs all of the songs live.

Of course, there’s a significant script, too. The trailer features several recognizable faces around town, including legendary Texan Kris Kristofferson and NSAI (a song organization in town) executive director Bart Herbison.

His friends and family back in Kaufman, Texas also speak openly of his love for country music. Meanwhile, others in the trailer lament the current state of country music. Kind of like that Paula Cole song, “Where Have All The Cowboys Gone.”

And yet Wheeler certainly seems like an optimistic stab at the Texas to Nashville trope. Plenty of country superstars made the move, from Kristofferson to modern hitmakers Miranda Lambert and Maren Morris.

Can Wheeler change country music for the better by playing a couple cool tunes? Check out the film on Feb. 3 to find out.

Alan Jackson delivers authentic country music to hometown crowd


January 28, 2017 - DULUTH -- Alan Jackson performs before a sold out crowd at the Infinite Energy Center in Duluth, Saturday, January 28, 2017. (Akili-Casundria Ramsess/Special to the AJC)

Concert review: Alan Jackson bolsters authentic country music


It all started in 1989.

Those were the first words audience members at the Infinite Energy Centerheard while patiently waiting for Alan Jackson to take the stage Saturday night. Those words kicked off a visual walk down memory lane showcasing Jackson’s career accolades. It ended with the thunderous statement: “Alan Jackson, you’re a true legend of country music.”

That 58-year-old legend then took the stage, wielding a guitar featuring an ornate gold decal, while also donning a powder-white cowboy hat.


January 28, 2017 – DULUTH — Alan Jackson is one of the most successful and respected singer-songwriters in music. The Georgia native has sold more than 80 million albums in his 25-year-plus career and his most recent album “Angels and Alcohol,” debut number one on the Billboard Country albums in 2015.(Akili-Casundria Ramsess/Special to the AJC)

With 20 studio albums under his belt, as well as multiple Grammy, Country Music Association (CMA) and Academy of Country Music (ACM) awards, he’s one of the few stalwarts of country music to never waver from his “true” country roots. That’s what his fans love about him.

Jackson constantly brought up that he and his band were playing real country music all night. In fact, during Jackson’s performance of “Livin’ On Love,” he signed and brought to the main stage a fan poster proudly stating “Keeping It Country” for all to see, brandishing it like a trophy.

But Jackson isn’t all talk. His performance encapsulated authentic country music, from down-to-Earth song introductions to the setlist construction and song compositions.

Throughout the night, Jackson often led into songs with a story, typically on how the song came to be. The first time he did this was as a lead-in to his first successful song, “Here in the Real World,” which charted at number three on the Hot Country Songs charts in early 1990.


January 28, 2017 – DULUTH — Georgia native and country music legend Alan Jackson brings his Honky
Tonk Highway tour to the Infinite Energy Center in Duluth Saturday, January 28, 2107 along with guest star Lee Ann Womack. (Akili-Casundria Ramsess/Special to the AJC)

“I released my first single (‘Blue Blooded Woman‘) in 1989, and it didn’t do well at all,” Jackson said. “So, I came home, and my wife said she was pregnant. We both weren’t ready for that, so I went back to work. Thankfully, the studio released this song (‘Here in the Real World’) next, and I haven’t gone back to work since.”

He had a similarly long monologue before performing “Home.” His mother, Ruth Musik Jackson, died on Jan. 7, and Jackson decided this song was a fitting tribute. He went on to say he wrote this song as a Mother’s Day gift for Ruth after he left his hometown of Newnan for Nashville in the early 1990s.

Jackson brought up his Georgia roots and heritage frequently as well. During the performance of “Where I Come From,” images of Georgia and Atlanta landmarks were showed on screen. There were deafening cheers when the Atlanta Falcons logo was shown. A similar reaction was given for the University of Georgia’s logo, but the Georgia Institute of Technology’s received boos instead — sorry, Jacket fans. On the bright side, he did say he was looking forward to eating at a place near Georgia Tech’s campus.

“The most important thing is I’m gonna have some Varsity chili dogs when I’m done here,” Jackson said.


January 28, 2017 – DULUTH — Multiplatinum, award-winning and favorite duet partner of Alan Jackson, Lee Ann Womack greets an enthusiastic crowd at the Infinite Energy Center in Duluth on Saturday, January 28, 2017. (Akili-Casundria Ramsess/Special to the AJC)

Charisma aside, the music was also a good showcase of classic, neo-traditional country instrumentation and songwriting. There were multiple fiddle, mandolin, piano and steel guitar solos throughout the night.

Jackson also included songs from a wide variety of country genres, such as the rockabilly-influenced “You Never Know” and the bluegrass staple “Seven Bridges Road.” He also had a duet with opening act Lee Ann Womack for the ballad “Till The End.”

Womack’s set was an entertaining assortment of mostly down-paced country tunes. Her song “Trouble’s Here” and its foot-stomping groove was a definite highlight, but the arrangement for “I Hope You Dance” seemed a little underwhelming. It could’ve used a louder instrumental climax, since it never seemed to really build up the way Womack’s vocals did.

Cooking up some surprises with Alan Jackson at our first Honky Tonk Highway show of the year tonight! @OfficialJackson

On the contrary, all of Jackson’s songs packed a solid punch. The only real complaint fans might have is that he may not of played their personal favorite hit — like “Midnight in Montgomery” for example – but with a career and discography as expansive as Jackson’s, that’s completely understandable. And if that’s biggest complaint people have, that should speak for itself.

Alan Jackson’s set list for his Saturday, Jan. 28 concert:

“Gone Country” (“Who I Am,” 1994)

“I Don’t Even Know Your Name” (“Who I Am,” 1994)

“Livin’ On Love” (“Who I Am,” 1994)

“Good Time” (“Good Time,” 2008)

“The Blues Man” (“Under The Influence,” 1999)

“Tall, Tall Trees” (“The Greatest Hits Collection,” 1995)

“So You Don’t Have To Love Me Anymore” (“Thirty Miles West,” 2012)

“Who’s Cheatin’ Who” (“Everything I Love,” 1996)

“Here in the Real World” (“Here in the Real World,” 1989)

“Chasin’ That Neon Rainbow” (“Here in the Real World,” 1989)

“Till The End” (“Freight Train,” 2010)

“You Never Know” (“Angels and Alcohol,” 2015)

“As She’s Walking Away” (“34 Number Ones,” 2010)

“Home” (“The Greatest Hits Collection,” 1995)

“Little Bitty” (“Everything I Love,” 1996)

“Country Boy” (“Good Time,” 2008)

“Seven Bridges Road” (“Live at Texas Stadium,” 2007)

“Drive (For Daddy Gene)” (“Drive,” 2002)

“Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)” (“Drive,” 2002)

“Don’t Rock the Jukebox” (“Don’t Rock the Jukebox,” 1991)

“Remember When” (“Greatest Hits Volume II,” 2003)

“It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” (“Greatest Hits Volume II,” 2003)

“Chattahoochee” (“A Lot About Livin’ (And a Little ’bout Love),” 1992)

“Where I Come From” (“When Somebody Loves You,” 2000)

“Mercury Blues” (“A Lot About Livin’ (And a Little ’bout Love),” 1992)

“Dixie Highway” (“Thirty Miles West,” 2012)

'You Look Like Them And Sound Like Us': Charley Pride's Long Journey In Country Music

'You Look Like Them And Sound Like Us': Charley Pride's Long Journey In Country Music


  • January 29, 201710:13 AM ET

Heard on  Weekend Edition Sunday


Charley Pride is the first African-American country singer to ever perform at the Grand Ole Opry. In total, he's sold some 70 million records and recorded dozens of No. 1 hits — and in two weeks, Pride will be presented with a lifetime achievement award at the Grammys. Pretty extraordinary for a man born and raised in Mississippi, the son of a sharecropper.

He grew up 275 miles from Nashville with dreams of playing major-league baseball. But after a few years of playing for the Memphis Red Sox and a few more in the Army, he moved to Missoula, Mont., where he was encouraged by some music-industry friends to audition his voice. Not long after, he was in Nashville, demonstrating his yodel to a white publicist who represented a publishing company.



'This Thing Called Country Music': Tradition And Crossover In 2016

"He said, 'Where you from?' I said I was born and raised in Mississippi but I live in Montana. 'Well, how did they take you up there?' I said, 'Bout the way you doin' right now' — because, you know, the pigmentation I had me," Pride recounts. "And they say, 'Oh, you look like them and sound like us.'"

Even today, country has a reputation as music for a white audience. But Pride says he resists being thought of as a pioneer, even though he was confronted with the notion throughout his career.

"I've never seen anything but the staunch American Charley Pride," he says. "When I got into it, they used different descriptions. They'll say, 'Charley, how did it feel to be the Jackie Robinson of country music?' or 'How did it feel to be first colored country singer?'

"It don't bother me, other than I have to explain it to you — how I maneuvered around all these obstacles to get to where I am today. I've got a great-grandson and daughter, and they're gonna be asking them that too if we don't get out of this crutch we all been in all these years of trying to get free of all that, you see? 'Y'all,' 'them' and 'us.'"

Charley Pride spoke with NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro about his life in country music and his relationship with Elvis Presley. Hear more of their conversation at the audio link.

Crystal Gayle Inducted into Grand Ole Opry by Sister Loretta Lynn

Loretta Lynn, Crystal Gayle; Photo by Chris Hollo for Grand Ole Opry


 KELLY BRICKEY • JANUARY 23, 2017 - 9:41 AM



Sisters are forever friends through thick and thin, so it’s no surprise that Loretta Lynn stepped up to the plate to honor her sister Crystal Gayle with her induction into the Grand Ole Opry on Saturday night (Jan. 21).

Gayle, who had been invited to join into the iconic country club by Carrie Underwood, was formally inducted by Lynn who came up on stage and gave a sweet little speech about the honor of being a part of the Opry together.

“We’ve been together a long time, honey. And we’ve never had a fight,” Lynn said. “It was the greatest moment of my life when they made me a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1962. I know she is just as happy as I was then.”

Making her debut 50 years ago when she was merely 16 years old, Gayle found the honor one that she could have never imagined. Remaining a staple in the country music genre, she finally found her place at the heart of country music within the Opry community.

“Being a member of the Opry is just incredible,” Gayle beamed. “It’s really hard to comprehend. I have felt like a part of the Opry for all these years. Now, I’m official.”

The next members set to join the Grand Ole Opry are Dailey & Vincent, a GRAMMY-nominated duo who have made a big impact on country and bluegrass music throughout their career. They will be presented with the induction on Saturday, March 11.

Dierks Bentley & Jon Pardi Honour George Strait in Nashville Tour Debut


Dierks Bentley played his first-ever headlining show at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena on Jan. 21, and he took the opportunity to pay tribute to one of his all-time country heroes — George Strait.

During the set, Dierks invited his opening act, Jon Pardi, onto the stage to perform a duet version of George’s 1997 chart-topper “Carrying Your Love with Me.” You can see it in this video shot from the crowd.

Dierks said he and Jon are such huge Strait fans, they plan to perform different cover songs from the King’s catalog throughout the What the Hell World Tour. We can certainly look forward to those performance videos rolling in for the next few months.

Dierks also surprised the crowd with a guest appearance from his “Different for Girls” duet partner, Elle King. They sang their hit duet before she wowed the audience with her pop hit, “Ex’s and Oh’s.

Thomas Rhett was also spotted in the crowd at the Dierks show. For the finale, Dierks brought out his openers Jon Pardi and Cole Swindell, as well as famous faces Kelsea Ballerini, Chase Rice and Cassadee Pope for an all-star singalong on “Drunk on a Plane.”

 Hunter Kelly, Senior Country Correspondent

Dierks Bentley Blazes Through Sold-Out Headlining Show in Nashville

 LAURA HOSTELLEY • JANUARY 22, 2017 - 11:51 A

Dierks Bentley at Bridgestone Arena; Photo courtesy Greenroom PR

This past Saturday night (Jan. 21) was slated to be one of the biggest nights of Dierks Bentley’s career, headlining the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn. for the very first time. There was only one slight problem: He awoke that same morning feeling under the weather and hardly able to speak.

You would never be able to tell if you were in the audience Saturday for his kinetic performance that brought a sold-out crowd to its feet during a nearly two-hour set. He worked his way through many of his hit singles that span across his 14-year-long career.

He took the stage blazing, literally, as he opened his set with bluegrass rocker, “Up On The Ridge,” as flames burst from all around him. A jam session erupted between banjo, guitar and fiddle players as Bentley’s energy exploded throughout the arena.

Bentley kept the tempo high as he effortlessly flowed into “Free and Easy” and “Tip It on Back.” He then took a minute to express how much this homecoming show meant to him.

“Tonight, this is my Stanley Cup game seven. This is the biggest show of my life,” Bentley addressed to a roaring audience. “If I don’t leave this show without my voice, I’m not doing my job.”

Bentley looked like he was simply having the time of his life. He made his mark on every inch of the stage singing his heart out and interacting with his fans that have been so supportive of his career. The good times kept on rolling as he delivered “Am I the Only One” and “5-1-5-0,” inviting a male audience member to shotgun a beer with him as cheers erupted from every corner of the venue.


Dierks Bentley and special guest Elle King at Bridgestone Arena; Photo courtesy Greenroom PR

Just as the energy was peaking, Bentley took a few minutes to slow it down. Bridgestone Arena was lit up with cellphone lights in a magical moment as he sang “Say You Do.” To help him with his next song, “Different For Girls,” Elle King hopped on stage, drink in hand sporting a supportive Dierks Bentley tour shirt. Watching the pair on stage, their friendship is undeniable which added to the performance. Bentley returned the favor by accompanying King on her hit “X’s and O’s.”

In a sentimental moment, the country star reflected on his career and how it all started, by driving an old, beat-up truck cross country from Arizona to Nashville, all with his dad. Cue “I Hold On,” the most uplifting moment of the evening.

“My dad’s got the best seat in the house…he’s no longer here but I still drive that truck, that 1994 Chevy truck,” Bentley said. “I never imagined I’d get a chance to play this place.”

A montage of his life as a musician as well as with his family flashed across the screen as Bentley played “Every Mile a Memory.” And there couldn’t have been a dry-eye in the house as a picture of his late, beloved dog Jake was the final image as the song closed.


Dierks Bentley at Bridgestone Arena; Photo courtesy Greenroom PR

During the set, Bentley brought his opening acts back on stage during separate occasions. Jon Pardi contributed his talent on a cover of George Strait’s “Carrying Your Love With Me,” which prompted Bentley to channel his inner cowboy and pull a cowboy hat off a nearby fan. Cole Swindell entered the stage all jazzed up for his current single, “Flatliner.” There was one more very special guest to share the spotlight with Bentley, his longtime bus driver who has logged over a million miles on the road since 2003. In tribute to him, Bentley delivered “Home.”

The night was ended on a high note with recent smash hit, “Somewhere On a Beach” and “Sideways,” which resulted in a spontaneous crowd surf which left security guards scrambling to get him back on his feet. As an encore, Bentley emerged one last time in an airplane replica for “Drunk On a Plane,” as he soaked up the adoration from a sold-out, hometown crowd at his first-ever Bridgestone headlining bill.

Charley Pride to Receive Special Honor in 2017

The Recording Academy is set to honor three country legends with Special Merit Awards next year. Charley Pride, Ralph Peer, and Jimmie Rodgers will all be recognized for their contributions to the music community.

Charley Pride and Jimmie Rodgers will both receive Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Academy, while Peer is set to receive a Trustees Award. Pride will be in attendance to receive his Lifetime Achievement Award, while Peer and Rodgers were awarded posthumously.

Pride is one of the often forgotten legends of country music, despite being winning three Grammy Awards. He won Best Sacred Performance for “Did You Think to Pray” and Best Gospel Performance for “Let Me Live” in 1971. Pride also won Best Country Vocal Performance in 1972 for Charley Pride Sings Heart Songs. 

Many people recognize Rodgers as one of the forefathers of country music. His 1927 Bristol Sessions is widely considered to be the first major “modern” country recording. Rodgers was the first inductee into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1961. In 1986, Rodgers was re-inducted as a “founding father” in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Throughout Rodgers career, he was managed by Peer, a star talent scout of the time. Peer was one of the pioneering minds behind today’s current music publishing environment.


Nina Simone, Sly Stone, Velvet Underground, Thom Bell, Mo Oslin, Ahmad Jamal, and Shirley Caesar will also be recognized by the Academy.

Gordie Tapp dead at 94


Host of CBC show Country Hoedown, Tapp was iconic Canadian performer

CBC News Posted: Dec 19, 2016 11:28 AM ET Last Updated: Dec 19, 2016 1:18 PM ET


Canadian entertainer and longtime CBC broadcaster Gordie Tapp died Sunday at 94.

He was living in Burlington, Ont., at the time of his death.

Born in 1922 in London, Ont., Tapp was once described as the "world's finest storyteller." His career took him fromGuelph to Hamilton to Toronto and then to Nashville, Tenn.

He worked with the CBC for 13 years, hosting the show Country Hoedown. He was also a popular cast member during the decades long run of Hee-Haw on network and syndicated television in the U.S.

Gordie Tapp as Cousin Clem on Country Hoedown in 1960 (CBC Archives)

Tapp lived in LaSalle retirement home in Burlington Ont., with his wife Helen, and was still performing up to weeks before he died.

His death was confirmed long time family friend Carol Thomas and by Smith Funeral Home in Burlington. No arrangements have been announced.

Gordie is survived by his wife Helen, and his three children, Jeoff, Kate and Joan.

Canadian radio and television entertainer and former CBC broadcaster Gordie Tapp died Dec. 18 at 94.

Born in 1922 in London, Ont., Tapp was introduced to former U.S. president Gerald Ford as the "world's funniest story-teller." Moving from Guelph, Ont., to Hamilton to Toronto and on to Nashville, he reached millions of people worldwide with his humour.

Tapp worked with the CBC for 13 years in the 1950s and 1960s, hosting the variety show Country Hoedown. He then went on to CBS in the U.S. and starred in one of the longest-running comedy television shows of all time, Hee Haw, as country bumpkin Cousin Clem.

"Everybody who saw him loved him," said Carol Thomas. "He could tell one joke after another." Thomas, 74, has been a friend of the Tapp family for almost two decades.

Getting a start in the golden age

Hee Haw ran until 1993, featuring Gordie Tapp, centre, as Cousin Clem, and was the longest running country variety show in U.S. television history. (CBC Still Photo Collection)

Tapp started in Guelph, quickly getting pulled to Hamilton to develop an evening show in the early days of CHML.

He started in radio with personalities such as Tommy Darling, Paul Hanover and member of Parliament Bob Bratina.

"My relationship with Gordie goes back to hearing him on the radio as a kid. He had a late evening program on CHML," said Bratina. "I can still remember the theme song of it."

That show, What's On Tapp, was the beginning of Tapp's career in broadcasting.

Creating Clem

Gordie Tapp on air, Sept. 18, 1963. (CBC Still Photo Collection)

While he excelled as a radio broadcaster, his passion lay in television.

His roots in country started when Tommy Darling, then director at CHML, built a country show, and asked Tapp to join. Main Street Jamboree was born, and Tapp switched gears from jazz to country.

It was a different time in broadcasting, an important time, as Bratina remembers it.

"Gordie came into the broadcasting world in the post-war era, which spawned tremendous new growth in the industry," he said.

"When you sit around a radio these days you don't really hear the same deep resonating radio voices. They don't sound as polished. Gordie came from that same period of time, which was really a golden era of broadcasting."

Main Street Jamboree, which aired on radio and television, highlighted Tapp's comedic abilities, and put him on the map.

He then moved on to CBC's Country Hoedown, which ran from 1956-1965, for which he created the hayseed character Cousin Clem. His career with the CBC lasted 13 years, and solidified Tapp's place as an entertainer to the masses.

"He had to take on the mantle of country bumpkin Cousin Clem, but he was a very jovial, happy character," said Bratina.

"I never met Gordie when he didn't tell a joke that I don't still tell people today."

Moving south

His success eventually took him — and his character Cousin Clem — south of the border to Nashville to work for CBS Television on Hee Haw. It ran until 1993 and was broadcast internationally as the longest running country variety show in U.S. television history.

As both a writer and a performer on the show, Tapp continued to earn money after it ended, and spent his time working for humanitarian organizations and performing live.

Tapp was awarded the Order of Canada in 1998 for years of unpaid work for medical charities, including Muscular Dystrophy Canada and Easter Seals. He was also elected to the Canadian Country Music Association Hall of Fame.

"A lot of people in this business sound like your best friend and they're really nice people, but it's just a persona. He was a genuinely fun loving, happy guy," said Bratina. "He never put on any airs that he was something special. He was always a down-to-earth guy."

Bringing Clem home

Tapp retired to LaSalle retirement home in Burlington Ontario, with his wife Helen.

He was still performing up to a month before his death, working on cruise ships and doing charity shows, and later visiting local retirement homes and putting on performances for residents.

"He was amazing," said Thomas, who had visited the Tapps just a few weeks ago. "He loved it."

Tapp died in hospital, surrounded by family and friends.

He is remembered by his wife Helen, and his three children, Jeoff, Kate and Joan. His memorial service will be held at the Smith Funeral Home in Burlington, Ontario


Canadian entertainer Gordie Tapp of 'Hee Haw' dead at 94

The Canadian Press
Published Monday, December 19, 2016 2:20PM EST
Last Updated Monday, December 19, 2016 3:56PM EST

BURLINGTON, Ont. -- Canadian entertainer Gordie Tapp, a comedian, musician, script writer and pitchman, died Sunday from complications of pneumonia at age 94.

Born in London, Ont., the member of the Order of Canada and Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame inductee kicked off his career in radio before moving into TV.

During the 1950s, he was a founding member of "Main Street Jamboree," a radio and TV show out of Hamilton, and hosted the CBC music-variety program "Country Hoedown" from 1956 to 1965

Tapp eventually took his act south of the border to the popular American variety series "Hee Haw," inspiring other Canadian performers to follow his lead.

Earlier this year, comedian Colin Mochrie visited the Lasalle Park Retirement Living Community facility, where Tapp and his wife Helen lived, to pay tribute to the entertainer.

During an onstage chat with Tapp, Mochrie said his career was influenced in part by "Hee Haw."

"For me, it was the first show where I realized that Canadians could make it big in America," Mochrie said. "It was sort of an inspiration."

Despite his successes with "Hee Haw," Tapp was resolute about staying in Canada, said his daughter Kate Tapp Mock.

"We were all up here and Dad didn't really think of himself as American. He was very proudly Canadian and he had enough work here," she said. "He was a good family man."

Tapp also had an undercover role that brought much joy to radio listeners: playing Santa for Hamilton radio station CHML.

"We kids used to have to stay out of my parents' bedroom because he would use that phone and they would make it sound like he was calling from the North Pole. And for hours he would have to sit there and listen to all the kids and what they wanted for Christmas," Tapp Mock said.

In more recent years, Tapp was also known for appearing in TV commercials for Ultramatic beds, and was a committed philanthropist, raising funds for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and the Easter Seals Society.

He is survived by his wife and his children Kate, Jeff and Barbara.


December 20th, 2016

Beloved “Hee Haw” Star, Gordie Tapp Passes Away At 94

The funnyman, who appeared in 90 episodes on the long running variety show Hee Haw, has sadly passed away at the age of 94.

Canadian actor Gordie Tapp was best known to Americans as country bumpkin Cousin Clem on the beloved show Hee Haw. His character was introduced to us after a nine year stint as the host of the Canadian Broadcasting Company’s country variety show, Country Hoedown. He was encouraged by the network to head to Nashville and try his hand at Hee Haw. Of his 90 appearances between 1969-1988, he had writing credits on 78 episodes. Although his most famous role was Cousin Clem, Tapp also played the characters Samuel B. Sternwheeler, Mr. Gordon the storekeeper, and Lavern Nagger on Hee Haw.

Tapp got his start in the entertainment business in the radio industry in Canada and moved to TV in the 1950s and 1960s. Following his Hee Haw success, he released two singles in Canada. 1971’s”Nobody’s Singing Them Cowboy Songs No More” peaked at No. 10 on the Canadian Country charts, and 1972’s “Many Others” peaked at No. 44.

In 1979, he appeared in the film Wild Horse Hank and in 1983, he wrote and appeared in the Canadian film Sweet Country Music. Throughout his career, he has partnered with countless charities and emceed many events on cruise ships and in retirement homes, all for charity.

The last few years of his life, he and his wife, Helen, resided at LaSalle Park retirement home.

“It’s been an absolute pleasure getting to know Gordie over the last few years. From the moment he and Helen came to our presentation centre and since they moved to LaSalle Park Retirement Community in March 2014,” said Margaret Milley, executive director at LaSalle Park, according to Muskoka Region.“Gordie had in incredible and inexplicable energy about him. It was an absolute delight to be in his company and he was always prepared to make us laugh with so many of his jokes. We are sad to say goodbye to a dear friend and neighbor. Gordie will be missed by all of our staff, residents and everyone in the LaSalle Park family.”

Tapp passed away on Sunday, December 18 at Joseph Brant Hospital in Burlington, Ontario, Canada due to a long battle with an undisclosed illness. He is survived by his wife, their son, and two daughters.  In January, Helen and Gordie would have celebrated their 73rd wedding anniversary.

Our prayers go out to Gordie Tapp’s family. Watch him perform as Cousin Clem below.

Garth Brooks sells more than 115,000 Edmonton tickets

The Thunder Rolls … yet again.

Hot country, early ’90s superstar Garth Brooks has added yet more dates to Edmonton, bringing the total number of shows to nine— spanning more than a week in town. More of this and he’ll have to rent an apartment.

Garth has sold more than 115,000 tickets so far. His previous ticket sales record was set Aug. 10-12, 1996 at Northlands Coliseum with 50,871 tickets sold.

Brooks and Trisha Yearwood will now also play Thursday, Feb. 23 at 7:30 p.m., Friday, Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, Feb. 25 at 3 p.m.,  in addition to the Saturday, Feb. 25, 7 p.m. gig announced earlier this week. Tickets for these new shows at the downtown arena are on sale now at Ticketmaster. 

These new dates are in addition to five other shows, four announced last week. Brooks also occupies Rogers Place Friday, Feb. 17 at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 18 at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Sunday Feb. 19 at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Country music, it seems, is here to stay. Will the singer wear a different colour of the rainbow outfit each performance? Only one way to find out, partner.