- 2002, The Dixie Chicks record an episode of “CMT Crossroads” with James Taylor in Nashville. The set list includes “Some Days You Gotta Dance,” “Shower The People” and “Wide Open Spaces”
- 1978, Singer/songwriter Zac Brown is born in Atlanta’s Piedmont Hospital. The Zac Brown Band becomes a major country act, mixing jam-band tendencies and well-crafted ballads while nabbing multiple gold and platinum albums following the act’s 2008 debut with “Chicken Fried”
- 1969, Elvis Presley begins a historic four-week run at Las Vegas’ International Hotel in his first live show since 1961. In the audience are Liberace, Herb Alpert, Dick Clark, Cary Grant, Fats Domino, Burt Bacharach, Pat Boone and Paul Anka
- 1963, Chad Brock is born in Ocala, Florida. He has fewer than 20 matches as a professional wrestler before embarking on a singing career in the 1990s. His most successful single comes with an autobiographical love song, “Yes!”
Taylor Swift, Kenny Chesney, Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan also landed in the Top 5 of Forbes’ “Country Cash Kings” list, but Keith eclipsed them all because of his numerous endeavors which include a restaurant chain, his own Wild Shot mescal, a multimillion-dollar endorsement deal with Ford and the acts he signs to his Show Dog record label.
“I can put them on that 30-city tour,” Keith said of the business advantages. “I don’t have to look for a place to play. It’s cost-effective as crap. They’re in Toby’s house. They’re drinking Toby’s liquor. That’s Toby’s act. And then we’re moving to the next town.”
It marks the second consecutive year Keith has topped the list. His total earnings over the past year are estimated at $335 million.
Notably, Florida Georgia Line lands at No. 10 on the list with earnings of $24 million over the past year. It’s a significant achievement for an act that was virtually unknown prior to the release of their Here’s to the Good Times album in December 2012.
Here’s a list of Forbes Top 10 of country musicians:
1. Toby Keith ($65 million)
2. Taylor Swift ($64 million)
3. Kenny Chesney ($44 million)
4. Jason Aldean ($37 million)
5. Luke Bryan ($34 million)
6. Zac Brown Band ($29 million)
7. Keith Urban ($28 million)
8. Rascal Flatts ($27 million)
9. George Strait ($26 million)
10: Florida Georgia Line ($24 million)
Let’s be honest. Is there anything Kellie Pickler can’t do? She sings like bird, dances like a ballroom champion (because she is one) and no doubt is going to be perfect in her next venture — voicing a character in VeggieTales, the wildly-popular children’s animated series.
Her character is a talking sweet potato (Really? Not a pickle?) named Mirabelle in the series’ new direct-to-DVD feature, Beauty and the Beet. It’s a fantastic opportunity for Pickler and should provide loads of fun and inspiration for her, too.
Who knows where this could lead? Although Pickler’s voice will be her only presence in Beauty and the Beet, the camera clearly loves her. And she’s even admitted having some curiosity about taking on a Broadway role after she and Derek Hough won the Dancing With the Stars competition in 2013.
The sky is the limit for a star of her sparkle. I just love her. Whatever she decides to do — whether it’s music, movies, television, red carpets or simply mingling with a room of fans — she always does it well and with plenty of heart.
Beauty and the Beet will be released Oct. 14.
- 2008, Alan Jackson nabs a gold album for “Good Time”
- 2005, Kenny Chesney performs at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field. The concert is shot for inclusion in an ABC Thanksgiving special, “Kenny Chesney: Somewhere In The Sun”
- 1985, Alabama becomes the first country act to go quadruple-platinum, as the “Mountain Music” and “Feels So Right” albums are certified for shipments of 4 million copies. “The Closer You Get” goes triple-platinum
- 1958, Neal McCoy is born in Jacksonville, Texas. Known for such mid-1990s recordings as “No Doubt About It” and “Wink,” he garners more acclaim for his energetic stage show, earning Entertainer of the Year twice in the TNN/Music City News awards
- 2005, Gretchen Wilson’s “All Jacked Up” video debuts on CMT.com
- 2003, MCA releases Josh Turner’s single “Long Black Train”
- 1996, Capitol releases Deana Carter’s “Strawberry Wine”
- 1966, Martina McBride is born in Medicine Lodge, Kansas. The diminutive powerhouse claims the Country Music Association’s Female Vocalist of the Year award four times behind such message-soaked singles as “Independence Day” and “A Broken Wing”
Back when country music was the artistic province of poor, uneducated white people, there were lots of songs about folks landing in jail or on chain gangs or even on Death Row. But now that country has moved to the suburbs, about the worst that can happen — vis-à-vis the law — is getting a ticket for driving your pickup too fast.
In “Somethin’ Bad,” their new single, Lambert and Underwood pick up “a girl in a pretty white dress” and head south with her, an action that leads to this assessment: “‘Bout to tear it up down in New Orleans/Just like real life Thelma and Louise/If the cops catch up, they’re gonna call it kidnapping/Got a real good feeling something bad about to happen.”
Does jail lie ahead? It does if you keep reading this chronological list of 12 country songs about doing time.
“The Prisoner’s Song,” Vernon Dalhart (1925)
Told from the viewpoint of a man about to be incarcerated, “The Prisoner’s Song” was one of the first “country” records to be a national hit. It predates by two years the fabled Bristol Sessions that launched the careers of the the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers. Why the man is going to jail and for how long are matters never addressed. But the song gave us the immortal line, “Now if I had wings like an angel/Over these prison walls I would fly.” As a narrative, the song falls short, but it sparkles with vivid images.
“In the Jailhouse Now,” Jimmie Rodgers (1928)
This is a series of lighthearted vignettes about ne’er-do-wells getting locked away for gambling and over-the-top partying. In 1955, Webb Pierce‘s version of the song stayed No. 1 on the country chart for 21 weeks. Following the success of “Jailhouse,” Rodgers wrote and recorded a follow-up tune, “In the Jailhouse Now No. 2.” Alas, it did not improve on the original or vary significantly from it.
“Folsom Prison Blues,” Johnny Cash (1955)
Since this song is more popular than “Happy Birthday,” it needs neither introduction nor explanation. Still, it’s worth remembering that the prisoner in question “shot a man in Reno just to watch him die” and is now paying big time for this grotesque form of amusement. “When I hear that whistle blowin’,” he moans, “I hang my head and cry.”
“Some Old Day,” Flatt & Scruggs (1957)
“I’ve been workin’ out in the rain/Tied to the dirty old ball and chain.” So begins this story in which a convict apologizes to his mother for his cruelties and transgressions and promises her that “some old day” he’ll be free of “this dirty old calaboose.” Somehow, we’re not convinced.
“Stone Walls and Steel Bars,” the Stanley Brothers (1963)
This convict summarizes his crime succinctly: “Jealousy has took my young life/All for the love of another man’s wife.” So here he is in Alcatraz, about to take his last walk, after which, he says, there’ll be “no more stone walls and steel bars and you on my mind.” His sense of relief is palpable.
“Blackjack County Chain,” Willie Nelson (1967)
In this tale, a brutal sheriff picks up vagrants and enslaves them on his road-building gang. “All we had to eat was bread and water/Each day we had to build that road a mile and a quarter/Blacksnake whips would cut our backs when some poor fool complained/But we couldn’t fight back wearin’ 35 pounds of Blackjack County chain.” However, they do fight back when they catch the sheriff napping. And guess what they use to beat him to death with?
“Sing Me Back Home,” Merle Haggard (1967)
Only a rabid death penalty advocate can listen to these lyrics without shedding a tear. As the condemned man is walked toward the execution chamber, he asks that his “guitar playing friend” be allowed to “sing me back home with a song I used to hear/Make my old memories come alive/Take me away and turn back the years/sing me back home before I die.” There are no references to the man’s crime — just this eloquent nod to the power of music.
“A Week in a County Jail,” Tom T. Hall (1969)
Picked up for speeding, the culprit here is confined to jail until a judge comes around. In the meantime, he has to adjust his tastes to make “hot bologna, eggs and gravy” palatable and the jailer’s homely wife desirable, both of which he does before going jauntily on his way. This was Hall’s first No. 1.
“I’ll Break Out Again Tonight,” Merle Haggard (1974)
If I were on the parole board, I’d give this guy a break. As boredom presses down on him and night approaches, he can finally escape — via his imagination. “These walls and bars can’t hold a dreamin’ man/So I’ll be home to tuck the babies in/They can chain my body but not my mind/And I’ll break out again tonight.” That mention of babies just tears me up.
“11 Months and 29 Days,” Johnny Paycheck (1976)
This bozo doesn’t know exactly what got him into the “slammer,” but he’s reasonably certain he’d rather be somewhere else. And he’s damn sure he wants everyone to “keep your hands off my woman, I ain’t gonna be gone that long.” Jeez! Eleven months and 29 days! That’ll seem like a year.
“There Ain’t No Good Chain Gang,” Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash (1978)
Here we have a sarcastically reassuring note from the jailbird to the folks back home, letting his mama and papa know he’s learning a lot in the lockup: “Things like there ain’t no good in an evil-hearted woman/And I ain’t cut out to be no Jesse James/And you don’t go writin’ hot checks down in Mississippi/And there ain’t no good chain gang.” Ah, education. It’s something they can’t away from you.
“Ol’ Red,” Blake Shelton (2002)
Being sentenced to 99 years kind of troubles your mind, especially when it’s the upshot of having found your wife in flagrante Dixie with another man. But two years in, our boy becomes a trustee and is put in charge of caring for Ol’ Red, the convict-sniffing hound from which there is no escape. Having had firsthand experience with the power of animal attraction, the trustee smuggles in a female dog — and you know the rest. As the last line of the song says, “Love got me in here, and love got me out.” Prison’s a bitch, ain’t it?
CMT All-Time Top 40: Hank Williams Jr.
Hank Williams Jr. stepped out of his father’s long shadow to become one of the most popular country stars of the 1970s and 1980s. He lands in the No. 21 spot on CMT All-Time Top 40: Artists Choice, a list of the most influential artists in history, chosen by country stars themselves.
Each week, another honoree is revealed on CMT Hot 20 Countdown.
Justin Moore is one of many country stars with heavy praise for Bocephus.
“I’m a fan of artists who nobody will ever be like again, no matter how hard you try,” Moore said. “He’s one of those that’s at the top of the list as far as that’s concerned. … He did it his way. He didn’t care what anybody thought. He still don’t. He would talk the talk, but he could walk the walk. I mean, he could back it up.”
Moore added, “There’s nobody that has ever been a better songwriter than him, in my opinion, in country music. He’s a great musician, he sings great and he has a cultish following. Hank Jr. ain’t had a hit record in 20 years or something like that. He can still go out there and fill up any arena in the country, and I respect that so much.”
Hank Williams’ daughter, Holly Williams, has emerged as a talented singer-songwriter in her own right. Speaking about her famous father to CMT, she noted, “He’s put out consistently great music. He’s written some of the greatest party songs of all time. His shows were the wildest — shooting guns and naked people and sex, drugs and country — but then he would do a 30-minute set with him and a piano and a guitar and just completely rip your heart out with songs like ‘Old Habits,’ ‘Blues Man,’ ‘Dinosaur,’ ‘Feelin’ Better.’ I could go on and on.”
She added, “It’s interesting because sometimes when I’m traveling around in certain markets, people think of him as the football guy or the up-tempo party guy, and they don’t know that he definitely had the Hank Sr. talent of songwriting. He can cut right to you with a few songs and three chords and the truth.”
“He was very open in saying, ‘I don’t really sing music like my dad did. This is me doing what I want to do,’” Rhett said. “I look at Hank Jr. as an outlaw, and I look at him like one of the guys that paved a different road and made that road accessible for people coming up behind him. That takes a lot of guts.
“It’s really easy to be an artist and do the exact same thing that’s safe … but for those artists who really try to push the envelope like Hank Jr., he paved the way for even people like me to go in and kind of be different and try to expand that envelope. And so, to me, that’s why Hank Jr.’s one of the best artists of all time.”
Charlie Daniels, a fellow country legend, is impressed with Williams’ comfort level with numerous musical styles.
“Hank walked that center line there somehow,” Daniels said. “It came naturally to him to do it because the songs that he did, there’s nothing that he’s done that he sounds out-of-place doing, But he went from pretty straight-ahead ballads to doing like … of course, he could do ‘Family Tradition,’ and he’d turn around and do ‘Born to Boogie.’”
Daniels continued, “If you ask [some people] if they’re country music fans, they say, ‘No, I’m not. I can’t stand it.’ But they liked Hank Williams Jr. Here he is in a cowboy hat, his cowboy clothes. He looks like a country artist, but he’s far from being just a country artist. He has a very wide appeal.”
Matt Thomas of Parmalee also appreciates Williams’ ability to combine rock and country.
“Hank Jr. was doing his own thing, and I think he was real edgy when he came out — his father being the poster for traditional country music,” Thomas said. “I feel like he had to pave his own path, and that’s what he did. The songs that he was writing and recording were the rocking side of country back then, I think, and definitely paved the way for what we’re doing now — and artists before us, too.”
Joe Nichols also expressed his admiration for Williams’ musical diversity.
“Hank Williams Jr. is able to pull in different genres and make that acceptable for country music and rock music and all those genres because he doesn’t care,” Nichols said. “He doesn’t care about the boundaries. He doesn’t care about the people that say, ‘You can’t do that. Let’s keep it just country.’ He doesn’t really care. He never has. And so, he’s got my respect just for that alone, not even counting the music.”
Check out the rest of the CMT All-Time Top 40: Artists Choice list, and find out who will be announced next each Saturday at 11 a.m. ET/PT on CMT Hot 20 Countdown.
He’d already had his share of legal and substance abuse problems in recent years, so his fans waited with bated breath. Would he recover? Would he ever have music again?
It would be a long and arduous journey. And other than a surprise visit to Dolly Parton’s concert in Oklahoma in June, the 55-year-old singer has been keeping a low profile, but he’s set to release a new album, Influence Vol. 2: The Man I Am, on Aug. 19.
With tracks reportedly recorded before he underwent brain surgery in July 2013, this new album is a tribute to the legends and icons that inspired and shaped the artist the Grammy-winner is today.
Released in 2013, Influence Vol. 1 was so successful and such a thrill to put together, Travis was anxious to keep the train moving by offering a few more cuts from his heroes that weren’t included the first time around.
The first volume gave us his spin on such classics as George Jones’ “Why Baby Why,” Lefty Frizzell’s “Saginaw, Michigan,” Ernest Tubb’s “Thanks a Lot” and Merle Haggard’s “Someday We’ll Look Back.” Among the tracks to be featured on this second installment are Frizzell’s “That’s the Way Love Goes,” Kris Kristofferson’s “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” Waylon Jennings’ “Only Daddy That’ll Walk the Line,” Hank Williams’ “Mind Your Own Business” and Marty Robbins’ “Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me.”
Travis has always tried to do his part to motivate and inspire the next generation of artists. As he introduces fans to more of the music that influenced him, this new collection should delight his longtime fans and cultivate new admirers from a new generation.
- 2005, Rascal Flatts’ “Fast Cars And Freedom” video premieres on CMT
- 1999, The Dixie Chicks’ bridal video for “Ready To Run” debuts on CMT
- 1975, Drummer Todd Anderson is born in Huntsville, Alabama. As a member of the band Heartland, he’s associated with the 2006 ballad “I Loved Her First”
- 1957, Jerry Lee Lewis makes his TV debut on “The Steve Allen Show,” kicking his piano stool across the stage during “Whole Lot Of Shakin’ Going On”
- 2003, Shania Twain gives a free concert at Chicago’s Grant Park. The event is taped for an NBC-TV special, “Shania Twain UP! Live In Chicago”
- 1995, Billy Ray Cyrus performs “Some Gave All” at the dedication of the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
- 1990, Vocalist and mandolin player Cheyenne Kimball is born in Jacksonville, North Carolina. She joins Gloriana, a band that debuts with the 2009 “Wild At Heart,” but quits abruptly via Twitter in July 2011
- 1963, “Ring Of Fire” burns Johnny Cash’s name into the #1 position on the Billboard country singles chart