The official/unofficial first Country Radio Seminar cocktail party occurred just prior to the Country Radio Hall of Fame awards at the Convention Center.
This is always a good opportunity to see which recording artists are early birds trying to catch the worms of country radio’s gatekeepers. On Tuesday evening (2/21), they included Josh Thompson, Deborah Allen, Jerrod Niemann, Radney Foster, Mark Collie, Jay DeMarcus, Connie Smith, Jana Kramer and Oak Ridge Boys Duane Allen, Joe Bonsall and Richard Sterban.
CRS chair Charlie Morgan dubbed the ceremony, “the most special night, the night we honor our greats, our legends.” Country Radio Broadcasters board president Mike Culotta gave the President’s Award to Hall of Fame member Bob Kingsley.
“I’m getting an award for something I truly love,” said the honoree. “Every industry has its own convention, but none can compare to ours.” Kingsley has attended 40 of the 43 CRS confabs. He was instrumental in getting songwriters involved and has worked at literally every level of the planning and execution of the annual get-together.
R.J. Curtis presented the Artist Career Achievement Award to Glen Campbell. The superstar’s hits played with a video montage, since he was en route to Boston for another stop on his farewell tour. Keith Urban appeared, also via video, to thank Glen for, “blazing such a trail for guitar-slinging singers in this town” and being, “such a huge influence in what I do.” Keith performed “Wichita Lineman” in Glen’s honor.
T.K. Kimbrell accepted for Glen, who has Alzheimer’s Disease. “This is perfect timing,” said Kimbrell, “because Glen can still understand what an honor this is.” He said he’d spoken to the star about it the day before. “This award is a real testament to how a country boy from Delight, Arkansas, can reach people all around the world.”
The first Radio honoree was Midwest programmer and operations manager Beverlee Brannigan, who is considered to be a trailblazer for women in country radio programming. “I was truly the only woman in the room for most of the ‘80s and ‘90s,” she acknowledged.
Famed consultant Rusty Walker has worked with more than 750 stations. He was the second Radio honoree.
“If I live to be 150, I’ll never be able to repay this debt,” he said. “Thank you, CRS, for creating a learning and networking environment.”
Ron Rogers was introduced by Bill Mayne as, “one of the best teachers I’ve ever met, hence his nickname, ‘Coach.’” Rogers is noteworthy for his work in the Austin, TX market.
“It’s easy to get puffed up about an honor like this,” said Rogers. “I said to my wife on the way up here, ‘In your wildest dreams, did you ever think we’d be flying into Nashville to go into the Hall of Fame?’ She said, ‘Ron, you’re not in my wildest dreams.’”
The on-air personalities were saluted next. Linda Davis and Lang Scott inducted their friend Bill Whyte, presenting a gag CD cover of “Lady Grannybellum,” picturing them with him. On a more serious note, Scott said, “We’re in the heart of Music City, in the heart of country music and in the heart of country radio. And that’s appropriate, because Bill has a heart. I think you’re very wise to honor a man of such integrity.”
Whyte, currently on WSM, recalled beginning his career playing records on small-market radio stations from trailers in cow pastures. He was unapologetic in giving the evening’s longest acceptance speech. His on-air stints include time spent in Cincinnati, Milwaukee and Indianapolis, as well as Nashville. He is also a singer-songwriter.
“To all those who never told me I couldn’t, thank-you so much and God bless,” he concluded.
His fellow WSM broadcaster Eddie Stubbs was also inducted into the Hall of Fame. At age 50, Stubbs is the youngest inductee to date and also perhaps the only one who comes from a public-radio background.
“He’s crazy as a bat, and I know that because it takes one to know one,” said inductor Marty Stuart. Stubbs is a walking encyclopedia of historic country music and plays it on his shows. “He can take us to the heart and soul of country music,” said Stuart. “If you follow your heart, it will always take you to the right place. Eddie followed his heart,” and it led him to the Hall of Fame.
A veteran of The Johnson Mountain Boys bluegrass band, Stubbs recalled fiddling for the late Johnny Wright and wife/co-star Kitty Wells. Kitty, age 92, was in attendance and received the night’s longest and loudest standing ovation.
“I didn’t get into this for self-gratification,” Stubbs said. “It’s always been about the music….This award tonight is a monumental blessing, and I thank God.”
Entertainment attorney titan Joel Katz inducted James Carney, known on the air as Moby. The DJ is a Crossville, TN native and Belmont dropout who grew up country but gained fame as a rock shock jock. He went back to his country roots in 1991 on the air in Atlanta.
“I never thought I’d see the brass ring of the country-radio carousel, but look at me tonight,” quoth Moby. “It’s the Academy Award of country broadcasting.”
Roughly 400 folks attended. Working the room were Jim Halsey, Sherman Halsey, Skip Bishop, Mark Wright, Mike Dungan, Charlie Monk, Phyllis Stark, Dan Rogers, Donna Hughes, George Briner, Scott Borchetta and Tom Baldrica. Hall of Famer Smokey Stover was there celebrating his 90th birthday. Dale Turner, Bobby Wright, Mike Ford, Bob Cole, David Haley, Steve Dean, Sue Sturdivant, Charlie Cook and Byron Gallimore dined on steak medallions, roasted potato wedges and broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and other mixed steamed veggies. Apple pie and/or chocolate cake were the deserts.
Immediately afterward (2/21), Sony and Sea Gayle showcased Wade Bowen, Jerrod Niemann and Brent Anderson in the Renaissance Hotel Ballroom. The laminate/invitation included those magic words, “open bar.” Schmooze on!