What better way to commence the CMA Music Fest week than with a party at the Hall of Fame?
And who better to celebrate at that party than the great Blake Shelton?
Monday evening’s reception (June 6) at the Country Music Hall of Fame was to inaugurate its new exhibit: Blake Shelton: Based on a True Story. The Hall’s Kyle Young called Blake “one of country music’s prime forces” and hailed him as the genre’s ambassador on network TV’s The Voice.
He recounted Blake’s upbringing in Oklahoma, and losing his older brother as a teen. The late songwriter Mae Boren Axton urged the boy singer to move to Music City. So after his high-school graduation in 1994, Blake headed for Nashville at age 17. Two years later, he was discovered by songwriter Bobby Braddock, which led to his recording contract.
“I can’t believe I’m standing here,” said Blake to the crowd assembled in the Hall of Fame’s rotunda. “I have an exhibit in this place, and that’s a pretty damn big deal to me. All I ever cared about is being a country singer. All I ever wanted was to be on the radio. This is the most surreal moment of my life. No matter how much they throw at ya….I kept trying for this thing. And I still feel like I’m trying. I still feel like I’m at the beginning of this thing. I’m in shock. This is the craziest thing that has ever happened to me. It’s overwhelming.”
The exhibit is loaded with cool stuff. A little memo pad shows the lyrics of the first song he ever wrote. He was 15 at the time. His first BMI royalty check is on display, for a whopping $2.73. His Opry induction mementos include a commemorative bottle of Jack Daniels with “Blake Shelton” on the label in the familiar script, plus his Opry mike-stand trophy. There are guitars, costumes, posters and more.
Among the honors displayed are his five BMI silver cups, six CMA awards, two ACM statuettes and more. The finale artifact is his iconic red chair from The Voice.
Paying their respects were Paul Overstreet, Victoria Shaw, Jon Randall Stewart, Marc Beeson, Liz Hengber, Nora Lee Allen and newly installed Country Hall of Famers The Oak Ridge Boys – William Lee Golden, Joe Bonsall, Duane Allen and Richard Sterban.
Industry schmoozers also included Rob Simbeck, Rob Beckham, Sherod Robertson, Chris Lacy, Wes Vause, Narvel Blackstock, Mary Ann McCready, Jerry & Ernie Williams, Lon Helton, Jimmy Carter, Pandora CEO Tim Westergren, Troy Tomlinson, Earle Simmons, John Marks, Rachel Whitney, Cindy Watts, Hunter Kelly, Charlie Monk and Julie Boos.
We snacked on shrimp & pasta salad, mini filo sandwiches, olives and tomato & mozzarella skewers.
That wasn’t the only room worth working downtown that evening. Also on Monday (June 6) was the 24th annual CAA BBQ in the lobby and penthouse at 401 Commerce, the firm’s Nashville HQ.
Half the industry seemed to be at this industrial schmoozathon. Gripping and grinning were Drew Alexander, Dale Bobo, Todd Cassetty, Adam Dread and host-with-the-most Rod Essig. And that’s just A through E. Teri Brown had her new management client Alix Smith in tow and was schmoozing Scott Siman. There were loads of other baby acts at the party, notably Alyssa Micaela, whose “Getaway Car” is already a social-media phenomenon.
Jody Williams, Sally Williams, Patrick Clifford, Chip Petree, Randy Perkins, Diane Pearson, David Macias, Dwight Wiles, Justin Levenson, George Briner, Jeff Gregg, Neal Spielberg, Mike Molinar, John Ettinger and Erika Wollam Nichols were also all in the throng, which was massive.
Attendee Mike Craft is gearing up for a big week. Following a full slate of CMA Fest activities, he and his 18-year-old son are heading for Bonnaroo on Saturday, where the temp is predicted to be 96 degrees. They’ll be joining about 80,000 other fans at the 15th annual Bonnaroo.
The hors d’oeuvres at CAA were much enjoyed. Among the offerings were mini chicken tacos, pork barbecue sliders with slaw, cauliflower buds drenched in hot-chicken sauce and cheesy chicken nacho plates, plus assorted strawberry, blueberry and chocolate morsels.
The night was still young. Over at the Hard Rock Café, the annual Global Artist Showcase was underway on Monday (June 6) on an outdoor stage. Excuse me. This event is now billed as “CMA World GlobaLive!”
On the bill representing Australia were four-time CMAA Entertainer of the Year Troy Cassar-Daley, plus Karin Page and Caitlyn Shadbolt. The Canadians on tap were Raquel Cole, hockey player and songwriter Chad Brownlee and Juno winner Brent Kissell. New Zealand’s Kayla Mahon was booked, too. Representing the U.K. were Frankie Davies, who leads an all-female band, and The Pauper Kings, who are being produced by Jay DeMarcus.
This event began in 2004 as the Global Artist Party. Its guiding light was the late Jeff Walker. Predictably, this year’s event was held in homage to him. Leading the parade of attendees was Jeff’s best buddy, David M. Ross.
Fans from more than two dozen nations are expected at this year’s CMA Music Festival. Beginning on Wednesday, they will be among an expected 87,000 people a day downtown enjoying 400+ artists performing on 11 music stages. This is the 45th CMA Music Festival. And away we go.