The sixth annual Georgia On My Mind benefit concert featured memorable performances from some of Georgia’s own and Georgia’s neighbors. Hosted by SiriusXM’s Storme Warren, along with the Peach Pickers (Dallas Davidson, Rhett Akins and Ben Hayslip), the 6th annual event raised more than $200,000 for the Georgia Music Foundation.
Georgia-born singer-songwriter Ray Fulcher kicked things off from the Ryman stage with his song “Anything Like You Dance.” Another Georgian, Travis Denning, followed him up with “David Ashley Parker From Powder Springs,” his debut single. “It didn’t even matter I wasn’t 21, I had a Georgia license that said I was David Ashley Parker from Powder Springs,” Denning sang with a fist in the air.
The crowd was then delighted by the first surprise guest of the night, BMLG artist Riley Green. Green sang his newest single, “In Love By Now.” Colt Ford & Rhett Akins dueted on Ford’s funny tune, “Chicken & Biscuits;” and then it was time to hear a few of the 70 No. 1 songs that the Peach Pickers have between the three of them.
The three men in Georgia hats and cowboy boots stood on the Ryman stage, strumming and leading the crowd in a country radio singalong, including hits like: Luke Bryan’s “Play It Again,” Dustin Lynch’s “Small Town Boy,” and Blake Shelton’s “All About Tonight” and “Honey Bee.” They were then joined on stage by the Gretch family—the presenting sponsor for the event—who carried a check for $50,000 to the Georgia Music Foundation with them to the stage.
The next performance was a treat from the Otis Redding DREAM Choir—a fun, choral version of the Lil Nas X hit, “Old Town Road;” complete with dancers and cowboy hats.
Michael Ray then ventured out to play his break-up song, “Her World Of Mine,” and Lindsay Ell followed him up with “Criminal” on a solo electric guitar.
Craig Campbell stole the show with a tender version of “Outskirts of Heaven.” The simple acoustic guitar set him up for a stand-out vocal performance, and the crowd met him with a rousing standing ovation when he sang his final note.
John Berry delivered a warm and poignant tune called “The Richest Man.” Berry is currently fighting throat cancer, but his honeyed voice did not sound tarnished.
Audience members were entertained by a bluegrass tune by Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out, and then by a folk tune about late Georgian Duane Allman by Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls. Brent Cobb followed Ray with a tune called “South of Atlanta.” The crowd loved his references to I-85, a major Georgia highway, and Old Glory.
It was then time to present the Flamekeeper Award to a music person who has kept the fire burning for the state of Georgia. “When you move to Nashville, 400 hundred, 500 miles away from home, you wanna know who the Georgia songwriters are. And it’s always Bill Anderson,” Hayslip said, announcing the honoree. Out walked the Country Music Hall of Fame Member in a red and black suit—representing his alma matter, the University of Georgia.
“How bout them dawgs?,” Anderson hollered. The crowd answered with a Georgia Bulldogs chant. “This red and black was not accidental!” he said.
“I was born in South Carolina but I got to Georgia as quick as I could,” Anderson admitted. He was raised in Griffin and Decatur, Georgia. “I’ve never forgotten where I came from and I’ve never forgotten the people who have stood by me.”
Anderson was then joined by long-time co-writer Jamey Johnson. Together the two performed their duet “Everyone Wants To Be 21,” as well as their George Strait cut, “Give It Away.” The crowd’s singing almost drowned out the performers. “I’m proud to be a student of whispering Bill Anderson,” Johnson said. “He’s taught me just as much about being a human and a good man that he has about writing.”
Before Johnson could leave, Dallas Davidson insisted he do his version of “Georgia On My Mind.” He was met with another standing ovation, including by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp.
The night was not over. The last surprise guest for the night turned out to be Georgia-born Cole Swindell. The Warner Music Nashville artist sang his latest single, “Love You Too Late,” and one of his first, “Ain’t Worth The Whiskey.”
The Peach Pickers returned to the stage once more to close the show with some more of their hits. With songs “Anywhere With You” (Jake Owen), “That Ain’t My Truck” (Rhett Akins), “Boys ‘Round Here” (Blake Shelton), and “What Makes You Country,” “I Don’t Want This Night to End” and “Huntin’, Fishin’ and Lovin’ Every Day” (Luke Bryan), Davidson, Rhett and Hayslip capped off another Georgia On My Mind event.
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