Tyler Hubbard Signs With EMI Nashville, Plans Upcoming Solo Project

Tyler Hubbard. Photo: John Shearer

Tyler Hubbard, half of the multi-Platinum duo Florida Georgia Line, has signed a recording contract with EMI Nashville, an imprint of UMG Nashville.

Hubbard has collaborated with several artists in the past year as a solo artist, namely Tim McGraw on “Undivided.” Now aligned with EMI Nashville, Hubbard will release a full solo project.

In March of 2021, Hubbard’s FGL partner Brian Kelley announced he had partnered with Warner Music Nashville for his solo music venture, Nashville South Records, Inc. He released his debut solo album, Sunshine State Of Mind, in June.

Despite rumors, the two have maintained that they are not breaking up, just pausing on recording new FGL music and spending their energy pursuing solo interests. Florida Georgia Line remains part of BMLG Records’ artist roster.

FGL is currently the subject of an exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame, and will headline Pepsi Gulf Coast Jam in June. Many of Hubbard and Kelley’s business ventures are also intertwined, including Tree Vibez Music, their publishing company, and Old Camp, their whiskey brand.

My Music Row Story: CAA’s Marc Dennis

Marc Dennis

The “My Music Row Story” weekly column features notable members of the Nashville music industry selected by the MusicRow editorial team. These individuals serve in key roles that help advance and promote the success of our industry. This column spotlights the invaluable people that keep the wheels rolling and the music playing.

 

This edition of “My Music Row Story” is sponsored by Worldwide Stages.

 

Marc Dennis is a Music Agent at leading entertainment and sports agency Creative Artists Agency (CAA), and Co-Head of CAA Music’s Nashville office. Alongside the other Nashville Co-Heads, Dennis is responsible for managing the agency’s business in Music City.

Dennis provides strategic counsel on concert tours and event bookings worldwide to artists Shania Twain, Alison Krauss, Willie Nelson, Brett Eldredge, Billy Currington, Kellie Pickler, Kelsea Ballerini, Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real, Maddie & Tae, Kip Moore, Carly Pearce, Mason Ramsey, Madison Kozak, Cale Dodds, Seth Ennis, Nate Smith, After Midtown, and Little Big Town, among many others. He also works across the agency to create opportunities for clients in film, television, books, theatre, and endorsements.

MusicRow: Where did you grow up? How did you get into the music business?

My family is originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma. We moved around a good bit. My mom and dad got divorced. My mom met my stepdad, Ron Baird, who was an agent at a company called The Jim Halsey company, which was located in Tulsa back in the day. The Halsey Company was definitely the biggest country music agency at the time. I not only fell in love with [my stepdad], but fell in love with the music business through him at a really early age. When I was just a little kid, I was lucky to have access to lot of really cool people and agents that are actually still doing it today.

Pictured (L-R): Marc Dennis, Kip Moore

Did you study music business in college or jump right in to work?

I graduated high school in Oklahoma and I was looking at [colleges in] Texas, Oklahoma and some of the schools in the southwest. I came out to Nashville to visit my stepdad who had relocated here from Tulsa up when Jim Halsey moved to Nashville. I came out here, looked at Belmont and didn’t love it, drove up the road to Knoxville and loved the University of Tennessee, so that’s where I went.

I studied business there and I was elected to run the campus entertainment board when I was just a freshman. It was a student activities committee that was charged with producing special activities for the student body, such as concerts and comedy. I had three or four different venues on campus that I could use, so that was my first job, booking concerts for the college. In that capacity, I was more of a promoter than an agent, but I was speaking to agents and buying talent from people that I ultimately would end up working with later in life.

I also worked for the arena there in Knoxville, Thompson Boling Arena. I worked for the general manager Tim Reese. I worked on the local crew, I worked in the box office there, I did the campus entertainment board, and I also booked all of the bands for our fraternity [events]. So I had a fairly traditional college course study, but I layered in a lot of extracurricular music business stuff.

Pictured (L-R): Carly Pearce, Marc Dennis

What were some shows you organized in college?

I was in college from 1988 to 1992. MTV was still a really big deal and they had a lot of those branded content tours that went out, so we did a lot of MTV stuff that was rolling around college campuses, like the Def Comedy Jam. I pretty much just booked my favorite bands and it turned out the rest of the student body liked it, too.

The first big country show that I had something to do with that was playing at the arena was probably Clint Black. That’s when I really started to appreciate country music more. Not only that concert, but the album that he made Killin’ Time. I was wearing that thing out back in 1990, and not a lot of kids my age were listening to country music back then. It wasn’t like it is now, it was much harder to discover music.

What happened after graduation?

I graduated in 1992 and, with my role as the campus entertainment guy, I was mainly into concert promotion, so my first instinct was to keep going with that. I went to work for a great guy named Steve Moore who had just left a company called Pace, which was running the amphitheater here called Starwood. Steve left Starwood and Pace to start his own company called Moore Entertainment. I was his fourth or fifth employee. Steve was promoting Alan Jackson, Reba, Billy Ray Cyrus, and Brooks & Dunn. I would help him build budgets, put offers together, do ticket counts, and just learn how to promote concerts on a big level. He was really a great teacher. Steve was super accessible to me and I really appreciate and respect him to this day.

Pictured (L-R): Sam Forbert, Russell Dickerson, Marc Dennis

When did you move to the agency side of things?

In my capacity with Steve, I had a lot of exposure to agents that we were buying talent from. The concert promotion business is really tough. You win some, you lose some, and by nature, you have to be a bit of a gambler. After doing it for a while, the agency side of the business attracted me a little bit more than promotion. A guy named Rick Shipp at a company called Triad asked me if I wanted to talk to those guys. I took a job there at Triad to be an assistant for a really great mentor, Keith Miller. I was his assistant for a while and then William Morris Agency acquired Triad, so I moved over there and learned from a lot of really great people. I moved to CAA in 2005.

After joining CAA, you moved up the ranks, eventually becoming Co-Head. Along with Brian Manning, Darin Murphy, and now Jeff Krones, you help lead the Nashville office. What all does that entail?

At the end of the day, I’m an agent first and foremost. I’m honored to be in the position to help lead the day to day business of our Nashville office. I’m helping counsel all of our clients and I’m helping counsel our other colleagues. We take care of each other. My primary responsibility is making sure everybody is in a position to succeed and playing the position that they were born to play.

Pictured (L-R): Marc Dennis, Brett Eldredge

I know you’ve probably been asked about the pandemic a lot, but now that we’re getting past it, have you walked away with any lessons learned or new perspectives?

I don’t know that I have a new perspective as much as it’s fortified what I already thought—which is that this is a really collaborative business and a job where the culture of your team really matters. None of us really have degrees on our wall that say, “You graduated from the school of agenting,” so it’s important to learn from each other. I really believe in that. I believe in community and I believe that we learn something from each other every single day. Obviously that was really difficult during the pandemic when we were all separated. We certainly did our best to stay connected. We’ve been looking at each other on a screen for two years now, but you just can’t replace being in the same space physically with each other.

What are some of the best qualities about our community?

I’ve been doing this for 25 years, so I’ve seen a ridiculous amount of growth in this business. It is stunning what the country music business has become. But at the same time, it’s still a relatively small community of people that are doing it. I really appreciate the fact that I can call someone that I was doing this with 25 years ago.

What have been some of your favorite experiences over the years?

I don’t want to give you a boring, soundbite answer, but I really do enjoy seeing a young person at CAA rise through the ranks and excel. There are four or five agents here now that were my assistant at some point. I’m honored to have been in the position to promote all of them to an agent. I will never forget all of those moments, because I know what it takes to get to that point. I know how hard they’ve worked. I know they’ve had long days and long nights, tough days and great days. When you get to that point, it’s really special.

With our clients, I think a lot of agents would probably say their favorite part is when the artist is first breaking–that first single that works really well or that first album that everybody falls in love with. You can just see their lives changing, both professionally and personally. We all get a lot of gratification out of that. You start working with someone typically when no one knows who they are, and then you’re able to experience a transformational period of time with them. Of course it’s driven by their creative talent, but hopefully you’ve made a couple decisions along the way to help that process.

Pictured (L-R): Chrissy Metz, Cait Hoit, Marc Dennis, Kennon Dennis

If someone asked you how to be a successful person in business or in life, what would you say?

This is a very emotional business. All we do is deal with people. Who we represent is a human being with emotions, feelings and thoughts, and who we sell them to…there’s a relationship there as well. When you’re dealing with people all the time, it lends to some complicated situations occasionally which can be emotional. There can be a lot of highs and lows. You can experience the highest of highs and literally 10 minutes later, it’s like you’ve completely forgotten about it because there’s a problem over here that you need to fix. So I think consistency is huge in this business.

One phone call doesn’t need to feel like what you experienced on the phone call before that. I try to not ride a lot of highs or lows, I try to just be consistent every day. I come in and what you see is what you get, people know what to expect from me. I try to be a really stable, logical force, and normalize a super abnormal business as much as I can.

Dolly Parton To Be Inducted Into The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame This November

Dolly Parton. Photo: Rob Hoffman

On Wednesday morning (May 4), the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame unveiled this year’s inductees, which includes Dolly Parton, Pat Benatar, Duran Duran, Eminem, Lionel Richie, Eurythmics, Carly Simon, Judas Priest, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Allen Grubman, Jimmy Iovine, Sylvia Robinson, Elizabeth Cotten, and Harry Belafonte.

Parton originally turned down her nomination for induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March, saying on social media: “Even though I’m extremely flattered and grateful to be nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I don’t feel that I have earned that right. I really do not want votes split because of me, so I must respectfully bow out.”

However, in a later interview with NPR, Parton explained that, if voted in, she would gracefully accept.

To be eligible, artists must have at least a 25-year span since their first commercial recording came out. Eminem, Duran Duran, Richie, Simon and Parton have all appeared on the ballot one other time, while this marks Eurythmics and Benatar’s second nomination. This is Eminem’s first year of eligibility.

The 2022 ceremony will also be the first time that six female acts will be inducted in one class.

The Class of 2022 will be inducted on Nov. 5 at Los Angeles’ Microsoft Theater. Ticket information for the 37th Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be shared in the coming weeks. The event will also air on a later date on HBO and stream on HBO Max.

BMG Re-Ups Leadership, Jon Loba Adds Publishing Duties To Responsibilities

Thomas Scherer, Jon Loba

BMG has re-upped its two United States repertoire leads, including Nashville-based Jon Loba (President, BMG Nashville) and Los Angeles-based Thomas Scherer (President, Repertoire & Marketing, Los Angeles and New York), as the company’s US revenues rise nearly a third on pre-pandemic levels.

It was also announced that Loba will add publishing duties to his established Nashville label responsibilities, becoming one of the only major music executive in Nashville to hold dual leadership responsibilities of both areas of the business. Scherer will take the lead on US rights acquisition in addition to his responsibilities for BMG’s Los Angeles and New York-based repertoire operations.

Scherer and Loba’s repertoire operations account for around half of BMG’s global revenues. They will continue to work hand-in-hand with CFO US Joe Gillen.

“BMG is on a roll in the US and it’s thanks in no small part to the work of Thomas and Jon,” shares BMG CEO, Hartwig Masuch. “Jon has created a label powerhouse in Nashville with Jason Aldean, Dustin Lynch, Jimmie Allen, Lainey Wilson, and Jelly Roll so it makes sense to extend his scope to our Nashville music publishing operation.”

Masuch adds, “Meanwhile Thomas is delivering significant double-digit growth at BMG’s core US publishing business with writers like George Harrison, Juice WRLD, D’Mile, Diane Warren, and Lewis Capaldi while also building our recordings interests with key signings like 5 Seconds of Summer, AJR, Maxwell, Slash, Bryan Adams, and the recent acquisitions of Mötley Crüe and John Legend catalogs. Thanks to their teams we remain the only credible global partner for artists and songwriters outside the three majors.”

A ‘First Friend’ Remembers Naomi

Pictured: Robert K. Oermann and Naomi Judd circa 1985. Photo: Beth Gwinn

In 1979, I was a librarian at the Country Music Hall of Fame, and an aspiring entertainer named Naomi Judd began visiting me there.

She was working as a receptionist for some small Music Row company. On her lunch hours, she’d walk over to the museum to admire its artifacts (in those days, it was located at the head of Music Row next to BMI). She’d sit at the library research tables and confide in me about her dreams and aspirations. She had black hair then, always wore full makeup and was stunningly beautiful with her porcelain complexion.

Naomi shared my enthusiasm for old-time country music, so we’d chat about Appalachian folk songs. She was a newcomer in Nashville, and she talked about the people she was meeting, or trying to meet, in the music biz.

Most of all, she talked about her teenage daughter, Wynonna, and about how talented she was as a singer. Naturally, she had a photo of Wy that she shared. I brushed off her praise of Wy’s voice as the bragging of a proud parent.

Naomi had an idea for a radio show that would star the two of them. The gist of it was that a snippet of a song would begin each episode, then Naomi would tell Wy the story behind the song. This would segue into a mini-play with actors dramatizing the lyric’s plot. The finale would be the mother-daughter duo singing the full song.

The museum’s oral historian at the time was John Lomax III. His whole family was steeped in folk music, so I roped him into our discussions. Both of us were intrigued by Naomi and her idea that we should script her brainchild.

I still think it’s a cool idea for a show. I suggested “The Titanic,” “Single Girl Married Girl,” “The Wreck of the Old ’97” and some other classics. We batted the radio idea around for a few weeks, but Naomi didn’t want things to start happening until after Wy finished high school.

In her 1993 autobiography, Naomi wrote, “Robert was gracious and informative. We shared an obvious love for music and its history,” she added, “but he didn’t know that I also considered him my first friend in Nashville.” She was right. I had no idea.

A few months later, she invited me to come hear their Judds duo open a show for the group Memphis during what we used to call “Deejay Week.” The moment I heard Wynonna’s voice, I realized that Mama wasn’t exaggerating. The kid was spectacular. They both were. They sang “The Sweetest Gift,” “I Want to Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart” and some other well-curated tunes. They were astonishingly good that night, and I told her so.

We never found a sponsor for that radio show. She later reworked it as a TV pilot centered around the song “Banks of the Ohio.” That didn’t fly either.

The Judds moved to Franklin, where Naomi became a nurse. But we stayed in touch. She was one of the great correspondents, always mailing notes and cards. We also ran into each other at the Music Row watering holes Maude’s Courtyard and Close Quarters. She kept me up to date about their good fortune to sing on Ralph Emery’s early-morning local TV show as “The Soap Sisters” and landing a solo gig as a model posing with Conway Twitty on the jacket of his LP Lost in the Feeling.

Naomi had a big case of “the want-to’s.” There was a fire burning inside Mama Judd that nothing was going to put out. I admired her moxie, her ambition, her brains, her strength and her hustle.

I became a music reporter at The Tennessean and USA Today in 1981. Naomi continued to badger the music industry with steely will, ferocious persistence and impressive tenacity. She was propositioned, sexually harassed, insulted and dismissed, but Naomi Judd would not be denied. She insisted on a fair hearing for her gifted daughter. Armed with nothing more than a homemade cassette tape, her beauty and her Southern Belle charm, she did the nearly impossible. She made them listen. Gradually, she found believers. In 1983-84, The Judds became country stars, and I reported on their spectacular rise, chronicling the duo’s Cinderella saga via many interviews, feature stories, reviews and news items.

Naomi continued to write me. She enjoyed cutting out particularly clever cartoons and oddball newspaper clippings and mailing them with her quips. She was a great letter writer, too. Every now and then, a package arrived from her. Our house is scattered with her sweet gifts — a little picture frame, a paperweight, a devotional booklet, a photo album. I saved all of her Christmas cards, too, because she always designed and wrote them so beautifully.

The bass singer in Memphis was named Larry Strickland. In 1989, Naomi phoned to say, “Will you get your suit out of the cleaners and come to my wedding? Larry and I want you to be there.” Not as a journalist, she added, but as a friend. “I don’t want it to be a show-biz wedding at all.” She meant it, and it wasn’t. I was also with her when she tearfully announced her retirement and wept for her.

I’ve been with Naomi Judd in her kitchen, seated in ballrooms at awards banquets, backstage at sold-out concerts, behind the scenes at TV specials and standing at Gold Record parties. No one ever enjoyed stardom more.

“I have been through so much in my life,” she said. “I’ve had people die in my arms; I’ve been divorced, fired, slam-dunked and shot at….I have crawled over broken glass to get here.”

Over the years, I have met many personalities in Music City. Believe me when I tell you that Naomi Judd had personality to spare. She is utterly unforgettable.

Sony Music Nashville Realigns Arista, Columbia, & RCA Nashville Promotion Teams

Pictured (L-R): Lyndsay Church, Lauren Longbine, Mallory Michaels

In an effort to include a broader artist development focus on a local and regional level, Sony Music Nashville has announced a series of promotions and a realignment of the Arista, Columbia, and RCA Nashville promotion teams.

Effective immediately, the promotion teams, led by SMN EVP of Promotion & Artist Development Steve Hodges, will collaborate more closely with the SMN marketing team in such areas as brand partnerships, community engagement, digital activations, content development and more. Hodges informed the SMN staff in an email obtained by MusicRow on Monday (May 2).

Hodges announced that in order to drive this broadened approach, the Senior Director of Promotion & Artist Development position will now directly support imprint heads on tactical strategies and platform initiatives. Lyndsay Church, Lauren Longbine and Mallory Michaels will take on this new position for Arista, Columbia and RCA Nashville, respectively.

According to Hodges’ email, “These changes allow our artists the most optimum opportunity to grow their brands by having the field team working in tandem with our marketing team in Nashville. Special thanks to Jen Way, SMN’s SVP of Marketing, and her team as they have eagerly embraced this expanded partnership across the organization.”

The Sony Music Nashville Promotion and Artist Development department now consists of the following three imprint field staff and national support team members:

Arista Nashville – reporting to Chris Schuler, VP, Promotion & Artist Development:
Lyndsay Church, Sr. Director, Promotion & Artist Development
Ali O’Connell, Director Promotion & Artist Development
Lisa Owen, Director Promotion & Artist Development
Amy Menz, Specialist, Promotion & Artist Development

Columbia Nashville – reporting to Shane Allen through May, but effective June 1, Lauren Thomas, VP, Promotion & Artist Development:
Lauren Longbine, Sr. Director, Promotion & Artist Development
Mark Gray, Director, Promotion & Artist Development
Paige Elliott, Director, Promotion & Artist Development
Christy Garbinski, Specialist, Promotion & Artist Development

RCA Nashville – reporting to Dennis Reese, SVP, Promotion & Artist Development:
Mallory Michaels, Sr. Director, Promotion & Artist Development
Dan Nelson, Director, Promotion & Artist Development
Larry Santiago, Director, Promotion & Artist Development
Nicole Walden, Specialist, Promotion & Artist Development

SMN National Support – reporting to Steve Hodges, EVP, Promotion & Artist Development:
Bo Martinovich, Director, Promotion & Artist Development
Paul Grosser, Manager, Promotion & Artist Development
Houston Gaither, Manager, Content, Promotion & Artist Development

Bobby Karl Works The Room: Historic Moments Dot Country Hall Of Fame Inductions

Pictured (L-R): Valerie Ervin (Ray Charles Foundation president), Eddie Bayers, Wynonna Judd, Johnny Drake (son of the late Pete Drake) and Rose Drake (wife of the late Pete Drake) in the Hall of Fame Rotunda at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum before the induction of the 2021 class of Country Music Hall of Fame members. Photo: Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

Bobby Karl Works The Room

Chapter 654

This year’s Medallion Ceremony inducting the newest members of the Country Music Hall of Fame was full of first-time experiences.

The induction of Ray Charles was long overdue, and was celebrated as such. Pete Drake became the first steel guitarist to be inducted. Eddie Bayers is now the Hall’s first country drummer. Naomi Judd was unexpectedly inducted posthumously in The Judds, due to her death the previous day. Wendy Moten, The War & Treaty, Bettye LaVette, Tommy Sims and Old Crow Medicine Show drummer Jerry Pentecost comprised the largest Black musical presence at such an event in history.

Pictured: Inductee Wynonna Judd onstage for the class of 2021 medallion ceremony at Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Photo: Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

The Medallion Ceremony took place on Sunday (May 1) in the Hall’s CMA Theater. To be frank, I was worried when I got the news about Naomi’s death on Saturday. I thought that the event might turn into a wake, and/or that the inductions of Charles, Bayers and Drake would be completely overshadowed.

Wynonna and her sister Ashley Judd urged the Hall to proceed as scheduled. The Hall responded by staging a supremely classy ceremony.

The musical intro to the event was Tom T. Hall’s 1971 eloquent country classic “A Million Miles to the City.” Museum CEO Kyle Young referred to its lyric throughout the ceremony. “Each of tonight’s inductees were fueled by dreams and words and melodies,” he said. Mary Ann McCready introduced the Circle Guard, a ceremonial elite consisting of Steve Turner, David Conrad, Bill Denny, Seab Tuck, Ken Levitan, Mike Milom and Jerry Williams.

Then came the processional of existing Hall of Famers—Randy Travis, Bill Anderson, Don Schlitz, Ray Stevens, Randy Owen and Teddy Gentry of Alabama, Bud Wendell, Bobby Braddock, Duane Allen of the Oaks, Ricky Skaggs, Garth Brooks, Ronnie Milsap and Marty Stuart. The CMA’s Sarah Trahern was the first to address Naomi’s passing. “Love: It fills this room,” she said. “Love sustains us and comforts us. Love Can Build a Bridge — The Judds taught us that, and love is Naomi’s legacy. We lost an industry icon….Each of these inductees is an inspiration to us all.”

Kyle asked for a moment of silence for Hall of Fame members Ralph Emery and Hargus “Pig” Robbins, both of whom have died since the last Medallion event. He then spoke of Naomi’s sudden passing, explaining that her family wished the ceremony to go on.

Pictured (L-R) Johnny Drake and Rose Drake accept Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum induction on behalf of Pete Drake presented by Charlie McCoy and CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum Kyle Young for the class of 2021 medallion ceremony at Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

He introduced the induction of Pete Drake (1932-1988), describing Drake as “one of America’s prime music innovators.” Drake invented the “talk box” device showcased on his 1964 steel-guitar hit “Forever” and later adopted by rock stars Peter Frampton, Joe Walsh and others. Drake also promoted Nashville’s musical diversity via his publishing, record label and recording-studio ventures.

To salute Drake, Elizabeth Cook performed “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” and Wendy Moten did “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” The steel guitarist played on both of those. Charlie McCoy presented the Medallion to widow Rose Drake and son John Drake. “Everything he played on fit like a glove,” said Charlie. “He became part of the records he was on.”

“Pete loved music and his music friends more than anything,” said Rose. “We need to recognize these musicians more. The music of the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s created Nashville. Thank you very much for keeping his legacy going.”

Pictured: Kyle Young inducts Eddie Bayers (L) into the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Photo: Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

Kyle said that inductee Eddie Bayers provided “very good grooves and very bad jokes,” describing him as, “a metronome with a heart.” Vince Gill’s “When I Call Your Name” and Trisha Yearwood’s “Walkaway Joe” were just two of the hundreds of hits Eddie has played on. “A great drummer is felt, not heard,” said Vince. “My hope for you, Eddie, is that you get a really good looking plaque.” That joking reference was to the notoriously ugly bronze facial reliefs on the Hall’s official plaques.

“People make a family, and we are certainly a family,” said Eddie. “I love all of you. God bless you all.” He also saluted his wife Lane Brody as “my immortal beloved.”

“They sang their hearts out loud,” said Kyle of The Judds. “They sang in harmony even when they didn’t live in harmony.” Shouted Wy from her seat, “Amen.” “We can’t know all of their struggles, but we know all of their songs,” Kyle concluded. Carly Pearce sang “Grandpa (Tell Me Bout the Good Old Days)” and Gillian Welch & Dave Rawlings sang “Young Love.”

Ricky Skaggs inducted The Judds. “We’re not gonna be sad today,” he said of Naomi Judd (1946-2022). “We’re going to have joy. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Y’all touched so many people with those songs. All of country music, all of the people around the world who loved The Judds are praying for you.”

Pictured (L-R) Ashley Judd accepts induction on behalf of Naomi Judd with Ricky Skaggs, inductee Wynonna Judd and Kyle Young. Photo: Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

“My Mom loved you so much,” said Ashley Judd. “I’m so sorry she couldn’t hang on until today. It was your affection for her that kept her going.” She turned to sister Wynonna and continued, “I love you, and I’m so proud of you. Mama was proud of you, and she always was.” She received her mother’s Medallion. Ricky placed Wy’s around her neck.

“I’m going to make this fast, because my heart is broken,” said Wy. “And I feel so blessed. It’s very strange dynamic to be this broken in this place…Though my heart is broken, I will continue to sing.” She concluded by reciting “The 23rd Psalm.” Then Tommy Sims sang a moving version if “Love Can Build a Bridge.”

“It’s been a long time comin,’” said Kyle of the induction of Ray Charles (1930-2004). “Ray took country music to places it had never been.” The War and Treaty brought down the house with a thrilling rendition of “You Don’t Know Me.” Garth Brooks did “Seven Spanish Angels,” which is his go-to song at concert sound checks. Bettye LaVette sang a soulful “I Can’t Stop Loving You.” Ronnie Milsap did the Medallion honors.

Pictured (L-R): Ronnie Milsap, Valerie Ervin and Kyle Young speak onstage for the class of 2021 medallion ceremony at Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Photo: Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

“Ray Charles was a really cool guy,” said Ronnie. “We were really great friends. We wrote Braille letters to each other. Ray would be so happy today.” Accepting was Valerie Ervin, the president of the Ray Charles Foundation. “Ray Charles always stood his ground for what he loved, and he loved country music,” she said. “Country music was the core of Ray Charles’s life. This IS a Moment.”

“It’s been like church tonight,” observed Marty Stuart of the ceremony. He led the crowd in singing “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” He (and everyone else) was accompanied by the awesome Medallion All Star Band — Biff Watson, Jan Gunderman, Brent Mason, Jeff White, Tommy White, Rachel Loy, Jerry Pentecost, Deanie Richardson, Tanis Hancheroff, and Wendy Moten.

Taking it all in were Larry Gatlin, Paul Kennerley, T.G. Sheppard & Kelly Lang, Brent Maher, Joe Galante, Dan Rogers, John Carter Cash, Scott Hendricks, Tim Wipperman, Chuck Mead, Erika Wollam & Roger Nichols, Bill Purcell, Ellen Lehman, Steve Buchanan, Bonnie Garner, Martha Moore, Susan Stewart, Fletcher Foster, Bruce Bouton, Hunter Kelly, Bob & Leslie DiPiero, Tom Roland, Jeannie Seely, Tony Brown, Ken Paulson, Denise Stiff, The McCrary Sisters, Walter Campbell, Tracy Gershon, Tess Frizzell, Bobby Tomberlin, Jim Horn, Gary Burr & Georgia Middleman, Rique, Lon Helton, Cactus Moser, Don Potter, David Ewing, David Ross, Dave Pomeroy and Sharon Vaughn, for starters.

Brain Mansfield was introducing Marcus K. Dowling to everyone in the press section. Jim Ed Norman was on a break from touring with The Eagles. Steve Fishell’s news is that his book about Buddy Emmons is being published by the University of Illinois in its prestigious Music in American Life series. Doug Green’s book about Carson Robison has been accepted by Vanderbilt University Press, and the distinguished Bill Malone is set to write the biography of Doug’s group Riders in the Sky.

The whole shebang relocated to the sixth floor event space for a cocktail supper. On the menu were steak, salmon, potato salad, pizza and desserts. And lots of fellowship.

The Judds Matriarch, Naomi Judd, Dies At 76

Naomi Judd

One day before she was scheduled to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, it was revealed that The Judds’ Naomi Judd died on Saturday (April 30). She was 76.

On Saturday, Naomi’s daughter Ashley Judd announced on social media that her mother had passed. “Today we sisters experienced a tragedy,” she writes. “We lost our beautiful mother to the disease of mental illness. We are shattered. We are navigating profound grief and know that as we loved her, she was loved by her public. We are in unknown territory.”

Naomi and her other daughter and musical partner, Wynonna, were to be celebrated alongside Ray Charles, Eddie Bayers, and Pete Drake on Sunday (May 1) for their iconic career full of country hits. It is unclear at press time if the induction ceremony will still be held.

The two had also just performed on the CMT Awards, and announced their farewell tour that was scheduled to kick off in September.

Comprised of mother Naomi and daughter Wynonna, The Judds are one of the most successful duos in country music history. Together they scored 20 Top 10 hits, including 14 No. 1s, between 1984 and 1991. Their most enduring country standards, such as “Mama He’s Crazy,” “Why Not Me” and “Grandpa (Tell Me ‘bout the Good Old Days),” infused folk, bluegrass and blues into a unique country sound all their own.

Naomi was born Diana Ellen Judd on January 11, 1946 and grew up in Ashland, Kentucky. She married as a teenager and had two daughters, Christina and Ashley Ciminella, before divorcing and moving to California. As part of a fresh start, all three took Diana’s maiden name. Diana and her older daughter changed their first names, as well. Diana became Naomi, a biblical figure she admired, and Christina became Wynonna, using an adapted spelling of Winona, the northern Arizona town mentioned in the song “Route 66.”

Naomi moved the family to Nashville in 1979, where she took a job as a nurse at Williamson County Medical Center. Her and a 15-year-old Wynonna began appearing on WSM-TV’s The Ralph Emery Show in the early ’80s, but their break came via a chance encounter with Nashville producer Brent Maher. Maher’s teenage daughter, who had been injured in a car accident, had seen the mother-daughter duo on television and recognized Naomi, one of his daughter’s nurses. He began working with The Judds and helped secure them a recording contract with RCA Records/Curb Records.

The Judds. Photo: Kristin Barlowe

After releasing “Had a Dream (For the Heart),” a B-side for Elvis Presley in 1983, The Judds scored their first hit with its follow-up, “Mama He’s Crazy.” The song hit No. 1 on the charts, immediately making The Judds country music’s most successful mother-daughter act since Mother Maybelle Carter and the Carter Sisters. “Mama He’s Crazy” was the first of eight straight chart-toppers for the duo and earned Naomi and Wynonna their first of five Grammy Awards.

Following “Mama He’s Crazy,” The Judds released the six-song Wynonna & Naomi EP and won the Horizon Award at the 1984 CMA Awards. They released their first full-length album, Why Not Me, the following week.

The Judds became frequent award winners throughout the ’80s, collecting nine CMA Awards and seven from the Academy of Country Music. They released six studio albums and an EP from 1984 to 1991, and helped revive the popularity of acoustic sounds in country music. Together, the Judds have 16 Gold, Platinum, and multi-Platinum albums and longform videos, led by 2x Platinum albums Why Not Me and The Judds Greatest Hits.

In October 1990, Naomi announced her retirement from performing due to chronic hepatitis. That retirement would come after the 124-date “Love Can Build a Bridge Farewell Tour,” which wrapped December 4, 1991, at Middle Tennessee State University.

Other than a handful of subsequent performances together, both Naomi and Wynonna pursued solo career paths until announcing their reunion tour for 2022. Naomi published her autobiography Love Can Build a Bridge in 1993, as well as pursued acting and television opportunities, hosting a talk show and serving as a judge and mentor on an entertainment competition series.

The two were announced as inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2021.

Morgan Wallen Nabs MusicRow No. 1

In just 9 weeks, “Wasted On You” by Morgan Wallen reaches the chart peak on the MusicRow CountryBreakout Radio Chart. The single adds +79 spins for a total of 1,777 spins this week. 

Wallen wrote “Wasted On You” with Big Loud label mate, Ernest, Josh Thompson, and Ryan Votjesak. He is currently on his nearly sold-out “Dangerous Tour” which consists of 54 dates that run through September. 

His latest single, “Don’t Think Jesus” is the top country streaming song and fifth all-genre song this week racking in 17 million first week streams, according to Luminate data. “Wasted On You” sits at No. 2 of the country streaming songs chart with 6.9 million streams.

Click here to view the latest edition of The MusicRow Weekly containing the MusicRow CountryBreakout Radio Chart.

DISClaimer Single Reviews: Luke Combs Gives Taste Of New Music With ‘Tomorrow Me’

That cool breeze you feel comes from Canada this week.

North-of-the-border stars High Valley, Brett Kissel, Gord Bamford and Terri Clark all have new sounds for your consideration. Gord and Terri’s duet is essential.

That said, whenever a listening session includes Country Champ Luke Combs, you know who is taking home the Disc of the Day award. Luke wasn’t without challengers, namely Morgan Wallen and Lindsay Ell, as well as Gord & Terri.

The DISCovery Award has three contenders—Ryan McMahon, Jessica Willis Fisher and our winner, third-generation country talent Tess Frizzell.

BRENNEN LEIGH & ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL / “Obsessed With the West”
Writer: Brennen Leigh; Producer: none listed; Label: Signature Sounds
–This is the title tune of Leigh’s new album. She’s a western-swing revivalist on it, but this languid track is a ballad with her gracious croon backed by swaying fiddle. An audio delight.

LUKE COMBS / “Tomorrow Me”
Writers: Luke Combs/Dean Dillon/Ray Fulcher; Producers: Luke Combs/Chip Matthews/Jonathan Singleton; Label: Columbia
–He has one of those voices that has you hanging on every line. On this melodic mid-tempo outing, he expresses desire, regret and emotional conflict in a wonderfully shaded performance. Beautifully sung and produced with clarity and elegance.

TESS FRIZZELL / “The Wrong One”
Writers: Dottie West/Tess Frizzell/Bobby Tomberlin/Billy Lawson; Producer: none listed; Label: TF
–Tess is the daughter of Shelly West and Allen Frizzell. This lovely ballad is based on a song that grandmother Dottie West began in the 1960s. The song has a magnetic pull, and the singer’s lustrous alto is a deep pool of wistful meditation. I’m in.

BRETT ELDREDGE / “Songs About You”
Writers: Brett Eldredge/Jessie Jo Dillon/Ben West; Producer: Nathan Chapman; Label: Warner
–Hearing songs like “Brown Eyed Girl” and “Dancing in the Dark” transport him back to their love affair. Brett’s muscular vocal is backed by a serious R&B backbeat. A Southern soul strutter.

RYAN McMAHON / “One More Fire”
Writer: Ryan McMahon; Producers: Jordan Pritchett/Danielle King; Label: Elbowroom (Canada)
–This one’s an upbeat toe tapper. He seeks new adventures and experiences in a hearty, range-y voice backed by a kickin’ band. Promising.

MORGAN WALLEN / “Don’t Think Jesus”
Writers: Jessi Leigh Alexander/Mark L. Holman/Richard Chase McGill; Producer: Joey Moi; Label: Big Loud
–In this aching, deliberately paced ballad, he falls into substance abuse and fast living until he pulls himself back from the brink. It’s a slow but dramatic build from a wounded, frail beginning to a torrid, top-of-his-range midsection. Then it resolves in a hushed, tender finale. A terrific performance from one of country’s most expressive artists.

HELENE CRONIN / “Barbed Wire”
Writers: Helene Cronin/Nicole Lewis/Davis Corley; Producer: Brianna Tyson; Label: HCM
–She has a low folkie alto voice on this moody, offbeat, somewhat wordy ballad. The production lays on plenty of echoey ambiance.

HIGH VALLEY & GRANGER SMITH / “Country Music, Girls and Trucks”
Writers: Brad Rempel/Micah Wilshire/Jaron Boyer; Producer: Micah Wilshire; Label: HV
–You read that title correctly. And, no, they aren’t kidding. We are supposed to take these cliches with straight face.

BRETT KISSEL & 98 DEGREES / “Ain’t the Same”
Writers: Brett Kissel/James Timothy Nichols/Karen Kosowski; Producer: Karen Kosowski; Label: Warner (Canada)
–Creamy harmonies color this lovelorn pop-country ditty. Pleasant and catchy, but ultimately bland.

LINDSAY ELL / “Right On Time”
Writers: Lindsay Ell/Jordan Schmidt/Geoff Warburton; Producer: Jordan Schmidt; Label: LE
–Her strongest track yet. The rhythm punch is totally hooky, and her husky vocal delivery is supremely confident. The rapid-fire lyric is matched by sizzling electric guitar work and her conversational pep. Loved it from top to bottom.

GORD BAMFORD & TERRI CLARK / “I Ain’t Drunk”
Writers: Buddy Owens/Meghan Fitzpatrick/Mitchell Edward Oglesby; Producers: Gord Bamford/Phil O’Donnell; Label: GB
–I am a big fan of both of these singers. Bamford’s beefy baritone is matched note-for-note by the honky-tonk drawl of Clark. She shadows him perfectly in soprano harmony while the soaring, melody-rich tale of heartache unspools. This is country music the way it was meant to be. The song is drawn from Bamford’s Diamonds in a Whiskey Glass collection, which is also highly recommended.

JESSICA WILLIS FISHER / “Fire Song”
Writers: Jessica Willis Fisher/Jon Randall; Producer: Ben Fowler; Label: JWF
–Formerly of The Willis Clan, Jessica Willis Fisher is issuing her debut solo album, Brand New Day. This dramatic, minor-key rocker is the collection’s first single. Her haunting, Appalachia-flavored soprano is backed by her own fierce fiddling and a furious rhythm undertow. The song of a survivor.