Bobby Karl Works The 2017 BMI Country Awards

BMI Vice President Creative, Nashville Jody Williams, 2017 BMI Icon Bob DiPiero and BMI President & CEO Mike O’Neill. Photo: John Shearer/Getty Images for BMI

There was a whole lot of love in the room at the 2017 BMI Awards banquet on Tuesday evening (Nov. 7).

The organization’s top honorees are all widely beloved members of our country-music community. Sweet Ross Copperman won BMI’s Country Songwriter of the Year prize for the second year in a row. Super charitable Keith Urban was presented with the BMI Champion Award.

“More-laughs-than-a-stack-of-comic-books” Bob DiPiero earned a well-deserved BMI ICON Award. Winner-and-still-champion Sony/ATV-Tree picked up its 16th annual Country Publisher of the Year honor with such loved figures as Troy Tomlinson, Terry Wakefield and Tom Luteran taking the stage.

“H.O.L.Y.” was named BMI’s Country Song of the Year. Co-writers busbee and Nate Cyphert received a standing ovation as they took the stage with Florida Georgia Line. In keeping with the love-in-the-room theme of the occasion, the song’s initials stand for “High On Loving You.”

Urban and FGL were hardly the only stars in attendance. If you are a country fan, this event is heaven on earth. Walking the red carpet before the awards banquet were Chris Young, Chris Janson, Chris Lane, Chase Bryant, Lindsay Ell, Larry Gatlin (who has regained his voice), Luke Bryan, LOCASH, Easton Corbin, Aaron Watson, Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famer John Oates, Maddie & Tae, Michael Ray, Midland and Cole Swindell.

Brett Eldredge attends the BMI Country Awards. Photo: Getty Images for BMI

Not to mention Dan + Shay, Granger Smith, Scotty McCreery, Robert Earl Keen (his Xmas tour hits the Ryman on Dec. 28), Thomas Rhett, Kane Brown, The Sisterhood, Lauren Alaina, Dustin Lynch, Hillary Williams (Hank Jr.’s daughter has just completed her first CD), Kristian Bush, Tegan Marie, RaeLynn, William Michael Morgan, Frankie Ballard and Brett Eldredge.

My biggest thrill was meeting Ashley McBryde. “You’re my favorite new artist!” I exclaimed. “Well, then, give me a hug,” she replied. She confessed that the hubbub surrounding “A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega” is making her head spin. “I just wanted to move to Nashville to write songs. Everything now is all, ‘What?’ Like, ‘We’re going to do the red carpet.’ ‘What?’”

You didn’t need a red-carpet walk to spot a star. Upstairs in BMI’s Music Row headquarters at the banquet, there was a celeb around every corner. Randy Travis, Randy Owen, Jake Owen, Big Kenny, Lee Roy Parnell, Lisa Stewart, Dickey Lee, Josh Turner, Little Big Town, Jack Ingram, Mac Davis, Rory Lee Feek, Billy Burnette, The Warren Brothers, Shawn Camp and Hunter Hayes were mingling among us. Patty Smyth, the lead singer of Scandal, was in the house with her tennis-celeb hubby John McEnroe.

And then there were the stars who entertained us from the stage. The first of them saluted Keith Urban.

BMI’s Mike O’Neill announced the night’s first awardee. “We honor Keith not only for his spectacular talent, but for what he does behind the scenes…for music education,” said O’Neill, citing Urban’s efforts on behalf of the Country Music Hall of Fame, Grammy Foundation, Mr. Holland’s Opus Fund, ACM Lifting Lives and lobbying for music education in D.C. Maren Morris, backed by students from the Nashville School of the Arts, serenaded Urban with “But For the Grace of God.”

BMI Vice President Creative, Nashville Jody Williams, singer-songwriter Keith Urban, and BMI President & CEO Mike O’Neill. Photo: John Shearer/Getty Images for BMI

“I don’t know what to say about this,” said the honoree, “except I’ve been blessed by the gift of your love.”

Performance and video tributes to DiPiero were interspersed throughout the evening. The former featured Jon Pardi tearing it up on “Daddy’s Money,” Brooks & Dunn romping through “You Can’t Take the Honky Tonk Out of the Girl” and Reba McEntire slaying the crowd with the power waltz “Till You Love Me.”

Among those testifying on video were John Scott Sherrill, Woody Bomar, George Strait, Al Cooley, Vince Gill, Craig Wiseman, Robert K. Oermann, Jeffrey Steele and Gerry House, most of whom were also in the house.

“We are thrilled and honored to welcome Bob DiPiero into our BMI ICON family tonight,” said O’Neill, citing the writer’s four-decade career, 1,000 recorded songs, 50 million radio performances and membership in the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.

“Bob’s songs are ingrained in country music….He embodies the spirit of Music Row.”

Luke Bryan attends the 65th Annual BMI Country Awards at BMI. Photo: Erika Goldring/Getty Images for BMI

“BMI has been my rock through real highs and real lows,” said Bob. “You all have saved my life. Music Has saved my life…..Music makes my heart beat.”

“You have set the bar for everybody in this room,” said Jody Williams. Jody, plus BMI Nashville execs Leslie Roberts and Bradley Collins, presided over the songwriter and publisher award presentations.

At several moments, the love in the room bubbled to the surface. Lori McKenna drew cheers and a spontaneous standing ovation when she took the stage with Tim McGraw to accept a BMI Award for her deeply moving “Humble and Kind.”

“Your grandmother, Donna Hilley, would be very proud of you tonight,” said Jody to Mitchell Tenpenny. Mitchell was one of 11 writers getting their first BMI recognition. Others included Jesse Lee, Kelly Archer, Alexander Palmer, Barry Bales and Daniel Tashian.

Two father-son songwriting teams were honored – Rhett Akins and Thomas Rhett, plus Casey Beathard and Tucker Beathard.

BMI Vice President Creative, Nashville Jody Williams, Phillip Sweet, Kimberly Schlapman, Karen Fairchild, and Jimi Westbrook of Little Big Town, and BMI President & CEO Mike O’Neill. Photo: John Shearer/Getty Images for BMI

Other songwriters in the winner’s circle included Ronnie Bowman, Sarah Buxton, Jesse Frasure, Tom Douglas, Natalie Hemby, Tony Martin, Wendell Mobley, Shy Carter, Bryan Simpson, Neil Mason, Blair Daly, Jim Beavers, Rodney Clawson and Barry Dean.

Big winner Copperman had already earned 16 BMI Awards going into the banquet. “I’m so thankful for this town wrapping its arms around me,” he said. “Thank you for taking care of my songs. I love you guys.”

We dined on chicken cordon bleu, filet mignon, asparagus spears, baby carrots and potatoes au gratin. Tables were draped with elegant pale-gray cloths with jumbo autumn roses and hybrid orange mums in massed centerpieces. The dining area’s entries were flanked by tall columns of blossoms and greenery.

Kent Blazy, Kent Earls, Jim Free, Jim McBride, David Pomeroy, David & Karen Conrad, David Ross, Melanie Howard, Doug & Linda Edell Howard, Leslie Fram, Leslie Tomasina DiPiero (“Queen Leslie,” according to Bob), Dane Bryant, Del Bryant, John Huie, John Marks, John Esposito, Bobby Braddock, Butch Baker, Al Anderson, Dean Dillon, Carson Chamberlain, Gilles Godard, Scott Siman and Steve Schnur schmoozed.

Ronnie Dunn and Kix Brooks of Brooks & Dunn perform onstage during the 65th Annual BMI Country Awards at BMI. Photo: Getty Images for BMI

Also working this friendliest of rooms were Beth & Luke Laird, Liz Rose, Jerry Crutchfield, Randy Goodman, T.K. Kimbrell, Roger Murrah, Barry Coburn, Gov. Bill Haslam, songwriter-running-for-Congress Lee Thomas Miller, Diane Pearson, Steve Dorff, Erik Dylan, Clay Myers, Arturo Buenahora, Charlie Monk, Lori Badgett, Pat Finch, Hank Adam Locklin, Biff Watson and Garth Fundis.

More love, plus thoughts and prayers, go out to Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member Whitey Shafer, 83, who suddenly became ill at the banquet and was transported to a hospital.

Bobby Karl Works The 2017 ASCAP Country Music Awards

Big Machine artist Brett Young opens the show with his hit “Sleep Without You.” Photo: Ed Rode


Chapter 578

It was a dark and stormy night.

The weatherman had warned us about Monday evening (Nov. 6), but we donned our finest apparel and headed for the annual country-music ASCAP awards banquet nevertheless.

Traffic was gridlocked at a standstill as we approached the Ryman Auditorium via Commerce Street during rush hour at 5:00 p.m. So we parked at the Public Library and walked the rest of the way. This turned out to be a dud idea.

Inside the Ryman, the event was enlivened by lots of star music makers. The key names to note here are those of Vince Gill, Old Dominion, Dierks Bentley, Keith Urban, Kelsea Ballerini, Brett Young and Jimmy Webb, all of whom serenaded us during the fiesta.

Ashley Gorley set a new ASCAP record by winning his fifth ASCAP Country Songwriter of the Year Award. Warner/Chappell repeated as Country Publisher of the Year for the fifth consecutive time. This made it two-for-two thus far in this year’s Country Music Week celebrations, since Warner/Chappell also claimed the same honor at SESAC’s gala on Sunday.

Penned by Dave Kuncio and Josh Mirenda, Bentley’s hit “Somewhere on a Beach” was named the ASCAP Country Song of the Year. Matthew Ramsey of Old Dominion won the Country Artist-Songwriter of the Year prize. His winning tunes were the hits he co-wrote for the band, “Snapback” and “Song for Another Time,” plus the Sam Hunt hit “Make You Miss Me.”

One unusual aspect of the ASCAP awards was the way in which presentations were shared among various company execs. Nashville VP and all-around good-guy Michael Martin was front and center. But such national honchos as Paul Williams, Elizabeth Matthews, John Titta and John Johnson took turns at the podium, as did such Music City ASCAP figures as Mike Sistad, Beth Brinker, Kele Currier, Evyn Mustoe Johnston and Robert Filhart.

Pictured (L-R): ASCAP President and Chairman Paul Williams, Vince Gill, Founders Award honoree Rodney Crowell and Keith Urban. Photo: Ed Rode

Brett Young kicked the ceremony off energetically with his career launching “Sleep Without You.” Then Williams took the stage. “Welcome to the 55th annual ASCAP Country Music Awards: Give yourselves a hand,” he said in greeting the Ryman crowd of 1,000.

“Tonight is also a celebration of how music can lift us up. And God knows we need it. I believe what you do is holy work. One thing you find in this town is authenticity. It’s in the songs you write, and it’s in the way you treat people.”

Johnson presented the Partners in Music Award to Varnell Enterprises, which has been promoting concerts since 1946, everyone from Roy Acuff to Garth Brooks. The latter offered video greetings from his tour, which has played to six million fans to date. Jim Varnell accepted the honor.

Seth Ennis introduced songwriter Jamie Moore singing “May We All,” which was one of ASCAP’s five most performed songs of 2016. Moore totally nailed his version of the FGL hit.

The prestigious Founders Award went to Rodney Crowell. He was serenaded by Urban with “You Win,” which they co-wrote back in 2001. Gill sang “Oklahoma Borderline,” which was the first song he ever co-wrote with Crowell (and the late Guy Clark). Gill then drew a standing ovation for his prayer-at-twilight rendition of “Til I Gain Control Again.” Steuart Smith made the presentation.

“I’m very grateful; I’m very humbled,” said Rodney. “It’s a gift that we get to do the work that we do. We should all protect it with everything in our hearts.” He then shared with the crowd the fact that he was wearing John Lennon’s suit from the movie It’s a Hard Day’s Night. The place went ape.

LANCO introduced Scooter Carusoe doing a solo version of his top-five ASCAP contender “I Wanna Be That Song” (popularized by Brett Eldredge).

ASCAP CEO Elizabeth Matthews and Vanguard Award honoree Kelsea Ballerini. Photo: Ed Rode

ASCAP CEO Matthews announced that the Vanguard Award was going to Ballerini. Hillary Lindsey made the presentation, saying, “Her innate ability to write a song absolutely blows my mind….She is one of the most loving, kind and infectious spirits I’ve ever met. This is so, so well deserved.”

“This is awesome!” said Ballerini. “Thank you so much!” She particularly expressed gratitude to Sistad for listening to her “bad” songs when she was just 14. Ballerini sang “In Between” from her just-released sophomore CD Unapologetically.

The Sisterhood members Ruby Stewart and Alyssa Bonagura did the introduction for “Lights Come On,” the third of ASCAP’s top-five country contenders. By the way, Ruby is the daughter of Rod Stewart while Alyssa is the daughter of Kathie Baillie and Michael Bonagura of Baillie & The Boys. Songwriters Jimmy Robbins, Jordan Schmidt, Brett Warren and Brad Warren offered a rocking version of their Jason Aldean hit.

Gorley’s ASCAP Songwriter of the Year honor was presented by newly minted Country Music Hall of Fame member Don Schlitz. He has won this ASCAP honor four times in the past.

“The business of songwriting always reminds us that we’re never all alone,” said Don. “This honor is unique because in the history of ASCAP, this songwriter is receiving this for the fifth time. I thought four times was the limit.

“We celebrate him because he celebrates us. For the fifth time, he represents us. How lucky are we?”

Mike Wilson of the charity My Life Speaks talked of Ashley’s commitment to the poor children in rural Haiti. “Thank you for bringing light to a dark place,” Wilson said.

“I have to thank God for many more blessings than I deserve,” said Ashley Gorley in accepting. “There’s been some tragic stuff, [so] first responders…really, really need to be celebrated. For anybody else who goes unnoticed and unrecognized, a medal for you guys.”

Let me interject at this point to say that an hour spent sitting on the wood Ryman pews is like four ordinary hours. As the show passed the 90-minute mark, the balcony emptied and the floor seating had large areas of empty real estate. But on we went.

Midland introduced the fourth top-five contestant, “Snapback.” Old Dominion’s Brad Tursi, Matthew Ramsey and Trevor Rosen co-wrote it and sang it, splendidly. Then Ramsey was announced by Phil Vassar as the winner of his ASCAP award.

“Seventeen years ago, Phil took me out on the road,” Matthew recalled. “Mike Sistad listened to my songs and helped me get going in Nashville….Thank you for helping me get to the moon.”

Williams returned to the stage to say, “Music, which should be a safe haven, has been senselessly violated…by horrific acts.” He asked for a moment of silence for the 58 lives taken in Las Vegas as well as for the members of the Nashville music community we’ve lost during the past year.

Then Jimmy Webb sat at the piano and said, “I love being in Nashville and being around songwriters. It’s like going to a revival and being recharged.” He then paid homage to Glen Campbell, saying, “This man took my songs into the mainstream of American music. He was a great and worthy star.” Webb sang “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” in tribute to the late Campbell.

Pictured (L-R): ASCAP Vice President of Nashville Membership Michael Martin, Songwriter-Artist of the Year Matthew Ramsey (of Old Dominion) and Phil Vassar. Photo: Ed Rode

We’d been there since 5:00 p.m. without dinner. The show was now heading into its second hour. The remaining natives were getting restless.

Carly Pearce introduced “Somewhere On a Beach.” Bentley and the song’s writers Dave Kuncio and Josh Mirenda gave the top award winner a good-natured spin.

“I’d like to thank the city of Nashville for shining a spotlight on songwriters,” said Kuncio. “Thank y’all so much for believing in me,” added Mirenda.

Among the many other songwriters receiving ASCAP accolades during the event were Jon Nite, Chris DuBois, Chris DeStefano, Jerry Flowers, Jeremy Stover, Josh Osborne, Corey Crowder, Craig Wiseman, Marc Beeson, Matt Jenkins, Marla Cannon Goodman, Abe Stoklasa, Ben Hayslip and Zach Crowell.

Twinkling stars in attendance included John & Martina McBride, Dan + Shay, Billy Currington, Desmond Child, Brett James, Buzz Cason, Tyler Hubbard, Brian Kelley, Rudy Perez and Michael Ray.

We headed for the exits around 9:15 p.m. and discovered it was raining. The idea of walking to the after-party at The Stage on Broadway was immediately tossed out. Besides, by then we’d already schmoozed an army of fabulons. Read on.

Tim Nichols, Tim Wipperman, Mark Bright, Mark D. Sanders, Robert Ott, Bobby Rymer, Sally Williams, Herky Williams (ask him about his new TV gig), Dale Dodson, Mary Matthews, Scott & Sandi Borchetta, Ron & Regina Stuve, Rod Essig, Carla Wallace, Celia Froelig, Jimmy Harnen, Terry Wakefield, and Cyndi Foreman worked the room.

So did Ree Guyer, Lisa Harless, Sarah Cates, Leslie DiPiero, Bart Herbison, LeAnn Phelan, John Briggs, Tony Brown, Stuart Dill, Walter Campbell, Andrew Kintz, Ken Levitan, David Crow, Debbie Carroll, Jewel Coburn & Jason Morris, Whitney Daane, Wayland Holyfield, Chris Farren, Connie Harrington, Gary Velletri, Kos Weaver, Kevin Lamb and Blake Chancey

By the time we got to the car, it was pouring a river of water with thunder and lightning as the accompaniment. At 9:30, we pulled into the Broadway McDonald’s. We dined on lukewarm burgers and fries. I was careful not to drip catsup on my tux, since BMI was still to come.

Songwriter Jamie Moore performs his Top Five song “May We All” (recorded by Florida Georgia Line). Photo: Ed Rode

Publisher of the Year Warner Chappell’s Ben Vaughn, Songwriter of the Year Ashley Gorley, Song of the Year songwriters Dave Kuncio and Josh Mirenda, Publisher of the Year Warner Chappell’s Jon Platt. Photo: Ed Rode

ASCAP Board member Jimmy Webb performs “By the Time I Get to Pheonix” in tribute to his longtime collaborator and friend, Glen Campbell, and the members of the music community who passed in 2017. Photo: Ed Rode

Songwriter-Artist of the Year Matthew Ramsey and Brad Tursi of Old Dominion perform their Top Five song “Snapback.” Photo: Ed Rode

ASCAP CEO Elizabeth Matthews, Songwriter of the Year Ashley Gorley, ASCAP President and Chairman Paul Williams and ASCAP EVP of Membership John Titta. Photo: Ed Rode

Bobby Karl Works The 2017 SESAC Nashville Music Awards

Publisher of the year Warner Chappell Music onstage with SESAC executives during the 2017 SESAC Nashville Music Awards on November 5, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. Photo: Jason Davis/Getty Images for SESAC. [Click to enlarge]


Chapter 577

Country Music Week is more than awards ceremonies – it’s a time to reconnect with your peers and pals.

“I see people here that I haven’t seen in months,” said MusicRow Magazine owner/publisher Sherod Robertson as he surveyed the throng during the cocktail reception preceding the SESAC Awards on Sunday evening (Nov. 5).

“That’s the whole point,” I replied.

“I haven’t seen you in ages, where’ve you been?” said Rob Beckham when he greeted me. “Am I just not going to the right parties?” I told him with some guilt that I still have not come to see his new WME offices.

“We are WAY overdue for a dinner party,” said Erika Wollam Nichols. It’s true. We made a pact then and there to get together as soon as awards season and Thanksgiving are behind us. One happy coincidence was that we were assigned the same table at the SESAC banquet.

The gala was staged at the Country Music Hall of Fame’s event space. Justin Ebach won Country Songwriter of the Year. Cary Barlowe picked up a Country Song of the Year honor for “It Don’t Hurt Like It Used To.” Billy Currington was on hand to serenade us with it.

Ben Vaughn and his Warner/Chappell Music team members gathered on stage to accept SESAC’s Country Publisher of the Year award. Special accolades were also presented to Lady Antebellum, to Kenny Rogers and to peermusic’s Michael Knox.

Old Crow Medicine Show perform onstage during the 2017 SESAC Nashville Music Awards on November 5, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images for SESAC

The ceremony began with a bang. Old Crow Medicine Show took the stage unannounced and launched into “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35,” complete with bass drum and accordion. “It’s the 2017 SESAC Awards in Nashville, Tennessee!” shouted lead singer Ketch Secor at the finale.

“We are so proud that Bob Dylan is a member of the SESAC family,” explained SESAC VP Shannan Hatch, adding that Old Crow’s remake of Blonde on Blonde celebrates the 50th anniversary of Dylan recording that historic double LP in Music City.

She added that landmark anniversaries are also being celebrated by the Ryman Auditorium, the Bluebird Café, the NSAI and our host facility, The Country Music Hall of Fame.

The awards presentations kicked off with honors going to Victoria Shaw and the late Kim Williams for writing “Baby Let’s Lay Down and Dance” (recorded by Garth Brooks). Seth Mosley won for “Make You Mine” (High Valley). Craig Campbell won for “Outskirts of Heaven,” which he also recorded and published.

With hurricanes, wild fires, mass shootings and terrorist attacks, this has been a rough year, Shannan stated. But, “in the midst of these catastrophes, we can find hope,” she added. The inaugural SESAC Humanitarian Award was presented to LadyAID, the charity established by Lady Antebellum.

Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum arrives at the 2017 SESAC Nashville Music Awards on November 5, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for SESAC.

“This is truly an honor,” said the group’s Hillary Scott. “We are just so thankful for the platform that we have. This is just all really emotional,” she added, while briefly choking up. “Sorry: Maybe it’s because I’m bringing two little girls into the world,” said the pregnant-with-twins star.

“There are so many ways we can love each other better. There’s a lot more work to do. Incredibly awful things are happening every day. Let’s just keep doing more [good].”

Next up receiving songwriting awards were Jaron Boyer for “They Don’t Know” (Jason Aldean) and big winner Barlowe for “It Don’t Hurt Like It Used To” (Currington). This was also the segment of the show that saluted peermusic.

By now, it was nearing 9:00 p.m. (10:00 p.m., if Daylight Savings Time hadn’t ended the night before). We were starving. Mercifully, at this point the show took a dinner break.

Salad was baby artisan leaves with a white balsamic vinaigrette, plus roasted butternut squash, pumpkin seeds, cranberries and goat cheese crumbles. Filet of beef with a burgundy wine sauce, honey pecan smoked arctic chard filet, truffled mashed potatoes, roasted carrots and green beans were served as the entrée. A chocolate covered peanut-butter tart topped with whipped cream was the delectable dessert.

Singer Craig Campbell performs onstage during the 2017 SESAC Nashville Music Awards on November 5, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. Photo: Jason Davis/Getty Images for SESAC

Next, Jim Lauderdale hosted the Americana portion of the ceremony. He won for his two 2017 albums, This Changes Everything and London Southern. The other honored Americana albums were Willie Nelson’s God’s Problem Child, which featured contributions by Sam Hunter and an absent Jamey Johnson, and the Band of Heathens disc Duende.

Lee Brice appeared to sing “20 Years Ago,” magnificently. Dustin Lynch offered “The Gambler.” Craig Campbell sang the dickens out of “Lady.” Kim Carnes and Andy Childs did “Don’t Fall in Love with a Dreamer.” All were paying tribute to SESAC Legacy Award recipient Kenny Rogers. The award was presented by Hillary Scott and her mom, Linda Davis, who tours as a singer with Rogers.

“I am so excited about being here, because you guys are truly my heroes,” Kenny said to the songwriting multitude. “I think my gift is this ability to spot great songs. I realize how lucky I was to get those songs. I thank each and every one of you.”

Justin Ebach’s “Sleep Without You” (Brett Young), Steve Bogard’s “Seein’ Red” (Dustin Lynch), Matt McGinn’s “What If’s” (Kane Brown & Lauren Alaina), Caroline Hobby and Runaway June lead singer Naomi Cooke’s “Lipstick” (Runaway June), Brice Long’s “Heartache on the Dance Floor” (Jon Pardi) and Matthew Bronleewe and Jaron Boyer’s “Flatliner” (Cole Swindell) rounded out the song honorees.

“I’m so grateful to be a part of this community,” said Ebach when he was named SESAC Country Songwriter of the Year. “I have never found better friendships in my entire life.”

Chairman and CEO of SESAC John Josephson, SESAC Songwriter of the Year Justin Ebach, Senior Vice President of Creative Operations for SESAC Sam Kling, and Vice President of Creative Services for SESAC Shannan Hatch pose for a photo onstage during the 2017 SESAC Nashville Music Awards on November 5, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. Photo: Jason Davis/Getty Images for SESAC

His collaborations with Brett Young are Ebach’s first hit country songs. He thanked his Word Country publishers for giving him a chance.

“I’m so grateful to this town and all those people who opened doors for me. I love you,” he said.

Daniel Miller, Daniel Hill, Doug Johnson, Doug Howard, Mark Ford, Mark Brown, John Ozier, John Allen, John Marks, Jon Pardi, David Wykoff, David Ross, Ron Stuve, Ron Cox, Jim Zumwalt, Jimmy Carter, Pat Higdon, Pat McMakin, Patrick Clifford, Thom Jutz, Tom Roland, Tom Luteran, Michael Baum, Michelle Goble, Peyton Hoge and Josh Hoge worked the cocktail party.

As we entered the banquet room, we were greeted by massive cloth drum shades over golden glowing, art-deco light bulbs. The stage was decorated with swaths of silver-blue drapery. Silver brocade tablecloths bore centerpieces of clustered white roses and lilies.

Fabulons Becky Harris, Webb Wilder, Jerry Salley, Peter Cooper, Susan Stewart, Christy Walker-Watkins, Debbie Linn, Woody Bomar, Dwight Wiles & Diana Johnson, Dale Bobo, Bob Doyle, Gilles Godard, Charley Stefl, Chris Oglesby, B.J. Hill, Nick Di Fruscia, Tracy Gershon and Terry Hemmings took it all in.

Billy Currington and Cary Barlowe accept an award for “It Don’t Hurt Like It Used To” onstage during the 2017 SESAC Nashville Music Awards on November 5, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. Photo: Jason Davis/Getty Images for SESAC [Click to enlarge]


Weekly Chart Report 11/3/17

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John Strohm Named Rounder Records President

Rounder Records, a division of Concord Music, has named John Strohm as President of the American roots label. Strohm will oversee management of Rounder’s day-to-day operations in Nashville, reporting to Concord Music’s Chief Label Officer, Tom Whalley. Former Rounder president, John Virant will remain in a senior creative role, working closely with Strohm and the Rounder staff.

Strohm joins Rounder Records from Loeb & Loeb LLP, where, as Senior Counsel in their Music Industry practice since 2011. Strohm played a leading role in developing the careers of clients Bon Iver, Sturgill Simpson, Alabama Shakes, Dawes, Julien Baker, The Civil Wars and many others. In his multi-faceted career in the music industry, Strohm brings a wealth of experience in music publishing, recording, distribution and emerging media.

Strohm’s career in music began when the aspiring songwriter and musician left his hometown of Bloomington, Indiana to attend Boston’s Berklee College of Music in the mid ’80s. After meeting fellow music obsessives Juliana Hatfield and Freda Love, Strohm formed the beloved college rock band Blake Babies, who released their 2001 album God Bless The Blake Babies for Rounder’s Zoë imprint. He went on to play drums and guitar in The Lemonheads and released a string of well-regarded solo albums. Strohm left professional music to attend law school, graduating Magna Cum Laude in 2004 from Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham, Alabama, where he served as Editor-In-Chief of the Cumberland Law Review.

Rounder Records has helped shape American roots music for 47 years. Its outstanding artist roster includes Steve Martin, Béla Fleck, Abigail Washburn, Sarah Jarosz, I’m With Her (Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz, and Aoife O’Donovan), Chris Hillman, Pokey LaFarge, George Thorogood, Sierra Hull, Raffi, Jerry Douglas, Earls of Leicester, The Time Jumpers and the late, great Gregg Allman, among many others.

CMA Announces Round Of Hirings, Promotions

Pictured (clockwise from top left): Catharine McNelly, Bobby Dirienzo, Alex Sharp, Katherine Wong, and Lisa Valentine.

The Country Music Association has announced a round of hirings in various positions, including the addition of Director of Communications Catharine McNelly, Digital Strategy Manager Bobby Dirienzo, Marketing and Communications Executive Assistant Alex Sharp, Communications Coordinator Lisa Valentine, and Marketing and Social Coordinator Katherine Wong.

Additionally, several promotions include Ben Balch to the role of Senior Manager of Budgets and Reporting; Emily Evans to Senior Director of Strategic Partnerships; Mary Overend to Senior Marketing Manager; Justin Randall to Network Manager; and Alina Thompson to Marketing and Partnerships Manager.

McNelly comes to CMA as Director of Communications from Columbia Records where she was Senior Publicist. She oversaw the campaigns of a diverse group of artists, including James Arthur, Leonard Cohen, Celine Dion, First Aid Kit, Calvin Harris, Rachel Platten, The Shins, and Pharrell Williams. Prior to that, McNelly worked at Atlantic Records, handling Death Cab for Cutie; Flo Rida; Paramore; Portugal, The Man; Straight No Chaser, and the Twilight series soundtracks. A native of Alton, Ill., she received a Communications and Media Studies degree from Fordham University. McNelly reports to CMA Vice President of Communications and Talent Relations Amber Williams.

Dirienzo comes to CMA from 12South Marketing where he spent five years as project manager for the Nashville-based digital marketing agency coordinating in-house and outsourced creative teams and overseeing planning and execution of digital projects and marketing campaigns. Dirienzo has a music production background and used to work for Lava Room Recording in Cleveland, Ohio. He was born in Stow, Ohio, and earned a Mass Communications degree from Ohio University. Dirienzo reports to Director of Digital Strategy Meryl Johnson.

Valentine joins the Communications Department full-time as Communications Coordinator. She previously worked on a number of projects for CMA, including media relations and CMA Close Up production. Prior to CMA, she worked in experiential marketing and event management roles, working on projects for brands including Cadillac, Chevrolet and Pepsi. A native of Plymouth, Michigan, Valentine graduated with a degree in Marketing and Public Relations from the Frederick M. Supper Honors Program at Palm Beach Atlantic University. Valentine reports to Williams.

Wong comes to her new job as Marketing and Social Coordinator from Universal Music Publishing Group where she worked in copyright and royalty administration. Previously, she was an intern for CMA’s marketing department. A native of Southborough, Massachusetts, Wong received a Bachelor’s of Business Administration with a specialization in marketing from the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. Wong reports to Overend.

Sharp comes to CMA with a fashion industry background working in New York City. She has experience as a fashion blogger and has worked as an executive assistant in several high-profile companies. She is from Lexington, Kentucky and graduated with a degree in Public Relations and Marketing from Western Kentucky University. Sharp reports to Damon Whiteside.

Evans moves to Senior Director of Strategic Partnerships from Director of Strategic Partnerships, a position she’s held for more than three years. Before joining CMA, Evans worked for 13 Management, first as day-to-day manager for Taylor Swift, and later as the point person for all branding, strategic partnerships, and marketing efforts. Her experience with Swift includes endorsement and licensing deals with Sony Electronics, COVERGIRL, American Greetings, Elizabeth Arden fragrance, Diet Coke and Keds. In addition, Evans managed creative direction and production for music videos, photo shoots, and marketing campaigns, such as the Speak Now and RED albums that launched with more than one million in sales in their first week of release. A Cleveland, Tenn. native, Evans graduated summa cum laude from Carson-Newman College with a degree in business management and marketing. She began her career in Nashville in concert and festival booking. Evans reports to Chief Marketing Officer Whiteside.

Balch moves from Manager of Accounting Services to Senior Manager of Budgets and Reporting. Balch led the organization in the implementation of new budgeting software and process. He will lead the continued growth in that area, as well as assuming responsibility for improvements to financial reporting. A native of Murfreesboro, Balch graduated from Middle Tennessee State University with a Master’s degree in Finance. Balch reports to Sr. VP of Finance and Administration Amy Smartt.

Overend served as Digital Marketing Manager for more than two years overseeing social media and email marketing before being named Senior Marketing Manager. She’ll be taking on employee oversight and project management roles in her new job. Overend worked in the nonprofit, healthcare and retail industries before joining CMA. A native of Atlanta, she graduated from the University of Tennessee with a degree in Communications. Overend reports to Senior Director of Marketing Catherine Frizzell.

Randall moves from Network Administrator to Network Manager. The 51st Annual CMA Awards marks the 12th show that Randall has supported the broadcast’s information technology needs. Randall has 22 years of experience in IT and independent consulting in the Nashville area before joining CMA as a full-time employee in 2014. Randall reports to Director of Information Technology Ken Sanderson.

Before rising to Marketing & Partnerships Manager, Thompson assisted with marketing plans for CMA events, worked on full-scale marketing campaigns via TV, radio, print, and digital platforms, and worked with local partners on promotion of events as Marketing Coordinator. Before that, she spent two years at CMT in the Music Strategy Department assisting with promotions, music research, programming, and various franchises such as “Next Women in Country” and Listen Up. A Virginia Beach, Virginia native, Thompson graduated from Belmont University with a Bachelor’s of Business Administration. Thompson reports to Frizzell.

[Updated]: Webster Public Relations Shutters

Kirt Webster

[Updated, 2:12 p.m. CT]

Webster Public Relations is set to continue operating under the name Westby Public Relations, according to a statement received by MusicRow.

The company’s work for its clients will continue under the leadership of Jeremy Westby, Webster’s longtime colleague. Meanwhile, Webster will take time away from the business to “focus on combating the egregious and untrue allegations made against him,” the statement says.

An earlier statement had appeared on the Webster PR website Wednesday morning, saying the business was no longer in operation.

The new statement addresses the posting:

Earlier today, it was mistakenly posted on the Webster Public Relations’ website that the firm has been closed. This was stated incorrectly. Webster Public Relations will continue operating – but under the name Westby Public Relations – while Kirt Webster takes some time away from the business to focus on combating the egregious and untrue allegations made against him. The company’s work on behalf of its clients will continue under the leadership of Jeremy Westby, Kirt’s longstanding colleague.

Additionally, former Webster PR staffer Scott Adkins announced the launch of his own PR firm today.

[Updated, 1:30 p.m. CST]

The message on the Webster PR website has been removed.

[Previous story, 12:00 p.m. CST]

According to its website,, Kirt Webster‘s Webster Public Relations has closed for business as of November 1, 2017.

The longstanding PR rep—with a client list including headliners as Dolly Parton, Hank Williams Jr., Kenny Rogers, Justin Moore, Aaron Lewis and many others—was at the forefront of a scandal brought to the national spotlight on October 31 when former artist, Austin Cody Rick, accused Webster of continued sexual assault in 2008. Rick went by the stage name Cody Austin. The accusations were posted in a editorial on and featured by the Nashville Scene.

Kirt Webster denies all allegations. A prepared statement from Webster reads: “As a single adult, Mr. Webster has had multiple relationships over the course of his professional life, all of which have been consensual. This includes a brief relationship with Mr. Rick. It saddens Mr. Webster that nine years later, after Mr. Rick’s music career has been stagnant, Mr. Rick has taken the opportunistic approach of mischaracterizing that relationship and posting untrue allegations.”

According to WSMV-TV, the news organization had spoken with four individuals who claim Webster sexually assaulted them.

All business inquiries are noted to be directed to Jeremy Westby, Sr. VP. Webster sent out a press release to media as recent as Nov. 1.

Attempts to reach Webster PR representatives regarding the firm’s closing went unanswered.

This is a developing story.

A message displayed on Webster PR’s website on Nov. 1.

Eagles Showcase Legendary Career During Opry House Debut

Pictured (L-R): Timothy B. Schmit, Vince Gill, Don Henley, Deacon Frey, Joe Walsh, and Steuart Smith perform SiriusXM presents the Eagles in their first concert at the Grand Ole Opry House on Oct. 29, 2017 in Nashville.

From the opening notes of “Seven Bridges Road” to the closing number “Desperado,” the Eagles’ concert Sunday night (Oct. 29) at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry House was a display of transcendent harmonies, timeless songwriting and expert performance chops. The occasion marked the band’s first time playing the legendary venue, during a private event for SiriusXM.

Longtime Eagles Don Henley, Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmit were joined by Country Music Hall of Fame inductee Vince Gill, and Deacon Frey, son of late band member Glenn Frey. Deacon and Gill have been performing with the band during 2017, alternating lead vocals on songs traditionally performed by Glenn. Gill called the opportunity “one of the great thrills of my life…They’ve been heroes of mine.” He dedicated “New Kid In Town” to Deacon, who in turn gave strong renditions of “Take It Easy” and “Already Gone.”

Pictured (L-R): Vince Gill and Don Henley

Streaming live on SiriusXM, the concert rolled on with hit after hit: “Tequila Sunrise,” “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” “Lyin’ Eyes,” “Heartache Tonight,” and “I Can’t Tell You Why.”

Henley recalled writing their first No. 1, “Best Of My Love,” with Frey and J.D. Souther during the early Seventies in Laurel Canyon. (Today Souther calls Nashville home.)

(L-R): Don Henley and Deacon Frey

Walsh brought epic guitar jams to “Life In The Fast Lane,” as well as his solo hits “Life’s Been Good” and “In The City.” He told the audience, “In the Seventies, every night was Halloween for us.” By contrast, Henley did not perform his solo material.

Reba McEntire, Sheryl Crow, Kid Rock, and Ronnie Dunn lined the pews alongside members of the music industry—all were enthralled by the veteran entertainers.

The concert will air on SiriusXM’s “Hotel California,” the limited-run channel launching in mid November.

Pictured (L-R): Timothy B. Schmit, Vince Gill, Don Henley, Deacon Frey, Joe Walsh, and Steuart Smith.

Shane McAnally Extends Publishing Deal With Kobalt

Shane McAnally

Kobalt announced Monday (Oct. 30) that it has re-signed multiple Grammy award-winning country songwriter Shane McAnally.

The worldwide agreement includes publishing administration for all of McAnally’s future works along with his back catalog, which includes Sam Hunt’s “Body Like A Back Road,” the longest-reigning Billboard Hot Country No. 1 hit.

McAnally’s own publishing company, SMACKSongs, has an existing relationship with Kobalt. SMACK is home to country songwriters Josh Osborne, Matt Ramsey, Walker Hayes, Matt McGinn, Ryan Beaver, and others.

“Kobalt is such a valuable part of my team and I’m so grateful for the care and attention they give SMACKSongs,” said Shane McAnally. “I trust their expertise, appreciate their business model and just love their staff. I’m thrilled to be continuing our working relationship.”

Jesse Willoughby, General Manager of Kobalt, Nashville, said of the deal, “We couldn’t be more excited at Kobalt to continue our relationship with Shane. He’s one of the most influential writers in Nashville and is continually pushing the boundaries, not only as a writer/producer but as a businessman as well. We look forward to his continued success and can’t wait to see what the future holds.”

McAnally is a Nashville-based multi-Platinum songwriter and producer who has worked with Kelsea Ballerini, Kenny Chesney, Brandy Clark, Sam Hunt, Kacey Musgraves, Midland, Old Dominion, Thomas Rhett and many more. He has earned 28 number one hits.

In 2017, McAnally and industry veteran, Jason Owen, re-launched Monument Records with flagship artists Walker Hayes and Caitlyn Smith.

Weekly Chart Report 10/27/17

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