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Bobby Karl Works CMA Music Fest (6/14)

Chapter 312-C

SUNDAY, JUNE 14

Jack Ingram performs at the VAULT Concert Stage at LP Field in Downtown Nashville June 14. Photo: John Russell

Jack Ingram performs at the VAULT Concert Stage at LP Field in Downtown Nashville June 14. Photo: John Russell

Sunday Fan club activities began in the morning for Jo Dee Messina at The Belcourt Theater and concluded with Pam Tillis at The Wildhorse Saloon that evening.

In the Sports Zone downtown, we had the fourth annual Michael Peterson Celebrity Tractor Race, sponsored by New Holland. The man to beat was last year’s champ, Darby Ledbetter, a country record maker who is also a three-tour veteran of the Middle East. Mark Collie, Megan Munroe, Richie Fields, Chuck Leavell, lead singer Adam Craig of TelluRide and dozens of other contestants tried to unseat him. But Darby prevailed for the second year in a row. Joey & Rory competed. Rory Feek can wear all the overalls he wants, but his wife Joey Martin’s tractor-race time was better. By the way, the tractors ran on Biodiesel fuel.

It was so humid on Sunday that even a short walk would leave your clothes soaked. Nevertheless, the outdoor attractions at Riverfront included Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers, fast-rising Gloriana, the Eli Young Band and Darryl Worley. Booked at the Hard Rock were Matt Stillwell and The Block Family Band, among others. At the Sommet stage, your choices included The Grascals, Bomshel and T. Graham Brown. Inside the Sommet Center, rehearsals were underway for Tuesday’s CMT Awards. There’s no rest for the weary.

Sage Keffer was slated to open and Miko Marks to close at the final day in the popular, air-conditioned Acoustic Corner. I always feel a twinge of sadness on Sunday afternoon when the booth dismantling begins in the Convention Center. It’s like the circus is folding up its tents.

But there was still one more evening of music and memory making to go at LP field. Soaking up the final concert in the hospitality suite were Dale Bobo, Bill Bennett, the Chamber’s Butch Spyridon, Steve Moore, former vice mayor Howard Gentry, Ben Farrell and Charlie Monk. Bobby Cudd brought his teen daughter to see Taylor Swift on the big stage. Dan Ekback reported that he has a new publishing gig, with Platinum Pen.

Miranda Lambert performs at the VAULT Concert Stage at LP Field June 14. Photo: John Russell

Miranda Lambert performs at the VAULT Concert Stage at LP Field June 14. Photo: John Russell

Now it can be told: the suite’s annual bartender turns out to be “Rockit” Roger Richardson. His single “The First Cowboy in Space” was reviewed in last Friday’s “DisClaimer” column and is available on the current CDX.

The jets roared overhead one last time. Jack Ingram kicked off the show. On “Barbie Doll,” everyone sang along. For “Barefoot and Crazy,” they were on their feet. During “Love You” Jack waded into the crowd, singing and high-fiving fans. Co-host Melissa Peterman observed, “I’ll be his Barbie Doll any day.” Heidi Newfield did an acoustic set. She committed the perennial error of wearing black on the black CMA Fest stage, rendering her nearly invisible. Impending Opry cast inductees Montgomery Gentry were up next.

Co-host Lance Smith brought on Miranda Lambert. The fiery Miranda informed the stadium that she’d come all the way from the Lone Star State to show them how it’s done, “Texas style.” Taylor Swift was next, followed by a surprise appearance by Sugarland. Then came Kenny Chesney, a bunch of beach balls and the end of another fabulous Fest.

Bobby Karl Works CMA Music Fest (6/13)

Chapter 312-B

SATURDAY, JUNE 13

The Judds perform at the VAULT Concert Stage at LP Field in Downtown Nashville June 13. Photo: John Russell

The Judds perform at the VAULT Concert Stage at LP Field in Downtown Nashville June 13. Photo: John Russell

This was our first really hot day of the fest. Boaters were out in force on the Cumberland behind the Riverfront Stage, and kids were frolicking in the Metro Courthouse fountains.

I took Miss Mary with me downtown. “Don’t walk too fast,” she implored. I laughed: “Don’t worry: There are so many people on the streets that you CAN’T walk fast.” And so there were.

In the Sports Zone, we shared the love with the Frisbee dogs. Tracy Byrd was autographing in the Opry Originals gift shop on Broadway that afternoon. Rock performer/producer Roger Nichols was tooling around on his golf cart on 1st Avenue South as the self-proclaimed “Parking Nazi.” He doesn’t mind telling even the biggest country stars where they can and cannot stow their vehicles.

This year, the opening acts each day at Riverfront got 45-minute sets. The rest of the day’s artists did 30 minutes, which is also an increase over previous years. The result was fewer artists clustered in that area of the festival with more to spread around to the Sommet stage, the Hard Rock stage, the Metro Courthouse stage and the Acoustic Corner in the Convention Center. Anyhow, when I was down there boat spotting, Emerson Drive was pleasing everyone with “Moments.” Lorrie Morgan followed. Excellent popster Jeremy Lister was booked for a late-afternoon Courthouse appearance.

Up in the Acoustic Corner, Billy Gilman had to cancel his performance because his grandmother died. As a result, John Arthur Martinez was given a double-long set, so that the rest of the schedule wouldn’t be disrupted.

Chris Young, Doug Stone, Jimmy Kish “The Flying Cowboy,” Ty Herndon, Billy Dean, Rachel Williams, TelluRide, Steve Azar, Mustang Creek, Jeff Allen and Joe Nichols were autographing downstairs in the Convention Center. This portion of the festival is still called Fan Fair.

Sommet stage afternoon highlights included Holly Williams, Cowboy Crush and Jonathan Singleton & The Grove. The Family Zone hosted Martina’s annual YWCA Celebrity Auction. Sara Evans was the Q&A attraction in the smaller tent. Sarah Johns, Julia Barton, Deborah Allen and the Pistol trio kept the Hard Rock testosterone free for the first part of the afternoon. Up at Buddy Killen Circle, the Dan McGuiness Irish Pub was rocking to the sounds of the Collin Raye fan club party late in the day.

That evening at LP Field, Josh Turner turned in a terrific, hit-packed set that concluded with “Long Black Train” and “Would You Go with Me.” Leave it to gifted Jamey Johnson’s chutzpah to kick off his show with a lyric that mentions “cocaine and a whore.” His superb, three-song segment had “In Color” as its finale. Jason Michael Carroll did an acoustic set, followed by the luminous Lee Ann Womack, who left us with a swinging “San Antonio Rose.”

Josh Turner performs at the VAULT Concert Stage at LP Field in Downtown Nashville June 13. Photo: John Russell

Josh Turner performs at the VAULT Concert Stage at LP Field in Downtown Nashville June 13. Photo: John Russell

Wynonna’s powerful voice tackled everything from Merle Haggard’s “Are the Good Times Really Over” to Foreigner’s “I Want to Know What Love Is.” The audience came apart when mama Naomi Judd pranced out for a medley of hits made famous by The Judds. The duo was celebrating its 25th anniversary at the fest. Naomi wiped away tears. They hugged and kissed. Everyone cheered wildly.

For his finale, Trace Adkins took off his cowboy hat, let his long locks fly and brought out a gospel choir to accompany him on “Muddy Water.” He stayed in that righteous mode with the choir on a surprisingly countrified version of Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground.” Angelic voiced Martina McBride closed out the evening.

Working the hospitality suite were Tim Wipperman, Schatzi Hageman, Jim Rink, Will Rambeaux, Vernell Hackett, Peter Cooper, Allen Brown, Police Chief Ronald Serpas, Lori Badgett, Jason Morris, Michelle Honick, John Styll, Liz Cavanaugh, Ed Salamon, Ed Benson, Brandi Simms, Aaron Hartley and J. Horton Frank.

Bobby Karl Works CMA Music Fest (6/12)

Chapter 312-A

FRIDAY, JUNE 12

Martina McBride and Kid Rock perform at the VAULT Concert Stage at LP Field in Downtown Nashville June 12. Photo: John Russell

Martina McBride and Kid Rock perform at the VAULT Concert Stage at LP Field in Downtown Nashville June 12. Photo: John Russell

Friday always seems, to me, to be the busiest day of the CMA Music Festival. On Wednesday and Thursday, the faithful gather. On Saturday and Sunday, they disperse to various Fan Club parties or find other ways to amuse themselves in Nashville “off campus.” But on Friday, they’re still fresh, ready to party and clustered together downtown.

The day was bright and sunny as I hit Lower Broadway. At the Hard Rock stage, brawny Stephen Dale had one couple dancing merrily in front of his stage. Riders in the Sky, who followed, kept the mood upbeat. Back for another year, The Naked Cowboy was entertaining fans in front of Cadillac Ranch, wearing only his boots, hat, guitar and underpants.

The Riverfront stage had the afternoon one-two-three punch of Eric Church, Craig Morgan and Randy Houser, stand-up singers one and all. Eric’s fans screamed wildly and sang along to every song. “Need God? Go to Church,” read one fan’s sign. “Church Revival” read another. With five separate shows, Eric was the most performing artist of the festival.

Taking it all in backstage were Steve Buchanan, John Peets, Judy McDonough and Jeff Walker. Steve had to leave early because Pam Tillis was autographing in Gaylord’s Opry Originals gift shop.

Meanwhile, up in the Convention Center booths, things were hopping. Even as late in the day as 4:00 p.m., Keith Anderson, Joe Nichols, Billy Yates, Donna Fargo, Moore & Moore, Wynonna Judd, Joey & Rory, Ashton Shepherd, Razzy Bailey, Trailer Choir and The Carter Twins were still signing away.

Here’s a sign of the times. Remember that huge book and record shop that took up half of the far wall in the hall? Gone. Instead, there was a postage-stamp sized Barnes & Noble booth with a few dozen selections.

Outside the Hall on 5th Avenue North, the members of Rio Grand were posing for snaps in front of their brightly painted tour bus.

Kate & Kacey were harmonizing on the Sommet Stage. Cherryholmes later ended the day there. The family bluegrass band is that rare act who played both the CMA Music Festival and Bonnaroo last weekend. Inside the Sommet Center’s “needle,” an acoustic stage was set up for the “Second Friday Songbirds” songwriters.

In the smaller Family Zone tent, ABC soap stars were autographing and Chuck Wicks was in the midst of a fan Q&A session. He deftly dodged a query about when he and Julianne Hough will marry. “We’re happy with our relationship the way it is,” he said. He also suggested that the thing to do might be to wed during next year’s event. “Wouldn’t that be a festival?” he asked the fans. Behind him, in the big Family Zone tent, yodeling Taylor Ware and others were making “country music for kids.”

Lady Antebellum performs at the VAULT Concert Stage at LP Field in Downtown Nashville June 12. Photo: John Russell

Lady Antebellum performs at the VAULT Concert Stage at LP Field in Downtown Nashville June 12. Photo: John Russell

Big-head Cabbage Patch Kids characters were posing for photos. One Family Zone tent was for gathering citizens’ used musical instruments for use in Metro schools. Over at the nearby Rutledge on 4th Avenue South, former American Idol rocker Bo Bice hosted his first fan club party as a country performer.

That night at LP Field, Mayor Karl Dean & Ann Davis, Gary Burr, Victoria Shaw, Tim Nichols, Stuart Dill, Mike Sistad, Lynn Aurelius, Drew Alexander, Anthony Smith and more worked the hospitality suite. Hank Adam Locklin helped Jo Walker Meador to a prime seat and served her beverages. Linda Davis & Lang Scott were there to watch daughter Hillary Scott do her thing in Lady Antebellum. Lang had his business cards for Musiccitynetworks.com, a company “by artists, for artists” that handles websites, brand management and merchandise.

Lady A performed splendidly, as did Luke Bryan, Little Big Town, Jake Owen, Jason Aldean and The Zac Brown Band. Rodney Atkins sang a snippet of “I Can See Clearly Now” as an intro to “If You’re Going Through Hell.” Martina McBride turned up to sing “Picture” with concert closer Kid Rock.

More From CMA Fest

Gretchen Wilson kicked-off CMA Music Festival 2009 Thursday at the Riverfront Park Daytime Stage. The show was delayed an hour due to weather but the sun was out by the end of the concert.

Pictured backstage (L-R): Tony Conway, Executive Producer, CMA Music Festival; Wilson; Sony Nashville Chairman, Joe Galante; CMA's CEO, Tammy Genovese and Sony Nashville Executive Vice President, Butch Waugh.

Pictured backstage (L-R): Tony Conway, Executive Producer, CMA Music Festival; Wilson; Sony Nashville Chairman, Joe Galante; CMA CEO, Tammy Genovese and Sony Nashville Executive Vice President, Butch Waugh.

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Gary Allan performed to a sold out crowd of over 800 fans at his Fan Club Party, held Tuesday (6/9) at Rocketown. He walked out onto the stage with his left hand in a splint, following a trip that morning to the hospital for an MRI which confirmed torn ligaments in his hand. The injury did not stop him from delivering his signature brand of hard-hitting country music for his fans. Allan blazed through an hour and a half set including his new single “Today.”

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On Wednesday (6/12) emerging songstress Shawn Mayer and Mark O’Shea (half of the up-and-coming country duo O’Shea) teamed up to fire off CMA Music Festival week with a bang by participating in the NRA Sports Sporting Clays Showcase at the Tennessee Clay Target Complex. After a safety demonstration and gearing up with eye and ear protective gear, they played the 12-round course.

(L-R): Mayer and O'Shea

(L-R): Mayer and O'Shea

Bobby Karl Works Music Fest (6/11)

Gretchen Wilson. Photo: Theresa Montgomery

Gretchen Wilson. Photo: Theresa Montgomery

Chapter 311

Both the start and the finish of Thursday’s CMA Music Festival concerts were marred by weather, but in between it was a blast.

Thunder rumbled, and an ominous black cloud descended on Music City as things were about to get underway at Riverfront Park. About 10 minutes before the 10:00 AM show time, the crowd was instructed to disperse, and everybody scattered to places unknown. Sure enough, lightning flashed, and a scary downpour ensued. But 10 minutes later, the fans were back and ready to rock to Gretchen Wilson.

As a result, that stage ran approximately 30 minutes behind schedule for the rest of the day. The Hard Rock, Sommet Center, Metro Courthouse, Acoustic Corner and Family Zone stages were all unaffected because they cranked up at 11:00 AM or later.

By the time I arrived downtown a little after noon, kids in the Family Zone were making a racket in the Musical Petting Zoo, Ronald McDonald was doing magic tricks in the tent, the balloon maker was hard at work and toddlers were bouncing on the inflatables.

Carrie Underwood with Haley Steele from Ga. Photo: Jim Hagans

Carrie Underwood with Haley Steele from Ga. Photo: Jim Hagans

At the Sommet Center, Steve Holy was rocking on “I’ve Got a Brand New Girlfriend,” and the Chevrolet folks were handing out blue t-shirts. Up the hill on the steps of the Ryman Auditorium, Cindy Moore was greeting fans in her Minnie Pearl outfit. This is her 30th anniversary portraying the late Opry legend. She began playing Minnie at Opryland in 1979 and was tutored in her role by Minnie, herself. Cindy joined Dave & Sugar and toured as a pop/rock vocalist before returning to Opryland and her Minnie role in the mid-1980s.

Inside the Convention Center, TelluRide was singing “Pencil Marks” to a packed audience at the Acoustic Corner, sponsored by Durango Boots. The band has just returned from shooting its video in L.A. with director Rick Schroeder, whose last country effort was the acclaimed “Whiskey Lullaby.” Bluesy Razzy Bailey was next up on that stage, shepherded by the CMA’s Brandi Simms and Aaron Hartley.

Downstairs in the Fan Fair hall, the autographing was well underway in the booths. Tanya Tucker, The Bellamy Brothers, Michael Peterson, Aaron Tippin, Chris Young, Doug Stone, Bucky Covington, Jimmy Wayne, The Whites, Craig Morgan, Jason Aldean and Trent Tomlinson were doing their duty. The new Native American band Brule was in the RFD-TV booth, since it has a program on that network. Another unusual autographing participant was the CCM group Point of Grace. Petite Carrie Underwood was being mobbed, needless to say. Preshus Tomes introduced me to former Music Row DisCovery Award winner Matt Gary. So that was fun. Reba McEntire arrived at 3:00 in the afternoon, which resulted in much hoopla.

Ashton Shepherd. Photo: Theresa Montgomery

Ashton Shepherd. Photo: Theresa Montgomery

Back down the hill at the Sommet Center stage, Caitlin & Will were powerfully singing their darkly atmospheric anti-alcohol song “I Am Not Your Friend.” In the Fun Zone on Lower Broadway, there was an Interactive Archery Experience, karaoke contests and a real Army tank to climb on and take snapshots with. Sean Patrick McGraw was rocking splendidly on the Hard Rock stage, although the vocal mix wasn’t the greatest.

The Randy Rogers Band was wowing the folks at Riverfront. Backstage schmoozing and/or working were Bruce Shindler, Regina Stuve, Clarence Spalding, Shelby Kennedy, Tony Conway, Bobette Dudley, Heather Bohn and Paul Barnabee.

While she was waiting to go on, I asked Ashton Shepherd how her autographing had gone that morning. She replied that she signed 200 in an hour. “They like me because they think I’m Real, I think,” she said. “And they come in all shapes and sizes.” She is, indeed, Real, plus delightfully country and a living doll. I am happy to report that her Riverfront performance was brilliant and received with enormous enthusiasm.

At Fort Nashboro, there is a Field & Stream Celebrity Outdoorsmen Challenge, which you can watch on bleachers under a cool, shady tent. When I was there, Julie Ingram was gamely shooting arrows at deer, boar and bear shaped targets.

Darius Rucker. Photo: John Russell

Darius Rucker. Photo: John Russell

Alas, the new stage at the Metro Courthouse seemed kinda sad when I arrived there around 2:30 PM. There were fewer than 50 people in that entire park to watch Lucas Hoge and his band, who sounded great nonetheless. This is a shame, because up there on the hill you get the best breezes. The flawless lawn is perfect for sun bathing, and if you get too hot all you have to do is take a few steps into the nearby splashing fountains, which several kiddies were doing.

Meanwhile, up on Music Row, folks parked blocks away and hiked to the ever-popular SunTrust Hot Dog Day. That evening at The Tin Roof, The Parks showcased for Carrolwood Records. The act is country music’s only father-son duo. When the music was supposed to start, they were still doing soundcheck. When it finally did, poor sound stopped the show anyway. Tom Roland, John Dorris, Rob Simbeck, the group Love & Theft, Diane Richey, Vanessa Parker and Shelia Shipley-Biddy were in the house.

That night at LP Field, fireworks exploded and jets flew over to christen the nightly CMA Fest concerts. Brooks & Dunn kicked things off. Reba appeared when they sang “Cowgirls Don’t Cry.” The crowd roared when her image appeared on the jumbo video screens and cheered again every time she sang a line.

Working the room in the hospitality suite were Steve Moore, Lisa Harless, Dale Bobo, Dann Huff, the Chamber’s Butch Spyridon, Ree Guyer Buchanan, Evelyn Shriver, Hershel Walker from the Mayor’s office, Joel Katz, Ed Salamon, Ed Benson, Kira Florita, the new Universal act Fast Ryde, Herkie Williams, Susan Nadler, Jimmy Harnen and Tinti Moffatt.

Reba took the stage next, and this is where the wheels came off. After two songs by her, host Stormie Warren told the stadium crowd they’d have to leave because a storm was approaching. The exodus of thousands of people and vehicles was amazingly orderly. As we approached our car, lightning was dancing across the sky. The storm blew in less than an hour later.

The few who remained were instructed to fill the front rows at 12:30 AM. We do, after all, have a TV special to film. I am told that Darius Rucker, Rascal Flatts and others performed until after 2:30 AM. I hit the hay.

Bobby Karl Works Music Fest (6/10)

Chapter 310

The CMA Music Festival always starts before it’s supposed to. There has already been plenty of activity, including a superstar sighting.

Alan Jackson isn’t “officially” playing the fest this year, but Wednesday night (6/10) he took over Cadillac Ranch on Lower Broadway to celebrate his 20th anniversary. It was this month in 1989 that he signed his recording contract with Arista Records.

“This is a great way to start the CMA Music Festival,” said Nashville Mayor Karl Dean. “He’s a great artist with a great career.” Dean brought on the CMA’s Tammy Genovese, who in turn introduced the crowd to Kix Brooks.

“We’re on the same record label,” said Kix. He recalled that Alan was already at Arista when he arrived. The company didn’t want two more male solo acts, so Kix and Ronnie were combined to create Brooks & Dunn. “I’m proud to call him my labelmate.”

Kix introduced a CMA video tribute and presented the superstar with a framed photo collage of great Alan Jackson CMA awards show moments.

“We’ve been down a lot of roads together at Arista Records,” responded Alan. “This is too much attention for an ol’ country boy – 20 years at Arista, it’s hard to believe. We’re gonna play you some music, keep it laid back and see what happens.”

While cell phones and cameras flashed, he kicked things off with “Here in the Real World,” “Gone Country,” “I Don’t Even Know Your Name,” “Living on Love,” “Tall Tall Trees” and “Like Red on a Rose.” By the way, Alan’s current “Sissy’s Song” is his 50th top-10 hit.

V.I.P. attendees included Peter Cooper, Diane Pearson, Diana Baron, Hank Adam Locklin, Chuck Ainlay, Allen Brown, Deborah Evans Price, John Huie, Lon Helton, Tom Baldrica, Karen Clark and Rod Essig.

Fans got in on a first-come, first-serve basis. Dozens who didn’t make the cut, stood outside on the sidewalk listening and hoping for a glimpse of the towering Alan.

Every honky tonk on Lower Broad was blasting music out the doors into the breezy evening air. In addition to Cadillac Ranch, the one to be inside was Robert’s Western World. That’s where former BR5-49 frontman Chuck Mead was celebrating his solo CD.

Ah, the humanity. From toddlers in strollers to grannies in wheelchairs, the CMA Music Festival attracts ‘em all. In the downtown crowd for the festival’s kick-off parade (6/10) were hot young chicks in short-shorts, tattooed bikers, fat mall people, shirtless body builders, giddy teens, senior citizens, Latinos, blacks and LOTS of whites.

(L-R): Lonestar's Cody Collins and Michael Britt, Diamond Music Group's Megan Munroe, and Lonestar's Keech Rainwater and Dean Sams. Photo: Martha Moore

(L-R): Lonestar's Cody Collins and Michael Britt, Diamond Music Group's Megan Munroe, and Lonestar's Keech Rainwater and Dean Sams. Photo: Martha Moore

The throng stretched along both sides of Broadway from 8th to 3rd Avenues. After rounding the corner of 3rd and Demonbreun, the paraders were greeted by another large crowd at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Hall of Fame park. This event drew far more fans than ever before.

Storme Warren and Jon Anthony co-hosted for a national broadcast on Sirius XM radio. “Make some noise!” yelled Jon. The crowd hollered back loudly.

Nashville motorcycle cops came down Broadway in formation, with blue lights flashing. Mounted patrolmen followed. The Music City Drum & Bugle Corps marched in crisp red and white uniforms, playing, appropriately, “Strike Up the Band.” Parade grand marshal Rodney Atkins waved from the bed of a red Chevy Silverado pickup truck. Nearly all the stars in the parade rode either in the beds of Silverados or in convertible Corvettes, since Chevy is the sponsor.

Gliding by were LoCash Cowboys (tossing spongy softballs to the fans), Trent Tomlinson, Due West (at their first CMA Fest), NASCAR star Jeff Burton and Shawn Patrick McGraw (who’s landed a spot on the Toby Keith tour). The Girl Scouts of Middle Tennessee walked and waved.

Storme introduced Deborah Allen as “the country-music Charro,” adding that, “she’s a one-woman party machine.” “You’re ageless,” he exclaimed to The Oak Ridge Boys. Oak Joe Bonsall was taking cell-phone movies of the crowd from their perch on the pickup. The Lost Trailers tossed chap sticks into the sea of waving hands. Ricochet, Lonestar, Mandy Barnett, Megan Munroe (who is writing a novel) and a t-shirt tossing Chris Young delighted the crowd.

Michael Peterson rode the FFA float being pulled by a New Holland tractor, one of the few non-Chevy vehicles. A banner-waving crew, blow-up streamers and giant red balloons led the way for racer Robert Richardson, Lynn Anderson (singing “Rose Garden” for Storme’s mic), Steve Holy, Bo Bice (he’s gone country) and The Carter Twins.

Predators mascot Gnash and Titans mascot T-Rac hammed it up for onlookers. When clown Ronald McDonald appeared, Storme hilariously and unintentionally introduced him as “Richie McDonald.” The motorcycle-roaring Operation Troop Aid rolled by, trailed by an army Humvee, another non-Chevy entrant.

Jypsi, Bomshel, Sunny Sweeney, Caitlin & Will, The Roys, Brady Seals, Dan Evans (of TV’s The Biggest Loser), Rio Grand, Colt Ford and Heartland were next. Louisiana native Sammy Kershaw tossed Mardi Gras beads. One Flew South were trio harmonizing as they breezed by. The Championship Bull Riders shared a truck with Trent Willmon. The next vehicles held Brad Cotter, Katie Armiger, Sarah Darling, Ty Herndon, somebody in a giraffe costume, Kate & Kacey and “Minnie Pearl.” Mounted patrolmen brought up the rear.

Meanwhile, in the Ernest Tubb Record Shop on Broadway, Stan Hitchcock was autographing copies of his new book, At the Corner of Music Row and Memory Lane. The longtime TV personality and former country record maker drew a nice crowd of snapshot takers and autograph seekers. The new Opry Originals gift shop was also packed.

After the parade came the kick-off concert at the Sommet Center stage. This, too, was carried by Sirius XM. Booked to star were Jason Michael Carroll, James Otto, Emerson Drive, LoCash Cowboys, The Lost Trailers, Rodney Atkins, Trent Tomlinson and Eric Church.

This was not the first Festival noise made by either Trent or Eric. During Lonestar’s fifth annual bowling tournament on Monday (6/8), Trent Tomlinson bowled a stunning 215. The event, which raises funds for St. Jude’s, also featured Buddy Jewell, Meagan Mullins, Bo Bice, Chris Young and more. Meanwhile, at the second annual Porter Wagoner fishing tournament held Tuesday (6/9), the Eric Church team came in first, landing a whopping 18.43 pounds of bass.

Eric’s current “Love Your Love the Most” single contains the line, “smallmouth bass have got me hooked.” “In just this one instance, I’ll allow for a lyric change, to ‘largemouth bass have got me hooked,’” says Eric. “Or maybe we could just say that, right now, I love the whole species.” Jeff Cook’s team came in second. Dean Brody’s team placed third. Veteran anglers Mel Tillis and Bobby Bare also competed. The event grew this year from 27 to 37 boats. The fish, by the way, are returned to Percy Priest Lake to swim away.

Winning fisherman Eric might set the CMA Music Festival performance record this year. In addition to the Sommet Center show on Wednesday, he’s playing at Riverfront on Friday afternoon and three late-night, sold-out shows at The Rutledge on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

Also on Tuesday (6/9), a capacity crowd filled The Nashville Palace for the Loretta Johnson Memorial Concert. Dubbed “For the Love of IFCO,” the gig replaced the annual IFCO Fan Fair show to honor the late Loretta, who co-founded IFCO and died of bone marrow cancer on April 13. More than 20 acts were booked, and every single one of them and more showed up, on time, to perform. Bryan White, Linda Davis, Jimmie Van Zant, Steve Hall & Shotgun Red, Moore & Moore, new Hall of Famer Charlie McCoy, Billy Yates, Jack Greene and David Ball signed on, as did host Keith Bilbrey.