Tag Archive for: radio

MusicRowLife: WTHO Georgia Radio Personality Steve Ferguson Passes

Pictured (L-R): Steve Ferguson and Garth Brooks

Steve Ferguson lost his battle with cancer last night (Feb. 18); he was diagnosed with terminal bile cancer earlier this year. He served on the MusicRow reporting panel for 12 years with WTHO.

Ferguson began his radio career in 1985 with WMTZ in Martinez, Georgia, as a part-time Sunday afternoon host. In five years, he had been promoted to program director and morning drive host. In 1990 when WMTZ’s format changed to oldies, Ferguson left the station to work for WTHO in Thompson, Georgia. He served as the program director for 29 years as well as morning drive host for 18 years.

In 2010, Ferguson was awarded MusicRow‘s CountryBreakout Reporter of the Year for his love and dedication to his profession. Last week (Feb. 13), he was awarded the Randy Jones Award for the same devotion to his community and career. Ferguson was also an avid musician having played bass guitar, drums and vocals.

Visitation was held Thursday (Feb. 21) at Beggs Funeral Home in Thomson, Georgia. Funeral Services were held Friday (Feb. 22).

Bobby Karl Works The Room: BMLG Doubles Down On Artist Development

Pictured (Back Row, L-R): Riley Green, Rascal Flatts’ Jay DeMarcus, Noah Schnacky. (Front Row, L-R): Rascal Flatts’ Joe Don Rooney and Gary LeVox, BMLG President/CEO Scott Borchetta, Brantley Gilbert, Lauren Jenkins


Chapter 615

At the BMLG label luncheon at CRS, the emphasis was on artist development.

On Friday afternoon (Feb. 15) at the Omni Hotel, the company used its moment in the spotlight to introduce new artists and new sounds. The showcase luncheon’s star attraction and closing act was Rascal Flatts. But on the way to the band’s hit-packed presentation, BMLG’s Scott Borchetta had other fish to fry.

After greeting the radio conventioneers, Borchetta brought out newcomer Riley Green. The delightfully countrified Riley kicked off his set with “In Love By Now,” a penetrating rocker featuring his hot band. Both “Georgia Time” and “Bettin’ Man” were songs he wrote about loves gone wrong.

“About a year ago I was an unsigned artist framing houses in Jackson, Alabama,” he told the crowd. “Now I have a single that’s No. 8 in the country. So thank you very much.”

That introduced a romping treatment of “There Was This Girl.” We loved it.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time,” said Scott. “And you really feel that when your friends start getting inducted into the [Country Radio] Hall of Fame.”

He offered a shout-out to this year’s inductees, Mac Daniels, Jeff Garrison, Kyle Cantrell, Gregg Lindahl, Charlie Monk and the late Bobby Denton.

Back to the newcomer business at hand, fresh company signee Lauren Jenkins was up next. She already makes videos and short films of her songs, so that part of her talent was screened.

Then the CRS first-timer sang her artful, introspective “Makers Mark and You” and “Running Out of Road” in her smoky, languid voice.

I have long thought that Brantley Gilbert has one of the coolest voices in modern country music. Not that you could hear it much over his loud, country-meets-Megadeth band. On a brighter note, he and the group were a stylebook of facial-hair grooming modes.

Brantley favored us with hits such as “Country Must Be Country Wide” and “Bottoms Up.” But his set was truly uplifted by the appearance of Lindsay Ell. She and Brantley demonstrated dynamic interplay while introducing their new duet “What Happens in a Small Town.”

“That’s the first time they have performed that together,” said Scott. He predicted “a big future” for his next act, newcomer Noah Schnacky. “Noah already has 50 million streams on his songs. He’s really the whole package.”

Sitting alone on a stool in the spotlight, Noah proved to be a deft acoustic guitarist as well as an able vocalist. The youngster was also teen-heartthrob handsome as he performed his romantic tunes “Hello Beautiful” and “Maybe He Will.”

“I grew up on country radio,” said Noah to the country radio crowd. “You all showed me what I liked. You made me the artist that I am today. So if you don’t like me, it’s your fault.”

Pictured (Back Row, L-R): Big Machine Records GM Jim Weatherson, Riley Green, CRB Board President Kurt Johnson, Rascal Flatts’ Jay DeMarcus, CRB Executive Director RJ Curtis, The Valory Music Co. GM George Briner. (Front Row, L-R): BMLG EVP & BMLG Records President Jimmy Harnen, Rascal Flatts’ Joe Don Rooney and Gary LeVox, BMLG President/CEO Scott Borchetta, Lauren Jenkins, Brantley Gilbert, Stoney Creek’s Lindsay Ell, Noah Schnacky

Rascal Flatts came out with a driving, blood-stirring treatment of “Yours If You Want It” that was so much better than its recording of the song. They not only sing like champs, their band cooks with gas.

“Thank you for being our voices to the world,” said member Jay DeMarcus. “Without you, we wouldn’t have had 19 years in this wonderful business.”

True to the spirit of the showcase, the group introduced new music. Its just-released single, “Back To Life,” was performed as a super power-waltz.

The melodic pile-driver “I Like the Sound of That” was embellished by a soaring Joe Don Rooney guitar solo. “What Hurts the Most” was a vocal showcase, wherein lead singer Gary LeVox went from wispy, atmospheric phrasing to full-throated emotional blasts. The audience was on its feet throughout the rocking, pulse-quickening finale, “Life Is a Highway.”

Sharing the sounds and the fried-chicken lunch were Jeremy Westby, Leslie Fram, Becky Harris, Jim Varnell, Sarah Skates, Billy Dukes, Tom Baldrica, Don Cusic, Ron Allen, Sherod Robertson, Tracy Berry and visiting Ottawa academic Jada Watson.

Bobby Karl Works The Room: CRS’ New Faces Show Was A Star-Making Moment For Jimmie Allen

Jimmie Allen. Photo: CRS


Chapter 616

Nice guys finish first.

Personable Jimmie Allen walked off with this year’s New Faces Show at Country Radio Seminar. He was far and away the evening’s finest singer. Not only that, his songs had the most substance, and his performance demonstrated scene-stealing showmanship.

Jimmie was not without competition. Lindsay Ell had the guitar chops and the beauty. Russell Dickerson had stage presence and dance moves. LANCO had hits and charm. Dylan Scott had the physique and the warmth.

Another highlight of the event was the surprise appearance by superstar Tim McGraw. Following a video where he reminisced about his New Faces Show appearance 25 years ago, the curtain parted to reveal him in the flesh, singing his first hit, “Don’t Take the Girl.” He then waded into the crowd to pose for selfies.

We all went nuts. What a moment.

Bill Mayne and Keith Urban. Photo: CRS

The evening’s other headliner was another nice guy, retiring Country Radio Broadcasters exec Bill Mayne. He was saluted with a career-spanning video overview, a presentation by Keith Urban and a standing ovation.

“I thank you very much for letting me have the best job in the world for the past 10 years,” said Bill. “I love you all. You will be in my heart forever.”

The four-hour marathon show and three-course banquet took place on Friday night (Feb. 15) at the Omni Hotel downtown. More than 1,000 attended.

Russell Dickerson. Photo: CRS

Official show-opening act Russell Dickerson took charge from the moment he stepped on stage. He came out bobbing and dancing to his peppy current single “Every Little Thing,” then launched into his chart-topping “Blue Tacoma.”

“I’ve been dreaming of this day since the first time I came here in 2010,” said the Nashville native of CRS. “You guys had no reason to believe in us, but you did,” he added.

That led naturally into his Platinum breakthrough No. 1 hit, “Yours.”

He didn’t let up. Russell rocked out on the frothing “MGNO (My Girl’s Night Out).” Bounding down into the crowd, he segued into Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” pulling women from their seats to shake their booties with his and sing along.

Lindsay Ell. Photo: CRS

Speaking of exercise, Lindsay Ell was introduced via a humorous video where she took her radio promotion team to a 4 a.m. fitness boot camp. She began her set with her debut hit, “Criminal.”

Her guitar prowess was never better showcased than on the new song she introduced, “Go To.” It was intercut with U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name.” Lindsay finished her set with the rousing lament “Space.”

“Thank you to everyone in this room for putting me on this stage,” she said with sincerity.

Then it was Jimmie Allen’s turn. He was preceded by a long, deep, echoing, electronic noise and then burst into the spotlight with the upbeat “County Lines.” He displayed admirable aplomb and confidence as he delivered his current single, “Make Me Want To” in a strong, clear voice.

Jimmie is country’s first African-American artist in history to top the charts with his debut single. He gave that song, “Best Shot,” an impressively full-throated vocal.

He cranked the energy up even higher on “Underdogs,” an uplifting ode to strivers and dreamers. As he sang it, he walked all the way through the ballroom, high-fiving people at every table he passed and wailing the high notes with chesty ease. The crowd went wild.

His finale was the power-ballad message song “All Tractors Ain’t Green.” Its stirring melody was augmented by a lineup of soulful female vocalists behind him.

He received a well-deserved standing ovation.


LANCO had an introductory video that told of the band’s graduation from a camper to a tour bus, concluding with the former’s being blown up in farewell. The group then took the stage, opening with its chiming, bright and driving “Born to Love You.”

Lead singer and principal songwriter Brandon Lancaster (the band’s name is shorthand for “Lancaster and Company”) introduced the radio tastemakers to his new song, “Save Me.”

Then came the five-man group’s breakthrough No. 1 hit, the highly tuneful “Greatest Love Story.” The finale was the exciting, anthemic sing-along “Rival.”

Am I wrong, or was this Arista Records act Sony Music Nashville’s only major presence during CRS?

Dylan Scott. Photo: CRS

Curb Records up-and-comer Dylan Scott closed the show. He was introduced via a clever video that toyed with his impressive, gym-toned, buff bod by suggesting he had a magic, hit-enhancing supplement.

He took no prisoners with a rocking, pounding performance of his Gold-selling top-10 hit, “Hooked.” The fastest-rising single of his career came next, “Nothing to Do Town.”

Dylan sat at the piano to introduce “Nobody,” which he said he wished could be his next single. It built impressively to a rousing crescendo.

The Louisiana-bred singer’s father is Scotty Robinson, who played guitar for Freddy Fender, Freddie Hart and other classic country stylists. “I’m an old-school country music fan,” said Dylan. “My hero was a guy named Keith Whitley.”

He sang Whitley’s ballad “Don’t Close Your Eyes.” On the one hand, it was an admirable tribute. On the other hand, he’s not near his late idol, vocally (but then again, who is?). The performance did elicit a big cheer.

“I’ve been here 10 years, and it’s been a long 10 years,” added the budding star. “But I am so happy and so blessed.”

A thudding, intense rendition of his chart-topping Platinum smash “My Girl” concluded his set and the show.

Tim McGraw. Photo: CRS

The event was punctuated by videos of various artists reminiscing with Gator Harrison about their New Faces Show experiences. In addition to McGraw, they included Luke Bryan, Jake Owen and Lee Brice.

The 2019 CRS New Faces Show was sponsored by the Academy of Country Music. The organization’s Pete Fisher saluted this year’s ACM radio nominees, teased its April 7 awards show, talked about its Lifting Lives charity and introduced a video and stage segment about St. Jude’s Hospital.

During the pre-show cocktail hour, Dillon Carmichael offered a spirited set. Bopping along throughout the night were Rob Simbeck, Nancy Kruh, Ash Bowers, Mike Dungan, Jim Ed Norman, incoming CRB exec RJ Curtis, LB Rogers, Tom Roland, George Briner, Jack Purcell, Brandi Simms, the omnipresent Charlie Cook, Preshias Harris, Jimmy Harnen, Jon Loba, Christy Walker-Watkins, CRB board prez Kurt Johnson, Gayle Thompson, Lon Helton, Brenden Oliver and Lauren Patterson.