Among all the recording studios in Nashville, probably the most famous has to be RCA Studio B. In many ways, it was where the ‘Nashville Sound’ developed, mainly under the direction of the legendary Chet Atkins. But the microphones have not been mothballed just yet, according to a story broadcast on WPLN.
For 20 years (1957 to 1977), Studio B was the birthplace of hundreds of hit records that impacted both the Country and Pop charts. The list of stars who stepped up to the microphone in that studio includes Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Dolly Parton and so many more. My cousins, the Everly Brothers, were there from the beginning, cutting their first Studio B session in November 1957.
Now, Studio B is a must-see stop for visitors to Nashville and the tour buses pull up every hour across the street from my office on Music Square West. But although Studio B is now a tourist destination, operated and maintained by the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, some musicians still find a way to capture the unique sound that only this studio can create.
WPLN-FM, Nashville’s Public Radio station, recently aired a story about musicians and artists who find a way to record songs today in Studio B, keeping that signature sound alive. As an example, JD McPherson recently topped the Americana charts with ‘Lucky Penny.’ He recorded it at the famed studio 60 years after Don Gibson recorded his version of the song in the same studio.
You can hear the audio of that WPLN story and read the text here.
If you want to know more about the amazing history of RCA Studio B, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum published a book, full of stories and pictures, that’s available in the book shop and online.
Garth Brooks will likely remember Saturday, December 9, 2017 for a number of reasons. When he and wife Trisha Yearwood picked up their mics at the afternoon press conference, he told us it was something of a homecoming for them: the first time they had played Nashville since the fundraiser following the ‘great Nashville flood’ of 2010.
As Trisha said, after three years on the road, it was pleasant to realize they didn’t have to pack a suitcase. After each of their Nashville shows, they could simply drive to their home in Goodlettsville. Garth smiled at said, “Welcome to the end of the journey.”
December 9 also marked the official announcement that Garth’s latest single, ‘Ask Me How I Know,’ reached Number One on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart. It was his first Number One since 2007’s ‘More Than A Memory.’ To add poignancy, December 9, 1989, was the date that Garth reached the Number One spot for the first time with ‘If Tomorrow Never Comes.’
Oh, and Saturday was the eve of Garth and Trisha’s wedding anniversary: they were married December 10, 2005. A memorable weekend in so many ways.
Garth’s pre-show celebration
At a backstage party prior to Saturday’s show at Bridgestone Arena, Garth and Trisha celebrated their return to Nashville following an incredible tour that shattered every record for attendance and ticket revenue. Awards were presented to Garth, one after another, marking so many milestones in a unique career. Among his astonishing achievements: he is the best-selling solo artist in the United States with over 148 million domestic units sold, and over 160 million records sold worldwide.
He is also the only artist to have released seven albums that reached diamond status, according to RIAA. (This is an even greater achievement when you remember that he took a hiatus from recording between 2001 and 2009 to focus more fully on being with his family.)
At the pre-show party, it was also announced that Garth also tops the Nielsen BookScan chart with the Number One non-fiction book, ‘The Anthology, Part One: The First Five Years.’
And then it was showtime. A packed Bridgestone Arena was treated to a superb show that opened with a solo set from singer/songwriter Mitch Rossell who wrote Garth’s current chart-topper, ‘Ask Me How I Know.’ That song is Rossell’s first commercially released cut as a songwriter, making it a memorable night for him, too. Rossell was followed by a set by Karyn Rochelle, a fine songwriter who co-penned ‘Red High Heels’ with Kelly Pickler.
Two+ hours of high energy
When Garth finally hit the stage, the sold-out crowd erupted as he roared into ‘Let’s Lay Down and Dance,’ the beginning of more than two hours of faultless high energy. Garth is a master of handling a crowd. At one point, without saying or singing a word, he virtually ‘conducted’ the audience like a mime. For several minutes, he urged different sections of the crowd to compete in the volume of the noise they could produce, building to a deafening crescendo.
As he had pointed out at the press conference, he understands an audience’s desire to hear the familiar hits and he knows how to finesse the performance of lesser-known or current material into his set. He didn’t disappoint, performing a string of crowd favorites, including ‘The Thunder Roars,’ ‘Rodeo,’ ‘If Tomorrow Never Comes,’ and many more. Trisha joined him onstage with some of her own hits including ‘She’s In Love With the Boy’ and ‘Memphis.’
With all the records that Garth has already broken, he isn’t done yet. Although the current World Tour is finally coming to an end, there’s no end in sight to his unique and remarkable career, as much a tribute to his mastery of marketing as to his amazing musical talent. There’s more to come.
Footnote:Mitch Rossell, who opened for Garth and also wrote the current Number One, may be finding his first taste of chart success as a writer, but he is no newcomer to the music business. As he told the audience during his set, he’d been playing music and writing songs as long as he could remember. He’d been in Nashville for about five years, determined to make music his career. He looked around the packed arena and said that before these tour dates with Garth, “I was playing Tootsie’s bar at the Nashville Airport.” Aspiring artists and songwriters need to remind themselves that ‘Nashville is a five-year town’ – or maybe a ten-year town for some. Patience and perseverance win out in the end.
Garth Brooks is undeniably one of the most enduring artists in Country music with a career that continues to set and break records.
This week, he is once again celebrating a chart-topper as his poignant ballad, “Ask Me How I Know,” hits Number One, landing the top spot on Billboard and Country Aircheck/Mediabase Country Airplay charts. The track is Brooks’ 20th No. One and the first songwriting cut by newcomer Mitch Rossell. The feat also marks a full-circle moment for Brooks, as this week is the 28th anniversary of his first No. One with “If Tomorrow Never Comes,” which summited the charts on Dec. 9, 1989.
First cut for Mitch Rossell
Brooks expressed his congratulations to the team at his record label and to songwriter Rossel. “I’m so proud of the Pearl Records team for working so hard for this No. One,” said Brooks. “Congrats to Mitch Rossell on his first cut…so happy for you, pal! And to country radio…four decades later, thanks for still believing. I’m humbled and very grateful.”
Brooks is on the final run of the Garth Brooks World Tour with Trisha Yearwood this week. He starts a seven-show run at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena on December 9 to mark the end of the tour. (Personal note: I will be in the audience for the Saturday show, December 9th!) In a little over three years, the tour has sold over 6.4 million tickets, making it the biggest North American tour in history and the biggest American tour in the world. For tickets, click here.
Six-time CMA Entertainer of the Year
Garth Brooks just won Entertainer of the Year at the CMA Awards for a sixth time, a first for any artist. He is also the first artist in history to receive 7 Diamond awards for the now seven albums certified by the RIAA at over 10 million album sales each and remains the #1-selling solo artist in U.S. history certified by the RIAA with over 148 million album sales. He has received every accolade the recording industry can bestow on an artist.
The December 2017 version of my monthly column, ‘Inside Track on Music Row,’ should be posted at Nashville Music Guide by the time you read this, and also at my other website IKnowCountry.com.
Here are a few few teasers, but click one of the links above to read the full column of news about songwriters, artists and the country music industry.
Murfreesboro TN’s own Chris Young has extended his headlining ‘Losing Sleep’ World Tour with twelve additional dates added in April and May. Joining him are RCA label mate Kane Brown, Warner Bros./WEA’s Morgan Evans and Dee Jay Silver. Updates are: Arista’s LanCo and Kane Brown will open the dates in January and February. Full lists of dates at www.chrisyoungcountry.com/events
Legendary country music singer, songwriter and animal advocate, David Frizzell, is supporting animal rescue with his new 10-song CD and storybook, Barnyard Christmas. This original project presents the story of the birth of Christ as told by animal characters that were present at the manger. Pre-orders for the CD and storybook are available now. Visit www.davidfrizzell.com for more information. During the month of December, those who adopt an animal through Music City Animal Rescue, or make a minimum donation of $20, will receive an autographed copy of David’s CD/storybook (while supplies last). There are other perks for those purchasing the CD with information available on the organization’s website, musiccityanimalrescue.com. For Nashville area fans, Music City Animal Rescue will join Frizzell for his performance at the Midnight Jamboree on Saturday, December 9th for a special adoption and animal rescue awareness night. The free show begins at 10pm at the Texas Troubadour Theatre, 2416 Music Valley Drive in Nashville.
Some advance notice about a special evening with CMA and Grammy Award-winning country artist, Travis Tritt at the CMA Theater, Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, March 3, 2018. Experience this rare opportunity featuring the multi-platinum artist in an intimate solo-acoustic setting where his powerful voice and his guitar are the subject of the spotlight. An up-close and personal event punctuated by personal stories and anecdotes about his life and musical influences. Performing some of his biggest hits, including “T-R-O-U-B-L-E,” “It’s A Great Day to Be Alive” and “Best of Intentions;” the Grand Ole Opry member will bring his award-winning songs to life and leave the audience with a truly memorable experience. Tickets start at $49.50. Tickets to this and all upcoming on sale now at cmatheater.com
Some last-minute gifts for music lovers! Chase Rice “Lambs & Lions” / Tucker Beathard “Dear Someone”/ John Fogerty “Blue Moon Swamp” [20th anniversary digital/physical release, 180g black vinyl, limited-edition 180g blue vinyl] / Chris Stapleton “From A Room: Volume 2” / Luke Bryan “What Makes You Country” / Cole Swindell “Down Home Sessions IV” / Steve Earle “El Corazón” [Reissue] / Walker Hayes “Boom” / Danielle Bradbery “I Don’t Believe We’ve Met” / Tim McGraw and Faith Hill “The Rest Of Our Life” / Various Artists: ”A Tribute to Dan Fogelberg”
Check out the entire column at one of the links at the top of this post.
As any successful artist or songwriter will tell you, they faced a lot of challenges on the way to the top. They got where they are today because they didn’t give up on their dreams, despite the setbacks.
An emerging artist who has endured more than her share of challenges in her life is Amanda Winter. Born to a drug-addicted mother, Amanda was shuttled between foster homes as a child with only her growing love of music to keep her focused.
She is set to release her first Nashville Christmas EP, “Christmas Before You,” on December 4th. The project showcases a heart tugging tune co-written by Amanda and Mikalene Ipson. The title track depicts the yearnings of a young child and those of a childless couple during the Holidays. The six-song project was produced by Grammy® nominated producer Kent Wells and also features five seasonal Christmas favorites. Proceeds from the sale of the music will be donated to a local foster care organization. The EP is available on all digital platforms.
Release party at The Studio
Amanda will celebrate the release of her new EP with a special concert at 6:00 pm on Monday, December 4 at The Studio, 3315 Charlotte Avenue, Nashville. Doors open at 5:30; free admittance with donation. The release party will also feature special guest Allie Colleen.
Amanda is no stranger to challenges. When she was eighteen-months-old, Amanda, was taken away from her mother by the state. She had eight different foster homes by the time she was five. In fact, Amanda had been born prematurely as a result of her mother’s abuse of drugs and alcohol. As a result, she was born with severely underdeveloped lungs. When you hear her sing now, you wonder what her voice would have sounded like if her lungs had developed normally!
Amanda was one of six siblings, all of whom had different fathers. At the age of twenty, Amanda contacted her biological father for the first time. He was surprised to see her as, he said, he’d given Amanda’s mother money for an abortion. Fortunately for Amanda, her mother had spent the money on something else. Despite her harrowing early life, Amanda found her passion in music, joining the Nebraska Country Music Foundation and winning first place in an amateur vocalist contest at the age of nine, the first of many such awards.
Taking the dream to Music City
When her mother passed away from liver and kidney failure, Amanda packed all her belongings in her car and drove to Nashville in 2013, following her dream of a career in music. She arrived in Music City without knowing anybody and no job prospects – simply a burning desire to achieve her goal.
In May of 2015, Amanda released her very first Nashville EP, consisting of 7 original songs, 2 of which she co-wrote. Her first original song “Little Girl…Big Dream” became an anthem for her life. A song to tell the world that no one can define you; if you really chase after your dreams, anything is possible.
And now comes the new project, her latest music career achievement that she combines with her love for children facing challenges in their lives. She is currently working towards a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and is a supporter of the US Military, Habitat For Humanity, Big Brothers & Big Sisters programs and Nashville’s Foster Care services.
“Work hard and dream big”
Growing up herself as a foster child, she continues to be an activist for children everywhere, and hopes to be living proof that it doesn’t matter where you come from, that you can achieve it all if you work hard and dream big.
“I have been very blessed in my life with a very strong group of friends who have helped me through each stage of my life. I met the people refer to as my ‘adoptive family’ as an adult and they have taught me what being in a family is all about. I have been through hell and back, but it has taught me how short and precious life is, and how important it is to love above everything else.”–Amanda Winter
Mel Tillis, a true country star with one of the longest careers as both a recording artist and a songwriter, passed away on Sunday, November 19. He was 85. Funeral arrangements have now been announced.
Visitation will be held on Monday, November 27 from 11 AM to 2 PM at Sykes Funeral Home (424 Franklin St.) in Clarksville, Tennessee. A public funeral service will begin promptly at 3 PM at Mount Hermon Baptist Church (2204 Jarrell Ridge Rd.) with a private burial to follow.
A preceding service will take place at the Ocklawaha Bridge Baptist Church in Silver Springs, Florida this Saturday, November 25 at 3:00 PM.Out of respect for the family, attendees are asked to refrain from photographing, filming, or live streaming either service.
Public memorial service planned for January
Additionally, the Tillis family is planning a January public memorial service open to fans and the music industry. The event will be held in Nashville with details to be announced in the coming weeks.
Following a lengthy struggle to regain his health, country music legend Mel Tillis passed away at the Munroe Regional Medical Center in Ocala, Florida. Tillis battled intestinal issues since early 2016 and never fully recovered. The suspected cause of death is respiratory failure. Tillis was 85.
When Mel met my dad
I have fond personal memories of Mel, whom I met several times over the years. One day, I took my father backstage at one of Mel’s shows and I told Mel that this was the best dad in the world as he had saved my life by donating a kidney to me. “Well,” said Mel, “I just have to meet the best dad in the world!” He graciously visited with my dad for several minutes and dad has always remembered that meeting.
Born Lonnie Melvin Tillis in Tampa, Florida on August 8, 1932, Mel enjoyed a 60+ year career.
The Grand Ole Opry member recorded more than 60 albums, had 35 Top Ten singles, six #1 hits (“I Ain’t Never,” “Coca-Cola Cowboy,” “Southern Rains,” “Good Woman Blues,” “Heart Healer,” and “I Believe In You”), was named CMA (Country Music Association) Entertainer of the Year in 1976, and was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame the same year.
Mel Tillis wrote 1,000+ songs
Mel was elected a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2007. He wrote over 1,000 songs, 600 of which have been recorded by major artists including Kenny Rogers (“Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town”), George Strait (“Thoughts Of A Fool”), and Ricky Skaggs (“Honey, Open That Door”). Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI) named Tillis Songwriter of the Decade for two decades. In February of 2012 President Obama awarded Tillis the National Medal of Arts. He is survived by his six children, including singer/songwriter Pam Tillis and songwriter Mel ‘Sonny’ Tillis, Jr.
“Mel Tillis was a guy who had it all: He could write, he could sing and he could entertain an audience, there’s a big difference between a concert and a show. Mel Tillis always put on a show….You always felt good about being around him.”
Eddie Stubbs, Grand Ole Opry announcer and WSM DJ
“Mel Tillis spent a lifetime giving us joy and laughter and music, which is why his death brings such sadness.”
Kyle Young, CEO Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
Hall of Famer Gary Burr’s advice to rising songwriters
“You have to go to work every day. You just have to go to work. I went to the office every morning, I went to the office every afternoon. If I had something good, it wasn’t going to be good enough ‘til I went over it with a fine-tooth comb several times. You just work hard. The ones [songwriters] who are making it today are just working really, really hard.”
Those words came from Gary Burr, a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame during an interview on the Public Television show, The Songwriters, produced the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in conjunction with Middle Tennessee State University. MTSU professor Robert Gordon Jr. directs the episodes, which are filmed by students from the school’s College of Media and Entertainment. Ken Paulson, Dean of MTSU’s College of Media and Entertainment, hosts the new show and interviewed Burr during a recently televised episode.
Songs for Garth, Ringo, Skynyrd and more
Burr has been honored with Songwriter of the Year Awards from Billboard Magazine and ASCAP in addition to the Hall of Fame recognition. In a 40+ year career, he has written or co-written literally hundreds of songs that have been cut by major artists including Garth Brooks, Collin Raye, Kenny Rogers, Randy Travis, Tim McGraw, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Ringo Starr and more. Many of those cuts are also Number One hits. Take a look at the Discography at his website.
In his interview with Paulson, he emphasized that there’s no ‘trick’ to songwriting. As with any other creative enterprise, it takes a commitment to working at it every day, just like a ‘regular’ job because it is your job. You can’t wait for inspiration, said Burr. You simply sit down, either alone or with your co-writer and start work. That’s where hits are born.
‘The Songwriters’ currently airs in Nashville on WNPT Channel 8 on Saturday evenings. Check local TV schedules for air dates and times in other areas.
‘Good Ole Days,’ the new album from Tracy Lawrence, dropped on November 10 and features duets with some of Country’s biggest current stars. I had the opportunity to ask Tracy about the new project and what it means to him. (Note: Scroll down for info on Tracy’s Turkey Fry and ‘Mission Possible: Charity Concert’ at the Wildhorse Saloon, November 22.)
Preshias Harris: Your new album is called ‘Good Ole days.’ What makes this record super special for you, besides the all-star appearance of your Country Music Family?
Tracy Lawrence: I think for me it was bringing the classic hits together with a lot of the contemporary artists of modern Country. I think it makes it very special and unique. Nobody has really done a project like this before. I think the collaborations are amazing. Everybody did a wonderful job. Most of the people showed up and didn’t even need a lyric sheet when they came in to sing these songs. A lot of them – Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean, Justin Moore, Chris Young and all the guys – had played these things over and over again so they had their own little nuances to their phrasing that made it really special.
PH: It’s been a little over 5 years since ‘Headlights Taillights and Radios’ were released in August 2013. Do you think your music style has change over the course of five years?
TL: I think it’s gone back more traditional. I really tried to push the envelope with that record and I think I find myself going back to a little bit more of a comfort zone. I think the next album is going to reflect that.
PH: If you could go back in time and change one decision in your career, what would that be?
TL: Marriage Number Two!
PH: You have one of the most successful careers in Country Music; to what do you attribute that?
TL: Pure passion. I believe my passion for my craft allows me to continue and to be relevant to a changing market. I truly love what I do.
PH: What is one of your most favorites things about making this new album?
TL: Being able to hear the stories of the influence [I’ve had on] a lot of the younger singers; learning the impact that I had on their careers. I didn’t realize how much influence I had on this generation of stars that’s out there right now. It’s pretty overwhelming for me.
PH: Is there one song on there that has a special meaning behind it?
TL: “Paint Me A Birmingham.” It was my comeback. It was a big record. I think Easton Corbin did a phenomenal job. He sang it like he meant it. He made it his own. It was very special.
‘Good Ole Days’ is available via iTunes, Amazon and wherever music is sold. My review of ‘the album was posted earlier here on my blog.
Tracy’s Turkey Fry and concert set for Nov 22
Tracy is keeping busy – and for a good cause. His second annual Tracy Lawrence Mission: Possible Charity Concert will take place Tuesday, November 22 at Nashville’s Wildhorse Saloon, benefitting Nashville Rescue Mission. It will feature performances from Lawrence and his country-star pals Big & Rich, Jerrod Niemann, Ben Rue and returning guests Halfway to Hazard, all donating their time and talent to the cause. Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased at www.wildhorsesaloon.com. Doors open at 6:00 p.m. Last year’s sold-out concert raised $63,000 for Nashville Rescue Mission.
Earlier this year the Middle Tennessee Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals honored Lawrence as its Philanthropist of the Year specifically for his work on behalf of Nashville Rescue Mission, recognizing him for making a large and positive contribution to the community. Funds raised by the singer at his annual event have helped provide more than 75,000 meals to those in need, and more than 5,000 turkeys have been fried and donated to the Mission. In the last three years alone, Tracy Lawrence has raised $120,000 for Nashville Rescue Mission with his annual Mission: Possible Turkey Fry. Full details here.
Tracy Lawrence is a one-man hit record machine with a bunch of Number One songs, twenty-two songs on the Billboard Top Ten charts. A Grammy nomination and enough CMA and ACM Awards to make his mantle sag under the weight.
But he’s not resting on those laurels. With his new album, GOOD OLE DAYS, produced by Julian King, Tracy is joined by some of the biggest names in contemporary Country, lending their voices to duet with him and bring a fresh take on familiar songs.
Tracy and I arrived in Nashville round about the same time, Tracy coming from Foreman, Arkansas while I hailed from Brownsville, Kentucky. Our paths crossed while we both setting out on our careers in Music City. I was interning at Atlantic Records and even then, I could see ‘star quality’ in Tracy and a determination to succeed. We have remained friends ever since.
Luke Bryan joins Tracy for ‘Sticks and Stones,’ his first Number One, back in 1991, shortly after he signed that first record deal with Atlantic. (On a side note, Tracy almost didn’t live to see his first chart topper. Shortly before the song’s release, he and a friend were attacked by three armed robbers. While protecting his friend, Tracy was shot four times, necessitating emergency surgery. One missing his artery by a HAIR and one bullet remains lodged in his hip.) Continue reading “Tracy Lawrence makes ‘Good Ole Days’ new again”
‘Downtown Jam’ added to Nov 12 Bridgestone Arena show
Although the original Bridgestone Arena show sold out fast, a SECOND show has been added. Country Rising: Downtown Jam will take place at Nashville’s Ascend Amphitheater, Nov 12. Tickets are on sale now but going fast at ticketnaster.com.
The Downtown Jam will be hosted by Storme Warren, with performances by Bobby Bones & The Raging Idiots, Bailey Bryan, Lindsay Ell, Chris Janson, Jon Pardi, Eric Paslay, Carly Pearce and Drake White, with more artists to be announced.
Aldean, Dierks, Garth, Lady A and more
As for the ‘sold out’ event at Bridgestone Arena, country music’s biggest stars have rallied for COUNTRY RISING, a benefit concert to support those in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and additional Caribbean islands who have been impacted by the recent hurricanes. The star-studded lineup at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena on Nov. 12 will include performances by Jason Aldean, Dierks Bentley, Garth Brooks, Sam Hunt, Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town, Martina McBride, Reba McEntire, Chris Stapleton, George Strait and Carrie Underwood. Updates at CountryRising.org.
The Nashville music community has also stepped on board, with AEG and Live Nation teaming up as the official show promoters working alongside organizer Red Light Management, Bridgestone Arena and the Nashville Predators. COUNTRY RISING will benefit The Country Rising Fund of The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, which was established to support charitable initiatives to help victims of the September 2017 hurricanes — Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria. In the course of rebuilding lives disrupted by these devastating storms, there are immediate needs and there also will be long-term needs. This fund will strategically support both as they emerge.
About The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee
The Community Foundation exists to promote and facilitate giving in the 40 counties of Middle Tennessee and beyond. It does this by accepting gifts of any size from anyone at any time and by empowering individuals, families, companies, nonprofits, and communities to respond to needs and opportunities that matter. The Community Foundation works with people who have great hearts, whether or not they have great wealth, to craft solutions that reflect their intentions and goals. For more information, call 615-321-4939 or visit www.cfmt.org.
Note: Proceeds from the show will go to support victims of the Las Vegas shooting in addition to those in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and additional Caribbean islands who have been impacted by the recent hurricanes.