Rascal Flatts w/Bobby Osborne and the Rocky Top X- Press, Bill Anderson, Craig Morgan, Jim Ed Brown, Kacey Musgraves, Ricky Skaggs, The Whites, Wil Hodge, Jeannie Seely, The Henningsens & Mike SniderCountry
In just ten years, Rascal Flatts has become one of the most honored acts in country music history, reaching heights and achieving milestones reserved for the genre's elite. They have set more venue attendance records than any country act en route to ticket sales of six million and counting. They have sold 20 million albums and earned 11 #1 singles. All six of their albums are platinum or multi-platinum and every one is among Billboard's Top 100 Albums of the Decade. They have won more than three dozen awards from the ACM, CMA, AMA and People's Choice, among others, and they have received that ultimate honor for those who have impacted the culture--a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
"We have had an unreal ten years," says lead singer Gary Levox with an appreciative smile. "We've done things we couldn't have been able to dream."
Behind those statistics is an accomplishment more basic than numbers, more important than any trophy--for the past decade, the music of Rascal Flatts has been the soundtrack to countless lives. Songs like "These Days," "Mayberry," "What Hurts The Most," "My Wish," "Stand," "Here," "Here Comes Goodbye" and "Summer Nights" have soothed and uplifted, fired up, mellowed out and otherwise impacted millions.
"I'm humbled to think that the music we've been able to make has touched so many lives and moved so many people," says bass player/harmony vocalist Jay Demarcus. "The stories are just incredible and I think I'm most grateful for that."
"To this day," adds guitarist/harmony vocalist Joe Don Rooney, "we receive letters and e-mails about how a song like 'I'm Moving On' has impacted someone's life in some way or how 'Bless The Broken Road' was played at their wedding or how 'Stand' gave them the courage to stand up and fight the cancer out of their body and mind! That's powerful stuff, and that's the reason we're in the business, without question."
Their place in country music history may be assured, but Gary, Jay and Joe Don retain a newcomer's passion about capturing magic with each new project. Now, with the release of their latest, Nothing LIke This, they have done it once again, taking their career and their legacy another long step forward.
"We've reached back a little to what brought us here while moving forward at the same time," says Jay. "We concentrated more on our vocals and chemistry again and not so much on big production."
The album is a microcosm of all the things the band does well--Jay calls it "Rascal Flatts in a nutshell"--which is to say it touches on many of the best aspects of 21st-century country music. It is first and foremost uplifting, with songs like "Why Wait" and "Play" kicking off the proceedings with the call to enjoy life no matter what our circumstances. It features both the throwback groove of "They Try" and the fresh sparkle of "All Night To Get There." "Summer Young" is an uptempo celebration of the season of warmth and romance and "I Won't Let Go" is "You've Got A Friend" for the new millennium, a song steeped in the strength of love and friendship in times of trouble. The title cut finds a way to bring freshness to the subject of love and sees Gary bringing a disarming desperation to his vocal.
"One of the more special songs on this album for me is 'I Won't Let Go,'" says Joe Don. "Being a parent now and listening to that song really hits home and truly hits me in the heart."
Evident throughout is the group's ability to recognize the best in Nashville songwriting. "It's always been about the songs first," says Jay, "and boy did we get our hands on some gems!!
"We think we've got a good balance," says Joe Don, "between the really deep, sweet, meaningful ballads and the 'right at ya' uptempos that keep the party going." "I think there's something for everybody on this project," adds Gary, "and it's a full-length example of what makes us who we are."
Guesting on the project is Natasha Beddingfield, who joins the trio on "Easy." "We had a blast recording with Natasha," says Gary. "I've always been addicted to great singers and she is certainly one of the best. It was an honor to sing with her." Fans got their initial listen to the project with the debut single, the group's first release on Big Machine Records, their new label home.
"'Why Wait' is one of the coolest tunes I've heard in a long while," says Joe Don. "I'll never forget sitting in that little studio in Santa Barbara and hearing it for the first time. Instantly we new it was a Rascal Flatts song and by the day's end we had ourselves an extremely magical track going. I love it!"
The laid-back California outpost was chosen as a creative counterpoint to Music City. "We cut half the album in Nashville and half in Santa Barbara," says Gary. "We just wanted to change it up some and enjoy the beautiful weather in California. It gave us a new spark for sure."
"It as a nice departure from the norm for us," adds Joe Don. "We recorded in a funky little studio with some amazing L.A. musicians and created some great magic together. I really think you can feel some of the energy on a lot of these tracks."
"Overall," says Jay, "this is an album about fun, growth and change. We have been at a very important crossroads this year with our ten-year mark, so I think we wanted to prove to ourselves that we could still grow and surprise ourselves and stretch."
The fact that they were able to do so reflects the magic they have always found in their approach to music and the respect with which they view their mission and each other. Their sound took root in the late 1990s, when Jay and Joe Don were band mates working with Chely Wright and Jay and Gary were playing a separate gig in downtown Nashville. When their guitar player was unable to make it one night, Jay asked Joe Don to sit in.
"We knew right away we had something special," says Jay, "even if we were the only ones who ever got to hear it!"
"I truly feel like every time the three of us lock into a chorus," adds Gary, "God's hand is in it. I feel blessed to share the stage with Jay and Joe Don and their crazy talent. They both inspire me."
"Gary is one of the greatest and most unique singers of our time," says Joe Don, returning the compliment. "I've always felt blessed that we have a lead singer who, like a quarterback, takes charge of the stage and leads us into victory night after night!" The three honed their sound with club work, cut some demos and by year's end had been signed to Lyric Street Records, where they flourished and took off on that magical decade of hits and sold-out shows. Along the way, their "Bless The Broken Road" was Grammy nominated for Country Song of the Year and Vocal Performance, they became 2006's top-selling physical and digital artist in all genres, scored four #1 country albums and three #1's overall, and hit the Top 10 Billboard pop singles chart twice, among many other milestones.
"There's never been a method to our madness," says Joe Don. "We just cut the best songs we can, and through the years we get better at what we do." When Lyric Street closed its doors, they chose Big Machine as their new label home. "We have found an amazing business partner with [label head] Scott Borchetta and the entire Big Machine family," says Gary. "They get us and we get them on every level. It feels like the right place at the right time."
Committed to giving back, they are known for their charitable work, which includes raising three million dollars for the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt in Nashville.
"That," says Jay, "is definitely the thing I'm most proud of."
This year sees them back on the road with their "Nothing Like This Tour," which Jay says, "is sort of a Rascal Flatts history lesson."
"As a kid," says Gary, "you stand in front of your mirror and only dream about being able to sell out arenas and stadiums. And to be able to play a place like Wrigley Field and sell it out, you can't even dream that big. The feeling is awesome."
"Without a doubt we've been blessed to have received our fair share of awards and recognitions in this business," adds Joe Don. "But above all, getting to make music that matters, that affects people emotionally and spiritually, is the greatest thing we could ever accomplish."
Never content to rest on their laurels, they are eagerly looking forward. "The goal," adds Gary," is to continue to make amazing music together for at least the next ten years, because we honestly feel like we're just getting started." "And as long as we stay true to the music and each other," adds Jay, "everything else will fall into place."
Bobby Osborne and the Rocky Top X- Press
Bobby Osborne is a bluegrass musician known for his mandolin playing and high lead vocals. Born December 7, 1931 in Leslie County, Kentucky, Bobby Osborne is known primarily for his collaborations with his brother Sonny Osborne in their band, the Osborne Brothers. He was a pioneer in conceiving the now-popular "high lead" vocal trio concept. He has released numerous recordings since the 1950s. Most notably, the Osborne Brothers recordings of "Rocky Top", and "Kentucky" inpired their being named official state songs of Tennessee and Kentucky, respectively.
Bill Anderson has been using that philosophy for almost fifty years to capture the attention of millions of country music fans around the world, en route to becoming a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and one of the most popular, most enduring entertainers of our time.
He’s known, in fact as “Whispering Bill,” a nickname hung on him years ago as a result of his breathy voice and his warm, soft approach to singing a country song. His credentials, however, shout his prominence: One of the most awarded songwriters in the history of country music, a million-selling recording artist many times over, television game show host, network soap opera star, spokesman for a nationwide restaurant chain, and a consummate onstage performer. His back-up group, The Po’ Folks Band, has long been considered one of the finest instrumental and vocal groups in the business.
When Craig Morgan was ten years old and on a school field trip to Nashville, he sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" well enough to catch the ear of a distinctive older lady in the crowd. "She walked up to me and said, 'Son, someday you're gonna be a famous singer,'" Morgan remembers. Two-plus decades later, he'd be looking at a picture of the woman-Minnie Pearl-in the Ryman Auditorium dressing room that bears her name, getting ready for his first performance on the Grand Ole Opry. What Minnie didn't know was that before his moment in the spotlight finally came, Morgan would be an EMT, a contractor, a sheriff's deputy and a Wal-Mart assistant dairy manager. He'd also spend ten years serving his country in the U.S. Army.
But That's Why Morgan is one of country music's most beloved performers. It doesn't matter if he's jumping out of airplanes, putting gallon jugs on a refrigerated shelf or singing hits like "Redneck Yacht Club," "Almost Home" and "Tough"-his honesty, humility and work ethic stand out as strongly as his talent. That's Why, the long-awaited follow-up to 2006's Little Bit of Life, is Morgan's fifth album and BNA Records debut. From the evocative and instantly familiar single "Love Remembers" to the rural rally cry of "Sticks" to the church-choir epic "Ordinary Angels," it's the sound of an artist soaring to new heights as both a vocalist and songwriter, but with his steel-toed boots still firmly on the ground (the same cannot be said, however, for the tires of his Kawasaki motorbike). As Music Row's Bob Oermann wrote, "Craig Morgan is country music's champion of the Everyman-a loyal husband and father, unblushingly sentimental, tough enough to kick your butt if you cross him, and the kind of friend everyone would like to have."
That's why I keep swinging this hammer...break my back for a slice of that American pie, Morgan sings on That's Why's stirring title track, his stout voice ringing out with such authority and passion that you know the sentiment is no less true now that the hammer's been replaced with a guitar. Morgan's father played in country bands (and his grandfather was a farmer), but "I didn't think music was something that I'd ever do for a living," he says. As it turns out, selling records, being on the radio and playing some 200 shows a year has only made him embrace fatherhood and family more firmly. Morgan has four children with his wife, Karen, as well as a daughter from a previous marriage; they live just a few miles from the farmland in Dickson, Tennessee, where his mother and father went on their first date. "Family truly is the thing that's most important," Morgan says. "I love the music; I love singing and writing songs and producing records. But ultimately, I do what I have to do to take care of my family. Even someone who has the greatest job in the world would rather spend more time at home. I know I would, and I have the best job in the world."
He's certainly become quite good at it. "That's What I Love About Sunday," from Morgan's 2005 album My Kind of Livin', was the most played country song that year. Three songs off of Little Bit of Life (the title track, "Tough" and "International Harvester"), enjoyed stays in the Top 10, and he was nominated for Top New Male Vocalist by the Academy of Country Music in both 2006 and 2007. Truth is, you can't tune in to a country station anywhere in the United States without hearing a Craig Morgan song within the hour. But he's also just a bit like that great actor everybody knows and recognizes from a big successful movie, yet can't quite place on sight. Oh, that guy! "People know the music," Morgan says. "When they come to my shows, they might know the latest single, or they may know a previous single. But sometimes I can read their lips: they're going, 'oh, I didn't know he sang that one!' Or, 'I forgot about that song!'"
The move to BNA from indie Broken Bow (after a heated bidding war) is bound to change that quickly. It's a full-circle move for Morgan, who released his self-titled first record for Atlantic Nashville in 2000, but declined to stay with Warners when the imprint folded. Instead, he went on a five-year run as country's most successful independent mainstream artist. Even in this troubled time for the recording industry, Morgan welcomes the additional support and distribution oomph of a more established label. "I went to an independent when everybody thought it was crazy, and now I'm going to a major when everybody thinks that's crazy," Morgan says. "I'm hoping this one works out as well as the first decision did."
Morgan and his longtime friend and partner Phil "Philbilly" O'Donnell have always been actively involved in choosing the songs they didn't write themselves, and always co-produced the records. "Producing is an aspect of the business that I love, because there's a creative process that takes place in the studio, outside and away from the writing and the singing," he says. Nothing's changed this time around. "We did all the same stuff we've done on the past three records. The only difference is, we get pitched better material. Both the writers I already know and people that I haven't written with, because of the success we've had, have started pitching me great songs."
Morgan's gift is for, as he puts it, "real-life stuff." His eye for the everyday, whether he's trying to make sense of a world where kids want iPods for Christmas instead of BB guns, or describing girls with ponytails tucked in their baseball caps, is so unerring that it's easy to overlook just how much goes into the songwriting. On the aching, piano-and-steel tinged ballad "Lookin' Back with You," Morgan spins today's most precious moments into tomorrow's cherished memories-nearly every line is ripped right from his life, but every line is also the work of an exquisite craftsman, whether he's going for humor, pathos or a mundane detail. When my new truck is my old truck/and I take off these big old tires/and it's our turn to slow down traffic everywhere, he sings. Elsewhere, "Sticks," with its bluegrass bar band vibe, seems destined to supplant John Mellencamp's "Small Town" as an American classic of both rock'n'roll and country. I was raised in the sticks/that's where I get my kicks ... tailgatin' with my buddies/boots and dog and tires all muddy. And if Morgan keeps writing songs like "Planet Her" for Karen, he may not ever need to get her birthday presents. "Ah, she's not much for the music," he jokes. "She'd still rather have a Corvette."
On "Lookin' Back with You," Morgan envisions the two of them in "Cracker Barrel rockers" but it's probably safe to say he isn't ready to trade in his KX-450 yet. Before most concerts Morgan jumps his bike across the stage; he attended the 2006 ACM Awards on crutches after crashing in a race. At the same time, he's also famously at home going 5 mph on a combine (International Harvester is now one of Morgan's sponsors). "I find great comfort and ease of mind at both," he says. "The great thing about being on a tractor is it slows your world down a little bit. Your thought process changes. It gives you a chance to reflect. On the motorcycle, I'm not thinking about anything but riding. For me, relaxing is getting on my motorcycle and going as fast as I can and as long as I can through the woods."
Needless to say, Morgan's full-on personality made him well-suited for the military. He spent 10 years on active duty in the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions, and goes overseas to perform USO shows every chance he gets. "Sometimes you walk away feeling regret: that I should be there with them still," he says. "But I'm starting to appreciate what I can do now for those men and women outside of being a soldier. Doing stuff for the USO will always be a priority for me." Morgan received the 2006 USO Merit Award for his involvement, joining the likes of Steven Spielberg, Elizabeth Taylor, and Bob Hope as a recipient.
As with the touring, being in the military made him value home and family as much as ever. And he still runs his country music operation like an Army unit. "My dad and mom raised me to be grateful and thankful and appreciative," he says. "They always told me, if somebody loans you something, give it back in better shape than what you get it in." Thus, Morgan and the band and road crew sweep the stage before and after shows, and are not likely to ever get an angry phone call from a motel clerk. After most gigs Morgan's right there with them loading up the truck. "Something in my genes and my blood requires that I work-right or wrong, it makes me feel like a man," Morgan says with a laugh. "People ask me how I stay grounded ... man, I go home and I still mow my own grass. I clean my own pool. I have kids that I get onto and play with and love the same as everybody else. I will always be that same guy. Just like the people who buy our records and listen to our music."
Jim Ed Brown
If there is one word best suited to describe Jim Ed Brown, it is veratile. As a dynamic component in duets and a trio, as a solo recording artist, and as a popular television host, in the course of his professional lifetime, he has filled role after role with shining success. The last career of this balladeer from Arkansas can easily be likened to a well-cut gem, with its facets reflecting light on many different planes, yet collectively achieving the warm, enduring brilliance of an unforgettable star, a TRUE LEGEND...
Golden TX | Country
After listening to Same Trailer Different Park, the Nashville-based singer-songwriter’s first album for Mercury Records, it’s clear that this is a girl who has something to say. A true language artist, Kacey nimbly spins webs of words to create the quirky puns, shrewd metaphors, and steely ironies that fill the record.
The fact that she executes these lingual exercises in a clear, unaffected voice makes the ride all the more fun.
“I love words,” Kacey says. “I love how intricate they can get. Even in simple conversation, I like it when language is colorful.” This appreciation for wordplay shines in songs like “Silver Lining,” a sunnyside-up ode to positive thinking packed full of commonplace idioms that she’s given clever tweaks . Take the bridge, for example: If you wanna find the honey/You can’t be scared of the bees/If you want to see the forest/You’re gonna have to look past the trees. “When I was in school, one of my favorite subjects was always creative writing,” she admits. Of course it was.
It’s worth noting that at age 24, school isn’t that distant of a memory for Kacey. You’d never know that from her lyrics, though, which are wise beyond her years and read as if they were written by someone who has seen dozens more birthdays – and nursed at least that many broken hearts. Take the opening lines of “Stupid,” in which she personifies love as an exhausting masochist: Plays you like a fiddle/Shakes you like a rattle/Takes away your gun/And sends you into battle.
Love isn’t the only subject matter in Kacey’s songwriting repertoire: she’s a whiz at working pop culture references into her lyrics. On the album, recollections of kitchsy conversations between smack-talking Waffle House third-shifters (“Blowin’ Smoke”) bump up against campy communiqués from cross-country road trips in the family trailer (“My House”). It’s a testament to Kacey’s natural songwriting ability that these songs sound clever instead of cutesy. In fact, she can get downright bawdy when the situation calls for it.
On “Follow Your Arrow,” she points out the hypocrisies that society imposes on even the most conservative among us (If you save yourself for marriage you’re a bore/If you don’t save yourself for marriage you’re a horr...ible person) which she balances with a chorus that preaches throwing caution and propriety to the wind: (Make lots of noise/Kiss lots of boys/Or kiss lots of girls if that’s something your into/When the straight and narrow gets a little too straight/Roll up a joint/Or don’t/Follow your arrow wherever it points.) Her message is clear: Be yourself and be happy. Kacey grew up in Golden, Texas, a town of 600 about 80 miles east of Dallas that Kacey admits is “kind of out in the middle of nowhere.” She grew up in a household that was creative, though not necessarily musical. Kacey’s mother is a visual artist; together, her parents run a print shop in nearby Mineola – “a little mom-and-pop Kinko’s kind of thing.”
Music came naturally to Kacey, a precocious kid who wrote her first song well before her elementary school graduation. (“It was called ’Notice Me,’” she remembers. “I can’t help but wonder now what the hell a nine-year-old would’ve had to write about!”) Kacey made her public singing debut at church when she was around eight years old. From there, she hit the regional opry circuit. “In Texas, every few towns have an opry house,” she explains. “Performers come up on stage and sing old country songs with a live band. I did that every weekend. It got me familiar with being in front of people and working with musicians.”
She learned to play music first on the mandolin, and at age 12 started taking guitar lessons from a local musician named John DeFoore. It was an experience that Kacey describes as “one of the most important things that ever happened to me. He could tell early on that I wasn't the kind of student who was going to go home and shred scales, so he taught me chords and encouraged me to write. My homework every week would be to write a song. I'd bring it back to him the next week and he would critique it.”
“When I first started writing my own songs, they were pretty bad,” she admits. “I hadn’t found my own voice yet. But it made me appreciate the creative process, and it made me better. I learned not to be scared to just throw an idea out there. I had no clue how useful this would be to me when I moved to Nashville and signed a publishing deal. My ’homework’ was essentially the same: write songs, bring them in, put them on tape and then have them critiqued. It’s the exact same thing John had me do.”
She played out through high school; when she graduated, her parents and grandparents helped fund her first record. Then at 18, with a self-released album under her belt, she moved to Austin. Not long after that, Kacey was chosen to compete on Nashville Star. The show was a bust (she finished seventh), but it introduced her to Nashville. The atmosphere and creative community grew on her. A couple of years later in 2008, Kacey left Austin for Music City, to fully pursue songwriting.
To make money, she sang on other artists’ demos. The work allowed her to pay the bills and introduced the industry to her voice and songs. “I went around to all the publishing companies with little EP type things,” she says. “I was, like, ’Hey, you might need a new voice for demos…and also, these happen to be my songs.’” Kacey soon had a publishing deal with Warner/Chappell. “I developed a real passion for the construction of songs and probably wrote a couple hundred during that time, putting aside the ones that felt the most like me.”
There was some early label interest, and Kacey was booked on a few sessions with some well-known producers but it wasn’t really her thing. “What we did sounded like them, not me,” she explains. “It just wasn’t the right time yet. If you only get one shot to say something, it better be exactly what you want to say from the beginning, you know?” She stepped back. “I spent time developing my own mindset, writing more songs and honing in on how I wanted to sound. As that became more apparent, I ran with it.”
During this formidable time, Kacey met Luke Laird and Shane McAnally, two like-minded writers who quickly became her good friends and later co-producers on Same Trailer Different Park. By 2011, the three had laid the foundation for what would become Kacey’s debut. With McAnally and Laird as her co-pilots, Kacey cut four tracks and shopped them around. Several labels were interested; she chose Lost Highway, which is now defunct. “I'm sad it’s not around anymore,” she says. “When I met (founder) Luke Lewis, he told me, ’I dig what you do. I'll never try to get you to change what you're doing. Even if it fails, you’ll know that at least you got to do what you wanted.’ That spoke volumes to me.”
That winter, Kacey and some of her favorite co-writers, a group that includes Josh Osborne and Brandy Clark, went on a writing retreat in desolate Strawn, Texas. There, reminders of recent wildfires set the scene and somber mood for the record’s first single, “Merry Go ’Round.” “It was really creepy looking out there,” Kacey remembers. “All the trees were charred for miles and out in the middle was this huge house that barely escaped the fires. That was where a lot of the songs on this record were born.”
Kacey, who co-wrote every song on the album, enjoys a collaborative songwriting process. “When a co-write is going well, and all brains are working in the right way, it's like a good volley in a volleyball game - boom, boom, boom, boom,” she says. “’Merry Go Round’ was written in a few hours. It went really fast.” The lyrics to the song, which boasts a chorus that goes Mama’s hooked on Mary Kay/ Brother’s hooked on Mary Jane/ And Daddy’s hooked on Mary two doors down, came from a conversation the writers had about the uneasy complacency and day-in deceptions that take place in even the most placid-seeming communities. “We started talking about how towns have secrets and how people everywhere are guilty of filling their parent’s expectations, settling, and never leaving their comfort zones,” Kacey says.
The retreat over, back in Nashville, Kacey had the job of culling through the new songs, which she added to the stash she’d been compiling during her time at Warner. “I had a ton of songs to choose from,” she admits. “I narrowed them down to about 30, and those down to 15, which we cut.” Tracking for the album began in December of 2011 at the historic RCA Studio A and by spring, the album was nearly complete.
Kacey spent the summer of 2012 touring. “I opened some shows for Willie Nelson in Texas,” she says. “Down there, that’s like Jesus coming back, you know? It was amazing.” In the fall, she did a stint in the U.S. with Alison Krauss before heading to Europe with Lady Antebellum. She returned in time for the September 10th release of “Merry Go ’Round.” It was a hit – and a big one at that.
“Merry Go ’Round” garnered quick airplay and critical acclaim from the likes of Rolling Stone (the magazine later placed the song in its vaunted list of the top 50 singles of the year); NPR, which named her their 2012 Best New Artist (all genre); and Slate, where the headline above a rave review of Kacey’s work read “Is This the Future of Country Music?” Billboard took a different track, looking to the past to qualify its praise: “Had Loretta Lynn or Dolly Parton arrived on the scene in 2012 instead of the 1960s, some of their compositions could very well have ended up sounding like this.”
Kacey is, of course, honored by the comparison. “I’m really inspired by both of them,” she says, adding that other favorites include Patti Griffin and John Prine. “I like anyone with something to say. Loretta was writing stuff that was pretty ahead of its time, like with ’The Pill’ and ’Rated ’X.’ She pushed a lot of buttons and I love that.”
In 2013, Kacey will hit the road to promote Same Trailer Different Park, first as a special guest on Little Big Town’s “The Tornado Tour,” and then as an opener on Kenny Chesney’s “No Shoes Nation” tour this spring and summer.
“I’m just stoked that I get to wake up every day and do what I really love,” she says. “As long as it lasts, I'm grateful.”
Cordell KY | Country
A life full of music is the story of Ricky Skaggs. By age twenty-one, he was already considered a “recognized master” of one of America’s most demanding art forms, but his career took him in other directions, catapulting him to popularity and success in the mainstream of country music. His life’s path has taken him to various musical genres, from where it all began in bluegrass music, to striking out on new musical journeys, while still leaving his musical roots intact.
The year 2012 marks the 53rd year since Ricky struck his first chords on a mandolin, and this 14-time Grammy Award winner continues to do his part to lead the recent roots revival in music. With 12 consecutive Grammy-nominated classics behind him, all from his own Skaggs Family Records label (Bluegrass Rules! in 1998, Ancient Tones in 1999, History of the Future in 2001, Soldier of the Cross, Live at the Charleston Music Hall, and Big Mon: The Songs of Bill Monroe in 2003, Brand New Strings in 2005, Instrumentals in 2007, Salt of the Earth with The Whites in 2008, Honoring the Fathers of Bluegrass: Tribute to 1946 and 1947 in 2009 and Ricky Skaggs Solo: Songs My Dad Loved along with Mosaic in 2010), the diverse and masterful tones made by the gifted Skaggs come from a life dedicated to playing music that is both fed by the soul and felt by the heart.
Ricky was born on July 18, 1954 in Cordell, Kentucky, and received his first mandolin at the age of five after his father, Hobert, heard him harmonizing with his mother from across the house as he played with his toys. Two weeks after teaching him the G, C and D chords, Hobert returned from working out of town shocked to see his young son making chord changes and singing along. He soon earned a reputation among the locals in his community. When the legendary Bill Monroe came to Martha, Kentucky for a performance, the crowd wouldn’t let up until “Little Ricky Skaggs” got up to play. The father of bluegrass called six-year-old Skaggs up and placed his own mandolin around his neck, adjusting the strap to fit his small frame. No one could have imagined what a defining moment that would be in the life of the young prodigy. By age seven, Skaggs had made his Grand Ole Opry debut and performed with bluegrass legends Flatt & Scruggs on their popular syndicated television show, for which he earned his first paycheck for a musical performance.
In 1971, he entered the world of professional music full-time with his friend, the late country singer, Keith Whitley, when the two young musicians were invited to join the band of bluegrass patriarch Ralph Stanley. Ricky soon began to build a reputation for creativity and excitement through live appearances and recordings with acts such as J.D. Crowe & the New South. He performed on the band’s 1975 debut album for Rounder Records, which is widely regarded as one of the most influential bluegrass albums ever made. A stint as a bandleader with Boone Creek followed, bringing the challenges of leadership while giving him further recording and performing experience.
In the late 1970’s, Ricky turned his attention to country music. Though still in his 20’s, the wealth of experience and talent he possessed served him well, first as a member of Emmylou Harris’ Hot Band and later as an individual recording artist on his own. With the release of Waitin’ for the Sun to Shine in 1981, Skaggs reached the top of the country charts and remained there throughout most of the 1980’s, resulting in a total of 12 #1 hits. In 1982, he became a member of the Grand Ole Opry, the youngest to ever be inducted at that time. As his popularity soared, he garnered eight awards from the Country Music Association (CMA), including “Entertainer of the Year” in 1985, four Grammy Awards and dozens of other honors. These achievements also placed him front and center in the neo-traditionalist movement, bringing renewed vitality and prominence to a sound that had been somewhat subdued by the commercialization of the ’Urban Cowboy’ fad. Renowned guitarist and producer, Chet Atkins, even credited Skaggs with “single-handedly” saving country music.
In 1997, after Ricky’s then-current recording contract was coming to an end, he made the decision to establish his own record label – Skaggs Family Records. Since then, Skaggs and his band Kentucky Thunder have released an amazing 12 consecutive Grammy-nominated classics (8 of which went on to earn the revered award) while also opening the label to a variety of other musical artists, all the time keeping emphasis on bluegrass and other forms of roots music. Since then, Ricky and Skaggs Family Records have had the privilege of working with many musical talents, including the Del McCoury Band, Jerry and Tammy Sullivan, Blue Highway, The Whites, Mountain Heart, Melonie Cannon, Ryan Holladay, Keith Sewell, Cherryholmes and Cadillac Sky.
Ricky’s first release for Skaggs Family Records, Bluegrass Rules!, set a new standard for bluegrass, breaking new sales records in the genre, winning Skaggs his sixth Grammy Award and earning the International Bluegrass Music Association’s (IBMA) Album of the Year Award. In 1999, his second all-bluegrass album, Ancient Tones, won a Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album – his second consecutive Grammy in that same category. Just one year later, Ricky won his eighth Grammy Award in the Best Southern, Country or Bluegrass Gospel Album category for Soldier of the Cross, his first all-gospel project with his band Kentucky Thunder.
Ricky made further progress with the release of his fourth bluegrass album in 2000, Big Mon: The Songs of Bill Monroe, a project which featured an all-star cast of musicians ranging from Dolly Parton, Patty Loveless and Travis Tritt to Joan Osborne, John Fogerty and Bruce Hornsby, and celebrated the music and the life of Ricky’s mentor, Bill Monroe. Big Mon received much critical acclaim, including a Grammy nomination for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals. The album was re-released by Lyric Street Records in 2002 under a new name, Ricky Skaggs and Friends Sing the Songs of Bill Monroe. His fifth bluegrass album, History of the Future (2001), a timeless collection of both traditional bluegrass standards and newly conceived acoustic gems received rave reviews and industry accolades, including a Grammy nomination for Best Bluegrass Album and an IBMA nomination for Album of the Year, once again placing Skaggs among the leading innovators in the genre.
Skaggs’ first all-live album with Kentucky Thunder, Live at the Charleston Music Hall (2003) led to an IBMA Award for Instrumental Group of the Year – an award Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder has taken home 8 times in the last decade. The decision to record a live album was an obvious one for Skaggs. From a string of high-profile tour dates with the Dixie Chicks in 2000, to his position as host of the unprecedented “All*Star Bluegrass Celebration” which aired nationwide on PBS in 2002, to his participation in the wildly successful 41-city ’Down from the Mountain’ tour – Ricky has become one of bluegrass’ most dynamic and sought-after live performers.
He counts the current configuration of Kentucky Thunder among the best group of musicians he has ever worked with. “This group of guys meets my approval every night,” Ricky says. “Each and every one of the pickers in Kentucky Thunder totally amazes me in every show…and that, to me, outweighs any award we could ever win.” The all-star lineup of Kentucky Thunder includes Andy Leftwich (fiddle), Cody Kilby (lead guitar), Paul Brewster (tenor vocals, rhythm guitar), Eddie Faris (baritone vocals, rhythm guitar) Justin Moses ((banjo, background vocals) and Scott Mulvahill (bass, bass vocals). Live at the Charleston Music Hall was honored in 2004 with a Grammy Award for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group for the Harley Allen-penned track, “A Simple Life.”
In 2005, Ricky earned his 10th career Grammy (Best Bluegrass Album) for Brand New Strings – a beautiful collection of music featuring four Skaggs originals as well as several tunes by some of his most admired contemporaries, including Harley Allen, Guy Clark and Shawn Camp. In 2006, Skaggs was honored with a Grammy Award – this time in the Best Musical Album for Children category – for his contribution to Songs from the Neighborhood: the Music of Mister Rogers. Greater success followed with the release of Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder Instrumentals, an album of all-original, all-instrumental material in the fall of 2006. Praised by fans and critics alike as a landmark album for Skaggs, Instrumentals debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s bluegrass album chart and earned Ricky his 12th career Grammy Award (Best Bluegrass Album).
Cross pollination has been a mainstay throughout Ricky’s career, from his weekly collaborations with various artists as host of The Nashville Network’s Monday Night Concerts in the 1990’s to his recent pairings with Bruce Hornsby and The Whites. Released in March of 2007, Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby (Sony/Legacy) drew from the deep roots in mountain music – adding piano and Hornsby’s inimitable songwriting to the core bluegrass lineup of mandolin, guitar, bass, fiddle and banjo. A major ’CMT Crossroads’ special coincided with the album’s release.
His next recorded project, released in September of 2007 on Skaggs Family Records, was a literal family affair. After years of blending their voices from the living room to the stage, Ricky Skaggs and The Whites teamed up for their first collaborative gospel album, Salt of the Earth, which resulted in a 13th career Grammy Award for Best Southern, Country or Bluegrass Gospel Album, followed by a Gospel Music Association Dove Award for Bluegrass Recorded Album of the Year and Inspirational Country Music Awards for Musician of the Year as well as Mainstream Country Artist of the Year and Inspirational Bluegrass Artist of the Year (with The Whites).
In 2008, Skaggs paid tribute to the man he has often referred to as his “musical father”, Bill Monroe, and the original lineup of the Bluegrass Boys (Earl Scruggs, Lester Flatt, Chubby Wise and Howard Watts) with the release of Honoring the Fathers of Bluegrass: Tribute to 1946 and 1947, earning a 14th career Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album.
A musical father in his own right, Skaggs continued on the full circle path with the addition of a ReIssue Series of his groundbreaking country music masterworks to the Skaggs Family Records catalog in 2009. Beginning with 1982’s Highways & Heartaches, and followed by 1981’s Waitin’ for the Sun to Shine and 1983’s Don’t Cheat in Our Hometown, the ReIssue Series will include nine albums total and includes bonus retrospectives with each release, which feature Ricky, in his own words, sharing never-before-told stories about the making of each project.
Skaggs’ first-ever solo album, Ricky Skaggs Solo: Songs My Dad Loved (2009), celebrated the man that caused him to fall in love with music – his father, Hobert Skaggs. He elaborates, “If I could’ve gotten my dad into the studio, this is how I would’ve wanted him to sound.” Playing every instrument and singing every note on the album, Ricky brought raw, emotional honesty to the songs. By coming home to the music that meant so much to him as a child, Ricky tapped into a wellspring of passion that is channeled into every tune, as though he willed himself back to his family’s house in Kentucky. Solo was honored in the American roots field with a Grammy nomination for Best Traditional Folk Album in 2010.
Ricky Skaggs’ album, Mosaic (2010), marked a return to a full band sound that mixed elements of Country music with Beatles-esque melody and lyrics that spoke to Skaggs’ faith, “making music that is in my head and in my heart,” as Ricky said. Grammy winning songwriter/producer Gordon Kennedy, who co-wrote Eric Clapton’s “Change the World,” was instrumental as co-producer and writer. This most special album hooks the heart, as the sounds invite you in to take notice and come closer. They have blended their talents and love of music with their love for the Lord to create this distinctive collaboration of writing and talent, unparalleled in strength of genius. The song, “Return to Sender” from Mosaic was nominated for a Grammy for Best Gospel Song, and the album was a contender for Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album at the 53rd Grammy Awards, receiving major critical acclaim.
Marking Ricky’s 50th year in music was the release of Country Hits Bluegrass Style (2011), a compilation of many of Skaggs’ #1 country hits and fan favorites played in a bluegrass style. Combining his country and bluegrass roots along with Ricky’s impeccable tenor voice, his eight time IBMA Instrumental Band of the Year, Kentucky Thunder, and some of Ricky’s original award-winning country band alumni together with special friends added to the magic of this release.
Long awaited by country and bluegrass music fans alike, Music To My Ears (2012) is an exciting new offering by Ricky. Fresh, new bluegrass tunes co-written by Skaggs along with a brand new instrumental mark this CD in distinction among all others, while new takes on older bluegrass standards add to its charm. The album features a new duet with Ricky Skaggs and Barry Gibb (of Bee Gees fame) on deeply moving “Soldier’s Son,” along with new bluegrass treasure “You Can’t Hurt Ham,” inspired by a true story of Mr. Bill Monroe.
Ricky Skaggs has often said that he is “just trying to make a living” playing the music he loves. But it’s clear that his passion for it puts him in the position to bring his lively, distinctively American form of music out of isolation and into the ears and hearts of audiences across the country and around the world. Ricky Skaggs is always forging ahead with cross-cultural, genre-bending musical ideas and inspirations.
"There's nothing like playing music to bring a family together," says Sharon White, but that's not exactly right; over 30 years have shown that the music of The Whites - sisters, Sharon and Cheryl, and father Buck - has just as much power to bring audiences together in a feeling that resembles that of one giant, extended family.
The story of The Whites begins in Texas, when a young Buck White started his musical career not long after the end of World War II, working the dance halls and radio shows in a succession of bands. Honky-tonk music called for the piano and the bluegrass mandolin, and so he became proficient on both, absorbing the many varieties of Texas country and blues to fashion his own distinctive style - one that kept him in steady demand as a sideman throughout the 1950s. In 1961, tired of the rough-and-tumble life of a honky-tonk musician and wanting to raise his family in a more wholesome environment, White moved to Arkansas. Yet within a matter of months, he and wife Pat were once again making music, forming a band with another couple that eventually called themselves the Down Home Folks. As Sharon and Cheryl grew, they, too, were drawn to music ("Mama said I could carry a tune before I could talk," Sharon recalls.) at first forming the Down Home Kids with the children of other Down Home Folks members in the mid-1960s, then moving up to join their parents in a growing number of bluegrass festival appearances.
The first big turning point for the Whites came in 1971, when a successful trip to Bill Monroe's Bean Blossom festival convinced the family that the time was right to move to Nashville and pursue a more serious music career. Though Pat retired from the band in 1973, the move paid off as Buck White and the Down Home Folks began their recording career, featuring the striking family harmonies and top-notch instrumental work that has characterized their music ever since. The remainder of the decade saw them make a steady ascent in the world of bluegrass, recording five acclaimed albums for various labels and working a busy touring schedule, even as they gained a toehold in the country music field thanks to their powerful vocals and broad repertoire. The former, in particular, attracted the attention of Emmylou Harris, who brought them in to sing on her Blue Kentucky Girl album of 1979 and then took them on the road with her as an opening act.
The early part of the 1980s brought The Whites - by then renamed to reflect their family ties - to national prominence as their simple, traditionally-rooted yet dynamic sound put them on Billboard's country charts with a succession of Top 20 hits. Favorites like their first Top 10, "You Put The Blue In Me," as well as "Hangin' Around," "Give Me Back That Old Familiar Feeling," and "Pins And Needles," - the latter all produced by Sharon's husband, Ricky Skaggs (the two married in 1981) - introduced them to new audiences, culminating in the induction as members of the Grand Ole Opry in 1984.
Since then, The Whites have entertained and inspired literally millions of listeners at thousands of personal appearances with their unique sound. Time has also brought renewed attention to Buck White's mandolin playing; as bluegrass historian Neil V. Rosenberg recently said, "insiders have long known of his prowess," and with his appearance on Bluegrass Mandolin Extravaganza, released in 1999, a wider audience has been introduced to his masterful style and compositions.
Their first release for Skaggs Family Records, A Lifetime in the Making, (produced by one of their former sidemen, the legendary Jerry Douglas) proves once again The Whites are among the top ranks of artists able to combine a respect for - and mastery of - traditional country and bluegrass. "We're always falling between the cracks when it comes to styles, but that's just the way our music is. We have dobro, fiddle, and mandolin on this album, as well as some piano. It has the same kind of feel as those singles we made back in the early 1980s, but it's as bluegrass as anything The Whites ever did." Released in the fall of 2000, A Lifetime in the Making received substantial critical acclaim, winning an INDIE Award for 'Best Country Album' (2001), as well as a Golden Voice Award at CMA Music Festival's third annual awards show in Nashville.
In 2001, acoustic music blasted onto the mainstream with the smash hit movie and soundtrack, O Brother Where Art Thou? Buck and the girls were hand selected among bluegrass music's finest to participate in the soundtrack and appear in the film. The Whites were recognized at the International Bluegrass Music Association's (IBMA) Awards Show in 2001, where they won two awards including the well-respected 'Album of the Year' honor. In November of 2001, The Whites were recognized at the 35th Annual Country Music Association (CMA) Awards in the highly esteemed 'Album of the Year' category. Their involvement in the film and soundtrack brought further acclaim the following year, including the highest industry honor achievable - a GRAMMY Award - in the revered 'Album of the Year' category; as well as the 'Album of the Year' nod from the Academy of Country Music (ACM). Along with all the industry accolades, The Whites made numerous appearances in promotion of O Brother, including their involvement in the first 18-city 'Down from the Mountain' tour, a stop at David Letterman's "Late Show" with fellow O Brother artist, Dr. Ralph Stanley, and a featured spot on the follow up tours - the 40 plus city 'Down from the Mountain' summer tour in 2002 and the 'Great High Mountain' tour in the summer of 2004.
In 2007, after years of blending their voices from the living room to the stage, The Whites teamed up with Ricky Skaggs on Salt of the Earth, their first collaborative effort, which earned them a Grammy Award for Best Southern, Country, or Bluegrass Gospel Album and a Dove Award for Bluegrass Recorded Album of the Year. Buck, Sharon, Cheryl, and Ricky share lead vocals with Skaggs' award winning band Kentucky Thunder laying the foundation for their tight family harmony. Traditional hymns, a few familiar favorites, and brand new treasures flow throughout the album providing an intimate look into the heart of one of music's most beloved families.
In 2008, proud Texans Buck, Sharon, and Cheryl received the ultimate honor from their home state with their induction into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame. For those who have heard The Whites before, that's good news indeed - and for those who haven't, it will be an exciting introduction to a rich, yet comfortable musical world. They may not use the name anymore, but Buck, Sharon, and Cheryl White are still creating music that's as good and as real as everything conjured up by the phrase "down home folks."
Titusville PA | Country
Along with many accolades including awards from Billboard, Cashbox and Record World, country music legend Jeannie Seely has achieved No. 1 songs as a solo artist, as a duet partner and as a songwriter. Her deeply moving vocals earned her the nickname of "Miss Country Soul".
Jeannie’s recording of "Don’t Touch Me" not only topped the charts, but also earned her a Grammy Award for the "Best Country Vocal Performance by a Female". It is ranked at No. 97 in the book "Country Music’s 500 Greatest Singles" published by the Country Music Foundation, and also included in "The Stories Behind Country Music’s All-Time Greatest 100 Songs".
Born in Titusville, Pennsylvania, and raised on a farm outside of nearby Townville, Jeannie was singing on Meadville radio station WMGW at age 11, and by 16 was performing on TV station WICU in Erie. When she moved to Nashville upon the encouragement of friend Dottie West, Jeannie only had $50 and a Ford Falcon to her name, but within a month Porter Wagoner hired her as the female singer for his road and television series.
Primm Springs TN | Country
Arista recording artists, The Henningsens have come a long way in a few short years. First, this farm family from Illinois, including Brian (dad), Aaron (eldest son) and Clara (daughter) achieved something that many new writers in Nashville only dream of. They have had eight of their songs recorded by major artists. Their cuts include the super group Band Perry's You Lie which reached a near chart topping #2 and the the two week #1 smash All Your Life. They also wrote Alone, recorded by Sara Evans, the title cut of country legend Highway 101's Christmas album, Six Gold Coins and Love Out Loud recorded by the legendary Wynona Judd as a tribute to her mother Naomi, and appeared on The Judd's Oprah Network television series.
Gleason TN | Country
Mike Snider, (born May 5, 1961), is an American bluegrass banjo player and humorist. He learned to play banjo at the age of 16. Although he is well known for irreverent humor, he is a well respected banjo player. Much of his comedy is based on stories about his wife, Sabrina, referred to as Sweetie.