Ricky Skaggs w/The Whites, The Black Lillies, Craig Morgan, Jeannie Seely, George Hamilton IV, Josh Turner, John Conlee, Chris Janson, Jean Shepard & Bobby Osborne and the Rocky Top X- PressCountry
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."
The Black Lillies
Knoxville TN | Country
Born in the rumbling cab of a stone truck and aged in the oak of Tennessee’s smoky night haunts, The Black Lillies have come to the forefront of the Americana scene in little more than a year. Founded by multi instrumentalist and vocalist Cruz Contreras (co-founder of Robinella and the CCstringband), The Black Lillies have created their own unique brand of country, roots, rock and blues via Appalachia. The group, formed in 2008, also includes electric guitar and pedal steel whiz Tom Pryor and drummer Jamie Cook, both formerly of the everybodyfields. Bassist Robert Richards and vocalist Trisha Gene Brady round out the lineup.
In April 2009, The Black Lillies released Whiskey Angel, their debut recording. The album was recorded live in Cruz’s living room by Sparklehorse drummer Scott Minor, and features Billy Contreras on fiddle. The album received rave reviews and appeared on multiple “Best of 2009” lists across the country. The band is currently working on their follow-up album, 100 Miles of Wreckage, which will be released nationally on January 22, 2011 and is currently available for pre-order.
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."
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.
George Hamilton IV
Franklin TN | Country
SC | Country
As a family man, a philanthropist, a devoted Christian, and a passionate sports fan, you might say Josh Turner’s commitments run as deep as his voice.
Of course, he’s also a double-platinum-selling singer, songwriter and disciple of traditional country music, a mentor to up-and-coming artists —and one of the youngest members of the Grand Ole Opry.
All of those layers construct Josh’s new album, Punching Bag. His fifth for MCA Nashville, the record is a knockout collection of bluegrass-influenced barnburners, lonesome laments, and the slow and steady love ballads on which Josh’s trademark baritone excels.
The follow-up to 2010’s Haywire, which yielded the No. 1 hits “Why Don’t We Just Dance” and “All Over Me,” Punching Bag represents Josh in fighting shape. Throughout all 11 songs, he bobs and weaves like a champ, exhibiting new range in both his voice and his songwriting. Josh penned eight of the record’s eleven tracks, including the rollicking title song that, he says, set the tone for the entire project.
“When the idea for ’Punching Bag’ came along, it really hit me,” Josh says, pun intended. “It became the central idea for this record.”
Ironically, the up-and-at-’em tune was inspired by a particularly down day for the singer. “I’ve learned that songs come to you in various ways, from all different angles,” he says. “Nothing was going my way that day, and I felt like I was up against the world. When I got home, my wife Jennifer and I were talking about things that happened and I said, ’You know, I just feel like a punching bag, like life is beating me up.’”
Soon, Josh was off and writing, brainstorming lyrics with one of his most trusted creative partners, Pat McLaughlin.
“I wanted to express the idea that life is tough,” he says. “You get a lot punches thrown at you and a lot of times you’re not in control. But you have to take those punches and keep moving forward,” he says.
This is exactly the position Josh found himself in while making the album.
“With this record, I had just gone through a lot of craziness in my life,” recalls the father of three young boys: Hampton, Colby and Marion. “We had just had our third child and I had spent two years building a writer’s cottage, a log cabin for me to write in. It was a very stressful time getting all that done.”
But when the bell rang, Josh was still standing. And with something to show for it--all eight songs that Josh wrote or co-wrote for the album were conceived in that very cottage on his Tennessee property. A refuge from the distractions of life, the cabin, with its wraparound porch and stone fireplace, also serves as a depository for Josh’s priceless musical mementos. “It has all the awards I’ve won over the years, a red, white and blue Telecaster that Buck Owens gave me and an original ceiling joist from the Ryman auditorium,” he says. “They’re all things I hold dear.”
Consider it the “Cottage that Music Built.” As such, it holds a special spot in his process as a musician. “It’s turned out to be quite an inspirational place. It’s where I allow myself to think, be creative and make mistakes along the way,” says Josh, who encourages music and arts students in his native South Carolina to follow their own muse via his Josh Turner Scholarship Fund.
That uncluttered approach paid off in some of Josh’s most clever compositions yet, all highlights on Punching Bag. With a photographer’s eye and novelist’s vocabulary, the Grammy, CMA and ACM Award nominee has developed a Mark Twain-like knack for turning common phrases on their heads.
“I’m very observant of what’s going on around me,” Josh says. “I like to take phrases that people use in everyday life and use them to my advantage. You hear people say, ’They gave me the cold shoulder,’ but they don’t go beyond that. If it’s something that has been said before, I want to say it in a different way.”
In “Cold Shoulder” he does just that, using that term to address not just a one-time brush-off, but the progressive dissolution of a romance. Elsewhere, in “For the Love of God,” he transforms the phrase from one of frustration to one of jubilant intent, while the notion of the “right hand man” sidekick is redefined as a loyal husband in “Left Hand Man,” one of two songs Josh wrote with Peach Picker Ben Hayslip.
With help from his longtime producer Frank Rogers, Josh has a gift for selecting just the right material from other sources, like the album’s first single “Time Is Love,” written by Mark Nesler, Tony Martin and Tom Shapiro.
“When I’m looking for outside songs, I look for songs that I probably wouldn’t write myself,” he says. “’Time Is Love’ is a song that speaks to the idea of quantity of time versus quality time. Quantity time—getting to know people better and growing relationships—is the more important thing.”
It was that sense of fragility that inspired one of the most haunting cut on Punching Bag, “Pallbearer.” The song was partly inspired by the death of one of Josh’s relatives that he looked up to and admired. When Josh learned that his dad had helped carry the casket at the man’s burial, the grieving writer retreated to his cottage and put his feelings to paper. “It’s about how lonesome a person can feel,” he says. “And being a pallbearer at a funeral is pretty lonesome.” Featuring mandolin from Marty Stuart and backing vocals from Iris DeMent, the song adopts the idea as a metaphor for a man jilted by his lover. Written, naturally, in a minor key, the song is one of the most compelling and poignant songs on the album.
Punching Bag, pound for pound, may be Josh’s most ambitious and confident record to date. He’s never sounded so focused, so committed—or as he puts it—fearless.
“Fearless is being confident, faithful, and having trust in something that is bigger than you, and I think that’s a good description of me,” Josh says. “These songs are like a barometer for where I am in life, both in my age and in my experiences. They tell a story about me that nobody else can. I’m very confident and secure in the kind of music I’m making.”
In other words, he’s ready to come out swinging.
Fort Worth TX | Country
One of the most respected vocalists to emerge during the urban cowboy era, John Conlee was known for his superb taste in material and his distinctively melancholy voice. Conlee was born and raised on a tobacco farm in Versailles, KY, in 1946, and took up the guitar as a child, performing on local radio at age ten. He went on to sing with the town barbershop chorus, but didn't initially pursue music as a career, instead becoming a licensed mortician. He also worked as a disc jockey at numerous area radio stations, and made important industry connections via that area when he moved to Nashville in 1971. Five years later, Conlee's demo tape got him a contract with ABC. He released a few singles, but didn't find acceptance until 1978's "Rose Colored Glasses," a song he'd co-written with a newsman at his radio station, rocketed into the country Top Five. Conlee spent the next decade or so scoring hit after hit, nearly all of them helmed by producer Bud Logan. He had two number ones in 1979 alone -- "Lady Lay Down" and "Backside of Thirty" -- and four number two hits through 1981, which included "Before My Time," "Friday Night Blues," "She Can't Say That Anymore," and "Miss Emily's Picture." Conlee returned to the top of the charts three times over 1983-1984 with "Common Man," "I'm Only in It for the Love," and "In My Eyes," and had his last number one in 1986 with "Got My Heart Set on You." All told, Conlee made the Top Ten 19 times through 1987, when he moved from MCA to Columbia and reached the Top Five with "Domestic Life." Never much for touring, Conlee subsequently curtailed his recording activities as well, instead devoting his time to charity work (often on behalf of American farmers), raising his family, and running his own farm outside Nashville.
Perryville MO | Country
A fortunate few come to Nashville and find a home in the city's historic honky-tonk district. Then there are those incredibly rare talents who manage to set it on fire. Chris Janson is one of the latter.
Chris came to Nashville at 18 and pleaded with the doorman at the legendary Tootsie's Orchid Lounge for the chance to sing one song with the house band. Not long after he'd finished "Folsom Prison Blues," the bar's owners offered him a job.
Virtually overnight, Chris became the talk of the Nashville music scene. Crowds packed Tootsie’s to experience this Missouri-born musician, who could own an audience the way just a handful of his idols, a compelling and charismatic group of country and rock greats that range from Waylon to the Ramones, could do. For the next year he played four shows a day.
Chris began performing at the age of 11, although he didn't choose music as a career path until the summer after high school. He'd earned a scholarship to attend college to study veterinary medicine, but decided to try Nashville instead. With his parents' blessing, he took off with a few hundred dollars and quickly landed the Tootsie's gig.
His audience quickly began to include celebrities. Director Jonathan Demme saw Chris and offered him a small part in the Neil Young concert film Heart of God. Young, Rob Reiner, members of Guns N' Roses and many others came by to watch him perform. On one memorable night that looked like a convention of Music Row executives, he was offered publishing, booking, and management deals. Chris has toured Europe with the Critically acclaimed Moonshine Session's band....and the US with Lynyrd Skynyrd, Hank Williams, Jr, Sugarland, Jamey Johnson, Shooter Jennings, and James Otto.. He has shared the stage singing and playing with Hank Jr, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Velvet Revolver, James Otto, Neil Young, and the list goes on and on......
He is most impressive on stage, bringing an array of strengths into the spotlight. He is an accomplished singer/songwriter, a dynamic multi-instrumentalist, a compelling vocalist, and a dynamic entertainer. The music, while drawing on a range of influences, is nonetheless solid country and unmistakably Chris Janson.
As of 2012, Chris is newly signed to the Bigger Picture Group label, sharing the roster with Zac Brown, Craig Campbell, among others.
To be called a legend in the entertainment industry, one must first be a pioneer and then proceed to accomplish many more "firsts". JEAN SHEPARD has done that and much more. A sample listing of some of her "firsts" includes: *Starring in the 1st network country music show, THE OZARK JUBILEE. The 1st female in country music to sell a million records. The 1st country music female vocalist to overdub her voice on records. The 1st country music female to make a color TV commercial. The 1st female country singer to be a member of the GRAND OLE OPRY for 47 years.
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.