COUNTRY BEAT: Eddy Shaver, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw ...

Guitarist dies at age 38; duo's outing is year's biggest-grossing country tour.

Guitarist Eddy Shaver died Sunday (December 31) in Waco, Texas, at the age of 38. In addition to his longtime gig with father Billy Joe Shaver's band, Eddy played with Dwight Yoakam and Todd Snider. No cause of death has been announced. Services will be at 2 p.m. on Thursday (January 4) at Heritage Memorial Funeral Home Chapel in Waco, with interment at Waco Memorial Park. ...

The Soul 2 Soul 2000 Tour by Faith Hill and Tim McGraw ranked fifth on the list of the year's top tours, according to industry magazine Pollstar. Grossing $48.8 million, the tour was just ahead of the sixth-ranked Dixie Chicks' Fly tour, which grossed $47.3 million. Leading the list for the year was Tina Turner, followed by 'NSync, the Dave Matthews Band and Kiss. In Billboard's year-end artist rankings, McGraw was the top singles and tracks (denoting radio play) artist (Hill is second), while Hill's "Breathe" (RealAudio excerpt) led in country singles sales (it was also pop single of the year), and Fly was the best-selling country album of the year. ...

Country music legend Kitty Wells will play her farewell concert at the Nashville Nightlife Theater on New Year's Eve. Wells, 81, and 86-year-old Johnny Wright, her husband and singing partner, announced their retirement earlier this year. They have been performing and touring together since their marriage in 1937. Their farewell concert will be broadcast live on radio station WSM from 7 to 10 p.m. CT and will also be available online at www.wsmonline.com. In 1952 Wells had the first #1 country hit by a female singer with "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" (RealAudio excerpt). The song, banned by many radio stations at the time, is widely credited as helping such later singers as Dolly Parton and Patsy Cline break through in a traditionally male-dominated field. Wells is known as the Queen of Country Music, and she was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1976. ...

Thousands of serious shoppers and the merely curious are expected to show up at Waylon Jennings' Nashville home on Thursday, Friday and Saturday (December 28-30) for the singer's mammoth estate sale. He and wife Jessi Colter have moved to Arizona and are selling much of the contents of their home on Old Hickory Boulevard in the Nashville suburb of Brentwood. Cars, guns, stage outfits, furnishings, glassware, posters and other memorabilia will be for sale. ...

Country comedians Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Engvall, Ron White and Larry the Cable Guy are taking the Blue Collar Comedy Tour back on the road throughout much of 2001. They'll start another leg of their tour January 12 at the Hersheypark Arena in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Theater dates are scheduled nationwide through May 4. ...

The Dixie Chicks' record company is being sued over the group's use of a gospel song in a hit tune, the Tennessean reports. The suit, filed against Sony Music Entertainment Inc. in a federal court in Missouri, claims the group did not seek or obtain authorization to use gospel composer Albert E. Brumley's "I'll Fly Away" at the end of "Sin Wagon" (RealAudio excerpt), a single from the Chicks' 1999 Fly. Albert E. Brumley & Sons, the Powell, Missouri, publisher that holds the song's copyright, is asking $500,000 in damages. A Sony Music spokeswoman said the company had not seen the lawsuit. Brumley, who died in 1977, composed "I'll Fly Away" in 1932. The song has been recorded more than 500 times, the suit says. Sean "Puffy" Combs and singer Faith Evans settled a lawsuit in Nashville in September in federal court over the use of "I'll Fly Away" in the song "I'll Be Missing You" (RealAudio excerpt). ...

Sara Evans has added more dates to her opening gig with Alan Jackson. She'll open for him on January 31 in Albany, New York; February 1 in Salisbury, Maryland; February 2 in Pittsburgh; February 3 in Auburn Hills, Michigan; and February 7 in Augusta, Maine. ...

Cyrus Charities Foundation has given $12,764 in grants to charities, Billy Ray Cyrus' father, Ron Cyrus announced. The money, raised through concerts and donations, went to a summer day camp for children who have diabetes and asthma and to needy students for school clothes. Cyrus is also holding a benefit concert for a slain police officer's family on Saturday (December 23). ...

As a result of Kenny Rogers' face appearing on 1 million boxes of its Honey Nut Cheerios, General Mills is donating $50,000 in proceeds from sales of those boxes to America's Second Harvest, the nation's largest hunger-relief organization. …

Shania Twain's Come on Over (RealAudio excerpt of title track) has been certified 18-times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, making it the most successful solo album by a female artist, surpassing Whitney Houston's soundtrack to "The Bodyguard." The Dixie Chicks' Fly is now eight-times platinum; their first album is 10-times platinum. ...

Country music touring revenues in 2000 were up more than 50 percent over last year, and total attendance was up just over 30 percent, according to Billboard sister publication Amusement Business. The magazine said the Tim McGraw/Faith Hill co-headlining "Soul 2 Soul" tour was the top country package, grossing $49.6 million and drawing 969,600 people to 65 shows. The Dixie Chicks led in total attendance, drawing 1 million fans and grossing $46.1 million in 81 shows. The George Strait Country Music Festival grossed $21 million from 10 stadium dates. ...

Dolly Parton's second bluegrass album, Little Sparrow, is scheduled for a January 23 release. Guest artists include Rhonda Vincent, Alison Krauss, Chris Thile, Sonya Isaacs and the Irish group Altan. Parton includes a version of the Cole Porter song "I Get a Kick Out of You." ...

An Alison Brown song will be the wake-up music for the crew of the space shuttle Destiny during its mission to the International Space Station. "Girl's Breakdown," a tune from Brown's Fair Weather that she wrote for friend and astronaut Marsha Ivins, will accompany the crew on its January 18 launch. ...

Trisha Yearwood's log cabin, on 17 acres in Hendersonville, Tennessee, is on the market for $575,000. ...

Brad Paisley will be inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in February. The singer was asked to join onstage during a show Saturday (December 16) by Little Jimmy Dickens and Jeannie Seely, who were dressed as Santa and Mrs. Claus. Paisley will be inducted in an Opry performance at the Ryman Auditorium on February 17. The Opry returns to the Ryman, its former home, for shows in January and February. ...

Jo Dee Messina's first headlining tour will start February 8 in South Bend, Indiana. She's calling it the "Burn Tour 2001," after Burn (RealAudio excerpt of title track), the title of her third album. Rascal Flatts will open dates during the 75-city tour. ...

When the new Country Music Hall of Fame opens in May, 10 new members will be inducted in opening ceremonies, said the Country Music Association. Traditionally, between two and four new members are inducted annually into the hall. There are now 74 members. ...

BR5-49 are in a Nashville studio with Dixie Chicks producer Paul Worley working on their fifth album. BR5-49, dropped by Arista Nashville earlier this year, were signed recently by Sony Music Nashville's Lucky Dog Records, which specializes in alt-country music. ...

Craig Morgan's new holiday single, "The Kid in Me," is being offered as a promotional download to help raise donations for the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. The download can be obtained by visiting the St. Jude official Web site at www.countrycares.org. The single is not for sale and is not on Morgan's current, debut album. ...

Nashville's Gospel Music Association has signed with Dick Clark Productions to produce the annual Dove Awards show, the Tennessean reports. The production, held in the Grand Ole Opry House in April, has never been on network TV, something Clark said he was aiming for. ...

Brad Paisley, Chely Wright, Billy Dean, Toby Keith and Mindy McCready are among the more than 20 country artists who will take part in the 7th Annual Country in the Rockies, from January 27 to February 3 in Crested Butte, Colorado. Proceeds from the series of concerts and outdoor events help fund research efforts of the Frances Williams Preston Laboratories for Cancer Research, a division of the T.J. Martell Foundation at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in Nashville. ...

Charlie Robison will play New Year's Eve at Fort Worth, Texas' huge nightclub Billy Bob's Texas. ... Brooks & Dunn and Kenny Chesney have been added as presenters on the American Music Awards special airing January 8 on ABC. Martina McBride and SheDaisy will perform on the show. ...

— sonicnet.com staff report