COUNTRY BEAT: Travis Tritt, Jerry Lee Lewis, Tim McGraw …

VFW honors Tritt; Lewis linked to Robert Blake's murdered wife; McGraw irks some grads. …

The Veterans of Foreign Wars will present Travis Tritt with this year’s VFW Hall of Fame Award, which recognizes entertainers (and sports figures) who have served veterans through their work, at the group’s August convention in Milwaukee. Tritt portrayed a disabled vet in his videos for “Anymore,” “Tell Me I Was Dreaming” and “If I Lost You.” His long-form video, “Travis Tritt — a Celebration,” was filmed during a performance benefiting disabled vets. And in 1994-96 he served as spokesperson for Disabled American Veterans. …

“Baretta” star Robert Blake’s wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, who was slain last Friday (May 4) in Los Angeles, had claimed country and rock star Jerry Lee Lewis was the father of her daughter, Jeri Lee Lewis, who was born in Mississippi in 1993. Lewis’ sister, Linda Gail Lewis, told New York’s Daily News that Bakley was a “groupie” who had pursued her brother. “I don’t know if the DNA tests proved the little girl was his baby,” Linda Gail Lewis said, “but I think there was some settlement.” A Jerry Lee Lewis spokesperson issued a statement Wednesday (May 9) denying that Lewis fathered Bakley’s baby. …

Tim McGraw‘s celebrity presence at the University of Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday (May 12), when he will receive an honorary doctorate, has drawn so much fan interest that graduating students have had a limit placed on the number of guests they may invite. … Alabama donated $100,000 to the Fort Payne, Alabama, city school system on April 25. The funds, from past June Jam concerts, have been held since Alabama discontinued the local benefit concerts in 1997 after 16 years. Lead singer Randy Owen has hinted at a possible return of the June Jam, according to the band’s record label. …

Tim McGraw will soon be a doctor of humanities. The Delhi, Louisiana, native will receive an honorary doctorate Saturday (May 12) from the University of Louisiana-Monroe, where he was once a student. The 34-year-old singer has a history of philanthropy in the area. In 1994 he organized the first Swampstock, a softball game to raise funds for the Little League in nearby Rayville. The event now includes a celebrity softball game and concert that last attracted more than 11,000 fans. … George Jones is recording Stone Cold Country for new Nashville label Bandit Records with Emory Gordy Jr. producing. A single is expected in July. …

Lee Roy Parnell‘s first new studio album in four years is due on June 12 from Vanguard Records. Tell the Truth was recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios and features guest appearances by Keb’ Mo,’ Bonnie Bramlett, Delbert McClinton and the Mississippi Mass Choir. … Broadway’s “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” snubbed for a best-musical Tony nomination, will close Sunday (May 13) after 21 performances and an estimated loss of $7.5 million. The score was by Nashville songwriter Don Schlitz, who reported he’s already at work on another musical. …

Lee Ann Womack has earned her first multiplatinum award for I Hope You Dance (RealAudio excerpt of title track), which has sold more than 2 million copies, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. … Jeannie C. Riley, best known for her 1968 #1 hit “Harper Valley PTA,” has filed suit in Williamson Country Circuit Court, Tennessee, contending she suffered injuries in a store fall. Riley seeks $250,000 from the Big Lots parent company, Consolidated Stores Corp., charging that injuries from a May 2000 fall in a Big Lots store have kept her from performing as a singer and resulted in a lasting disability. …

“I’d about given up on getting one of these,” Ralph Stanley said on receiving his first platinum record. The 74-year-old bluegrass legend was speaking at a platinum party for the soundtrack album O Brother, Where Art Thou?, on which he sang “O Death” (RealAudio excerpt). Other album participants at the party, held Thursday (May 3) at the Factory in Franklin, Tennessee, were the Peasall Sisters, the Whites, the Nashville Bluegrass Band, Dan Tyminski, the Fairfield Four, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings. …

Bluegrass legend Earl Scruggs will release his Earl Scruggs and Friends duets album on August 1. He’s joined on it by Elton John Melissa Etheridge, Sting, Dwight Yoakam, Billy Bob Thornton, John Fogerty, Don Henley, Johnny Cash, Rosanne Cash, comedian Steve Martin, Marty Stuart, Paul Shaffer, Leon Russell and Travis Tritt. …

Ray Benson of Asleep at the Wheel will perform with Paul Shaffer and the World’s Most Dangerous Band on “The Late Show With David Letterman” on May 23. …

Fan Fair’s Superstar Spectacular will feature new Grand Ole Opry member Brad Paisley and other Opry regulars and guests in two shows at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry House. Tickets are $26 and $36, and funds benefit the Grand Ole Opry Trust Fund. Performing on June 14 will be Bill Anderson, Joe Diffie, Tracy Lawrence, Collin Raye, Johnny Rodriguez, Chalee Tennison, Trick Pony and Keith Urban. Appearing on June 15 are T. Bubba Bechtol, Chris Cagle, Bill Carlisle, Jimmy Dickens, Jack Greene, James House and Paisley. …

Lee Ann Womack and football great Terry Bradshaw will host the June 13 TNN & CMT Country Weekly Music Awards. CMT and TNN will simulcast the former TNN Country Weekly Music Awards. The three-hour program will be telecast live from Nashville’s Gaylord Entertainment Center. Alan Jackson, Brad Paisley, Jo Dee Messina, Jessica Andrews, Toby Keith, John Michael Montgomery, Montgomery Gentry, Lonestar and Phil Vassar will perform on the fan-voted awards show. (CMT and TNN are owned by Sonicnet.com’s parent company, Viacom). …

Alan Jackson‘s house on Center Hill Lake in Middle Tennessee is up for grabs. The asking price is $3.9 million. He will continue to live at his main residence in Franklin, Tennessee. … Canadian singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith‘s fourth album, Blue Boy, will be released June 5. Steve Earle and producer Ray Kennedy, collectively known as “Twangtrust,” produced the project. …

Mavericks lead singer Raul Malo is recording his first solo album in Los Angeles this month. Steve Berlin of Los Lobos is producing. … Kyle Lehning (Waylon Jennings, Randy Travis) is producing a new Derailers album, due for summer release. …

Sam Phillips, who founded Sun Records and signed Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and many others to their early recording contracts, will speak at a celebrity luncheon on June 30 at Rockabilly Fest 2001 in Jackson, Tennessee. This rare public appearance by Phillips will begin at noon. …

Evening talent lineups for the major Fan Fair shows at Nashville’s Adelphia Coliseum have been released by the Country Music Association. Scheduled for June 14 (all starting times are 7 p.m.) are, Billy Ray Cyrus, Joe Diffie, Billy Gilman, the Kinleys, Patty Loveless, Montgomery Gentry, Collin Raye, and Travis Tritt. Performing on June 15 are Trace Adkins, Tracy Lawrence, Jo Dee Messina, John Michael Montgomery, Sawyer Brown and Trick Pony. Appearing June 16 are Gary Allan, Jessica Andrews, Terri Clark, Vince Gill, Jamie O’Neal, Rascal Flatts, SheDaisy and Trisha Yearwood. Performing June 17 (starting at 5 p.m.) are Tracy Byrd, Kenny Chesney, Bill Engvall, Sara Evans, Andy Griggs, Alan Jackson, Carolyn Dawn Johnson, Lonestar, Martina McBride, Lorrie Morgan & Sammy Kershaw, Brad Paisley and Phil Vassar. …

The Oak Ridge Boys will receive the Boy Scouts of America’s highest honor in a ceremony on June 1 in Boston where they’ll be given the Silver Buffalo Award for distinguished service to youth. Members of the group serve on the Boy Scouts board and are active in the National Committee for the Prevention of Child Abuse, Feed the Children and other programs. …

Singer/songwriter Deana Carter is working on a new album, but it won’t be released on her longtime label, Capitol Records. Carter said she has been “writing her butt off” for the self-produced new project, but declined to say which label it will be on. “I can’t say just yet,” Carter said. She will debut some of her new material during a 20-city acoustic tour that kicks off May 6 in Chicago. In addition to writing new music, Carter has been splitting her time between homes in Nashville and Los Angeles, where she has written and pitched treatments for a TV game show and a food show. Carter also has landed the small role of a “bimbette Wal-Mart wife” in an upcoming independent film starring Billy Bob Thornton. …

Auditions for “Stand by Your Man: The Tammy Wynette Story” will be held in New York on May 15 and 16. There are four female and five male roles open for the musical, which will play Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium from September 13 through October 28. Aspiring candidates should send resumes and headshots to Stand by Your Man Auditions, Casting, 165 West 46th Street, Suite 1100, New York, NY 10036. The musical’s title comes from Wynette’s autobiography and signature song, “Stand by Your Man” (RealAudio excerpt). …

“Mulholland Drive,” a television project Billy Ray Cyrus filmed more than two years ago, will be shown at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. The show, which features Cyrus as a hunky pool man, was directed by David Lynch (“Twin Peaks”) as a pilot episode for an ABC TV series, but the network passed on the project. Cyrus is now starring in the series “Doc” on PAX. …

Tim McGraw will appear in court on May 14 in Orchard Park, New York, to answer charges of assaulting an officer last year arising from pal Kenny Chesney‘s joyride on a police horse last year. …

Buck Owens will be honored with the Country Radio Broadcasters Career Achievement Award on June 28. Brad Paisley will present the award during CRB’s annual Country Music DJ Hall of Fame Banquet at the Renaissance Hotel in Nashville. Loretta Lynn, Chet Atkins and Eddy Arnold have previously been recognized with the honor. …

Some of the artists who created the “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” soundtrack will reconvene June 13 for a concert at Carnegie Hall in New York. Alison Krauss & Union Station, John Hartford, Gillian Welch, Ralph Stanley, the Whites and the Cox Family are among the artists who will participate. …

Vince Gill and Nickel Creek will kick off this summer’s Bluegrass Night at the Ryman series in Nashville with a June 21 concert at the Ryman Auditorium. An Evening With Ricky Skaggs will be presented June 28, Sam Bush and Friends will perform July 5, Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys and the Del McCoury Band play on July 12, and Rowan, Rice and Clements perform on July 19. The July 26 lineup has not yet been announced. …

Jo Dee Messina was scheduled to sing at the conclusion of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure on June 2 in Washington, D.C. But the singer has decided to run in the race as well. The event raises funds for breast cancer research, education, screening and treatment. … Bluegrass group Hayseed Dixie have been added to the Nashville River Stages lineup. The AC/DC tribute band — formerly known as AC/Dixie — will perform May 4 at the downtown-Nashville outdoor festival. The group’s first album, A Hillbilly Tribute to AC/DC, will be released April 17. It includes bluegrass versions of such AC/DC hits as “Highway to Hell” and “Big Balls.” …

Patty Loveless and husband/producer Emory Gordy Jr. are putting finishing touches on Loveless’ return-to-roots album, Mountain Soul, due June 26. Ricky Skaggs, Travis Tritt and Jon Randall guest on the album, which mixes traditional and contemporary songs. Kentucky-bred Loveless re-recorded “The Sounds of Loneliness,” which she wrote at 15 for her debut album. Mountain Soul features covers of Reno & Smiley‘s “I Know You’re Married,” Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner‘s “Someone That I Used to Know,” Melba Montgomery‘s “Raging Fire,” and Darrell Scott‘s “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive.” “I’ve been wanting to do this record since 1992, when Emory and I put a little group together to go play the Carter Stanley Memorial Festival,” Loveless said in a statement. Loveless will tour this summer to support Mountain Soul and Strong Heart, her current mainstream country album. …

Trace Adkins will host the BellSouth Senior Classic golf tournament at Opryland’s annual Celebrity Kids Classic event at Nashville’s Springhouse Golf Club on May 27. The event raises money for charities including Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, Tennessee Lions Charities, Middle Tennessee Council of the Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scout Council of Cumberland Valley and Boys & Girls Clubs of Middle Tennessee. Artists taking part include Chris Cagle, Mark Collie, Clay Davidson, Vince Gill, Rebecca Lynn Howard, Sonya Isaacs and the Wilkinsons. …

Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson, Nanci Griffith, Steve Earle, John Prine, Guy Clark and the Cowboy Junkies are among the artists on Poet: A Tribute to Townes Van Zandt, honoring the late singer/songwriter. The album is due in late July. …

Mary Chapin Carpenter‘s upcoming album will be titled Time Is the Great Gift; Sex Is the Great Equalizer; Love Is the Great Mystery, which will be shortened to Time * Sex * Love, her record label reports. The long title is a quote from her guitarist John Jennings. The album, due May 29, was recorded at London’s Air Studios in November. Song titles include “The Dreaming Road,” “Slave to the Beauty,” “Whenever You’re Ready,” “The Long Way Home,” “Swept Away,” “King of Love,” “This Is Me Leaving You,” “Someone Else’s Prayer” and “In the Name of Love.” “Simple Life” was released as a single in April. …

Slaid Cleaves and a number of other alt-country luminaries are scheduled to play Twang Fest 5, to be held June 6–9 at Blueberry Hill in University City, Missouri. Acts include Deke Dickerson, Roger Wallace, the Domino Kings, Ass Ponys, Charlie Chesterman, Elizabeth Cook, Fear and Whiskey, Rockhouse Ramblers, Star City and the Tarbox Ramblers. …

— sonicnet.com staff report