COUNTRY BEAT: Garth Brooks, Billy Joe Shaver, Bellamy Brothers …

Brooks joins Cat in the Hat; Shaver headlines Opry Plaza shows; Bellamys sing for Bush. …

Garth Brooks and the Cat in the Hat will lead the National Education Association's Read Across America reading campaign. Reading with kids isn't something new for Brooks. Before he became a father and country star, Brooks was a volunteer reader in a Nashville classroom. … Texas singer/songwriter Billy Joe Shaver will kick off this summer's weekend Opry Plaza Parties on June 8. The series of free weekend shows is staged in front of Nashville's Grand Ole Opry House. Matt King will perform on June 9, while BR549, the Derailers, Danni Leigh, Hot Club of Cowtown, Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys, Elizabeth Cook, Jim Lauderdale, Blue Highway, Rosie Flores, Dale Watson, Don Walser and the Old Crow Medicine Show are also slated to perform before the outdoor bashes wrap up August 11. …

The Bellamy Brothers musically welcomed President George W. Bush to Florida Monday (June 4) by special request of the White House. The Bellamys performed during a Bush political stop at Legends Field in Tampa. The Brothers were active Bush supporters during his campaign. The Bellamys' tour schedule will resume with a June 9 appearance at the Capitol Music Hall in Wheeling, West Virginia …

Kenny Chesney takes over the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart this week with the #1 "Don't Happen Twice." Brooks & Dunn's "Ain't Nothing 'Bout You" drops from #1 to #3, and Tim McGraw's "Grown Men Don't Cry" stays at #2. Debuting on the chart are Kortney Kayle's "Unbroken by You" at #53, Jessica Andrews' "Helplessly, Hopelessly" at #58, Elbert West's "Diddley" at #59 and Billy Ray Cyrus' "Southern Rain" at #60. ...

Dwight Yoakam will kick off a 50-date North American tour on July 1 in Sun City West, Arizona. The singer will crisscross the U.S. and play two Canadian shows before ending the trek at the Paramount Theater in Austin, Texas, on November 3. Yoakam is touring in support of his latest album, Tomorrow's Sounds Today. Yoakam's writing/directing film debut, "South of Heaven, West of Hell," is slated to open on June 15 in New York and Los Angeles. He stars in the film with Bridget Fonda, Peter Fonda, Billy Bob Thornton, Paul Reubens and Vince Vaughn. The movie premiered in January 2000 at the Slamdance Festival in Park City, Utah. He has since acted in "The Panic Room," starring Jodie Foster. ...

Faith Hill and Tim McGraw are expecting their third child in January. The couple married in 1996 and has two daughters, Gracie, 4, and Maggie, 2. "All four of us are beyond excited," Hill and McGraw said in a joint statement on Wednesday morning (May 30). "Gracie and Maggie can't understand why they have to wait until January to see the baby." Hill and McGraw are also contributing prayers for a CD in conjunction with Pope John Paul II's series of prayer books, to be released in November. McGraw, who along with Kenny Chesney was recently acquitted of charges of assaulting sheriff's deputies in New York State, will begin a U.S. tour with Chesney on June 20 ...

Country group BR549 — formerly written BR5-49 — officially has dropped the dash from its name. The hillbilly boogie quintet takes its name from the phone number on the sign country comedian Junior Samples held up while selling used cars on the show "Hee Haw." "The dash is too confusing," BR549 singer/guitarist Chuck Mead said. "Graphically, I think it looks better without the dash. It doesn't really matter to us. The name was a joke in the first place. We never thought we'd ever go this far ... Younger people really don't know what the name BR549 is all about. To them it's just a series of numbers and letters." After releasing two studio albums and two live projects for Arista Records, the band signed with Sony's Lucky Dog imprint and will release a new set, This Is BR549, on June 26. ...

Lee Roy Parnell will headline a new "Best in Texas" showcase during Fan Fair, featuring singers making names for themselves in the Texas music scene. Appearing with Parnell at the June 16 showcase at Nashville's Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park will be Sonny Burgess, Peter Dawson, John Evans, Kevin Fowler, Bill Pekar and Elbert West. … BlackHawk have landed a new record deal with Sony Music Nashville, a label spokesperson confirmed Tuesday (May 29). Vocalist Henry Paul and keyboardist Dave Robbins will continue without founding guitarist Van Stephenson, who died April 9 at age 47 after a long battle with skin cancer. BlackHawk has charted seven top-10 country hits, including "Every Once in a While" and "That's Just About Right." …

Chris LeDoux will perform "For Your Love" from his newly certified gold album 20 Greatest Hits at the fan-voted TNN & CMT Country Weekly Music Awards, which will be simulcast on June 13 for the first time on TNN and CMT. LeDoux's performance will be his first television appearance since receiving a liver transplant last year. Country fiddler Charlie Daniels will join LeDoux, who underwent surgery in October after being diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis, a liver disease with no known cause. …

Chris Cagle is getting a second chance with his debut album. Play It Loud was released earlier this year on Virgin Nashville, which soon closed its doors, shifting artists under contract to sister company Capitol Nashville. Now Capitol is repackaging the original 10 tracks and adding two more. The new disc will be released June 19. ...

Reba McEntire's upcoming TV sitcom for the WB network has changed titles again. The show was initially to be called "Sally," then it became "Deep in the Heart," and now the program bears the title "Reba." The show will air on Friday nights beginning this fall. McEntire may also star in a TV version of her Broadway hit, "Annie Get Your Gun." The project is in the development stage, a spokeswoman for McEntire's record label said. ...

A book based on and named for Lee Ann Womack's hit song "I Hope You Dance" (RealAudio excerpt) has now sold more than 300,000 copies, landing on The New York Times best-sellers list, according to its Nashville publisher, Rutledge Hill Press. The book was written by the song's writers, Mark D. Sanders and Tia Sillers. ...

Sara Evans, Collin Raye and Gary Allan will be the featured performers at the Gstaad Festival, the premier European country-music festival. Swiss artist John Brack will also appear at the event, held in Gstaad, Switzerland, on September 7 and 8. ...

BR5-49 and other U.S. country artists will play two festivals that take place simultaneously in France and Poland. The Mragowo Festival in Mragowo, Poland, and the Craponne Festival in Craponne, France, will share BR5-49, Danni Leigh, Trent Summar and the New Row Mob and Heather Myles on July 27, 28 and 29. Rhonda Vincent will play in Craponne, and George Hamilton V will play in Mragowo. BR5-49 will also play the Klewenalp Festival in Klewenalp, Switzerland, on July 20. ...

Kortney Kayle will be featured in a recurring role on ABC's "One Life to Live" this summer. Kayle will portray herself and have several musical performances on the show. ...

Willie Nelson's annual 4th of July Picnic in Luckenbach, Texas, has been canceled this year. The promoter said Wednesday (May 16) that Nelson was taking a break, but did not elaborate. Nelson's Farm Aid benefit concert, set for September 29 in Noblesville, Indiana, outside Indianapolis, is still on. ...

Lorrie Morgan, Sammy Kershaw, Chad Brock, Leslie Satcher, Exile, Cledus T. Judd, Tyler England, Blake Shelton and Carolyn Dawn Johnson have been added to the lineup for Fan Fair, which takes place June 14-17 in Nashville. They join a long list of confirmed acts including Alan Jackson, Vince Gill, Kenny Chesney, Jessica Andrews, Lonestar, Jo Dee Messina, Trisha Yearwood and Lee Ann Womack. This year's event will also include late-night "Fan Fair After Hours" performances at such Nashville nightclubs as Tootsie's Orchid Lounge and the Wildhorse Saloon. …

One of the world's great scuba diving locales will host a country festival this summer. Travis Tritt, the Wilkinsons, the Kinleys, Chris Cagle, Jamie O'Neal, SheDaisy and others will perform at Cayman Country from August 1-12 on Grand Cayman in the Caribbean Cayman Islands. ...

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. …

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. ...

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. ...

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). ...

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. ...

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. ...

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. ...

— sonicnet.com report