COUNTRY BEAT: George Strait, Dixie Chicks, Lee Ann Womack …

Strait festival wraps; Chicks move 11 million copies of Wide Open Spaces; Womack opening Fan Fair.

The George Strait Country Music Festival wraps up its season with shows on June 9 in San Antonio and June 10 in Dallas. The tour has featured Strait, Lee Ann Womack, Lonestar, Asleep at the Wheel, Alan Jackson, Sara Evans and Brad Paisley. The 16-date jaunt opened March 24 in Tampa, Florida. …

The Dixie Chicks‘ 1998 debut album, Wide Open Spaces, has shipped more than 11 million copies, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. When the album hit the 10 million mark, the Chicks became the first country group to pick up the RIAA’s diamond award. The trio’s latest, Fly, is closing in on diamond status with 9 million copies shipped. …

Lee Ann Womack will sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” during Fan Fair opening ceremonies on Thursday (June 14) at Nashville’s Adelphia Coliseum. Womack will be backed by gospel singer Bobby Jones and his Nashville Super Choir. Marty Stuart, the W.O. Smith Community Music School children’s choir, the Tennessee Scots and Pipe Band and a color guard from the U.S. Air Force also will have roles in the opening celebration. …

Charlie Daniels is the latest country artist to devote a museum to himself. The Charlie Daniels Museum will open on June 14 next door to the Hard Rock Cafe in downtown Nashville. Besides many mementos from his long career, the museum will also house such Southern rock memorabilia as guitars that belonged to Lynyrd Skynyrd‘s Ronnie Van Zant and the Marshall Tucker Band‘s Toy Caldwell. …

Marvin “Smokey” Montgomery, longtime banjo picker for Dallas’ Western swing group the Light Crust Doughboys, died of a heart attack Wednesday at Medical City Dallas Hospital. He was 88. He joined the Light Crust Doughboys in 1935, just as Western swing legend Bob Wills was leaving the group. Montgomery brought Dixieland-style jazz banjo picking to Western swing. Despite battling leukemia, Montgomery continued to perform with the Doughboys and his last show was last month, when the group appeared with the Abilene Philharmonic Symphony. He was also a founding member of the 1960s folk-rock band the Levee Singers and the leader of local musical ensembles Smokey and the Bearcats, the Dallas Banjo Band and Dallas Hot Five. He picked his banjo in Gene Autry films, including “Oh Susannah.” His song “Pussy, Pussy, Pussy” was used in the 1996 Demi Moore/Burt Reynolds movie “Striptease.” In 1995, the Light Crust Doughboys were named official music ambassadors for the state of Texas and the Texas Legislature called Montgomery a “national treasure.” …

Steve Earle has founded a Nashville-based theater company, Broadaxe Theatre. The group, which takes its name from a Walt Whitman poem, will stage its first production, “Mud,” September 6-22 at Bongo After Hours in Nashville. A play by Earle about the life of Karla Faye Tucker, the Texas inmate who died by lethal injection in 1998, is on the company’s docket for Spring 2002. The play is tentatively titled “Karla.” Houghton Mifflin has just published Earle’s first collection of short stories, “Doghouse Roses: Stories by Steve Earle.” A national book tour continues through June 25. He’ll join Mary Chapin Carpenter for a number of dates beginning July 4 in Milwaukee …

Georgia officials will honor native son Travis Tritt Tuesday by naming a section of highway after the country music star. A three-mile section of Highway 92 will be called “Travis Tritt Highway,” and
signs at entry points to Paulding County will read “Home of Country Music Star Travis Tritt.” The ceremony will take place in Hiram, Georgia, outside Atlanta. Tritt’s latest CD is titled Down the Road I Go

Del McCoury and Junior Brown will join an eclectic mix of artists at the second annual Jammys at New York’s Roseland Ballroom on June 28. The awards event celebrates improvisational music. Musicians slated to perform on the dual stages at Roseland include Les Claypool, Tom Tom Club, Meshell Ndegeocello, Col. Bruce Hampton and the Jazz Mandolin Project. The Derek Trucks Band will serve as the house band. McCoury will collaborate with turntablist DJ Logic and pedal steel player Robert Randolph to highlight the role and influence of gospel music.

Vince Gill will be honored with the Country Weekly Career Achievement Award at the TNN & CMT Country Weekly Music Awards on June 13. Kenny Rogers received Country Weekly’s first career achievement award last year. Gill will perform his 1990 hit “When I Call Your Name” on the televised awards program. … Garth Brooks will help celebrate Independence Day festivities in Philadelphia. The ready-to-retire country superstar will join actors Mel Gibson, Morgan Freeman and Kathy Bates in a dramatic reading of the Declaration of Independence on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. …

Marty RobbinsLive Classics From the Grand Ole Opry, which collects 21 Opry performances from 1951 to 1960, was released Tuesday (June 5) by the Country Music Hall of Fame and Audium Entertainment. In addition to Robbins favorites such as “El Paso” and “Singing the Blues,” the album includes such unreleased songs as “Ain’t You Ashamed” and “Good Night Cincinnati, Good Mornin’ Tennessee.” The Hall of Fame also released Truck Driver’s Boogie: Big Rig Hits 1939-1969 in tandem with Audium and Diesel Only Records. The 20-track compilation includes such 18-wheeler anthems as Dave Dudley‘s “Six Days on the Road” and rarities by the likes of Dick Reinhart and His Lone Star Boys and Joe “Cannonball” Lewis. …

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. …

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. …

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. …

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. …

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. …

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). …

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. …

— sonicnet.com report