COUNTRY BEAT: Clint Black, Chet Atkins, Ryman Auditorium …

Black lauded; Atkins' doctor records tribute; Ryman gets landmark status.

Clint Black was honored with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital’s Celebrity of the Year award on Saturday (June 23). The country star has contributed to the “Country Cares for St. Jude Kids” radiothon and fund-raising campaign for years. Black was recognized for his humanitarian efforts during St. Jude’s annual convention in Memphis. Black received the Country Radio Broadcasters Artist Humanitarian Award in 2000 for his involvement with St. Jude and other charity initiatives. …

Physician and guitarist Jim Coleman, one of Chet Atkins‘ doctors, has recorded a tribute album to the ailing Country Music Hall of Fame member. Titled The Guitar That Made America Great, Coleman’s 15-song collection covers such memorable Atkins songs as “Mr. Sandman,” “Cheek to Cheek,” “Vincent,” “Waitin’ for Suzy B” and “I Still Can’t Say Goodbye.” Coleman played with Atkins during his last public performance on June 12, 1998, in Knoxville, Tennessee. Coleman said that Atkins, who has had several bouts with cancer, is now living in a retirement home. He said he played his tribute album for Atkins several months ago and that Atkins’ response was, “You made a couple of mistakes, but nobody but me would notice.”…

Country fans know the Ryman Auditorium as “The Mother Church of Country Music” and the home of the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 to 1974. The National Park Service recently named the Nashville hall, built in 1892, a national historic landmark. In honor of the designation, the Ryman hosted a ceremony Monday morning (June 25) featuring presentations by government dignitaries and Opry and Ryman executives. “If I could pick one structure that truly embodies our country music heritage, it would have to be the Ryman Auditorium,” Tennessee Rep. Bob Clement said. “The Ryman is a facility of national significance which elicits a certain devotion and reverence from country music stars and fans alike.” Clement was a driving force behind the Ryman’s citation. …

Trisha Yearwood sings harmony on the John Mellencamp song “Deep Blue Heart,” due in the fall on his next album. The singers share a booking agent, and Mellencamp called Yearwood after he got wind she was covering his song “Small Town” in concert. “He played me this song,” Yearwood said, “and he said, ‘I kind of have an idea of like when Emmylou Harris sang on Bob Dylan‘s record, just kind of harmony all the way through.’ … It was really great.” Yearwood will open for Mellencamp on August 6 at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre near Denver. …

Reba McEntire‘s five-month run in “Annie Get Your Gun” ended Friday night (June 22). The country star’s first Broadway stint earned rave reviews and landed her the starring role in the TV movie version, which should begin shooting early next year. McEntire’s Girls’ Night Out tour with Martina McBride, Sara Evans, Jamie O’Neal and Carolyn Dawn Johnson kicks off July 13 in Las Vegas. When the tour ends in August, McEntire will move to Los Angeles to start shooting her new sitcom, “Reba,” airing Friday nights this fall on the WB network. Also in the fall, the singer will release a greatest-hits package featuring two new songs. …

Lee Ann Womack and Waylon Jennings will headline the Chicago Country Music Festival on June 30 and July 1. On June 30, the American Pride Cloggers, Special Consensus, the Hackberry Ramblers, Robbie Fulks, Don Walser and the Pure Texas Band and Mandy Barnett perform on the Taste Stage, with Jennings, his wife Jessi Colter and Asleep at the Wheel playing the Petrillo Music Shell. On July 1, the Taste Stage features K.C. Williams, Chase Daniels and Western Star, Anna Fermin, Kelly Hogan and Sally Timms, the Juleps and Charlie Robison. Womack, Jessica Andrews and Allison Moorer close July 1 at the Petrillo Music Shell. …

Eric Heatherly will perform at this year’s Rockabilly Fest, held June 29-July 1 at the Jackson, Tennessee, fairgrounds. Heatherly will close the festival. Robert Reynolds of the Mavericks will perform as well as exhibit part of his extensive collection of rock and country memorabilia. … Alison Krauss and Union Station‘s next album, New Favorite, will be released August 14 on Rounder Records. The first single is “The Lucky One,” written by Robert Lee Castleman, who penned the title track from Krauss’ 1999 album Forget About It. “The Lucky One”‘s video was shot by Rocky Schenck at a log cabin along the Little Bigby Creek in Columbia, Tennessee. …

Alan Jackson and Kenny Rogers have been nominated for the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. Jackson, a native of Newnan, Georgia, will perform during the September 15 awards ceremony in Atlanta. The winner will be inducted into the Macon institution. The museum honors artists who have claimed Georgia as home at some time in their lives. …

Plans are being made an early-2002 tour featuring acts from the million-selling O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack. Sold-out concerts featuring Alison Krauss and Union Station, Emmylou Harris, Ralph Stanley, the Cox Family, the Fairfield Four, the Whites and others were staged at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium in May 2000 and New York’s Carnegie Hall June 13. …

Naomi Judd will host her own daily talk show beginning August 20 on the WE: Women’s Entertainment cable channel. The country star will dispense advice on “themes important to women such as trust, the need to please, friendship and personal motivation,” according to the channel. ….

Seventeen-year-old Kristy Lee is the latest teenager with a recording contract after recently signing to Arista/Nashville. She also has a contract with Britney Spears‘ new production company and has said that Spears has agreed to appear in her first music video. …

During Fan Fair, Dolly Parton made an appearance at the Country Music Hall of Fame, where she debuted her video for the song “Shine” on CMT and talked about why she covered the Collective Soul song. “Collective Soul had this out, it was a rock group,” she said. “I just loved the song, and [my husband] Carl Dean did too. He listens to a lot of rock radio in the car and had the station on. I thought it sounded like a gospel song. I thought, ‘Wow, that is a great song, maybe some day I could find a way to take some of the rock out of it and make it more country.’ So it just kind of danced across my mind one day when we were doing more of these bluegrass and acoustic things. I thought to replace the heavy guitar with the mandolin, it might work good, and it did.”

Patty Loveless said at Fan Fair that she doesn’t refer to her upcoming acoustic album, Mountain Soul, as “bluegrass” because the term doesn’t fit. “I want the public to get from the album what they think it is,” she said. “I felt the right word for this is “mountain’” …

Joe Diffie said he has written a song called “My Give-a-Damn Is Busted” for his next album …

Cledus T. Judd has turned his whimsical eye toward Billy Gilman. His upcoming parody of “One Voice [Was Heard]” is titled “My Voice Matured.”

In the heat of summer, Lee Ann Womack has outlined plans for a Christmas tour. The singer will mount her first holiday tour in late November and early December with the 15-piece Duke Ellington Orchestra, led by Ellington’s grandson, Mercer. Womack said she’ll also have her band, 911, with her on tour and will begin concerts with her hits. Then, the Ellington Orchestra will join them for traditional Christmas songs. Tour dates, not yet announced, will concentrate on the Northeast and the Midwest. …

This year’s George Strait Country Music Festival grossed $29 million from 16 shows, Billboard reports. The figure is on par with the festival’s three previous outings, which grossed a combined $90 million. Four dates on this year’s tour were downsized from stadium shows to amphitheaters. The tour featured Strait, Alan Jackson, Lee Ann Womack, Brad Paisley, Lonestar, Sara Evans and Asleep at the Wheel. It wrapped up Sunday (June 10) in Dallas. …

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. …

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. …

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. …

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. …

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. …

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.

— sonicnet.com report