COUNTRY BEAT: Garth Brooks, Roy Nichols, Shania Twain …

Brooks a pallbearer; guitarist Roy Nichols dies; Twain museum opens in Canada.

Garth Brooks and Brad Paisley will be among the active pallbearers at Johnny Russell‘s funeral on Friday morning (July 6) at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry House. Russell presided over Brooks’ induction into the Opry cast. Other pallbearers will be Jim Ed Brown, Billy Walker, Porter Wagoner, Jack Greene and Little Jimmy Dickens. Honorary pallbearers will include Little David Wilkins and songwriter Dickey Lee. The 61-year-old Russell died on July 3 of complications from leukemia and diabetes. …

Legendary guitarist Roy Nichols, who played for more than 20 years with Merle Haggard‘s backing band, the Strangers, died of a heart attack Tuesday (July 3) at Mercy Hospital in Bakersfield, California. He was 68. Helping define the Bakersfield sound with his Fender Telecaster, Nichols recorded hundreds of songs with Haggard and also played with Johnny Cash, Lefty Frizzell, the Maddox Brothers & Rose and Wynn Stewart, among others. In 1987 Nichols quit the road and retired from Haggard’s band. The following year he was inducted into the Western Swing Society Hall of Fame in Sacramento. In 1996 Nichols suffered a stroke that put him in a wheelchair and cost him the use of his left hand. …

A museum for Shania Twain is now open in her hometown of Timmins, Ontario. The Shania Twain Centre, which opened June 30, features memorabilia the singer donated. The 11,000-square-foot building is adjacent to the Timmins Gold Mine tourist attraction. …

Country artists will be out in force for the Fourth of July. Garth Brooks will be part of a Norman Lear-produced tribute to the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia; ABC will carry the salute during an ABC News special, “Independence Day 2001,” at 10 p.m. ET. Brooks will read an epilogue to the Declaration of Independence and sing “We Shall Be Free.” Also during the show, a country collaboration on “America the Beautiful,” taped recently in Nashville, will be shown. Toby Keith, Lyle Lovett, the Oak Ridge Boys, Brenda Lee, Vince Gill, Amy Grant, Randy Owen of Alabama, and Kenny Rogers are in the cast. Chely Wright will be one of the featured performers on “A Capitol Fourth” at 8 p.m. ET on PBS stations. Also participating: the Pointer Sisters, Barry Bostwick, the Irish Tenors and the National Symphony Orchestra. Finally, Rascal Flatts will sing the national anthem at Baltimore’s Camden Yards, where the Baltimore Orioles will host the New York Yankees. …

The most striking artifact at the new International Rock-a-Billy Hall of Fame is the defibrillator and paddles used in an attempt to revive the dying Elvis Presley in 1977. The museum opened June 30 in Jackson, Tennessee, during a rockabilly festival. The hall is a one-room museum in the old city court building in downtown Jackson. On display near blue suede boots worn by Jackson native and rockabilly star Carl Perkins are artifacts relating to the Beach Boys and the Bee Gees.

Mission statement of from the latest country music Web site (this is real): “The idea for MenWhoLookLikeKennyRogers.com began as an art project. I kept noticing that a lot of older men who grew beards and still sported longish hair began to resemble the Gambler, Kenny Rogers. This is not a bad thing, it just happens to be the case. Every once in awhile I noticed that someone looked as though they were trying extra hard to look like Kenny. On purpose. I decided I should start taking pictures of these guys and make a huge art installation. Of course, then the Web came along and provided the perfect outlet for such foolish endeavors. Once I figured out how to make these stupid Web pages, I realized the time had come to launch my dream.” …

George Strait wrapped up the filming on Saturday (June 30) of the movie “Grand Champion” with a performance of the song “The Hokey Pokey” on location in West Texas. The family film, which stars Julia Roberts, concerns a steer named Grand Champion who is kidnapped by some children in an effort to save the steer from the butcher shop. Bruce Willis and singers Charlie Robison and Robert Earl Keen also appear in the movie, in which Strait portrays himself. Strait’s annual George Strait Team Roping Classic will be held July 13-14 at the San Antonio Rose Palace. This year, unlike past years, Strait will not do a concert — he prefers to participate in the rodeo, he said. …

Lee Ann Womack gets a week on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” in mid-July during the show’s “Pop Superstar Week.” Other performers include Eve and Tyrese. Womack will be playing for her hometown grade school in Jacksonville, Texas. …

Jim Lauderdale has been confirmed as the opening act for Lucinda Williams‘ upcoming
summer tour, which kicks off Saturday, July 14 at White River Farm in Indianapolis, Indiana. The tour continues through August 12 in Houston …

The second annual OpryFest Bluegrass Jamboree will be held July 21-22 at the Opry Plaza in front of Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry House. Performers for July 21 include Jim Lauderdale, the Dan
Tyminski Band
, Dale Ann Bradley and Coon Creek, the Larry Stephenson Band, Missy Raines and Jim Hurst, Old Crow Medicine Show, and the Peasall Sisters. The lineup for July 22 features Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys, the Osborne Brothers, Rhonda Vincent & the Rage, Lonesome River Band, IIIrd Tyme Out and Mountain Heart

LeAnn Rimes will close Camp Jeep with a headlining performance on July 28. In its sixth year, the family camp is a three-day brand loyalty program for Jeep enthusiasts at Oak Ridge Estate in the Blue
Ridge Mountains in Nelson County, Virginia. More than 8,000 people are expected to attend …

Universal-owned Republic Records has signed Texas singer-songwriter Pat Green, the first
country-leaning artist on the label. The Republic roster includes rock bands 3 Doors Down and
Godsmack. Green’s Republic release is due October 16, and the first single, “Carry On,” goes to radio August 21. A favorite in the Lone Star State, Green has recorded with Willie Nelson, Dixie Chicks singer Natalie Maines and Jack Ingram. His duet with Radney Foster, “Texas in 1880,” is at #60 on the Billboard country singles chart for July 7. …

Guitarslinger Eric Heatherly is designing a line of automobile seat belts that look like custom-made guitar straps. …

The Hal Leonard Corp. has released the songbook “O Brother, Where Art Thou?,” a collection of nine songs from the recent film and soundtrack of the same name. Arranged with guitar tablature, the 48-page edition includes lyrics, music and movie publicity photos. The songs are “Big Rock Candy Mountain,” “You Are My Sunshine,” “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues,” “Man of Constant Sorrow,” “Keep on the Sunny Side,” “I’ll Fly Away,” “I Am Weary (Let Me Rest),” “In the Highways” and “In the Jailhouse Now.” …

As part of their “world tour,” BR549 will take part in Operation Thank You, which takes supplies and entertainment to U.S. military troops in Bosnia. BR549 will perform a concert for troops on July 25. The band’s world tour begins July 9th in Canada and will run through London, Poland and France. The group celebrated the June 26 release of This Is BR549 with a party at New York City’s B.B. King Blues Club on June 25 and played a show at the club the next night. …

Radney Foster‘s fourth solo album since leaving Foster & Lloyd was released June 26. Are You Ready for the Big Show? is live, with two studio tracks added. Foster recorded the album September 21 and 22 at Austin’s Continental Club, with a band including Nickel Creek mandolinist Chris Thile and Steve Earle sideman Mike McAdam on slide guitar. The album includes Foster’s studio duet with Pat Green, “Texas in 1880,” which is charting on Billboard‘s Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart. …

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. …

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. …

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

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. …

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.

— sonicnet.com report