COUNTRY BEAT: Emmylou Harris, Billy Byrd, Clay Davidson …

Harris sets activist concerts; guitarist Byrd dies; Davidson still recovering from bus crash.

Emmylou Harris has lined up a busy fall season of activist concerts. She’ll perform at a series of dates to benefit the anti-landmine movement, beginning with the September 20 Acoustic Concert for a Landmine Free World at the Warner Theater in Washington, D.C. It will also feature Steve Earle, John Prine, Nanci Griffith and Bruce Cockburn. Other concerts will be announced this fall for Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and New York. Harris will also join such artists as Dave Matthews and Pearl Jam for Groundwork 2001, a series of concerts in Seattle. The shows, taking place October 14-22, will benefit the U.N.’s Food and Agricultural Organization …

A funeral service will be held Thursday at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Nashville for guitarist Billy Byrd, who died on Tuesday of natural causes. He was 81. Byrd, best known for his influential work with Ernmest Tubb in the ’50s, was also a respected jazz guitarist who taught and inspired such prominent guitar players as Hank Garland and Harold Bradley. Byrd and Garland designed the semi-hollow-body Gibson Byrdland electric guitar. Before joining Tubb’s band in 1949, Byrd played with local pop groups and appeared on the Grand Ole Opry with Little Jimmy Dickens and George Morgan and played on Dickens’ first recording session. He is survived by his wife Glenna C. Byrd, four daughters, eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild …

Clay Davidson and his band, who were involved in a bus crash in Illinois on July 20, were more shook up than they initially thought. They were treated for cuts and bruises at a hospital and released. After canceling two dates, Davidson and band planned to return to the road but were forced to cancel additional dates on doctor’s orders. They have now missed nine dates and still have not scheduled a tour resumption.

The 1980 movie that sparked a chapter in country music’s history will be reborn on Broadway next year. “Urban Cowboy” will be staged in a workshop in New York City from October 23 to November 11 and is then set to open on
Broadway sometime next spring. All parts for the musical have been cast except for the starring role of “Bud,” which made John Travolta a household name. Open auditions for the Bud role will be held in Nashville on
Thursday, August 16, at the Nashville Songwriters Association International building on West End Avenue from 7-10 p.m. Bud is described as being an 18-to 26-year-old “good looking, tough but innocent country boy.” Candidates must be able to sing. ….

Vince Gill, Kenny Chesney, Tammy Cochran and SheDaisy will be part of the first annual All Star Music Bash on October 1 at Opryland Hotel in Nashville. Like the Sizzlin’ Country event in Los Angeles every May, the All Star Music Bash will benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Also in the early lineup are Kenny Loggins, Michael W. Smith and Richard Marx. Cochran’s current single, “Angels in Waiting,” was inspired by her late brothers, whose lives were claimed by cystic fibrosis. …

In mid-September, Trisha Yearwood will launch Proctor & Gamble’s “Bring Out the Beautiful You” campaign, which benefits the Society for Women’s Health Research, for which Yearwood is spokesperson. …

Faith Hill, Brooks & Dunn and Alan Jackson are among the country artists finding good news in the latest round of gold and platinum certifications by the Recording Industry Association of America. The RIAA has certified Hill’s Breathe with shipments of 7 million copies. Two Brooks & Dunn CDs are now multiplatinum — Greatest Hits at 3 million and If You See Her at 2 million. Jackson’s Everything I Love is now at the 3 million mark. Trisha Yearwood‘s Songbook — A Collection has reached the 4 million plateau. Tracy Byrd‘s Keepers — Greatest Hits is now certified gold, as is Lonestar‘s recent release, I’m Already There. Pam TillisGreatest Hits is now platinum. And George JonesHigh Tech Redneck, which was released in 1993, finally reached the gold landmark …

Brooks & Dunn wrapped their Neon Circus & Wild West Show Sunday with a concert in Pittsburgh. The tour began April 27 in Birmingham, Alabama, and featured B&D, Toby Keith, Montgomery Gentry, Keith Urban and an assortment of jugglers, clowns, snake handlers and sword swallowers. Although official tour numbers are not in yet, the duo’s management is reporting ticket grosses of $14 million, with total attendance of some 528,000 …

Robert Earl Keen plays a free concert in Nashville on Thursday. The last show in the Dancin’ in the District series of summer concerts at Nashville’s Riverfront Park begins at 6:30 p.m. with Stoik Oak, the Thompson Brothers and the Coal Men opening for Keen …

Bill Monroe‘s childhood home in Rosine, Kentucky, has been restored and will be formally opened to the public on August 23. A day-long ceremony will include concert appearances by Ralph Stanley, Mike Seeger, the Sullivan Family, Karl Shiflett and the Big Country Show and other artists. A number of Monroe’s former Blue Grass Boys are expected to appear. The home is on the National Registry of Historic Places and a Monroe museum is planned by the Bill Monroe Foundation to be adjacent to the home …

Kenny Rogers‘ landmark album The Gambler will be reissued on August 21. Originally released on November 15, 1978, The Gambler earned the CMA’s Album of the Year award and gained a CMA Male Vocalist of the Year award for Rogers. The song “The Gambler,” a #1 hit on both Billboard‘s top country and pop charts, yielded a Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance, and spawned five made-for-television movies starring Rogers …

Members of the Nashville bluegrass AC/DC tribute band Hayseed Dixie finally met a member of their favorite group. AC/DC bassist Cliff Williams invited the band to play a party at his place and he joined them onstage for a rendition of “Have a Drink on Me”…

Clint Black‘s new duet with his wife, Lisa Hartman Black, “Easy for Me to Say,” is the first single from his forthcoming second greatest hits project. The single will ship to radio in September. “Easy for Me to Say” is one of four new songs that will be included on the hits CD, which is slated for a November release. The couple will perform on and he will host the “Family Television Awards,” airing at 8 p.m. (ET) August 10 on CBS (MTVi’s parent company, Viacom, also owns CBS) …

Newcomer Carolyn Dawn Johnson is up for 10 Canadian Country Music Awards, including Album of the Year, Female Artist of the Year and the Rising Star Award. Her songs “Complicated” and “Georgia” are each nominated for top single, song and video. Johnson contends in the Fans’ Choice Award against Paul Brandt, Terri Clark, Jason McCoy and the Wilkinsons. Clark has six nominations and McCoy and Lisa Brokop each have five. The awards show on September 10 will be broadcast live from Calgary’s Pengrowth Saddledome on the CBC in Canada and CMT in the U.S. (MTVi’s parent company, Viacom, also owns CMT.) …

Carlene Carter and her boyfriend, Howie Epstein, are in trouble again. Carter, the daughter of June Carter Cash and Carl Smith, and Epstein, the bass player for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, were arrested in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in June and charged with drug possession and car theft. Now they’re being sued. The owners of Kiki’s All Breed Grooming outside Santa Fe, New Mexico, allege that Epstein and Carter owe more than $22,000 in kennel fees for dogs they left to be boarded in 1999 and 2000. …

Country Music Hall of Fame members Charley Pride and Jimmy Dickens will headline the Fifth Annual Grand Ole Opry Caribbean Cruise from December 2-9 on the cruise liner Carnival Victory. Bill Anderson, who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in October, and Grand Ole Opry member Jean Shepherd will also perform on the cruise …

Former Boy Howdy lead singer Jeffrey Steele is launching his solo career with the new single “Somethin’ in the Water.” Also well known as a songwriter (his cuts include “Couldn’t Last a Moment” by Collin Raye, “Unbelievable” by Diamond Rio, “Big Deal” by LeAnn Rimes and “I’m Trying” by Trace Adkins), Steele will release his debut album, Tip Your Hat on October 30 …

Mary Chapin Carpenter told a Las Vegas audience that she may update the lyrics to one of her older hits, “I Feel Lucky,” reports the Associated Press. The 1992 song, written by Carpenter with Don Schlitz, features the names of Dwight Yoakam and Lyle Lovett. “After years of singing this song, they just aren’t doing it for me anymore,” Carpenter said. She said new names to replace Yoakam and Lovett must be available, recognizable, and Carpenter must think they are “cute.” “I’ve had audience members volunteer their names, but ‘Bob Smith’ isn’t going to cut it,” she said. From polling audiences, the two names that are in the running now are actors John Cusack and George Clooney …

Hank Williams Jr.‘s 3rd Annual Rolling Titan Thunder Rally is scheduled for September 8 at Nashville’s Riverfront Park. Confederate Railroad and Lee Roy Parnell will also perform at the show, which marks the opening of the Tennessee Titans’ football season. …

Robert Earl Keen‘s Lost Highway debut album Gravitational Forces has been set for a September 11 release. He is said to be re-recording “The Road Goes On Forever” for the album. Gurf Morlix is co-producing with Keen. …

Gordon Lightfoot and Gary Buck have been elected to the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame, the Canadian Country Music Association announced Thursday (July 26). The entertainers will be inducted into the hall during the September 7-10 Canadian Country Music Week celebrations in Calgary, Alberta. …

Willie Nelson‘s next album, The Great Divide, is scheduled for release October 2. Guest artists are said to include Rob Thomas from Matchbox Twenty, Bonnie Raitt, Sheryl Crow, Brian McKnight, Lee Ann Womack, Alison Krauss and Kid Rock. Thomas also wrote songs for the album, as did Bernie Taupin. …

Billy Ray Cyrus, on hiatus from his television series “Doc,” is in Nashville working on a new album with Dixie Chicks co-producer Blake Chancey. Cyrus has also recorded “Let’s Go to the P-B-R,” the title track to a Professional Bull Riders Association album to be released in September. Cyrus’ disc is due next year. …

Wayne “The Train” Hancock‘s new Bloodshot album, A-Town Blues, was produced by Lloyd Maines and is due September 4. …

Trace Adkins‘ court appearance for his July 5 arrest on drunk-driving charges has been delayed until September 26. He had been due in Williamson County (Tennessee) General Sessions court on Monday (July 23). Adkins is now wrapping up the loose ends on Chrome, his fourth album for Capitol, due October 9. “I’m Tryin’,” the album’s first single, has just been released. …

Renowned Texas swing fiddler Johnny Gimble will give a presentation and concert at the Country Music Hall of Fame on August 18. His appearance is the first big event in support of the yearlong run of “Nashville Salutes Texas! — Country From the Lone Star State,” the museum’s first special exhibit in its new building. Gimble played fiddle in hall of famer Bob WillsTexas Playboys and went on to win the Country Music Association’s musician of the year award five times between 1975 and 1990. Gimble will discuss his life and work and will give a performance demonstration at 2 p.m. in the hall’s Ford Theater. Gimble and his band — featuring his son, Dick Gimble — will perform at 7:30 p.m. in the hall conservatory. …

The Oxford American — author John Grisham’s “Southern magazine of good writing” — has published its fifth annual music issue. As in previous years, a sampler CD comes with the magazine, giving readers the opportunity to hear many of the artists featured in the periodical, which runs more than 200 pages. Recordings by Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Kevin Gordon, Steve Young, Deborah Allen and collaborations by Ralph Stanley with Bob Dylan and Earl Scruggs with Billy Bob Thornton are among the country-related tracks on this year’s 22-song disc. Marty Stuart contributes an article about Scruggs, and in a forum, Hank Williams Jr., Pam Tillis, Rosanne Cash, Del McCoury, Allison Moorer and others sound off about their favorite Southern tunes, performers and records. …

Tim McGraw has added a stop to his Set This Circus Down tour. The date is in Columbia, Maryland, on August 11 at the Merriweather Post Pavilion. After the tour — which also features Kenny Chesney and Mark Collie — ends in Nashville on August 25, McGraw will play the New York State Fair in Syracuse, New York on August 27 …

— sonicnet.com staff report