Dinner with Chely Wright went for $14,500 at her celebrity auction and benefit concert June 12 at Nashville's Wildhorse Saloon. An avid Wright fan, Richard McCaslin, made the winning bid for dinner with the singer at the Nashville restaurant of his choice. The event raised money for Wright's Reading, Writing and Rhythm Foundation, which provides musical instruments for schools. Wright also sold a tour of the Country Music Hall of Fame (with her as tour guide) for $2,000. Darryl Worley's orange plaid boxer shorts (which he removed for the occasion) brought in $550. …

Jim Reeves' custom tour bus and Gene Autry's Mercedes will be among the celebrity items going for auction on June 16. The auction, being held by the Jim Reeves estate owner, the carnival company United Shows of America, will be held at the I-24 Expo Center located six miles east of Nashville on I-24. Other items available will be an MG Midget that belonged to Amy Grant, Conway Twitty's custom truck named the "Twitty Mobile," Reeves' piano, Faron Young's Lincoln and many star guitars and other memorabilia …

The Bellamy Brothers received the 27th Annual Tex Ritter Award, presented by the International Fan Club Organization on June 12 at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium. The award in past years has been given to artists including Charlie Daniels, Marty Stuart, Conway Twitty, the Oak Ridge Boys, Roy Clark and Barbara Mandrell. The Tex Ritter Award, first presented in 1974 to Mother Maybelle Carter, has also included in its ranks legends such as Ernest Tubb, Loretta Lynn, Charley Pride, Mae Boren Axton and Faron Young. ...

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. ...

Kenny Chesney debuted "A Lot of Things Different," a new ballad from the pens of Bill Anderson and Dean Dillon, during a surprise Saturday visit to the Grand Ole Opry. Chesney said the song would appear on his next album. His most recent CD, a greatest-hits collection, came out in September. Chesney begins a tour with Tim McGraw on June 20. …

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. ...

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. ...

Marty Robbins' Live 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. …

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. ...

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 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. ...

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