COUNTRY BEAT: Brad Paisley, Ricky Skaggs, Grand Ole Opry ...

Paisley 'honored' by Grammy nod; Skaggs sets TV project; Opry goes home.

"What an incredible honor this is," said Brad Paisley about his Grammy nomination for Best New Artist, along with Shelby Lynne, Sisqó, Jill Scott and Papa Roach. "I was fortunate enough to end 2000 by being invited to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry, and now I'm starting out the new year with this Grammy nomination. I must admit I'm not familiar with all of the artists in this category. Until today, I thought 'Papa Roach' was a Nat Stuckey song. I need to buy a few records, do some listening and get to know these folks' music. They're probably wondering who I am too." ...

Ricky Skaggs and his band, Kentucky Thunder, will tape a Family Net television special in Nashville on Monday (January 8), focusing on Skaggs' gospel album Soldier of the Cross. Joining them will be the Whites and Jerry and Tammy Sullivan. The taping, which is open to the public, will be held at 7 p.m. in the Gibson Bluegrass Café in the Opry Mills center, next to the Opryland Hotel. Airdate for the special has not been set. ...

The Grand Ole Opry goes home this weekend, to Nashville's Ryman Auditorium. The Opry, which left the Ryman in 1974 to move to Opryland, has experimented with Ryman dates the past two years and this year will move to the Ryman for the entire months of January and February. Among artists appearing on the Friday and Saturday shows this weekend are the Del McCoury Band, Ricky Skaggs, Marty Stuart, Mandy Barnett, Porter Wagoner, Brad Paisley, Vince Gill, Bill Anderson, and Little Jimmy Dickens. ...

As services were being prepared for Thursday (January 4) for the late Eddy Shaver in Waco, Texas, an accidental overdose of heroin was determined to be the cause of death, the Associated Press reports. No further details surrounding the circumstances of his death were available. Shaver, 38, who was taken to a Waco hospital late Saturday, was pronounced dead in the early hours of New Year's Eve. The guitarist and his father, Billy Joe Shaver, had been scheduled to play that evening at the Hilltop Bar & Grill in Spicewood, Texas. Instead, on New Year's Eve, friends said, Billy Joe Shaver played the New Year's gig at the Hilltop with his friend Willie Nelson, who led a tribute to Eddy. The week before his death, Eddy signed a recording deal with Antone's Records in Austin, Texas, for a solo album. In October he married Irene Triola, who worked at Austin's Saxon Pub, where the Shavers often performed. ...

Willie Nelson will celebrate his 68th birthday on the road. The Country Music Hall of Fame member heads out on tour again beginning February 2 at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, Florida. For now, he's booked 39 dates through an August 21 appearance at the Kentucky State Fair in Louisville. ...

John Michael Montgomery broke his right leg when he slipped and fell through ice Friday (December 29) while hunting in Kentucky. Montgomery underwent surgery to repair his leg and is now resting at home in Nicholasville, Kentucky. The singer plans to resume work as soon as possible — even in a leg cast, a spokesperson said. ...

Mindy McCready fans will find a surprise in their McCready 2001 wall calendars. The singer poses nude for the month of August and there's not a whole lot of cloth covering the rest of the year. ...

Waylon Jennings' Nashville estate sale drew large crowds, who bought such items as the orange 1969 Dodge Charger featured in the "Dukes of Hazzard" television show. Known as the "General Lee," it sold for $45,000. Not selling was the Ariel motorcycle that once belonged to Jennings' friend Buddy Holly. Asking price for the cycle is $750,000. Jennings, who now lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, still has his Nashville house on the market for $1.2 million. ...

The Country Music Hall of Fame permanently closed the doors of its Music Row building on New Year's Eve. Workers are beginning to move the hall's millions of pieces of country memorabilia to the institution's new downtown Nashville home, which will open in May. ...

The Soul 2 Soul 2000 Tour by Faith Hill and Tim McGraw ranked fifth on the list of the year's top tours, according to industry magazine Pollstar. Grossing $48.8 million, the tour was just ahead of the sixth-ranked Dixie Chicks' Fly tour, which grossed $47.3 million. Leading the list for the year was Tina Turner, followed by 'NSYNC, the Dave Matthews Band and Kiss. In Billboard's year-end artist rankings, McGraw was the top singles and tracks (denoting radio play) artist (Hill is second), while Hill's "Breathe" (RealAudio excerpt) led in country singles sales. (It was also pop single of the year.) Fly was the best-selling country album of the year. ...

Country comedians Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Engvall, Ron White and Larry the Cable Guy are taking the Blue Collar Comedy Tour back on the road throughout much of 2001. They'll start another leg of their tour January 12 at the Hersheypark Arena in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Theater dates are scheduled nationwide through May 4. ...

The Dixie Chicks' record company is being sued over the group's use of a gospel song in a hit tune, the Tennessean reports. The suit, filed against Sony Music Entertainment Inc. in a federal court in Missouri, claims the group did not seek or obtain authorization to use gospel composer Albert E. Brumley's "I'll Fly Away" at the end of "Sin Wagon" (RealAudio excerpt), a single from the Chicks' 1999 Fly. Albert E. Brumley & Sons, the Powell, Missouri, publisher that holds the song's copyright, is asking $500,000 in damages. A Sony Music spokeswoman said the company had not seen the lawsuit. Brumley, who died in 1977, composed "I'll Fly Away" in 1932. The song has been recorded more than 500 times, the suit says. Sean "Puffy" Combs and singer Faith Evans settled a lawsuit in Nashville in September in federal court over the use of "I'll Fly Away" in the song "I'll Be Missing You" (RealAudio excerpt). ...

Sara Evans has added more dates to her opening gig with Alan Jackson. She'll open for him January 31 in Albany, New York; February 1 in Salisbury, Maryland; February 2 in Pittsburgh; February 3 in Auburn Hills, Michigan; and February 7 in Augusta, Maine. ...

As a result of Kenny Rogers' face appearing on 1 million boxes of its Honey Nut Cheerios, General Mills is donating $50,000 in proceeds from sales of those boxes to America's Second Harvest, the nation's largest hunger-relief organization. ...

Shania Twain's Come on Over (RealAudio excerpt of title track) has been certified 18-times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, making it the most successful solo album by a female artist, surpassing Whitney Houston's soundtrack to "The Bodyguard." The Dixie Chicks' Fly is now eight-times platinum; their first album is 10-times platinum. ...

Country music touring revenues in 2000 were up more than 50 percent over last year, and total attendance was up a little more than 30 percent, according to Billboard sister publication Amusement Business. The magazine said the Tim McGraw/Faith Hill co-headlining "Soul 2 Soul" tour was the top country package, grossing $49.6 million and drawing 969,600 people to 65 shows. The Dixie Chicks led in total attendance, drawing 1 million fans and grossing $46.1 million in 81 shows. The George Strait Country Music Festival grossed $21 million from 10 stadium dates. ...

Dolly Parton's second bluegrass album, Little Sparrow, is scheduled for a January 23 release. Guest artists include Rhonda Vincent, Alison Krauss, Chris Thile, Sonya Isaacs and the Irish group Altan. Parton includes a version of the Cole Porter song "I Get a Kick Out of You." ...

An Alison Brown song will be the wake-up music for the crew of the space shuttle Destiny during its mission to the International Space Station. "Girl's Breakdown," a tune from Brown's Fair Weather that she wrote for friend and astronaut Marsha Ivins, will accompany the crew on its January 18 launch. ...

Jo Dee Messina's first headlining tour will start February 8 in South Bend, Indiana. She's calling it the "Burn Tour 2001," after Burn (RealAudio excerpt of title track), the title of her third album. Rascal Flatts will open dates during the 75-city tour. ...

When the new Country Music Hall of Fame opens in May, 10 new members will be inducted in opening ceremonies, said the Country Music Association. Traditionally, between two and four new members are inducted annually into the hall. There are now 74 members. ...

Nashville's Gospel Music Association has signed with Dick Clark Productions to produce the annual Dove Awards show, the Tennessean reports. The production, held in the Grand Ole Opry House in April, has never been on network TV, something Clark said he was aiming for. ...

Brad Paisley, Chely Wright, Billy Dean, Toby Keith and Mindy McCready are among the more than 20 country artists who will take part in the seventh Annual Country in the Rockies, from January 27 to February 3, in Crested Butte, Colorado. Proceeds from the series of concerts and outdoor events help fund research efforts of the Frances Williams Preston Laboratories for Cancer Research, a division of the T.J. Martell Foundation at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in Nashville. ...

Brooks & Dunn and Kenny Chesney have been added as presenters on the American Music Awards special airing Monday (January 8) on ABC. Martina McBride and SheDaisy will perform on the show. ...

— sonicnet.com staff report