In the Stars 

A Fan Fair clone makes waves

A Fan Fair clone makes waves

Starfest, the Los Angeles-based clone of Fan Fair, seems to be having some financial difficulties. At least several of the acts that performed at this year’s event, May 9-11, were paid with checks that bounced, and it is not yet clear just how many bad checks were written. Starfest organizers have assured the recipients that the checks will be made good, but so far this hasn’t happened.

Complicating the matter—at least in a public-relations sense—is the fact that the recent Starfest was cosponsored by such respected organizations as CMT: Country Music Television, the Academy of Country Music, Ford and Budweiser. In fact, this year’s edition was billed as “Country Music Television’s Starfest ’96.” The talent lineup included Martina McBride, Tammy Wynette, Joe Diffie, Billy Ray Cyrus, Jeff Carson, Bryan White, Confederate Railroad, Tracy Lawrence, Ricky Skaggs, Rick Trevino, Faith Hill, Michelle Wright, Jeff Foxworthy, Toby Keith, Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney, Ken Mellons, Rhett Akins, and several lesser-known acts.

Alluding to Starfest’s high-profile sponsors, manager and booking agent Bobby Roberts says, “You feel that there’s an element of trust when you get that level of name involvement.” The only artist represented by the Bobby Roberts Co. in this year’s event was Jeff Carson, whose $10,000 check bounced.

Roberts points out that artists who performed at the first two editions of the festival (when it was called FanFest) were paid only expenses instead of their regular concert fees. The organization was able to secure this preferential arrangement for a couple of reasons: For one, the festival was designed to get under way almost immediately after the Academy of Country Music had staged its annual awards show. That meant organizers could tap into a talent pool of mostly Nashville-based stars who were already in Los Angeles to appear on the show. In addition, the ACM—whose favor the stars assiduously curry because of its publicity value—receives a share of the festival’s income. As if these lures were not sufficient in themselves, the event’s organizers also established a fund to pay for the eventual construction of a retirement home for country performers.

This year, however, NBC-TV scheduled the ACM awards show earlier than usual—April 24, more than two weeks before Starfest began. “Most of the agents advised [Starfest] that it would be good to turn it into a regular festival and start paying artists the regular concert fees,” Roberts says. “Then you’re going to get commitments from the artists, which is the normal course of business. So this year, they did do that. And they decided to book a large volume of high-level entertainers out there.” Roberts adds that Starfest officials have promised him that all bad checks will be made good.

According to Starfest’s 1996 program book, the festival organizers will produce two more extravaganzas this year: Hollywood Starfair, set for Aug. 10-11, and the Corona Country Music Fair, Oct. 19. The latter event is to feature the financially aggrieved Carson, as well as Ricky Skaggs and Bryan White, both of whom were also on the recent Starfest.

Calls to Starfest organizers and to CMT for their response to this situation were not returned by press time.

Currents

♦ Country music continues to be popular among book publishers. According to an announcement in the May 20 issue of the trade journal Publisher’s Weekly, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Larry Gatlin, Marie Osmond, Tanya Tucker and Susie Luchsinger (Reba McEntire’s sister and Christian country singer) have all signed with the William Morris Agency for literary representation. In the same issue, Creative Artists Agency says it has sold dramatic rights to Barbara Mandrell’s Get to the Heart: My Story. Among the country titles to be touted at the American Booksellers Association convention and trade exhibition, June 12-17 in Chicago, are Ernest Tubb: The Texas Troubadour (Duke University Press), by the Country Music Foundation’s Ronnie Pugh; The Devil’s Box: Country Fiddling and Its Origins (Vanderbilt University Press), by MTSU’s Dr. Charles Wolfe; The Country Reader: 25 Years of the Journal of Country Music (Vanderbilt University Press), edited by the CMF’s Paul Kingsbury; and Waylon: An Autobiography (Warner Books), by Waylon Jennings and Lenny Kaye.

♦ TNN and CMT will help promote and market the Fruit of the Loom All-Star CountryFest at the Atlanta Motor Speedway July 13. The daylong concert will star Alan Jackson, Alabama, Hank Williams Jr., Pam Tillis, Patty Loveless, Tracy Byrd, the Charlie Daniels Band, Lee Roy Parnell and Kenny Chesney. A two-hour special of the event will be broadcast July 17 on CBS-TV. This fall, TNN will telecast the special.

TNN will air its VideoPM show live from the festival site July 11 and 12. Then, on July 16, the network will run an hour-long behind-the-scenes prime-time special, CountryFest ’96 Preview Party. Highlights from the CountryFest will be featured on TNN’s Prime Time Country July 15 and 16. TNN will also bring its Wildhorse Saloon country dance program to the location. In cooperation with Fruit of the Loom, the network will conduct the “It’s a Big Country Sweepstakes” promotion May 27-June 24.

For its part, CMT joins Arista Records/Nashville and Fruit of the Loom for “Big Ticket to the States,” which offers viewers in the United Kingdom the chance to win a trip to see Alan Jackson perform at the festival. In addition, CMT will have its mobile unit on display at the concert site. Tickets to the concert are free; details for getting them are available at Fruit of the Loom displays.

♦ The Tennessee division of Mothers Against Drunk Driving will sponsor a fund-raising concert and auction 7:30 p.m. June 9 at the Ryman Auditorium. Performers include Perfect Stranger, T. Graham Brown, Vestal Goodman, and the Nashville Mandolin Ensemble. During the show, autographed items from Garth Brooks, the Judds, Pam Tillis, Mark Collie, Brooks & Dunn, Dolly Parton and others will be auctioned. Tickets are being sold through Ticketmaster.

♦ Five acts from Australia will showcase their music in two performances at the Ace of Clubs June 6 and 10. The first date is for music industry executives and will begin at 6 p.m. The other is open to the public and will start at 9 p.m. The performers—all of whom have earned musical distinctions in their country—are Troy Cassar-Daley, Tommy Emmanuel, Gina Jeffreys, Lee Kernaghan and Mark O’Shea. Additional information is available from AristoMedia at 269-7071.

♦ Nashville talent manager and journalist John Lomax III has been appointed A&R consultant for London-based Demon Records. The label is active in reissues and contemporary music.

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