Country music’s hottest story is the breakthrough of 13-year-old Leann Rimes. Sounding remarkably seasoned (and more than a little like Connie Francis), Rimes is currently blitzing the charts with her torchy rendition of “Blue.” She’s also inviting comparisons to Tanya Tucker, who first seized the charts at the age of 13 as well.
Is Rimes’ achievement yet more evidence that country music is in mad pursuit of the youth market? Probably notin spite of its adult themes, country has always been congenial to youthful talent. Brenda Lee was just a few months past 12 when she scored her first country hit, “One Step at a Time.” Kippi Brannon charted with a stunning remake of the Webb Pierce classic “Slowly” when she was 15. Crystal Gayle made her chart debut at the age of 19 with “I’ve Cried (The Blues Right Out of My Eyes).” Hank Williams Jr. was only 14 when he charted “Long Gone Lonesome Blues,” and his father was a comparatively fresh 23 when he first made his mark with “Move It on Over.”
Other country artists may not have been in their teens when they made their first impression on listenersbut they were still quite young. Charly McClain, for example, entered the country record books at 20, as did Faron Young, Barbara Mandrell, Johnny Rodriguez, and Randy Traywick. (Traywick, however, would not touch the charts again until he was 26 and singing under the name Randy Travis.) Dolly Parton made her chart bow at 21, and Reba McEntire and Lefty Frizzell first hit at 22. But the real pace-setting youth success story occurred in 1973, when Marie Osmond took her first country single, “Paper Roses,” all the way to the No. 1 spot, where it stayed for two weeks. She was 14.
♦ The International Bluegrass Music Association will hold its World of Bluegrass trade show, Fan Fest, and golf tournament Sept. 23-29 in Owensboro, Ky. The week-long event, which combines professional development and entertainment, will also feature the IBMA’s annual awards show. The trade show segment will occupy the first four days and consist primarily of seminars, exhibits, and artist showcases. Twenty-four new and established acts will perform for fans, broadcasters, and talent buyers at a series of luncheon and evening sessions.
Seminar subjects include the marketing profile of the bluegrass consumer and building new audiences; online services in the business of bluegrass; bluegrass in the schools and Suzuki-method teaching; a radio workshop on ways to improve your bluegrass show; the International Bluegrass Music Museum: where we are, where we’re going, and how you can help; producing your own CD; be your own publicist; media marketing and public relations; luthier repair roundtable discussions and new technologies in sound; adding bluegrass to the daily radio mix and the Americana chart; merchandising bluegrass; the changing climate of retail; finding new talent buyers for bluegrass; and tour management, minimizing expenses, and touring overseas.
The IBMA bluegrass awards will be presented during a two-hour show on Thursday, Sept. 26, and the golf tournament will take place the following day. Fan Fest is a three-day series of concerts. Among the acts already scheduled to perform are the Lonesome River Band, Third Tyme Out, Bluegrass 45, The Isaacs, Front Range, The Sidemen, Curly Seckler, Larry Sparks, The Country Gentlemen, The Del McCoury Band, Nashville Bluegrass Band, Jerry Douglas, Claire Lynch & the Front Porch String Band, The Bullas, Dry Branch Fire Squad, J.D. Crowe & the New South, Blue Highway, The Stevens Family, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Alan Munde & Joe Carr, and Kathy Kallick & the Big Little Band.
Additional information is available from the IBMA at (502) 684-9025.
♦ Arista Records is relieving the summer doldrums by announcing a new Christmas album. Star of Wonder: A Country Christmas will be released Sept. 17 and will feature virtually every act on the Arista/Nashville and Career labels. Here’s the lineup: “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” Alan Jackson; “Silent Night,” Steve Wariner; “Swingin’ Home for Christmas,” The Tractors; “The Christmas Song,” Radney Foster; “We Three Kings,” BlackHawk; “Please Come Home for Christmas,” Lee Roy Parnell; “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” Tammy Graham; “Cabin in the Valley,” Brooks & Dunn; “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” BR5-49; “What Child Is This,” Brett James; “White Christmas,” Michelle Wright; and “Christmas Spirit,” Diamond Rio.
♦ Country music is still maintaining a strong presence in the Northeast. On a recent road trip from Nashville to southeastern Massachusetts, I was seldom beyond the signal of a country station. The songs I heard most often on the journey were Neal McCoy’s “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye” and Leann Rimes’ “Blue.” Mindy McCready’s “Guys Do It All the Time” was almost as popular.
♦ Epic Records’ Stephanie Bentley has signed to Corlew O’Grady for management.
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