1. The Color Purple: The red carpet is clearly passé. The Academy of Country Music used to have an orange rug, the Country Music Assn. favors black, and the CMTs – you’re lookin’ at purple. What shade of purple? That was up for debate. Kip Moore said it was “dark purple,” Katie Armiger suggested “magenta,” and David Nail called it “LSU purple.” The most popular answer – given by Dustin Lynch and Charlie Worsham – “Barney purple.” Cowboy Troy must have found it sickening; he said it looked a little too much like Dimetapp, the cough syrup. Gloriana, however, gave it the most musical assessment, comparing it to Prince. “It’s the color,” said Tom Gossin, “formerly known as purple.”
2. Bo Duke & the Man in Black: John Schneider – yeah, the actor from “The Dukes Of Hazzard” and “Nip/Tuck” – walked the carpet. And yeah, he belonged there. During the 1980s, he put together a string of country hits, including four that reached No. 1 on Hot Country Songs. Schneider also got a nomination for the CMA’s Horizon Award in 1985, an honor he found out about while playing pool with Johnny Cash. Was Cash any good at pool? “Better than me.”
3. Steel Magnolia Maturing: Steel Magnolia, which came to national attention through the CMT show “Can You Duet,” is back in the studio working on what Joshua Scott Jones says is a “mature” album. “It’s about truth, it’s about real life, it’s about redemption, it’s about heartbreak, it’s about loss,” he says. Though maybe not entirely mature. They’ve done a video for a song called “Honk If You’re Tonky.” Tonky? “It means to get squirrelly, to have fun, to party,” Jones explains. “Sometimes you’re a little more tonky. Sometimes you’re not.”
4. Cornhole Challenge: Craig Campbell hosted the first annual celebrity cornhole challenge June 4, joined by such guests as Love And Theft, Gloriana, The Farm and Jerrod Niemann. Cornhole is a Southernism for bag toss, but it has a secondary porn meaning that raised a few eyebrows. Which, Campbell says, was the point: “My dad passed away in 1996 from colon cancer, so I always wanted to do something benefiting colon cancer, and no one’s ever done a cornhole tournament.” Proceeds went to the T.J. Martell Foundation’s colon cancer research. Campbell probably had another reason for picking cornhole for his fundraiser: he won.
5. Global Reach: Every year, the Country Music Assn. touts the international reach of the CMA Music Festival. David Nail truly became a believer after he heard a story on a Nashville radio station before the awards. “They were talking to this local bar owner, and he said that he had 13 people from China in his bar this morning who had flown in for this, and he goes, ‘That’s when you know that country music is an important thing.’ And they probably weren’t the only 13 that spent a week’s worth of vacation and money to come all the way from China to listen to what we do.”
6. Kip Moore’s Sophomore Set: Kip Moore’s “Hey Pretty Girl” has become the third hit from his debut album, reaching No. 14 this week on Hot Country Songs. Album two is on the way. “I’ve been recording non-stop for the last month,” he reports. A first single from his sophomore album is likely by the end of summer.
7. Kree Harrison Sets-Up Debut: Hot off her run in Fox’s “American Idol,” Kree Harrison sang “Help Me Make It Through The Night” with Keith Urban in her Grand Ole Opry debut June 4, one night before the CMT awards, which were also her first-ever awards. While the “Idol” winner is locked into a recording deal with Interscope, the runner-up is not. Harrison is already at work on her first album, and has an idea where it might end up. But she’s coyly not naming her label partner until the ink is dried. “I have an idea,” she says. “But it’s all happening fast and I’m trying to make the right decision. We’ll see what happens.”
8. The Whole Shabam: Jana Kramer’s skin-tight Pavoni dress and Norman Silverman earrings were widely regarded as the best outfit of the night. “I’m covered in all the right places,” she beamed. How long did it take to get dolled up? “Well, it’s about two hours for the whole shabam.” That was some shabam…
9. Gloriana Doin’ it for Themselves: Gloriana’s “Can’t Shake You” is at No. 16 after a whopping 38 weeks on Country Airplay. That’s a long time to have one song as their primary focus. But you won’t hear the band complain. “We’re not writing songs for money or success or fame. Or red carpets,” Mike Gossin said. “We’re writing songs because it’s our life, it’s our release. We write it for ourselves, and when people believe in it and gravitate toward it, that makes us feel more confident as artists. We’re not writing songs because we hope we can get it to the top. We’re writing songs because it feels right.”
10. Mad Men Suits: Thomas Rhett was cleaned up big-time in a form-fitting, mint green suit. “I been kinda rockin’ the suit lately. I wear jeans, boots, t-shirt all the time. It’s kind of fun to just put on the suit and pretend like you’re in ‘Mad Men.’” Now on his third single, Rhett is on his second cycle of awards-show red carpets. He was “really nervous” the first time around, feeling like he was on display. “Nobody has a clue who you are, and you just try to look good,” he confessed. This time, it’s different: “Coming back, it’s more comfortable, my wife is here with me making me look good. And you know everybody now. You’re buddies.”