Billboard Bits: CMA Awards, Mary J. Blige, Gang Of Four

News on CMA Awards, Mary J. Blige, Gang Of Four

Dierks Bentley, Big & Rich, Sara Evans and Rascal Flatts are the latest performers to join the bill for the 39th annual Country Music Association (CMA) Awards. Meanwhile, Trace Adkins and LeAnn Rimes will be on hand as presenters for the Nov. 15 ceremony, which will be held at New York's Madison Square Garden and broadcast live on CBS.

They join previously announced performers Brooks & Dunn (who will also host the show), Kenny Chesney, Faith Hill, Alan Jackson, Brad Paisley, George Strait, Keith Urban and Lee Ann Womack.

-- Barry A. Jeckell, N.Y.

Mary J. Blige will receive the VLegend award at this year's Vibe Awards, Billboard has learned. The event will be taped Nov. 12 in Los Angeles and broadcast three days later on UPN. Hosts and performers will be announced shortly.

Last year's awards, also in Los Angeles, were marred by a melee stemming from an altercation in the audience. A man stepped up to that year's special honoree, rap icon Dr. Dre, and slapped him. The assailant was then allegedly stabbed by Young Buck, a member of G-Unit.

Despite the incident and ensuing publicity, Vibe publisher Kenard Gibbs says support from national sponsors, UPN and record labels validated the magazine's desire to move forward.

"For obvious reasons, it was up in the air at one point," Gibbs recalls. "Everyone was very concerned as to what would be the fallout of something like this. But after conversations with UPN, our advertisers and the record community, we found everyone was committed to supporting this platform."

-- Gail Mitchell, L.A.

Fans of Gang Of Four could get a surprise tomorrow (Oct. 11) when they purchase the band's "Return the Gift" album, which reunites the original four members for the first time since the early 1980s. Half of the 20,000 copies expected to ship for street date will contain a crisp, new $1 bill wrapped in the CD booklet so it cannot be seen from the outside, according to sources.

As previously reported, the V2 album features newly recorded versions of songs primarily drawn from the band's first two sets, "Entertainment!" and "Solid Gold."

Gang Of Four is in the midst of a North American tour, which hits Houston tomorrow.

-- Ed Christman, N.Y.