2016: The Year in Charts

Nashville Notes: Chris Stapleton Already An ACM Winner, Johnny Cash Songs Added To National Registry

Courtesy of Universal Music Group Nashville
Chris Stapleton

Here's your weekly roundup of goings on -- artist signings, staffing moves, good news and more -- in the wide world of country music.


Chris Stapleton could win as many as seven trophies at the 51st annual Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas on April 3 — and the first of those is already in the bag.

Stapleton claimed his first-ever ACM trophy when the academy announced the new-artist winners on March 23. He collected new male artist of the year, while Kelsea Ballerini scored new female and Old Dominion secured new duo/group. The honors were decided strictly by a vote of the ACM’s industry membership since the academy ended a fan-voting component that started eight years ago when balloting for entertainer of the year was opened up to the public.

The new artist trophies were confusing during the fan-voting years. The awards often went through several tiers of voting using different partners, and the categories seemed to shift almost yearly, thanks in large part to a paucity of female acts. The ACM hadn’t recognized all three categories since 2013 when Brantley Gilbert took new male, Jana Kramer earned new female and Florida Georgia Line accepted new duo/group. FGL also won the umbrella trophy, new artist of the year, in 2013.

The last time the ACMs divvied up the new-artist honors without naming an overall new artist of the year was 2008, when the titles went to new male Jack Ingram, new female Taylor Swift and new duo/group Lady Antebellum. Much has changed since that time. Swift is now considered a pop artist, Ingram recently signed with indie label Rounder, and Lady A’s Charles Kelley is performing solo on the April 3 ACMs for the first time.

Kelley, Old Dominion, Little Big Town and Blake Shelton were all announced March 28 as new additions to the April 3 performance lineup, while the ACM also rolled out a few of the presenters’ names. They include Chris Janson, Kramer, Martina McBride, Kip Moore, Kacey Musgraves, Jake Owen, Chase Rice and Cole Swindell. It should be the least pressure Shelton has felt at the ACMs since 2010. He co-hosted each of the last five award shows with either Reba McEntire or Luke Bryan, including the 2015 soiree at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, an event that marked the only major awards show held in a stadium to date.

-- Merle Haggard’s "Mama Tried" was one of this year’s 25 additions to the National Recording Registry, one of several developments that brought classic country into the news in the past week. Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline and Hank Williams’ likenesses were added to the Madame Tussauds Hollywood wax museum, and Williams was also recognized March 24 with a memorial plaque on Main Street in Oak Hill, W.Va., the city where his death was made official on Jan. 1, 1953. The Williams biopic I Saw the Light debuted in movie theaters on March 25.

-- Jon Pardi and Brandy Clark will release their sophomore albums in June. Warner Bros. releases Clark’s Big Day in a Small Town, her first effort with producer Jay Joyce (Eric Church, Little Big Town), on June 10. She co-wrote each of its 11 tracks, including lead single "Girl Next Door," which is No. 42 on Country Airplay. Capitol Nashville issues Pardi’s California Sunrise on June 17. The package features 12 tracks recorded with a seven-player core band, including first single "Head Over Boots," which is currently No. 19 on Country Airplay.

-- So it only took 75 years to make this happen: Kenny Chesney’s April 23 appearance at Jordan Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala., will mark the first time in the structure’s history that it hosts a full-stadium concert. It’s also the first stadium gig on Chesney’s 2016 calendar, and it boasts Miranda Lambert, Sam Hunt and Old Dominion.

-- Florida Georgia Line, Blake Shelton, Cole Swindell and Chris Young are set to play Nissan Stadium on June 11 during the CMA Music Festival. It’s the third of the event’s four nights at the venue, where the concerts will be distilled into an ABC special, CMA Music Festival: Country’s Night to Rock, for a 13th consecutive year. Among the previously announced acts scheduled for the first two nights are Carrie Underwood, Rascal Flatts, Jason Aldean, Sam Hunt and Hank Williams Jr.


Nash Nights Live co-host Elaina Smith and WNSH New York personality Shila Nathan will receive Gracie Awards from the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation. Smith’s honor will be presented May 24 in Beverly Hills, while Nathan’s trophy, recognizing her 2015 work at WUSN Chicago, will be handed out June 21 in New York … Chris Clare has taken the PD role at WTHT Portland, Maine, RadioInfo.com reported. He was recently music director/afternoon personality for WYCT Pensacola, Fla. … Chris “Muttley” Stevens was hired as Townsquare/Midland-Odessa, Texas, operations manager, according to RadioInfo.com. The five-station cluster includes country KNFM … Cumulus/Youngstown, Ohio, added Jeff Pezzano as vp sales, InsideRadio.com reported. Formerly Dix/Kent, Ohio, vp advertising sales and marketing, Pezzano’s new responsibilities include country WQXK … KKGO Los Angeles personality Christine Martindale is no longer with the station, according to InsideRadio.com. PD Tonya Campos has taken her shift on an interim basis.


Lyndsay Church joined Columbia Nashville as regional promotion manager. A senior legal analyst for Loomis, Sayles & Company in Boston, she previously worked at Capitol Nashville. She will relocate to Music City … Three Round Hill Music A&R staff members were promoted within the Nashville office. Mark Brown rose to senior vp from VP, Josh Saxe was upped to director from associate director, and Bob Squance became manager, shedding his senior coordinator title … Reviver is in the market for a publicity manager. Interested parties can send résumés to this email address with the subject line “Reviver Records Publicity Manager” … Speaking of Reviver, the label signed Kayla Adams to its artist roster … Singer-songwriter Jerrod Niemann signed a recording deal with Curb … Singer-songwriter Alyssa Micaela signed a publishing agreement with Warner/Chappell and Liz Rose Music … Neste Event Marketing president Gil Cunningham won the Academy of Country Music’s Don Romeo talent buyer of the year award, and Live National Country Music president Brian O’Connell claimed promoter of the year. They’ll receive their honors on April 2 in Las Vegas at an event hosted by Charles Kelley. Go here for the entire list of ACM Industry Award winners … The Source Awards, which honor significant women in Nashville’s music business, will be presented Aug. 30 at the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum at Municipal Auditorium … Former Bobby Roberts Booking Agency president Bob Younts died March 21. His clients through the years included Mel Tillis, John Anderson, Merle Haggard and Bobby Bare.


With the 51st annual Academy of Country Music Awards on deck for April 3, the organization’s ACM Lifting Lives is getting lots of attention. Chris Stapleton, whose seven ACM nominations make him the leader going into the CBS telecast, played a March 24 homecoming concert in Paintsville, Ky., that saw Ram Trucks and Lifting Lives partner to build an outdoor performance space at Johnson Central High School.

Chris Janson announced a day later the establishment of Harmonicas for Health, an initiative of the Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder Foundation, which is funded by ACM Lifting Lives. Meanwhile, preparations are underway for the annual ACM Party for a Cause Festival, a Las Vegas fundraiser for the academy’s charitable efforts. Stapleton and Janson are both on the bill, as are Carrie Underwood, Kenny Chesney, Dierks Bentley, Lee Brice and Martina McBride, among a slew of acts.

One of the programs previously associated with the festival, Outnumber Hunger, continues. Jennifer Nettles appears on boxes of General Mills products this spring as part of the campaign, created in conjunction with Big Machine Label Group and Feeding America.

This article first appeared in Billboard's Country Update -- sign up here.