News on Godsmack, Sean McGrath, Billy Ray Cyrus
Godsmack has parted ways with founding drummer Tommy Stewart just as the multi-platinum Universal rock group begins working on its third album. Stewart, who had previously taken a year's leave of absence from Godsmack before rejoining in 1998, amicably split from the quartet to pursue other musical interests.
"Tommy is a great guy and a tremendous drummer. We wish him all the success in the world ... he deserves it," lead vocalist Sully Erna said in a statement. Erna, bassist Robbie Merrill, and guitarist Tony Rambola have already begun writing songs for the new set, due out early next year on Republic/Universal.
The new album will be the follow-up to "Awake," which has sold 2 million copies in the U.S. to date, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Most recently, the group has found success with "I Stand Alone," the lead single from Universal's "The Scorpion King" soundtrack. The cut was just knocked out of the No. 1 slot Billboard's Mainstream Rock Tracks tally by Chad Kroeger's "Hero" after spending four weeks on top.
-- Troy Carpenter, N.Y.
Rock acts Thursday, Midtown, Taking Back Sunday, and the Alps will play a June 15 benefit concert at New York's Irving Plaza for musician Sean McGrath, who is battling digestive tract cancer. All proceeds from the show will be donated to cover medical expenses incurred by McGrath, who played bass for Saves The Day from 1997-99 and is now a member of the band the Alps, who will also perform.
Tickets are available through Ticketmaster, the Irving Plaza box office, and in a limited quantity at Curmudgeon Records in Edison, N.J., and Other Music in New York. Fundraisers are also underway on eBay.com and half.com.
-- Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.
Following an appearance later this month at Nashville's annual Fan Fair, country artist Billy Ray Cyrus will kick off a 45-city tour June 29 in San Juan Capistrano, Calif. Dubbed Time Flies, the trek is set to close with a Sept. 11 appearance at the Utah State Fair in Salt Lake City.
Cable network Great American Country will sponsor the tour and give away tickets via CountryStars.com. Additionally, Cyrus will be the prize performer in Great American Country's third annual Backyard BBQ sweepstakes, where a one lucky fan will win an acoustic backyard concert starring the artist.
Cyrus, who stars on the PAX television series "Doc," released his last album, "Southern Rain," in October 2000 via Monument. The set debuted at No. 13 on Billboard's Top Country Albums chart.
-- Barry A. Jeckell, N.Y.