Backbeat: George Strait, Bob Pittman, Gary Overton at Country Radio Seminar Day One
Backbeat: George Strait, Bob Pittman, Gary Overton at Country Radio Seminar Day One

tenacity The Ryman Room was overflowing with CRS attendees when Tenacity Records threw its first CRS bash. Keeping it all about the music, Tenacity artists Bill Gentry and Darryl Worley performed their new music and kept the party going well into the night. (L-R): Tenacity National Promotion Directors Gary Greenberg and Anne Sarosdy, Darryl Worley, Tenacity label president Mike Kraski, Bill Gentry, Tenacity Senior VP of Promotion David Haley and National Promotion Director Jeff Davis. (Photo: Bev Moser)

From George Strait's surprise appearance at the UMG luncheon at the Ryman to numerous showcases in the downtown area, the first day of Country Radio Seminar 2012 kicked off in high gear in Nashville.

The Country Radio Hall of Fame dinner kicked off the seminar on Tuesday (Feb. 21). Beverlee Brannigan, Ron Rogers and Rusty Walker were inducted in the 2012 Radio category while Moby, Eddie Stubbs and Bill Whyte received honors in the On-Air category. That same evening, The Mavericks performed for an invitation-only audience as confirmation that they are indeed back as a band, signed to Valory Music Group.

sea Soaking in the Stars: Sony Music Nashville and Sea Gayle Records hosted the Official Country Music Radio Hall of Fame After Party with (L-R) Liz O'Sullivan (Sea Gayle Senior VP of Creative); Lesly Tyson (Arista Nashville VP National Promotion); Frank Rogers (Sea Gayle Partner); Wade Bowen; Gary Overton (Sony Music Nashville Chairman & CEO); Chris DuBois (Sea Gayle Partner); Brent Anderson; Norbert Nix (Columbia/BNA Records VP National Promotion); and Jerrod Niemann. (Photo: Bev Moser)

Bob Pittman, CEO of Clear Channel Media (and no. 23 on Billboard's Power 100), gave the keynote address Wednesday morning (Feb. 22). He noted country radio's strength at reaching 65 million listeners each week. He also told the room of men and women who work in the industry that "Radio is still America's companion." He went on to say that radio is a social experience between the listener and the personalities, something that doesn't happen with audio streams or music collections.

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Veteran CRS attendee Charlie Monk had a new slogan - "The good ole days are tomorrow." He complimented Pittman on his keynote address, agreeing that people are still listening to radio. As a publisher, Monk says he is observing that songwriters are "trying to write great songs and not just make great records." He adds that it has always been the song that saves country music.

Another trend Monk has seen since the economy has caused so many layoffs is that the independent labels now have a growing group of men and women who once were at major labels who are now guiding those independents through their contacts and expertise. "The independent labels now have better opportunities as people are joining them to work with the new artists in various capacities."

Backbeat: Lionel Richie, George Strait, Play Surprise Sets At UMG Nashville CRS Showcase

Monk said the most exciting buzz at the convention so far was that The Mavericks were getting back together.

On the other end of the spectrum, Tiffany Sinder, program director at Music Choice, was attending her first CRS. "This is a great opportunity to connect with people who I only know over the phone," she says. "I am finding that people are very friendly and I feel lucky to be here."

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Sinder also noted that country entertainers seem more appreciative of radio and their fans than artists in other genres. "They have different values and beliefs and know what got them where they are," she says. "Just the fact that they are here, participating in CRS and doing interviews and liners, shows how much they care about the people who support their career."

Bucky Covington confirmed Sinder's observation, saying "I love CRS because I can come here and in three days see so many of the people who are responsible for playing my songs on radio. And I get to catch up with all my buddies who are always out on the road and I never get to see when we're all touring."

bucky Bucky's Buds: Bucky Covington poses after talking about meeting up with all his buddies in the radio business every year at CRS. (Photo: Vernell Hackett)

CRS presented its Artist Humanitarian award Wednesday to Rascal Flatts, who support many charitable causes throughout the year, including their tireless support of the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt. Radio Humanitarian awards went to Ida-Vend's KMOK/Lewiston, ID (small market), Cumulus' WIVK/Knoxville (medium market) and Emmis' WLHK/Indianapolis (large market).

George Strait's appearance at the UMG/Nashville CRS luncheon at the Ryman was kept a total surprise. The singer performed two songs "I'll Always Remember You" and "Troubadour." ASCAP presented him with his first number one plaque and an acoustic guitar for writing his hit "Here For A Good Time." Others appearing on the luncheon show included Lionel Richie with Luke Bryan, Lee Ann Womack, Scotty McCreery, Lauren Alaina, Randy Montana, Vince Gill, Josh Turner, Mallory Hope, Josh Kelley, Randy Rogers Band, Drake White, Laura Bell Bundy, Canaan Smith, Kip Moore, David Nail, Easton Corbin, Chris Stapleton and Kacey Musgraves.

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Surprise appearances continued at the Lady Antebellum concert Wednesday night. Luke Bryan joined the trio in singing "Do I," a song he wrote with Charles Kelley and David Haywood and which Hillary Scott sang on. The trio also forced Bryan into singing a little bit of his hit, "Country Girl (Shake It For Me)." Next on the stage was Sara Evans, who came out to perform "Stronger," which was co-written with Scott. Thompson Square and Darius Rucker are special guests on Lady Antebellum's "Own the Night" tour.

strait (L-R): Royce Risser (SVP, Promotion, MCA Records Nashville), Luke Lewis (Chairman, UMG Nashville), George Strait, Tony Brown and Erv Woolsey (Photo: Peyton Hoge)

Loftin Creek Records showcased their new artist Kelly Parks at Tootsie's Orchid Lounge. Prior to the performance they held a dinner at Merchant's, where Philip Gibbons was already a fan of the new singer. Gibbons works at WGSQ The Country Giant in Cookeville, Tennessee, and says Kelly has visited his station several times. He also cites Amber Hayes as another new artist to watch. "Most of the larger stations are heavily consulted but we have the opportunity to have a little larger play list which allows us to play some of these new artists," Gibbons notes.

Mike Borchetta, CEO of Loftin Creek Records, also brought up tight playlists when asked about trends in music today. "Until Billboard loosens their charts it's going to be tough to break any new acts," he says. "We're doing it the old fashioned way with Kelly, by visiting stations to establish that personal contact between Kelly and radio. Nothing beats that one-on-one contact when it comes to establishing a new act."

tenacity1 Darryl Worley and Bill Gentry posing before the Tenacity Records logo at the label's CRS party. (Photo: Bev Moser)

Bob Kingsley's Acoustic Alley presents hit songwriters singing their tunes and is a popular after hours venue. "There is no better way to hear a song than from the person who wrote it," Kingsley affirms. While introducing Wendell Mobley, Brett Beavers, Casey Beathard and Marv Green the syndicated radio host told the audience, "None of us would be here if it weren't for these guys."

Darryl Worley and Bill Gentry rocked Tenacity Records' after-hours party and Tracy Lawrence presented the Operation Troop Aid benefit concert. Craig Morgan celebrated the upcoming release of his album on Black River Entertainment along with Due West, Glen Templeton and Sarah Darling. Stoney Creek showcased Randy Houser and Parmalee. Warner Music Nashville presented their "Attack of the 80's," featuring Big & Rich, Brett Eldredge, Dirt Drifters, Frankie Ballard, Gloriana, Jana Kramer, Hunter Hayes, Jason Jones, The Farm, Blake Shelton, Ty Stone, The JaneDear girls and Her & Kings County.

Today's activities include a variety of panels as well as more showcases and meet-and-greet events. Alan Jackson performs at the Sony/BMG Luncheon.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

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