Food Fights, Sumo Suits And Tighty-Whities: A Look Back at CRS' Most Memorable Moments

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Luke Bryan speaks onstage during CRS 2016 at Omni Hotel on Feb. 8, 2016 in Nashville, Tenn. 

Sure, Country Radio Seminar (CRS) is a serious educational conference aimed at giving country music industry professionals ample opportunities to network and learn. But it’s also a three-day party that has earned a reputation as — in the words of Entercom/San Diego operations director Kevin Callahan — the “liver Olympics.” As the country music community enjoys this year’s event, which ends today (Feb. 10) at Nashville’s Omni Hotel, we’re reminded of some of the funniest and most memorable moments from past seminars.

Unquestionably the most legendary CRS story happened in 2001 at the Bridge Bar, the central meeting place of the seminar’s former hotel home, the Renaissance Nashville. A seminar attendee in a room overlooking the bar was enjoying an, er, private moment with his room curtains opened, not realizing that his image was reflected onto the bar’s glass ceiling for all to see. 

“When the official CRS biography is released, I’m sure an entire chapter will be devoted to the story of the guy servicing himself in his hotel room, in full view of the Bridge Bar,” says KZSN Wichita, Kan., PD Brian Jennings. “It’s like Woodstock — everyone claims to have been there. It has become mythology.”

The following year, both Blake Shelton and Rascal Flatts spoofed the event (Shelton most memorably, with a comical video that included a porn-style music bed and a strategically placed guitar) in the intro clips they shot for their performances at the seminar’s New Faces show.

It’s not the only CRS story that involves nudity. One year Tanya Tucker made a surprise appearance at an Epic Records showcase in Nashville’s Printer’s Alley, and while onstage flashed her breasts to the very surprised crowd. New Revolution’s Rob Dalton, then Epic’s vp promotion, recalls the scene at the Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie Bar. “Joe Diffie, Collin Raye and Ty Herndon were singing old country songs when in walks Tanya and [TV journalist] Stone Phillips, who was doing a piece on her. She jumped up on stage — actually jumped up on Collin’s back like a horse. At first it was awesome; they were all singing together and it was a fantastic moment. Then, things went south.  It was very late and it was pretty rowdy. There were some suggestions from the crowd about showing her [breasts] and she obliged.”

By the next morning, Epic promotion staffers were walking around the seminar wearing newly printed T-shirts that read, “Capitol has her hits. Epic has her t---.” Says Dalton, “Gotta love CRS.”

Radio consultant Jaye Albright describes another CRS event that had a surprising ending. “Back in the 1970s working records was a very different game in many ways,” she says. “I remember one situation off campus at CRS back then that would make today’s promotion job look like being a bank president. RCA was the first label, I believe, to create its own event. For several years, they filled one of the Music Row-area French restaurants with radio people, plus one promo person per table for a lovely — almost formal — dinner.

“Over several years the event became increasingly strange, starting one year with a food fight. The next, there was a mock wedding between two RCA promo staffers that escalated into what had to be almost total destruction of the banquet room housing the event … Things get fun, crazy and competitive at CRS, but to my knowledge only one five star restaurant has ever been trashed.”

RCA Label Group later moved its annual CRS dinner to the General Jackson showboat, and in that spirit of competition cited by Albright, one year the RCA boat was met at the dock by a marching band hired by rival MCA Nashville.

WKSJ Mobile, Ala., PD Bill Black recalls one label hosting a CRS screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Hermitage Hotel, where label reps “brought in pros to act and react to the movie. Hilarious. One rep ended the night running around wearing his white tighties on his head. Crazy night.”

EMI Records’ Mike Krinik, who previously worked in radio, recalls Mercury’s annual “frat house [hospitality] suite — beer pong, packed asses and elbows, security always came up and somehow or another [then Mercury vp promotion] Michael Powers always talked his way out of it.” One year, Krinik remembers, several of the Universal Music Group promotion team arrived at the party costumed as the “UMG Globetrotters” (see photo).

 

UMG senior vp promotion Royce Risser recalls having the band Sons of the Desert performing in the MCA Nashville suite at the Renaissance. Label reps hung a large Sons of the Desert neon sign on the hotel room wall and “paid to fix the giant hole in the wall later.”
 
“But this I’ll never forget,” Risser says. Then-WIVK Knoxville, Tenn., PD Les Acree “was standing in our suite staring at the neon sign. He couldn’t take his eyes off of it. He started walking towards it and slowly raised his hand. Before I could stop him, he stuck out his finger and touched it. He literally was knocked back about three feet from the shock. I don’t think anyone else saw it, and I never said a thing. But he luckily landed on his feet. Not sure if it was the reason, but we got the add the following Monday. We all miss Electric Les. God rest his soul.”

Outside of the seminar’s learning (and partying) curriculum, dozens of music journalists, publicists and artists are making interviews happen behind the scenes, with these often taking place in hotel rooms and suites. Essential Broadcast Media’s Scott Stem recalls one such interview that didn’t actually happen.

“Back in the early ’90s, I was working with Ronna Reeves, who was on Mercury Nashville at the time,” he says. “I was taking her around Opryland Hotel during CRS to do syndicated radio interviews in various hotel rooms. It was late in the morning when we arrived at one hotel door. I knocked on it. No answer. Knocked again. No answer. Knocked a third time and the radio reporter opened it — totally naked and incredibly hung over from his night before. I’ve been trying to forget that image for more than 20 years.”

And there are plenty more CRS memories. KFRG Riverside, Calif., music director/morning host Scott Ward remembers the year Blair Garner (then host of the syndicated After MidNite) wrestled artist Doug Supernaw while both were wearing inflatable sumo suits. He also recalls an early 2000s-era CRS where “a number of us walked into an unlocked label suite and turned on the sound system and did a bit of John Anderson-esque vocal free styling on some current pop songs.”

CBS Radio Houston vp programming Bruce Logan recalls the time Dalton ordered up 200 shower caps from the Opryland Hotel and had all of the partygoers in the Epic suite wearing them. “I have no idea why,” says Logan. “But I never see a shower cap when I don’t think about Rob Dalton.”

Here’s to making more CRS memories this year.