Aretha Franklin Dies

Nashville Notes: Nitty Gritty Tribute Planned; BMG Signs 'Drinkin'' Buddies; Taylor Swift Mashup Artist Gets Warner/Chappell Deal

Russ Harrington
Clint Black

Plus: Clint Black signs a new record label deal, Zac Brown adds "radio host" to his résumé and much more.

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

NEWS & NOTES

News from the road: Kenny Chesney and Jason Aldean sold a reported 54,000 tickets as the Rose Bowl hosted its first-ever country concert in Pasadena, Calif. In addition to the ordinary Joes in the crowd, the show also attracted actors Reese Witherspoon, Vince Vaughn, Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis, who sat at the side of the stage during Chesney's set. Meanwhile, Garth Brooks is counting tickets in Dallas, where he has sold more than 100,000 passes for seven shows at the American Airlines Center in September.

Connie Smith and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band are both 50 and counting in their careers. Smith was officially inducted as a Grand Ole Opry member on Aug. 21, 1965, and the Opry will observe the anniversary Aug. 8 with a lineup that features Alison Krauss, Del McCoury, Jeannie Seely, Marty Stuart, Mel Tillis and The Whites. The Dirt Band gave its first show on May 13, 1966, in Orange, Calif., and the group celebrates a bit in advance with a Sept. 14 performance at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium. The night will include appearances by former member Jimmy Ibbotson, Jackson Browne, Rodney Crowell, Vince Gill, John Prine and Jerry Jeff Walker, among others. It will also be shot for a PBS pledge drive in the spring.

Gord Bamford and Dean Brody claimed six nominations apiece to top the ballot for the Canadian Country Music Association Awards, which will be presented Sept. 13 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Brad Kissel and Dallas Smith nabbed four nominations each. America's Morning Show co-host Terri Clark is also a finalist for female artist of the year.

Minneapolis-based singer/songwriter Wes-Tone released a single, "Diamond in the Rough," on July 24 through the Grammy Amplifier program. Produced by Ben Fowler at Nashville's Ocean Way Studio, the track also features a prominent vocal by Danielle Diamond, who inspired the song. Wes-Tone was picked by a panel of four experts, including The Band Perry.

'ROUND THE ROW

Reviver has established an in-house promotion department under senior vp Gator Michaels, most recently Blaster vp. The team includes national director of promotion David Shaw, formerly Nine North director of promotion Northeast/Midwest; Southwest/Midwest regional Kim Stephens, previously HitShop national director of promotions and A&R; and Southeast regional Amara Hall, who spent three years as HitShop logistics ninja. Skip Bishop's Studio1Bee is consulting the label, which represents LoCash, Blackjack Billy and Lucas Hoge

Valory Northeast regional promotion director Shari Roth is vacating her post, effective Aug. 31.

Clint Black signed a recording deal with Thirty Tigers. The country legend hasn't released a studio album since 2005's Drinkin' Songs and Other Logic.

BMG Music Publishing signed duo Granville Automatic to a songwriting agreement. Members Elizabeth Elkins and Vanessa Olivarez co-wrote Billy Currington's "Drinkin' Town With a Football Problem" (No. 45, Country Airplay). 

Neon Cross Music and Warner/Chappell signed a co-publishing deal with singer-songwriter Devin Dawson, whose mashup of Taylor Swift's "Blank Space" and "Style" has generated 25 million YouTube views. 

MV2 Entertainment signed Robert Arthur to its writing staff. 

Music Health Alliance director of operations and senior care Shelia Shipley Biddy has been designated a certified senior advisor, qualifying the 501c3 agency to help music professionals navigate health issues in their later years.

Memorial services were held July 27 in Tahoka, Texas, for Daron Norwood, who died July 22 following a heart attack. He landed six singles on Hot Country Songs during the 1990s, paced by "Cowboys Don't Cry" (No. 24, 1994). 

Former Nashville voice coach Mark Perry died July 19. 

Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member Wayne Carson died July 20. His credits included Willie Nelson's "Always On My Mind," The Box Tops' "The Letter," Conway Twitty's "The Clown" and Gary Stewart's "She's Actin' Single (I'm Drinkin' Doubles).”

Patsy Stoneman will be eulogized at 1 p.m. on July 28 at Olivet Funeral Home in Nashville. A former member of the Country Music Association Award-winning Stoneman Family, she died July 23.

RADIO MOVERS & SHAKERS

When Labor Day rolls around, singer-songwriter-entrepreneur Zac Brown will add another job title to his résumé: radio host. Brown signed on to voice Westwood One's Workin' Hard Country, a four-hour special available Sept. 5-7.

Keith Urban is the first act to join The Bobby Bones Show's #ArtistToArtist campaign. He created an autographed self-portrait that's up for auction on eBay, with proceeds going to the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. The top bid July 27 was $1,575. The auction closes July 30.

Christopher Kitchen joins Townsquare Media, effective Aug. 10, as executive vp/ general counsel as the chain makes a number of upper-management changes. Kitchen was a partner in Kirkland & Ellis. Executive vp, business development and mergers and acquisitions Alex Berkett leaves at the end of July for a new, unannounced position. Townsquare promotions include executive vp, investor relations and corporate communications Claire Yenicay, who adds the new title to her duties in mergers and acquisitions; executive vp, mergers and acquisitions Michael Josephs rises from senior vp, corporate strategy and development; and executive vp, finance, operations and technology Scott Schatz is promoted from senior vp, finance, accounting and systems. 

Tommy Johnson and Joe Johnson brought their Johnson & Johnson morning show to KUBL Salt Lake City, beginning July 27. The duo was most recently on air at KMPS Seattle.

Sean Cash takes over middays at WQDR Raleigh-Durham, N.C., on Aug. 10. He was previously known as Sean Varicalli in Michigan, where he was classic hits WOMC morning-show producer and a WYCD weekend personality.

iHeart flipped Radio Disney WRDZ Indianapolis to country on July 24, The Indianapolis Business Journal reported.

WXNU Kankakee, Ill., will promote midday talent Denny Case to PD on Aug. 14, according to InsideRadio.com. He replaces Maggi Mayfield, who's going full time as a stand-up comedian. 

Three CBS Radio country stations have new market managers, InsideRadio.com reported. Steve Carver rejoins CBS to become senior vp for Orlando, Fla., and Miami, where his
terrain includes WKIS Miami. WXTU Philadelphia is now under guidance from market manager David Yadgaroff, promoted from all-news KYW general sales manager. And Riverside-San Berardino, Calif., ups Mike Valenzuela to senior vp/market manager from cluster vp/director of sales. Local stations include country outlets KFRG and KXFG.

Also from InsideRadio.com: Cumulus/Fort Walton Beach-Destin, Fla., makes Hayden Green operations manager in addition to his role as top 40 WZNS PD. The cluster includes country WYZB.

GOOD WORKS

The night before Country Music Hall of Fame member Hank Cochran died in July 2010, Jamey Johnson and songwriter-producer Buddy Cannon ("Give It Away," "I've Come to Expect It From You") dropped by Cochran's home to sing songs with one of the genre's greatest songwriters. So it's appropriate that Johnson and Cannon are central to Songwriters 4 Songwriters, a benefit for the Pen Fund, a cancer charity established by Cochran's widow, Suzi Cochran. Melonie Cannon will host the July 29 concert, stocked with such composers as Clint Daniels ("Brokenheartsville"), Scotty Emerick ("Beer for My Horses"), Dave Gibson ("Ships That Don't Come In") and Byron Hill ("Nothing On But the Radio").

The concert takes place at Nashville's 3rd & Lindsley, and it's a good bet that the night will feature at least a couple Cochran songs. He left plenty, including "I Fall to Pieces," "Ocean Front Property" and "Make the World Go Away."

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