Nashville Notes: Lady Antebellum Star Drops Solo Single; Notting Hill Signs Four Writers; Reba!
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
Surprise guests continue to abound at country concerts. In the most-publicized of those moves, Keith Urban showed up to play two songs, "John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16" and "Somebody Like You," during Taylor Swift's Oct. 2 stop at the Rogers Center in Toronto. The following night, Swift brought out pop singer Charli XCX for a run at "Boom Clap." That same Oct. 3 evening, the Oak Ridge Boys welcomed unannounced guests Little Big Town for "Elvira" during the Grand Ole Opry's 90th birthday celebration. Other unexpected appearances included Chris Young and Brad Paisley dueting in Nashville on "Change the World" on Sept. 30, not long after Jerrod Niemann brought out four members of Diamond Rio during the same show. A Thousand Horses called on Richie Sambora for help during an Oct. 1 appearance at the Troubadour in Los Angeles, and Miranda Lambert had her own surprise Oct. 2, teaming with opening act Ashley Monroe and an unannounced Angaleena Presley in Augusta, Ga., for a brief reassembly of Pistol Annies.
The Earls of Leicester dominated the 26th annual International Bluegrass Music Awards on Oct. 1, swiping four trophies in Raleigh, N.C., while group members Jerry Douglas and Shawn Camp won Dobro player and male vocalist of the year, too. The Earls were named entertainer and instrumental group of the year, their self-titled debut took the album category, and "Who Will Sing for Me" was named gospel recorded performance of the year. Douglas pocketed an additional win when "The Three Bells," cut with Mike Auldridge and Rob Ickes, nabbed instrumental recorded performance.
Charles Kelley didn't wait long to unveil his solo music. After announcing Sept. 30 his intention to make an album outside of Lady Antebellum, Capitol issued the lead single -- "The Driver," featuring Dierks Bentley and Eric Paslay -- to radio on Oct. 5.
Buck Owens is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and he'll receive one more hall-acious honor on Oct. 28: He'll be added to the California Hall of Fame in Sacramento, part of a class that includes martial-arts figure Bruce Lee, Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz and actor Robert Downey Jr.
'ROUND THE ROW
Abi Fishbone started Oct. 5 as Arista Nashville director regional promotion/Northeast, arriving from a similar post at Stoney Creek, where vp promotion Chris Loss is covering the territory on an interim basis.
Hunter Kelly joined RareCountry.com as senior correspondent. He had been an ABC Radio entertainment correspondent and producer since 2006.
Nashville-based Wortman Works Media & Marketing added Los Angeles-based Townhouse West and consultant Denise Quan, formerly a CNN senior producer. Wortman also hired account executive Elyse Wiser, an Auburn grad who interned for the firm in 2014.
Notting Hill Music Group signed the first four writers to its new Nashville publishing office, headed by GM Ginny Johnson. The signees include Brad Crisler ("Hillbilly Deluxe"), Will Robinson ("I Know How He Feels"), Leslie Satcher ("Troubadour") and singer/songwriter Chris Cavanaugh.
Warner/Chappell and THiS Music extended their publishing agreements with two-time ASCAP country songwriter of the year Ben Hayslip ("It Goes Like This," "When She Says Baby”).
Round Hill Music entered a publishing deal with Old Southern Moonshine Revival frontman Marcus Kiser.
Former Justin Moore keyboard player Kory Caudill is the first artist signed to Naxos' new Franklin, Tenn.-based label, Suite 28. Caudill's first release for the company is new age project Tree of Life.
Cold River signed Rae Solomon to its artist roster. She's co-managed by L3 Entertainment owner Peter Hartung and Jennifer Johnson Management, and booked by William Morris Endeavor.
Capitol Nashville is among the winners of the second annual SAG-AFTRA American Scene Awards for diversity, recognizing Darius Rucker's album Southern Style.
RADIO MOVERS & SHAKERS
Jasmine Sadry joined KSCS Dallas-Fort Worth as a co-host of the morning show with Mark "Hawkeye" Louis and Katelyn "Connected K" Maida. Sadry has been in the market for than a decade, most recently at alternative KDGE.
WKAV Charlottesville, Va., moved from sports to classic country, branding with Kroeger Media's Hank FM format.
Abby Zellmer signed up with WGNE Jacksonville, Fla., as assistant PD/music director, RadioInfo.com reported. She was most recently music director at WMAD Madison, Wis.
Carl Anderson added iHeartMedia/Tucson market president/senior vp programming to his duties, according to InsideRadio.com. Anderson was already the news/talk/sports brand manager for the chain. The Tucson cluster includes country KYWD.
Whoever's in New England around Veterans Day might want to look for Reba McEntire.
She's headed to the city where she made the "Whoever's in New England" video for a Nov. 9 benefit concert at Boston's Symphony Hall to headline the third annual Mission Gratitude benefit concert. The show raises money for the Home Base Program, an effort to aid wounded warriors plagued specifically with such invisible battle scars as brain injuries or post-traumatic stress disorder.
The two previous Mission Gratitude installments featured Harry Connick Jr. in 2014 and The Band Perry and Big & Rich in 2013.
This article first appeared in Billboard's Country Update -- sign up here.