Nashville Notes: Blaster Cuts Radio Promo Staff; Third Man Signs First Country Artist

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


After winning three trophies at the Country Music Association Awards in November, Chris Stapleton has scored big in the nominations for the 56th annual Grammy Awards, earning nods in the all-genre album of the year category and in the best country album category, plus two more for best country song and best country solo performance, both for "Traveller," his nominated album's title track.

Little Big Town and Sam Hunt also each landed nominations among the all-genre categories: LBT's "Girl Crush" for song of the year and Hunt for best new artist (a category Stapleton was not eligible for due to prior nominations with his former band The SteelDrivers). LBT ties Stapleton as the most nominated country act with four Grammy nods, with the group also earning kudos in the country album category (for Pain Killer) as well as the best country duo/group performance and best country song categories (both for "Girl Crush").

Hunt earned a second nomination for best country album (Montevallo). Other dual nominees are Lee Ann Womack (best country song and best country vocal performance, both for "Chances Are") and Ashley Monroe (best country album, The Blade, and best country duo/group performance for "Lonely Tonight" with Blake Shelton).

In other news, Dierks Bentley and Brett Eldredge have separately announced plans to tour Europe in 2016. Eldredge will play four dates in the United Kingdom and Ireland in February, and Bentley will perform in the same four cities (Dublin; London; Manchester, England; and Glasgow) in April.

Carrie Underwood will headline the ABC telecast of Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve in New York's Times Square on Dec. 31. Luke Bryan will also help ring in 2016 with a live performance.

Margo Price is the first Nashville artist signed to Jack White's Third Man Records. Her debut country album, Midwest Farmer's Daughter, is due March 25. It was recorded at Sun Studio in Memphis after hours when the studio/museum was closed.


Blaster let go of its radio promotion staff, intending to focus in the future on artists whose careers are less dependent on terrestrial success, as well as on a developing music publishing wing. Affected personnel include vp promotion Bob Reeves and regionals Bart Allmand, Dave Collins, Glenn Noblit and Tyler Waugh

Warner/Chappell Nashville promoted Phil May to senior vp/GM from VP/GM. Among its affiliated writers are Chris Stapleton, Ben Hayslip ("It Goes Like This") and Marv Green ("Shotgun Rider"). 

Creative Artists Agency hired agent Brian Hill to its Nashville office. Formerly with Paradigm, he brings along clients Eli Young Band and Jack Ingram.

Mary Catherine Kinney joins Sony Music Nashville as manager, media. She arrives from Universal Music Group Nashville, where she was coordinator of media marketing.

Hart Street Entertainment added New York-based Jessica Kwartler as artist manager. She'll serve as day-to-day manager for Michael Sarver, who signed a booking agreement with Houla Entertainment. 

Alt-country band Old 97's signed a booking agreement with Red 11 Music.

Booking agency Skyline Music has opened a Music City office at InDo Nashville. Among its clients are Poco and Pure Prairie League

Country Music Hall of Fame board president Steve Turner received the CMA Foundation humanitarian award from the Country Music Association. 

Sam Hunt will be honored with the breakthrough artist award during the Music Biz Convention in Nashville on May 18, 2016. 

Ashley Gorley ("Just Gettin' Started," "Kick the Dust Up") will take part in the 2016 ASCAP "I Create Music" Expo April 28-30 in Los Angeles.


Cumulus is adding Kelly Ford as co-host of America's Morning Show. She has worked on-air at WNSH New York. In addition, Breaking Southwest won the company's Nash Next talent contest, making the band the first signee to the new Nash Next label.

Shannon Knoepke starts Dec. 11 as senior vp/market manager for CBS Radio/Minneapolis, which contains a trio of stations including country KMNB. Knoepke was previously Townsquare/Rochester, Minn., market president.

Entercom hired Liana Huth as vp programming innovation, based in New York. She was most recently Fuse senior vp partnerships.

Jeff Beck has been promoted to operations manager at Alpha Media's Fredericksburg, Va., cluster, which includes country WFLS and three other stations.

Midwest Communications added the syndicated online series The Pickup to the websites of its 16 country stations.

Sara McClure is promoted to iHeartMedia/Sacramento (Calif.) market president from senior vp sales, reported. The cluster includes country KBEB … Townsquare/Billings, Mt., operations manager Mike "Sandman" Sanders has left the cluster, according to The four-station group includes country KCTR.


Children's hospitals got a lot of attention from the country music community in the last few days, thanks to a big donation, national TV awareness and a personal appearance at a facility in Nashville.

Brett Eldredge and Thomas Rhett brought focus to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis during the Dec. 3 telecast of CMA Country Christmas on ABC. They performed an intimate version of "I'll Be Home for Christmas" for a teenage girl who survived leukemia with the help of St. Jude six years ago.

Blackberry Smoke donated $15,000 to the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt during a Nov. 27 concert in Atlanta. It represented half of the charitable money raised from sales of VIP meet-and-greet packages during 2015, with the other half going to CURE Childhood Cancer.

Maddie & Tae showed up at the Monroe Carell facility on Dec. 2 to help the Nashville Predators hockey team launch a "Smile Bright" campaign, encouraging Tennesseans to write letters of support to pediatric patients and their families.

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


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