Nashville Notes: Big & Rich to Headline Memorial Day Benefit; New Content Chief at iHeartCountry

Big Kenny and John Rich of Big & Rich and Cowboy Troy
Getty Images for ACM

Big Kenny and John Rich of Big & Rich and Cowboy Troy attend the 49th Annual Academy Of Country Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on April 6, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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

At least three artists had milestone moments at the Grand Ole Opry in the last 10 days, including rocker John Fogerty, who made his debut on April 12 in a surprise appearance during Brad Paisley's set. The two locked in on Fogerty's "Lookin' Out My Back Door," "Centerfield" and "Proud Mary." Broken Bow artist Jordan Rager sang two songs in his first Opry date on April 9. And Jimmy Wayne made his 200th stop on the WSM-AM Nashville show April 15, singing "Do You Believe Me Now" and "I Love You This Much."

Word/Curb will release its third Country Faith Hymns installment through Cracker Barrel on May 6. Established by Billboard contributor Deborah Evans Price, the brand celebrates the spiritual leanings of the genre's stars. The new album offers songs by George Jones, Johnny Cash, Randy Travis and Willie Nelson among the dozen tracks on the standard album, with additional performances from Trace Adkins and B.J. Thomas on the Cracker Barrel-exclusive release.

Two of Nashville's most prominent venues will hold multi-artist benefit concerts during the last half of May. Big & Rich headline a Camp Nash festival on Memorial Day, May 30, with 100 percent of the proceeds from ticket sales going to the Special Forces Charitable Trust. The bill also features Thompson Square, Parmalee, Chuck Wicks, RaeLynn and Breaking Southwest. Dylan Fest, a two-night concert at the Ryman Auditorium, launches May 23-24, honoring Bob Dylan's 75th birthday. More than 30 acts will cover Dylan material, including Emmylou Harris, Kacey Musgraves, Jason Isbell, Boz Scaggs and Wynonna & The Big Noise. Nashville-based charity Thistle Farms is the beneficiary, though it was unclear at press time whether it will receive all of the proceeds or a portion.

Lady Antebellum is onboard to sing the national anthem for the 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby on May 7 at Churchill Downs in Louisville. The band becomes only the eighth act to deliver "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the race. Previous country contributors include LeAnn Rimes, Rascal Flatts, Martina McBride and Jo Dee Messina.



Taylor Freeman joined Collective Artist Management as director of digital marketing for the roster, including Sara Evans, Clint Black and Steve Wariner. Freeman arrives from Marbaloo, where she was senior marketing manager. 

Iconic Entertainment Group hired Halle Pinkham as office manager/managerial support. She was previously an executive assistant at William Morris Endeavor. 

Big Yellow Dog Music added Matt Lindsey as vp creative for the publishing company, whose roster includes Maren Morris, Josh Kear and Meghan Trainor. Lindsey ran his own publishing company and song-plugging service for the previous 16 years.

Triple 7 Public Relations hired Kayce McGehee as a publicist for the company, which lists Craig Wiseman's Stars for Second Harvest benefit among its clients. The hire comes following a brief stint as a temp employee. 

Webster Public Relations added events and branding manager Shannon Gursky and associate publicist Spencer Turney to its team. Gursky previously handled marketing for the Nashville Songwriters Association International. Turney transfers from Chicago, where he was an assistant account executive for corporate PR agency L.C. Williams & Associates. 

Allison DeMarcus begins a two-year term as board chair for Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt on July 1. 

LANco band members Tripp Howell and Chandler Baldwin signed co-publishing deals with Sony/ATV

Singer-songwriter Brett Kissel contracted with William Morris Endeavor for concert booking. He's already managed by Bob Doyle & Associates. 

Sarah Dunn, frontwoman for the Sarah Dunn Band, signed with SESAC

Bill Anderson joined the roster at booking agency Kinkead Entertainment. Bob Kinkead serves as his responsible agent. 

Singer-songwriter RaeLynn parted ways with Big Machine Label Group's Valory label. 

Buddy Lee Attractions enlisted PLA Media for PR. 

Gib Gilbeau died April 12, CMT reported. He spent a number of years with The Flying Burrito Brothers and played with the likes of Vern Gosdin and Linda Ronstadt.



Zack Massey was appointed iHeartCountry country content bureau chief, a new Nashville-based position. He'll oversee digital content for the websites of the chain's country stations, which number more than 140. He arrives from iHeartMedia/Phoenix, where he was digital content director. 

CBS Radio promoted Chad Fitzsimmons to vp music initiatives from CBS Radio/Los Angeles director music initiatives. Among CBS' country outlets are WYCD Detroit, WXTU Philadelphia and KILT Houston. 

American General/San Luis Obispo, Calif., promotes Pepper Daniels to director of country and news/talk programming on May 1, when the company completes the purchase of two stations, including country KSNI Santa Maria. Daniels is currently PD for KKJG and KJUG San Luis Obispo. The company is searching for a director of promotions. 

iHeartMedia/Augusta, Ga., launched country WLUB on two -frequencies. The station at 105.7 plays contemporary country, and the signal at 106.3 carries '90s-centric classic country … KLIV-AM San Jose, Calif., a sister station of country KRTY, will flip to classic country in the coming weeks after 30 years of news/talk. 

Erik Johnson was promoted to iHeartMedia/Omaha, Neb., senior vp programming, reported. Already a PD for three of the cluster's five signals, he remains on the afternoon shift for country KXKT

iHeartMedia/Madison, Wisc., hired Keith Bratel as market president, according to, giving him oversight of country WMAD. Bratel was previously Milwaukee Radio Alliance director of sales. 

Mark Crump started April 18 as executive vp/GM for the Big Horn Radio Network/Cody, Wyo., reported. The nine-station cluster includes country KZMQ. Crump had been Cherry Creek/Southern Utah market manager.

iHeartMedia/San Antonio-Austin brought in Darci Ewell as senior vp sales, according to She transfers from iHeartMedia/Colorado Springs-Pueblo (Colo.), where she was market president.



Even people who see their glass as half-full have a problem when it's tainted with lead.

Which makes things rough in Flint, Mich., where contaminated pipes have residents drinking bottled water and fearful of taking a simple shower.

Granger Smith partnered with local station WFBE on April 7 to deliver an acoustic benefit concert for 850 people that raised $14,000 for Hurley Children's Hospital and the Hurley Clinic to aid kids affected by the crisis. It might be the proverbial drop in the bucket, but every bit counts.

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


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