Wednesday’s Legendary Lunch — one of the events that helped kick off the 2015 Country Radio Seminar — definitely brought out the star power of Music City.
The event brought many veteran performers with their peers at radio for a lunch at the Palm in downtown Nashville, and between the 20-plus acts represented, close to 600 top 40 records on the Billboard charts were represented — with more than 100 going all the way to the top of the list.
Gabriel Communications’ Larry Black — producer of the popular RFD-TV series Larry’s Country Diner and Country’s Family Reunion — said the occasion was kind of like his programs, albeit on a larger scale. “I’d say it was like Country’s Family Reunion on steroids, or on salmon and beef,” he joked, referring to the menu at the Palm. “There are so many great stories floating around all the tables today. We have the privilege of sitting with Jim Ed Brown, and his battle with cancer has been such a remarkable story. This is such a great day.”
Tanya Tucker attended the event with her children and said the whole day was similar to a family get-together. “All of us have worked together so much, and it’s so great to see everyone, and getting to see everyone at radio was really fun, as well,” she said.
Richard Sterban of the Oak Ridge Boys echoed her thoughts, saying, “This is an amazing event. We got here, and everyone took this huge artist photograph, and then all the disc jockeys moved in and we took pictures with them. It was an amazing moment. It’s a pleasant experience all the way around. I think all of the Oaks would tell you the same thing.” The Oaks’ Duane Allen said the amount of country music history in the room was astounding. “I’m looking at people that helped to form what country music is today,” he said. “There’s a lot of history in this room. Take Leroy Van Dyke, for example, who went into his own pocket and paid for the first CMA Awards show…or Jim Ed Brown, who has had a horrible bout with cancer, but he’s doing good. It’s good to be with all of them today.”
Photo by Rick Diamond (WireImage/Getty Images); photo IDs below
And many of radio’s biggest hitters were well-represented as well. Tim Richards, who programs KMLE in Phoenix, took time to give Kirt Webster — one of Nashville’s top publicists — credit for putting the event together. “What Kirt did was world-class, and to be in a room with all these legends is such an honor and it’s a blessing to be here. My dad taught my love of country music, so from the Oak Ridge Boys to Tanya Tucker to Roy Clark to Mickey Gilley, and all the musicians — these are some of the most talented people ever in the business.”
Brian Jennings of KZSN/Wichita was another programmer who was enjoying himself. “I don’t know if you can put all of this into words. It’s pretty surreal. All of these artists hanging out with radio, talking — these are the people that gave us the opportunity to have careers. So to be in the same room and spend time with them is just bizarre.”
Richard Young of the Kentucky Headhunters said he was grateful for the turnout — for those who came before him. “I was delighted to see everyone come together. I think this was a brilliant idea. It shows you that there is still a need for the roots of what has gone on before.”
Other artists seen in the crowd included ’80s hitmaker Sylvia, Jeannie Seely and Crystal Gayle, as well as “Hee Haw” star Lulu Roman and Nancy Jones, widow of George. After the event, Webster told Billboard that he was proud to arrange the event for both factions. “Radio has been so good to all of the artists I represent, that’s a given. But I think that at the end of the day, we all are in this business because we love the music. The artists you see here make up so much of that history. To be able to sit and have lunch with a Bill Anderson, Tanya Tucker or Roy Clark and hear them tell their stories is like witnessing a part of history. Hopefully, we can do something like this again.”
And one of the biggest receptions of the day was saved for Jim Ed Brown, who made one of his first public appearances since waging a successful fight against cancer. Having just released his first solo album since 1985, In Style Again, he was definitely talking about the new release, but also the power of prayer. “I’m hoping they have the record. I can’t get around to all of them,” he said, before addressing his health. “God blesses everybody, and he has blessed me. For all of my friends who have said a prayer for me, thank you very much, because they have worked.”
Who is in the epic photo above?
Front (L-R): Lulu Roman, Lee Greenwood, Dave Rowland, Sylvia, Roy Clark, Moe Bandy, Jan Howard, Nancy Jones, Crystal Gayle, Mickey Gilley, Tanya Tucker
Middle (L-R): KMLE Program Director Tim Richards, Larry Black, John Conlee, Lisa Matassa, Lorraine Jordan, Deborah Allen, Jeannie Seely, David Frizzell, LeRoy VanDyke
Back (L-R): Jim Ed Brown, Bill Anderson, Richard Sterban, Duane Allen, Joe Bonsall, William Lee Golden, Eddy Raven, Tim Rushlow, T. Graham Brown, Richard Young, KZSN Program Director Brian Jennings, Webster PR’s Kirt Webster