Skip to main content

Nashville Notes: Dolly Parton’s First Big Tour in 25 Years, New CMT Shows & More

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


Two Country Music Hall of Fame members in their 70s are headed in opposite directions. Don Williams announced his retirement in favor of “quiet time at home” on March 1, leaving a catalog that includes “I Believe in You,” “Good Ole Boys Like Me” and a former Academy of Country Music record of the year, “Tulsa Time.” Meanwhile, Dolly Parton announced March 7 that she’ll conduct her biggest North American tour in 25 years during 2016. In addition, she plans to release a double album, Pure & Simple With Dolly’s Biggest Hits, featuring new material and some of her best-known works.

CMT unveiled a ton of programming plans for the rest of 2016. The marquee announcement included four new CMT Crossroads pairings: Jennifer Nettles and Cheap Trick, whose installment premieres March 24; plus Luke Bryan and Jason Derulo; Charles Kelley and Rob Thomas; and Thomas Rhett and Nick Jonas. Additionally, the network ordered a second season of I Love Kellie Pickler; tabbed June 12 to premiere its scripted Elvis Presley impersonator series, Still the King, starring Billy Ray Cyrus; and is developing Million Dollar Quartet, a series built around seminal Sun Records acts Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins. Also of note, the annual CMT Artists of the Year has been moved from its traditional December date to Oct. 19.


One tour is red, white and blue; the other is a little more tie-dye. Nonetheless, Granger Smith and Jake Owen are both promoting new projects with small tours rooted in Americana. Smith’s was a two-day Pledge of Allegiance Tour March 6-7 covering 13 colonies in conjunction with “Merica,” the last track on his album Remington, released March 4. Among the stops were the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, the Washington Monument in D.C. and the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Virginia. Owen embarked on a 1,000-mile road trip from Nashville to Key West, Fla., in a 1966 Volkswagen van to call attention to “American Country Love Song,” released to radio via Play MPE on March 4. According to The Chattanooga Times Free Press, Owen’s journey includes a video shoot in Savannah, Ga.

Vince Gill is an early entry in the Kentucky Derby festivities. He’ll headline the third Fillies & Lilies Party at Churchill Downs on May 6, the day before the annual horse race at the same venue in Louisville. Wynonna Judd plays the Unbridled Derby Eve Gala the same night at the Galt House Hotel.



Warner Music Nashville hired Marieke Bianchi as senior director of sponsorships and activations. She was most recently director of public relations for marketing/PR firm GS&F/Nashville. 

Chappel McCollister joined Sandbox Entertainment to oversee sponsorships, licensing and endorsements for the roster, which includes Little Big Town and Shania Twain. He was previously G7 Entertainment marketing director of tour partnerships.

Former Show Dog-Universal president Mark Wright has joined You42 as president of the developing entertainment platform’s Nashville office. Also in the new division are vp artist relations and creative content Macy Morgenthaler, a former SDU regional promotion director, and senior director of operations Laurie Gore, also a previous SDU promotion manager. 

Cynthia Aycock was hired as editor-in-chief as Hart Street relaunches ThatsCountryYall.com. Aycock writes and produces the Digital Rodeo show Off the Hook Nashville-Dueling Songwriters from Douglas Corner.

Round Hill Music hired Penny Gattis as senior director of A&R. She was previously BMI Nashville director of writer/publisher relations. She replaces Kari Smith, who is opening a management company, Hear Candy Music. 

Curb acquired the Warner Music Group’s stake in Christian label Word Entertainment, making the company a wholly owned Curb subsidiary. WMG will continue to distribute Word releases in the general market.

Songwriter Dave Berg (“Stupid Boy,” “These Are My People”) signed a publishing deal with Big Deal Music and BMG.

Melanie Meriney joined the songwriting roster at Dune Grass Music.

Universal Music Group Nashville signed singer-songwriter Jordan Davis to a recording deal.

Singer-songwriter Josh Kelley signed with Sugar Hill. His first album for the label is expected this spring.

Ronna Rubin‘s Rubin Media has added the International Bluegrass Music Association as a client.

Leadership Music is accepting applications for the class of 2017 through March 31.



KSJO San Jose was officially removed from Nielsen tracking for country, as the station dropped the format on March 1. Cumulus opted against buying the signal, which it had attempted to use as an entree into the San Francisco market. Ownership is retained by Universal Media. 

Cumulus/Indianapolis promoted Stephen Giuttari to operations manager for the three-station cluster. He continues to serve as PD for country WFMS

Greater Media/Boston hired Jason Muth as interactive sales and strategy director for the five-station cluster, including country WKLB. Muth was previously Comcast Spotlight interactive sales manager. 

WKHK Richmond, Va., added Garret Doll as PD, replacing Buddy Van Arsdale, RadioInfo.com reported. Doll arrives from a similar post at WCKN Charleston, S.C. 

Marissa Lanchak was installed as WGNA Albany, N.Y., midday host, according to RadioInfo.com. She was afternoon personality-music director for crosstown top 40 WFLY.

KVOO/KXBL Tulsa, Okla., welcomes Greg Mozingo as PD on March 14, Inside-Radio.com reported. He was most recently PD for WIL St. Louis.

iHeartMedia/West Palm Beach (Fla.) promoted Chris Soechtig to market president from senior vp sales, according to InsideRadio.com. He’ll oversee 10 local brands, including country WAVW.

Country Radio Broadcasters is accepting applications for the Country Radio Seminar 2017 agenda committee. Apply by March 16.



Joe Nichols said, “Yeah,” when Boehringer Ingelheim asked for his help.

Nichols joined the pharmaceutical company for its “Breathless” campaign, an effort to raise awareness of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a rare lung disease that’s misdiagnosed 50 percent of the time. Nichols is all too familiar with the condition. His father, Mike Nichols, suffered with it for three years before his illness was correctly identified. He died in July 2002, exactly one week before Joe’s debut album was released.

This article first appeared in Billboard’s Country Update — sign up here.