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Jeff Bates to Release Tribute to Conway Twitty

Jeff Bates

For years, radio DJs and the country music industry have raved about the vocal similarities of country singer Jeff Bates and the late Conway Twitty.  On November 11, 2014, Bates will finally satisfy those who have said it for years, when he releases ME AND CONWAY (Sony RED / Red River Entertainment), his tribute to the country legend.

“People always told me I sounded like Conway and though I never agreed, I always took it as a compliment,” explains Bates.  “I think it’s because we were both from Mississippi, enunciated similarly and we both have that gravel sound in our voices.  In 2002, when I met with Joe Galante and Renee Bell at RCA for the first time, I performed ‘Long Slow Kisses’ and ‘I Wanna Make You Cry’ for them and I learned that Renee had been Conway’s A&R rep at MCA and she had called the meeting to find out who the guy was that reminded her so much of her friend, Conway.  I went to great lengths to explain that I really didn’t sound as much like him as she thought I did and if she would just A/B our voices side by side and listen she would hear huge differences.  She just smiled her sweet Renee smile and said, ‘Honey, it’s not a bad thing at all. Yes, you sound like you but when you sing I hear Conway’s soul in your voice!”

It was a battle Bates would continue to fight at radio for years.  He heard, “You sound like Conway Twitty” and even “You sound too much like Conway Twitty!”  Finally he decided to let it go.  “If people wanted to think that I sounded like him then so be it,” he says.  “I could spend my life arguing about it or I could just continue to write songs and sing what I felt.  Then about three years ago I decided I would ‘own it.'”

Bates decided to record a new album with six Conway songs and six others so that fans could hear the differences and similarities for themselves.  On Me and Conway, Bates has included renditions of Conway Twitty classics, “Don’t Take It Away,” “Lost In The Feeling,” “I’d Love To Lay You Down” and “That’s My Job.”

Bates was honored beyond comparison when Country Music Hall of Fame and Grand Ole Opry member Loretta Lynn agreed to sing with him on her classic Conway duet, “After The Fire Is Gone.”  Lynn, who has not recorded the song with anyone since the original version with Conway, agreed after she heard Bates sing the song at her Hurricane Mills Tennessee Ranch annual Conway Twitty Weekend.  It’s been 43 years since the song was released in 1971 when it went to Number 1 on the charts for two consecutive weeks.  Now, more than four decades later, the song will be heard again, introducing a new generation of fans to one of the greatest country music duets ever recorded.

Lynn says of Bates,

“He is one of the best singers I’ve ever heard in my life.  I love him and Conway Twitty would have loved him!”

“Conway just always seemed to say the things I needed to say or wanted to say when I couldn’t find the words,” says Bates.  “I would sing his songs in nightclubs and at shows throughout my career because those songs, his songs, meant something to me personally.  I never met the man but he absolutely had a major impact on my career.  I hope he would be proud of this tribute to him.”

Pre-sales for Me And Conway are available now through release day at www.jeffbates.net.  The album will be available in all retail stores and Amazon.com, as well as digitally on iTunes.

Click READ MORE for the full Me and Conway Track Listing

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Sara Evans Ex-Husband is Taking TMZ to Court

sara evans

Craig Schelske, the former husband of country music star Sara Evans is suing TMZ for defamation.  According to Mr. Schelske,  TMZ maliciously disseminated false and damaging statements in a nationally broadcast segment which claimed that he was unfaithful to his wife of 14 years.

The 12 page lawsuit alleges that during a June 2014 broadcast, TMZ stated as fact that Mr. Schelske “took a hundred photographs of himself having sex with other people. That’s how [Sara Evans] found out.”  According to the lawsuit, while TMZ made this pronouncement, one of the individuals on the show appears to knowingly look at a smart phone, suggesting that they had these photographs in their possession.  Then, it was declared: “Yeah. That’s pretty good proof.”

“The proclamation made by TMZ left its viewers with the unmistakable belief that Mr. Schelske was unfaithful to his wife of 14 years, and that Sara Evans had discovered his infidelity when she found a hundred photographs of him having sex with other people. These statements made by TMZ on the June 17, 2014 broadcast, were and are unequivocally false.  And, if TMZ had done any investigation, they would have seen, in their own previous articles that the photo allegations were false,” said Jason P. Fowler with the R. Rex Parris law firm.

“TMZ clearly understood the difference between reporting facts and allegations, but instead chose to sensationalize the story at Mr. Schelske’s expense.  It is unfortunate when a powerful media outlet places more value in quickly publishing a story than thoroughly investigating that story before destroying someone’s life” added Fowler.

Before filing the lawsuit, Mr. Schelske gave TMZ the opportunity to retract the false statements about him and TMZ refused.  Mr. Schelske is seeking compensatory damages, general damages, special damages (for loss of reputation) in an amount to be proved at trial,” concluded Fowler.

Kentucky Headhunters Celebrate 25 Years of Pickin’ On Nashville

Kentucky Headhunters Live

It was the album that Nashville – or the music industry as a whole – didn’t quite know what to do with. But, the fans quickly figured it out. On October 17, 1989 – twenty-five years ago today – Mercury Records released the album Pickin’ On Nashville, the debut disc from The Kentucky Headhunters.

The band originated in 1968 and was comprised of Richard and Fred Young, along with cousins Greg Martin and Anthony Kenney. They didn’t look or sound like any other groups in the business, they were more comfortable in t-shirts and jeans than your typical stage attire – and their sound was a hybrid of Country, Southern Rock, and Blues.

Growing up in Edmonton, KY on a family farm, the band had played together for over twenty years prior to their big break. That time period included a couple of brushes with the spotlight. Under the name Itchy Brother (Richard Young recalls the name came from a scraggly lion from the cartoon Bongo Congo), the group were groomed by Capricorn Records in the 1970s, and almost signed with Led Zeppelin’s Swan Song Records in the early 1980s. However, the third crack at the big time proved to be the charm.

With a lineup that now included bass player and vocalist Doug Phelps, and his brother, Ricky Lee, the die was firmly cast for stardom. Having created a buzz with their live appearances in the Southern Kentucky area, as well as “The Chitlin’ Show,” their popular radio show at WLOC in Munfordville, by 1988, the Headhunters were ready to take their sound nationwide. Encouraged by their fans and friends like Tom Long, Larry Shell, and manager (and former Swan Song exec) Mitchell Fox, the boys agreed to roll the dice and take their music to Nashville.

Richard Young remembers their showcase in Nashville.

“As soon as I hit those first chords of ‘Walk Softly on This Heart of Mine,’ it looked like someone yelled “’There’s a bomb in here!’ With the exception of the bartender, waitress and a few friends, we cleared Douglas Corner. One man was left standing, Harold Shedd, then president of Mercury Records. He came up, took one of our homemade albums and left. The next day he called and said, ‘Boys, we may be cooking hamburgers next year, but I gotta try this.”

Shedd’s gamble proved to be right on the money. “Walk Softly On This Heart Of Mine,” the Bill Monroe classic was released as the first single, hitting the Billboard Country Singles chart on September 30, 1989. Radio didn’t know what hit them, as the group watched the single move up the charts.  Though the single only made it to No. 25 on the charts, Stan Hitchcock at CMT was paying attention, and the video spread the music of the Kentucky Headhunters around the nation like wildfire.

Pickin’ On Nashville included three more singles, “Dumas Walker,” “Rock and Roll Angel,” and their top-ten cover of Don Gibson’s “Oh Lonesome Me.” When the dust settled, the disc sold well over two million copies, and was named as the 1990 Album of the Year by the Country Music Association – not bad, when considering the group recorded the album in three days for only $4500 – an unheard of amount of time and money then and now. The success of the album also led to back-to-back wins for Vocal Group of the Year from the CMA in 1990 and 1991. They also won the Academy of Country Music trophy for Vocal Group of the Year, an American Music Award, and the most coveted award in all of music – a Grammy Award for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for the album. Their fan base would also include some of the biggest artists of all time, such as ZZ Top. Young recalls a conversation he once had with the architects of Rock & Roll, Carl Perkins.  “You know Carl, I was beginning to think we would never get an album out,” he told the man behind “Blue Suede Shoes.”  To which Perkins replied, “Yeah buddy, but when ya’ll came out, you came out sideways!” Truer words were never spoken.

All of these years later, the success keeps coming for the Kentucky Headhunters. Never one to be pigeon-holed in any one specific genre, the group continues to tour and record to this day. All in all, they have released thirteen albums, including their self-titled disc this year. They also continue to play to packed houses both here in the United States and abroad.

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Pickin’ On Nashville, the Headhunters will be featured in a special article on Billboard.com this weekend where The 615’s Chuck Dauphin ventured from Nashville to the group’s “Practice House” in the Edmonton, KY to recall the impact that the record made – and continues to make. Also, the Kentucky Headhunters will be featured in special programming on SiriusXM this weekend, sharing their reflections and memories of the music. Richard Young sums up his feelings on the group’s success, saying simply

“We are lucky boys, who have lived a charmed life.”

 

Little Big Town Inducted As Newest Member of Grand Ole Opry

©2014 Grand Ole Opry / Photos By: Chris Hollo

©2014 Grand Ole Opry / Photos By: Chris Hollo

The critically acclaimed Grammy®-winning vocal group Little Big Town (Karen Fairchild, Phillip Sweet, Kimberly Schlapman, and Jimi Westbrook) was formally inducted into the Grand Ole Opry this evening by Opry members Little Jimmy Dickens and Vince Gill. The group had been invited to join the Opry on Oct. 3 by Opry member and friend Reba McEntire. The night marked a major milestone for the group whose first-ever public performance together was on the Opry in 1999.

The group opened its set with a performance of its hit “Bring it On Home,” hearkening back to its Opry debut. On that night, as the members recalled backstage, they had been accompanied by only a borrowed guitar. After the group’s performance of the smash “Boondocks,” Dickens and Gill took the stage along with Opry Vice President and General Manager Pete Fisher to present the group with its Opry Member Award.

“The word ‘family’ really means something out here. It really does,” Gill said to the group. “You’ll make friends like I have with this man right here,” he continued, nodding to Dickens. “You’ll be so be blessed by the friends you’ll make out here, and they’ll last your entire life. Welcome to the family, and remember to come here as often as you can.”

After the group shared its thanks to the Opry, family members, friends, and others who’d helped make its Opry dream come true, the members invited Gill to join them on their final song of the night, the Kris Kristofferson classic “Why Me.”

“Welcome them home!” Gill cheered before a standing ovation sold out audience.

Backstage, group members reflected on having grown up with the Opry and on its importance to their music. “This feels like the biggest moment of our lives and our career,” Schlapman said.

“I’m so excited about sharing this moment with the band,” Fairchild added. “We’ve been through the highest of highs together, and this is sure to be the highest. This is as good as it gets.”

Sweet reflected on everyone at the Opry having embraced the group over the years. “It feels like home,” he said. “It’s family.”

“There’s nothing like walking those halls backstage,” added Westbrook, later sharing amazement with the other members that the group’s name would be added to the Opry Member Gallery at the Opry House backstage entrance.

 

Dierks Bentley Added to Country Thunder

Dierks Bentley

The man behind the smash hit of the summer “Drunk on a Plane,” Dierks Bentley, will join previously-announced headliners Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton at Country Thunder in Twin Lakes, Wis., July 23-26, 2015. One of country music’s most-respected singer/songwriters, Dierks’ long list of chart-topping hits includes, “5-1-5-0,” “I Hold On,” “Sideways,” “Come a Little Closer,” “What Was I Thinkin,” and more. Fans can expect even more exciting announcements in the coming months.

A very limited number of campsites have been released in Preferred Camping and are available for $160. If you missed the action in 2014 because tickets were sold out, don’t delay and get your tickets for 2015 now, as they’re expected to go quickly! Four-day passes are available in limited quantities for $160. Also, don’t forget, in order to enter the campgrounds a four-day admission wristband is required. For more info on tickets or for any of your Country Thunder needs, please visit countrythunder.com or call (866) 802-6418.

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