Nashville News and Notes for FRIDAY

Willie Nelson, Darius Rucker Receiving Honorary Degrees This Weekend


Willie Nelson and Darius Rucker are going back to school this weekend.  The singers are each getting special recognition with honorary degrees.  Willie is set to receive an an honorary doctor of music from Berklee College of Music.  He's being honored along with Carole King and Annie Lennox, who'll also give the commencement address.  The Berklee College of Music graduation ceremony will take place at the Agganis Arena at Boston University on Saturday.  Tonight, students will pay tribute to Nelson, King, and Lennox with the traditional graduation eve concert salute.  Both events will be carried live online at


Rucker is getting an honorary doctorate in music from his alma mater, the University of South Carolina.  He's also been asked to speak during the ceremony.  The university's commencement is a two-day event that begins today.  Darius will give his address and receive his degree on Saturday.


Carrie Underwood Celebrating Five Years As An Opry Member


Five years ago today, on May 10th, 2008, Carrie Underwood became a member of the Grand Ole Opry.  And she'll be celebrating the occasion with a special Opry performance to close one of next month's shows.  The Opry is also commemorating the occasion with "fan zone" tickets that include a "Carrie 5-year Anniversary" t-shirt.  Tickets are on sale now.  The show is set for June 7th, which is during the CMA Music Festival in Nashville.


Opry President and General Manager Pete Fisher says they're pleased to honor Underwood in this way.  He explains that over the past five years, Carrie has "become both a certified country music superstar and a beloved member of the Opry family."  He adds that it's "been exciting to see Carrie experience career success after success, all the while returning often to the Opry stage to thrill audiences here."


Toby Keith Hosting Annual Fundraiser This Weekend


Toby Keith is hosting his annual Toby Keith & Friends Golf Classic this weekend.  The country star will kick off the event Friday night with the "Denim & Diamond" gala.  Golfers and guests will enjoy fine food and entertainment as well as live and silent auctions.  Taylor Swift, Charlie Daniels, Jimmy Buffett, and Toby are among the stars who have contributed material to go up for bid.  On Saturday, golfers will hit the links at the Belmar Golf Club in Norman, Oklahoma.  Keith's charity event is funding the OK Kids Korral, which is now under construction at the Oklahoma University Medical Center for young cancer patients and their families.  Toby launched last year's event with the groundbreaking ceremony for the facility.  The OK Kids Korral is on track to open this October.


It was the death of his former band member's child that inspired Toby to help families with children battling cancer.  Scott Webb's daughter Ally died of kidney cancer in August 2003, a month before her third birthday.  Toby says he's proud of what they've been able to accomplish over the past decade.  He explains that ten years ago they were "just in the process of healing" from losing Ally, and now they're "getting ready to open our doors to thousands of people who need support."


Florida Georgia Line Log Chart Milestone


Florida Georgia Line is making chart history.  The duo is the first act to top both the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and the recently established Country Airplay chart -- with two different singles.  Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard's breakthorugh hit "Cruise is marking its fifth consecutive week -- and tenth week total -- at number one on the Songs chart, while "Get Your Shine On" has climbed to the top of the Airplay chart this week.  It's also the first time a duo has topped the country chart with their first two singles since Brooks & Dunn in 1991.


Meanwhile, "Cruise" is also logging its eleventh week at number one on the Country Digital chart.  And Florida Georgia Line is doing well on the pop chart as well, courtesy of their "Cruise" remix featuring Nelly.  The collaborative track has climbed into the top 20 on the Pop Songs list, and is now perched at number 18.  It's resting at number 26 on the Adult Pop Songs chart.


Lauren Alaina Debuts New Single On "American Idol"


Lauren Alaina has a new single out.  The season ten "American Idol" runner up returned to the Fox reality show Thursday night to give the debut performance of "Barefoot and Buckwild."


Lauren released "Barefoot and Buckwild" earlier this week, after unveiling the song during an online chat.  The country singer says she's excited to have a new song available to her fans.  She adds that she's glad to return to the show that launched her career.  Lauren explains that it's "always so fun" to go back and visit her "'American Idol' family," and thinks there's "no better place" for her to showcase her latest work.


Keith Urban's Future As An "Idol" Judge In Question


Keith Urban might be wrapping up his run as an "American Idol" judge.  While "Idol" vet Randy Jackson has confirmed that he's leaving the show, quotes insiders who say Urban as well as Mariah Carey, and Nicki Minaj won't be returning next season, either.  Producers are reportedly trying to build a brand new judges' panel with the goal of regaining its core audience, after seeing ratings plummet to new lows this season.  According to the source, the panel revamp will mean, "No more big checks for divas."  Carey reportedly banked 18-million-dollars for one year.  Minaj reportedly pocketed 12-million and former "Idol" judge Jennifer Lopez reportedly made 15-million-dollars. "The Wrap" report also says executive producer Nigel Lythgoe will also be replaced.


Rascal Flatts Working To Balance Touring, Family Time


Rascal Flatts' Jay DeMarcus says he loves being on the road and performing for the fans.  But he admits that with two young kids at home, touring is getting tougher for him.  The country star says the group is making an effort to meet their performing needs while minimizing their time away from home.


Jay has a two-year-old daughter, Madeline, while his son, Dylan, will celebrate his first birthday this summer.  Bandmates Gary LeVox and Joe Don Rooney are dads as well.  But Rascal Flatts will be hitting the road this spring.  The group will kick off on their "Live & Loud" tour in Jones Beach, New York on May 31st.


Little Big Town Savoring Back-To-Back Chart-Topping Success


Little Big Town is enjoying their recent chart success.  This week the group celebrated their second consecutive number one hit, "Tornado," which band members Phillip Sweet and Karen Fairchild admit has been a strange and wonderful experience.


The title track to Little Big Town's latest album, "Tornado," topped the chart in March.  It was the follow up to the group's first-ever number one hit "Pontoon," which spent two weeks at the top of the chart back in September.  Karen adds that they'd love to have a three-peat with their current single, "Your Side of the Bed."


Taylor Swift Amazed By A Song's Journey


Taylor Swift says she's continually amazed by the evolutionary process of a song.  The country-pop superstar explains that they start out as ideas that "haunt" her until she writes them, and then take on an entirely different life once they're recorded, released, and embraced by the fans.  Taylor adds that the fans' involvement makes performing the songs even more special.


This year Taylor is hearing crowds sing her songs back to her from coast to coast.  She's on the road in support of her latest studio album, "Red."  Swift launched the trek in Omaha, Nebraska back in March, and will wrap up the tour with a three-night stand in Nashville in late September.  Taylor will perform for fans in the nation's capital this weekend.  She has shows set for Washington, DC on Saturday and Sunday night.


Eric Church Credits Mom For Musical Talent, Successful Career


Eric Church says his mom deserves at least some of the credit for his success.  The country star explains that his vocal abilities come from her side of the family.


But Eric adds that his mom's influence goes well beyond singing.  He explains that when it comes to his career he owes her "everything."  Church adds that he got from his mom "a lot of the qualities" he's needed to get where he is today, "not only as a musician, but as a man."


Country Moms Describe Joys Of Motherhood


Shania Twain, who has an eleven-year-old son, says being a mom has been very rewarding.  She adds that Mother's Day really is a special holiday to women with children.


Little Big Town's Karen Fairchild agrees.  She says there "isn't anything that means more" to her than being a mom.  She calls her three-year-old son Elijah "a little miracle," explaining that she "went from dreaming about him to eating grilled cheese sandwiches and ketchup with him."  Karen adds that she could never have imagined just how incredible it is to be a mom.


Today In Country Music History


Today in 1928, The Carter Family recorded "Wildwood Flower" on what was Mother Maybelle Carter's 19th birthday.


Today in 1989, Dwight Yoakam's album "Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc. Etc." was certified Platinum.


Today in 1993, fire heavily damaged Mickey Gilley's theater in Branson, Missouri.


Today in 1994, Travis Tritt's album "Ten Feet Tall And Bulletproof" and Lorrie Morgan's album "War Paint" were released.


Today in 1994, right before John Berry was about to have surgery to remove a brain tumor, he found out that his single "Your Love Amazes Me" had become his first number one hit.


Today in 1994, Willie Nelson was arrested on drug possession charges in Hewitt, Texas, after a police officer was said to have found him asleep in his car with a marijuana cigarette in the ashtray.  The case was later thrown out of court and the cop was fired.


Today in 1995, Reba McEntire became the first woman in 15 years to be named Entertainer of the Year at the 30th annual Academy of Country Music Awards.


Today in 1997, Barbara Mandrell launched her own jewelry line on the QVC cable TV channel.  The "Country Sentiments" line of earrings, rings, bracelets and necklaces range in price from 20-to-125-dollars.


Today in 2000, LeAnn Rimes debuted the song "I Need You" on NBC's "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno."


Today in 2000, Faith Hill appeared in "Here's To You Charlie Brown: 50 Great Years!," a television tribute to the late "Peanuts" creator, Charles Schulz.  In the special, Faith serenaded Charlie Brown about girl trouble with "Poor, Sweet Baby," a song from 1983's "Snoopy: The Musical."


Today in 2002, Alan Jackson's "Drive" took over the top spot on "Radio & Records" country chart.


Today in 2004, Wynonna Judd pays a return visit to the "Oprah" show.  Her mother Naomi and sister Ashley joined her on the program.


Today in 2005, new releases included Dierks Bentley's "Modern Day Drifter," Van Zant's "Get Right With The Man," David Allan Coe's "David Allan Coe For the Soul and for the Mind: Demos of 1971," and Robert Earl Keen's "What I Really Mean."


Today in 2006, Gretchen Wilson and Trace Adkins kicked off the second leg of their co-headlining Redneck Revolution Tour in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Blaine Larsen was the opener.


Today in 2007, Sawyer Brown and Bucky Covington performed a benefit for Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee's Kids Café at the Wildhorse Saloon in Nashville.


Today in 2007, Trace Adkins celebrated the number one success of his single "Ladies Love Country Boys" with a party in Nashville.


Today in 2007, Trisha Yearwood announced that she was no longer with MCA Records but had signed with the independent label Big Machine Records.


Today in 2008, Carrie Underwood became a member of the Grand Ole Opry.  Garth Brooks gave the singer her Opry Member Award.


Today in 2008, Alabama's Randy Owen received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in a ceremony in New York City.


Today in 2008, The Oak Ridge Boys, Tanya Tucker, and Aaron Tippin joined Grand Ole Opry stars John Conlee, Jeanie Seely, Jim Ed Brown, and Bill Anderson for a concert in Red Boiling Springs, Tennessee to raise money for people recovering from tornados that hit middle Tennessee and southern Kentucky a couple months earlier.


Today in 2009, Clint Black and Trace Adkins took part in "The Celebrity Apprentice" season finale.


Today in 2011, new releases included Jimmie Dale Gilmore's "Heirloom Music."


Today in 2012, Loretta Lynn announced that "New Girl" star Zooey Deschanel had been tapped for the lead role in the Broadway adaptation of "Coal Miner's Daughter."


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