Nashville News and Notes for THURSDAY

Willie Nelson To Receive 5th Degree Black Belt In Korean Martial Art


Willie Nelson might use a multi-colored guitar strap, but he'll soon be wearing a new black belt.  The country legend will receive his fifth degree black belt in the modern Korean martial art of Gong Kwon Yu Sul in a ceremony in Austin, Texas on April 28th -- just before his 81st birthday.  Willie's teacher, Grand Master Sam Um, admits the singer is not the typical student.  He tells the "Houston Chronicle" that most people stop training in their 40s, while Nelson began studying the mixed martial art in his 60s.  Um adds that Willie "has great discipline," and when he's on the road he'll send Um videos of his practices for critiques.  He also admits that Willie now has a higher rank than he has, and that Nelson "could take" him "in a fight with no problem."

Martina McBride Tops Country Chart; Bryan, FGL See ACM Bump


Martina McBride is leading the way on the Billboard Country Albums chart with her latest release.  "Everlasting" is debuting at number one with first week sales of 21-thousand.  She's opening at number seven on the all-genre Billboard 200.  "Everlasting" features the country star's versions of pop and R&B classics, including songs originally made famous by Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin, and others.


Meanwhile, Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line are returning to the Billboard 200 top ten, courtesy of their appearances on the Academy of Country Music AwardsBryan's "Crash My Party" sold 19-thousand copies -- up 14-percent from the previous week -- to put the album at number eight.  Florida Georgia Line's "Here's To The Good Times" also saw a 14-percent sales increase, and with just over 17-thousand copies sold rounds out the Billboard 200 top ten.


Hunter Hayes Says Pressure About Second Album Is Self-Imposed


Hunter Hayes says as he worked on his sophomore album, "Storyline," he began to recognize that any pressure he felt was coming from within.  The country star adds that his realization was very liberating.


Hunter says he was also able to approach his new with greater confidence, which allowed him to "feel so much better" about opening up in his songs.  Hayes' "Storyline" will be in stores on May 6th.  The 14-track set includes Hunter's latest hit, "Invisible."


Brad Paisley Shares Roots Of New Single


Brad Paisley says he tapped his childhood for his latest single.  The country star tells Nashville's "Tennessean" some of his best memories with his father and grandfather stem from when he was a kid having fun on the Ohio River.  He says "River Bank" is "kind of like a back-to-basics song," explaining that on the river it just takes a boat and an inner tube and "you've got a theme park."  Paisley adds that "River Bank" reflects "a mindset" that he's "completely ready for after this winter" which is "summer."  "River Bank" is the lead-off single from Brad's upcoming album, which is expected to be released later this year.


Ronnie Dunn Trying To Lose His "Radio Ears"


Ronnie Dunn says his goal with his latest album was to put together a collection of songs that excited him, which wasn't always easy.  The country star tells "CMT Hot 20 Countdown" he's still "trying to un-condition" himself from listening to songs "with radio ears."  He explains that he catches himself evaluating material based on its hit potential, then realizing it's "not necessarily the best song."  Dunn says as an independent artist he has the freedom to record material that appeals to him without having to consider whether it'll appeal to a mainstream audience.


But Dunn admits with his album "Peace Love and Country Music" he still "had to hold back."  He explains that as an artist he's "always trying to push the limits."  But he listened when people heard his new songs and said, "I don't know about that."  Dunn's "Peace Love and Country Music" is available now.


Keith Urban Launches New Video Series


Keith Urban is sharing more of his "Idol" time -- and his sense of humor -- through a new video series.  The country star has launched the weekly "Idol Chatter," in which he's giving a "behind-the-scenes look" at life on "American Idol."  In Wednesday's premiere episode Urban points out his fellow judges' luxury trailers before taking viewers inside his more humble accommodations -- a small U-Haul cargo trailer -- which he takes in stride.


Keith then takes a seat on a metal folding chair and starts the tour of his cramped quarters.  His highlights include a wardrobe rack of shirts and jeans, his guitars propped up in the corner behind him, his "food" -- consisting of little more than a couple of bananas on the floor -- and his "boom box" -- a cell phone that he puts in a red solo cup.


Urban says he decided to make "Idol Chatter" just to "have a bit of fun" during his downtime, and "show a bit" of what "American Idol" producers "won't let you see."  Fans can find the first episode of "Idol Chatter" at and on participating country radio station websites.


George Strait Pleased With Decision To End Touring Career


George Strait admits he's enjoying his "Cowboy Rides Away" farewell tour.  But the country superstar says he's comfortable with his decision to retire from the road.


Strait adds that he's not ending his career or even giving up performing.  He says after his tour is over he'll likely "take a year off and maybe do a record," and then play "a few and there."  The singer will take his "Cowboy Rides Away" tour to Iowa and Oklahoma later this week.  He has shows set for Des Moines on Friday and Tulsa on Saturday.  Ronnie Dunn is also on the bill for both dates.


Lee Greenwood Surprised By Power Of His Signature Hit


Lee Greenwood says when he wrote "God Bless the U.S.A." he didn't realize the song's staying power.  In the past 15 years the country star's signature hit has twice seen a resurgence in popularity.  Lee attributes it to the song's sentiment, which Americans are embracing in times of crisis.


Greenwood says "God Bless the U.S.A." has always been special to him.  He admits he gets emotional singing the song, especially for veterans.  Lee explains that he was never in the military but considers "God Bless the U.S.A." his "way of serving," and how he gives back to those who have.


The Country Music Hall of Fame is recognizing the 30th anniversary of "God Bless the U.S.A." is with the exhibit "Lee Greenwood: American Patriot."  The display will remain up at the Nashville museum through April 25th.


"Cowboy" Jack Clement Album Receiving Posthumous Release


One more album is on the way from the late "Cowboy" Jack Clement. says Vince Gill, Dierks Bentley, Emmylou Harris, and Rodney Crowell are among the stars who contributed to the project, titled "For Once and For All."  It will be just the third studio release credited to the Country Music Hall of Famer.  But Harris says that's no reflection on the impact "Cowboy" Jack had on country music.  She explains that "if you unraveled all the threads Jack wove into the tapestry of what made country music great over the last 50-plus years, the whole thing would come apart."  "For Once and For All" will arrive in stores on July 15th.


"Cowboy" Jack made a name for himself as a songwriter, producer, and arranger as well as a musician.  Over the course of his lengthy and influential career he worked with numerous stars, including Johnny Cash, Charley Pride, and Waylon Jennings.  The 82-year-old Clement died last August, four months after learning he'd been tapped for induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame.


Today In Country Music History


Today in 1970, Johnny Cash performed at the White House at the invitation of President Richard Nixon.  Nixon asked Cash to perform "Okie From Muskogee," but Johnny refused since it wasn't his song.  Instead, he sang his hit "A Boy Named Sue."


Today in 1992, Aaron Tippin scored his first number one hit single, "There Ain't Nothin' Wrong with the Radio."


Today in 1997, Toby Keith and his wife, Tricia, became parents to their third child, a son named Stelen Keith Covel.  The couple's other children are daughters Shelley and Krystal.


Today in 1998, Clint Black and Skip Ewing's song "Something That We Do" was selected as Song of the Year by the Nashville Songwriters Association International.


Today in 1998, Alabama was chosen by readers of "People" magazine as America's favorite band.  Garth Brooks topped the Male Vocalist category, with George Strait coming in third.


Today in 2000, ABC-TV began using Lonestar's hit "Amazed" in promotional spots for their primetime hit sitcom "2 Guys and a Girl."


Today in 2004, The Judds made their debut at the Grand Ole Opry.


Today in 2005, Clay Walker was among those who completed the two-day BP MS 150 Bike Tour, a 150-mile fundraising trek in support of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.  The course took participants from Houston to Austin, Texas.


Today in 2005, Lonestar took part in a fundraiser for the Fender Museum of Music and the Arts' Kids Rock Free program, which provides music lessons at no charge to children from the ages of seven to 17.  The event was staged in Corona, California.


Today in 2006, Van Zant were on "Emeril Live," and performed "Nobody Gonna Tell Me What To Do" and "I'm Doin' Alright."


Today in 2006, Jo Dee Messina ran in the 110th Boston Marathon.  Despite a knee injury, she finished with an impressive official time of five-hours-47-minutes.


Today in 2006, Sara Evans' "Always There," special Mother's Day CD, arrived in Hallmark Gold Crown stores.  She recorded two new tracks for the project -- "You Oughta Know By Now" and "Brooklyn and Austin" -- and it also included an acoustic version of "Born To Fly."


Today in 2007, Dierks Bentley, John Rich, Cowboy Troy, Gretchen Wilson and Rascal Flatts' Jay DeMarcus joined former Tennessee Titan Kevin Carter for his sixth annual Waiting for Wishes celebrity waiter's dinner in Nashville. The event benefits his foundation and the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Middle Tennessee.


Today in 2007, Martina McBride mentored Fox's "American Idol" top seven finalists. She worked with the contestants as they prepped material for the show's "Country Music Week."


Today in 2007, new album releases included Clay Walker's "Fall," Pam Tillis' "Rhinestoned," and Bucky Covington's self-titled debut.


Today in 2008, Emerson Drive took part in the opening night party for the Nashville Film Festival.


Today in 2008, Willie Nelson was the subject of a Comedy Central roast.  The event, which took place in Los Angeles, aired a couple months later.


Today in 2009, Brad Paisley was on hand at the Nashville Film Festival to support William Shatner at the world premiere of "William Shatner's Gonzo Ballet."


Today in 2010, Montgomery Gentry hosted the ACM Chairman's Ride, a charity motorcycle event supporting ACM Lifting Lives.  The duo was also the headliner for the inaugural ACM Lifting Lives USO concert at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.  Dierks Bentley, Randy Houser, Josh Thompson, James Otto, and Anthony Smith also performed.  Both events were among the festivities leading up to the 45th annual ACM Awards.


Today in 2010, Miranda Lambert was the headliner for the second night of the ACM Concerts at Freemont Street Experience.  Luke Bryan and Gloriana were also among the performers.


Today in 2010, Kenny Chesney attended the official premiere of his concert film "Kenny Chesney: Summer in 3D" in Las Vegas.  A number of other celebrities were also on hand for the screening, including Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Reba McEntire, Matthew McConaughey, and Morgan Freeman.


Today in 2013, Brad Paisley's album "Wheelhouse" debuted at number one on the Billboard Country Albums chart, and at number two on the all-genre Billboard 200.


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