Clark, Shelton, Worley Get Close to Fans

The official start of Fan Fair was still more than 24 hours away, but Wednesday (June 4) proved to be a perfect time for country artists to visit with their most devoted followers. When it comes to the most devoted, the category includes those who have taken the time to join a fan club.

More significantly, the devotion is also deep enough for the fans to spend their hard-earned money to visit Nashville during Fan Fair week. The artists are the first to acknowledge this by hosting private parties that provide face-to-face contact with fans. In terms of themes, Wednesday’s fan club parties encompassed everything from fried chicken to Web casts.

Approximately 250 Blake Shelton fan club members began the day with a buffet breakfast at the Wildhorse Saloon. Door prizes included bottles of “Ol’ Red” wine, autographed posters, Wrangler jeans and even some of Shelton’s personal jeans. Fans came from California to South Carolina and also from England. After performing two songs, Shelton pledged to demonstrate his sharp-shooting skills Thursday (June 5) at the second annual Andy Griggs celebrity archery tournament. “I’m going to win this for you guys,” he vowed.

Obviously assuming that his fans wanted to sleep later, Darryl Worley provided the fried chicken during a lunchtime event at the Baldwin Showcase. Hosting his third annual fan club event. Worley’s musical performance included “Tennessee River Run” (his next single) and “Second Wind” (which he dedicated to his mother). Throughout the intimate concert, he thanked his fans, friends and family for their support over the years. Ranking the party as a highlight of the year, Worley closed his set with his mega-hit, “Have You Forgotten?” He explained, “The song is a gift from God, inspired by the trip to Afghanistan prior to Christmas.” Fan club members then joined him for individual pictures in front of a large American flag backdrop.

Terri Clark and Chris Cagle each returned to the honky-tonk for their parties at The Trap, a new club located across the street from the Coliseum, where Fan Fair’s evening concert series takes place.

Clark should have felt especially at home. Recalling her days as a newcomer, she played a medley of songs she favored while still an unknown act at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge on Lower Broadway in downtown Nashville. The song choices included Loretta Lynn tunes and the Judds’ “Mama, He’s Crazy.” During Wednesday’s performance, Clark also performed most of the songs from her most recent album, Pain to Kill.

Once Clark’s event ended, other fans were lined up around the block waiting to attend Cagle’s fan club party. Once inside, Cagle casually sat on a stool on stage and expressed his appreciation for everyone’s support. Rather than wait for the topic to arise during the Q&A session, Cagle immediately got right to the nitty gritty by confirming that he has split with his wife — adding that they are still friends and that he loves his stepchildren. Following the Q&A, Cagle performed one song before apologizing that his involvement with CMT’s 100 Greatest Songs of Country Music taping later that day could force him to leave the party before having a chance to meet every fan in attendance. However, Cagle assured them that he’d be happy to meet everyone at a later date on his bus at one of his concerts.

Rascal Flatts went high-tech for a party at Rocketown, a club established by Contemporary Christian singer-songwriter Michael W. Smith. After performances by several songwriters, Rascal Flatts performed for the crowd. However, fan club members in other cities got to experience the entire event via a Web cast that included an online Q&A session.

Other artists hosting Fan Club parties Wednesday included Diamond Rio, Sawyer Brown, Pinmonkey, Marty Stuart and John Berry.