BlackHawk, BR5-49, Others Without Label As RCA Digests Arista

It appears that BlackHawk, Lee Roy Parnell, BR5-49, Clint Daniels and Robert Earl Keen will be left behind when Arista Records’ Nashville division becomes a part of the RCA Label Group/Nashville (RLG) July 1. In addition, approximately 23 Arista staffers will be let go.

In a press release issued today (June 2), RLG specified that Arista artists Alan Jackson, Brooks & Dunn, Diamond Rio, Brad Paisley, Pam Tillis, Phil Vassar, Shannon Brown and Carolyn Dawn Johnson would henceforth record under its banner. The Arista imprint will be retained, however, and their recordings will continue to appear on that label, now a division of RLG.

The other five Arista acts were not mentioned in the release. An RLG spokesman would neither confirm nor deny that these acts were being dropped or not renewed. He would only reiterate the specific details cited. (In its entry in a recently published Music Row directory, Arista also listed Bering Strait and Jeff Black on its artist roster. Neither of these acts was mentioned in the RLG statement.)

BR5-49’s manager, Mike Ponce, believes the group will be dropped. “We haven’t been told one way or the other for sure,” he says, “but we kind of gather that we will be. So we’re looking forward to it, actually. There’s a new beginning.” He says he’s been told that Arista will close its doors on June 15.

“BlackHawk hasn’t been signed [to RLG],” reports the band’s manager, Mike Robertson. “They had an option that came up about eight months ago, and we all agreed not to go further until everybody saw what was going to happen [at Arista]. So even though we sold them a couple of new sides that are on this new greatest hits record, we actually haven’t been signed to Arista since probably the middle of last year.”

Robertson says he has not yet started to shop BlackHawk to another label. “The guys are in the studio. We’re waiting until we get a little bit further along with the next project, so nobody’s guessing about what we’re doing. We want to go, ’Here it is.’ So the guys have been writing and demoing and trying to get focused and get a record started and then take it out. BlackHawk will continue to tour with only founders Henry Paul and Dave Robbins at the helm,” Robertson says. It has been almost two years since Van Stephenson, the third founding member, withdrew from touring and recording for cancer treatment.

Managers of the other acts in question could not be reached for comment.

The RLG press release says 15 of Arista’s staff members will be kept. Two have already made the move to RLG. With an original total of 40 staff members, this leaves 23 jobs in peril.

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to