The Recording Academy — purveyor of the Grammy awards — honored Rascal Flatts, Loretta Lynn, Jars of Clay and the Fisk Jubilee Singers Monday (April 9) for their distinctive contributions to music and their good works. Hosted by actress Andie MacDowell, the ceremony was held at Nashville’s Loews Vanderbilt Hotel.
All four acts were present for the awards — as were hundreds of Nashville music executives. A short biographical video introduced each act.
Confessing that hosting was not her forte, MacDowell asked the audience to indulge any of her shortcomings and ventured the hope that they had consumed enough drinks to make this possible.
“I am simply here,” she continued, “because I’m a huge fan, and I tricked someone into letting me do this.” Having settled that, she introduced Curb Records owner Mike Curb to make the first presentation.
Curb acknowledged there was some fuss on Music Row because Rascal Flatts had been confined to singing Eagles’ songs on the recent Grammy awards show. But he said he enjoyed that segment and was pleased that the Eagles were now identified with country music.
“Thirty or 40 years from now,” Curb predicted, “there’s going to be a young group up there [on the Grammys] giving a lifetime achievement award, and they’re going to be singing Rascal Flatts’ tunes.”
Then Curb turned to the act he was assigned to present, the Fisk Jubilee Singers. He offered a charming — but possibly apocryphal — story of how the term “Music City” came about. When the original Fisk Jubilee Singers sang for England’s Queen Victoria in 1872, Curb said, the sovereign asked them where they were from. When they told her Nashville, she purportedly responded, “That must be Music City, U.S.A.”
Curb also said the Jubilee Singers made the first recording of traditional music in Nashville when they recorded “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” in 1910. He then brought forward the current lineup of the 16-member chorus which performed the Swahili/English hymn, “Osifuni Mungu.”
Accepting the award for the group, director Paul Kwami said, “You have taken a step higher by letting us know that the Fisk Jubilee Singers are a treasure of the Nashville community.”
When she returned to the stage, MacDowell announced that Curb will be given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in June.
Terry Hemmings, president and CEO of Provident Music Group, summarized the history and artistic impact of the three-time Grammy winning gospel group, Jars of Clay. After his remarks, fellow Christian music singer Sara Groves performed the group’s hit, “Flood.”
Marty Stuart came up next to present Lynn. He observed that her fame was such that she could knock on any door on the planet and be welcomed in. “She’s a big part of the heart and soul of country music,” he declared. Then Tanya Tucker paid tribute by singing “Blue Kentucky Girl,” Lynn’s hit from 1965.
The crowd greeted Lynn when she marched on with a prolonged standing ovation. Like her predecessors, the singer kept her acceptance speech brief. After thanking the Academy, she looked her award up and down and proclaimed, “I will have this in my museum tomorrow.”
Dann Huff, Rascal Flatts’ producer, spoke on behalf of the mega-selling trio. “I’m going to say some nice things about you,” he told them as they sat staring up from their table. “Just know that I’m going to expect you at work tomorrow at 10.” He praised the group’s attitude and work ethic. “They remain as hungry as ever,” he said. “They’ve become good musicians. They really study the art.”
Huff summoned Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds to render a sample from Rascal Flatts’ catalog. Adopting a facetiously wounded tone, the much-awarded singer and producer complained that Gary LeVox, Rascal Flatts’ lead singer, “heard me playing something and ripped me off.” Moreover, he pouted, “I didn’t get to produce their record — but it’s OK.”
Accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, Edmonds sailed into “I Melt.” His version was a more casual cover of the 2003 hit — until he escalated into the high notes. At that point, he strained to match LeVox’s own vocal intensity, and the crowd vigorously applauded the effort — especially when he produced a sound that vibrated somewhere between a trill and a yodel.
“I’m kinda surprised they didn’t make Kenny sing an Eagles song,” quipped Rascal Flatts member Jay DeMarcus when the three finally trooped up to accept their award.
The Academy lauded all four acts for their charitable works: the Jubilee Singers for promoting peace and tolerance; Jars of Clay for their “1,000 Wells” project to provide clean water to areas of sub-Saharan Africa; Lynn for her campaign against diabetes; and Rascal Flatts for its support of the Monroe Carrell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University, an effort that has already raised $1.4 million.
“We’re proud to be Nashvillians now,” said Flatts’ Joe Don Rooney in his acceptance. “We plan to be here the rest of our lives.”