Top Country Music News of 2007

Whatever Else Befell, There Were Always Awards

Apart from the deaths of musical titans (to be covered in a separate story), 2007 has been an encouraging but less than banner year for country music. Carrie Underwood emerged as a full-blown star — with teen Taylor Swift nipping at her heels. Garth Brooks shook off his domestic dormancy and flexed his still-considerable musical muscles. Kenny Chesney continued to fill more stadiums than any other artist on the Row. Here is a month-by-month rundown of how the year shaped up.

January: Elevator going down. Nielsen SoundScan reports that country album sales for 2006 dipped 0.5 percent — or about 441,000 units — from the total number sold in 2005. . . Stonewall Jackson sues the Grand Ole Opry for age discrimination.

February: Dixie Chicks win five Grammys, including the cherished overall album of year award for Taking The Long Way. … Kenny Chesney denies he’s gay on 60 Minutes. … Reba McEntire’s sitcom concludes. … Sammy Kershaw files for bankruptcy. … Terri Clark files for divorce. … Tracy Lawrence releases For the Love, his first album in three years. … Brad Paisley becomes a father. … Country Radio Broadcasters honor Kenny Rogers for lifetime achievements.

March: Wynonna Judd seeks divorce after husband’s arrest for aggravated sexual battery against a minor.

April: Fire destroys Johnny Cash’s former home in Hendersonville, Tenn. … Willie Nelson pleads guilty to marijuana possession. Gets fine and six-month probation.

May: Kenny Chesney wins third consecutive entertainer of the year award from Academy of Country Music. … Mel Tillis tapped to join Grand Ole Opry. … Trisha Yearwood signs with Big Machine Records. … Mary Chapin Carpenter cancels tour due to illness. … Songwriters celebrate Bluebird Café’s 25th anniversary.

June: Porter Wagoner releases what will prove to be his final studio album, Wagonmaster, with Marty Stuart producing. … Dolly Parton honored with Johnny Mercer Award from the Songwriters Hall of Fame in New York. … Rascal Flatts give surprise performance at CMA Music Festival. … Dierks Bentley well received by fans at mammoth Bonaroo Music & Arts Festival. … Sammy Kershaw files to run for lieutenant governor of Louisiana.

July: Donor of Mother Maybelle’s guitar and Bill Monroe’s mandolin charged with fraud. … The Wreckers’ Michelle Branch and Jessica Harp say they will pursue solo projects. … Darryl Worley appears nude in Playgirl photo spread.

August: Vince Gill, Mel Tillis, Ralph Emery named to Country Music Hall of Fame. … Denise (Mrs. Alan) Jackson’s book goes No. 1 in New York Times.

September: Garth Brooks makes history when his “More Than a Memory” single tops the chart its first week out. … Mindy McCready gets one-year jail sentence for violating parole. … Rascal Flatts set charitable record by donating $829,581 from group’s Nashville concert to Vanderbilt’s children’s hospital. … Sara Evans’ divorce granted.

October: Josh Turner joins Grand Ole Opry. … Garth Brooks sells out nine concerts at Kansas City’s 18,000-seat Sprint Center. … Joe Nichols enters rehab. … Flatt & Scruggs, Hank Williams Jr., Mac McAnally, Dottie Rambo and Bob DiPiero inducted into Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. … John Rich proclaimed ASCAP’s artist-songwriter of the year. … Lorrie Morgan files for divorce from fifth husband, Sammy Kershaw.

November: Nashville Songwriters Association International announces it’s buying Bluebird Café. … Liz Rose, co-writer of “Tim McGraw,” is SESAC’s songwriter of the year. … BMI crowns Jeffrey Steele its songwriter of the year, honors Willie Nelson with Icon Award. … Carrie Underwood, Brad Paisley, Kenny Chesney are top CMA award winners, with Chesney taking his third entertainer of the year prize. … Charlie Daniels invited to join Grand Ole Opry.

December: Vince Gill’s These Days nominated for best album Grammy, Taylor Swift for best new artist. … Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw-Faith Hill and Rascal Flatts among top grossing tours of 2007. … Court allows Stonewall Jackson’s age-discrimination suit against Grand Ole Opy to proceed.

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