It was like a family reunion. Except everyone seemed to like each other.
Crystal Gayle, Ricky Skaggs, Mary Chapin Carpenter and several other recording artists from CBS Records’ 1975-95 glory days gathered at Nashville’s Cellar One nightclub Saturday evening (May 8) to party and renew old acquaintances.
There was no agenda, no performances, no awards and no announcements — just unhurried drinking, dining and schmoozing.
Roy Wunsch, who headed the legendary label’s Nashville division from 1988 to 1993, and Mary Ann McCready, a former marketing executive there, hosted the party.
To set the mood, they had festooned the bar area with posters of album covers that featured the likes of Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Charlie Daniels and Larry Gatlin & the Gatlin Brothers. There was also a continuing slide show of artists mingling with the label’s staff members and other music industry figures.
The guest of honor was Walter Yetnikoff, who was president and CEO of the CBS Records Group from 1975-1990. He was one of the last to exit the party, carrying with him a gift sweatshirt the label had printed up for his 1982 visit to the Nashville office. It bore his picture and the assertion “We Love Walter.”
Early arrivals included Joe Stampley, who recorded both as a solo artist and as half the Moe [Bandy] & Joe musical comedy act, and Janie Fricke, who, like Carpenter, is a two-time winner of the Country Music Association’s female vocalist of the year prize.
Four members of the Country Music Hall of Fame dropped in for the festivities: McCoy, former CMA executive director Jo Walker Meador, former BMI chief Frances Preston and former MCA/Nashville and Capitol/Nashville helmsman, Jim Foglesong.
Also spotted in the crowd were songwriter Don Schlitz; producers Norro Wilson, Doug Johnson and Blake Chancey (Carpenter’s escort for the evening); Bill Ivey, former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts and former director of the Country Music Foundation; and Rick Blackburn, who ran CBS/Nashville before Wunsch assumed control.
Carpenter was also celebrating the debut of her album, The Age of Miracles. Gayle and her husband, Bill Gatzimos, confessed they had to miss their grandson Elijah’s softball game to attend the party. But they appeared reconciled to the loss. Gayle is currently screening songs for an album she will produce.