Big News: Country Music Headlines of 2010

Lady Antebellum Soars, Brooks & Dunn Split, Taylor Swift Still Sizzles

Editor’s note: The births and deaths of 2010 will run in separate stories later this week.

If 2009 was Taylor Swift‘s year, 2010 will be remembered as the year that launched Lady Antebellum into the sales and popularity stratosphere. The Zac Brown Band won the best new artist Grammy. Brooks & Dunn completed their final tour and called it quits after 19 years together. The Judds, who first quit performing together in 1991, reunited for their Last Encore tour.

In May, the rains came, flooding the Grand Ole Opry House, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s Ford Theater and a major music instrument and sound equipment storage warehouse used by the top country artists. The country music community responded in June with the all-star Nashville Rising flood relief concert organized by Tim McGraw and Faith Hill. Garth Brooks rose to the same cause in December, selling out Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena nine times.

Here’s a more detailed summary of the year’s musical bumps and bright spots.

January
Country album sales dipped from nearly 48 million copies in 2008 to just over 46 million in 2009. … Taylor Swift’s Fearless was the top-selling album of 2009 with a total of 3,217,000 albums sold during the 12-month period, according to Billboard. … Emily Robison and Martie Maguire of the Dixie Chicks record album under the name Court Yard Hounds. … Charlie Daniels suffers a mild stroke on Jan. 15 while snowmobiling in Colorado. … Carrie Underwood‘s “Before He Cheats” is voted top video of the decade in an online poll of fans at CMT.com. . . Taylor Swift and the Zac Brown Band win their first Grammy awards, with Swift winning for album of the year, best country album, best female country vocal performance and best country song (“White Horse”) while the Zac Brown Band copped the best new artist trophy.

February
Lady Antebellum’s Need You Now enters the Billboard country albums chart at No. 1 and, as it turned out, will remain there for 24 weeks in a row. … George Strait, Taylor Swift and Shania Twain earn top certifications from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for music released between 2000 and 2009. Strait ranks first for the most gold and platinum certifications with a total of 29. Swift tops list for having the most digital song certifications with a total of 25. Her “Love Story” also ties with Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance” for highest-certified digital song by a female artist, reaching quadruple platinum for 4 million paid downloads. Twain’s 2002 album, Up! is cited as highest-certified album by a female artist at 11-times platinum, signifying 11 million units shipped. … ASCAP senior vice president Connie Bradley accepts new role as strategic adviser for the performing rights organization. Former Arista Records Nashville president Tim DuBois is named vice president and managing executive of ASCAP’s Nashville operations. … The Country Music Association announces that Jimmy Dean, Ferlin Husky, Billy Sherrill and Don Williams are the 2010 inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame. … Brooks & Dunn announce that their final concert will take place Aug. 10 in Nashville. … The Country Radio Seminar features Love and Theft, Randy Houser, Chris Young, Gloriana and Justin Moore on its New Faces Show.

March
Actor Jeff Bridges and singer-songwriters Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett win Academy Awards for their work in the country music-themed movie, Crazy Heart. … EMI Music’s country division, Capitol Nashville, reveals formation of a sister label, EMI Records Nashville. … A judge issues a temporary injunction against Sara Evans‘ former husband, Craig Schelske, to prohibit him from making public statements about her and their 2007 divorce. … The Universal Music Group announces it will lower its CD prices generally to $10 each or less. … A California-based adult video company says it will release a Mindy McCready sex tape titled Mindy McCready, Baseball Mistress. … McCready releases album of new music, I’m Still Here.

April
The Academy of Country Music presents Keith Urban the Jim Reeves International Award for his efforts in spreading country music internationally. … The Pulitzer Prize board confers a posthumous award to Hank Williams, who died in 1953, for his “craftsmanship as a songwriter” and his “pivotal role in transforming country music into a major musical and cultural force.”. . . Concord Music Group buys Rounder Records. … Joe Galante vacates his post of chairman of Sony Music Nashville. … The Disney Music Group announces the phasing out of Lyric Street Records, home of supergroup Rascal Flatts. The label opened in 1997. … Carrie Underwood becomes first woman to win the Academy of Country Music’s entertainment of the year award twice. … Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment holds its world premiere of Flicka 2, a direct-to-DVD movie co-starring Clint Black, at Nashville’s Belcourt Theatre, with Black in attendance.

May
Thunderstorms ravage Tennessee, dropping 13 inches of rain on Nashville in two days, causing artists to cancel concerts and doing extensive damage to the Grand Ole Opry House and Opryland Hotel, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and a major music instrument and equipment storage warehouse. … Concurrent with the release of her memoir and a record album, Chely Wright acknowledges her homosexuality during an interview in People magazine. … Crystal Gayle, Ricky Skaggs, Mary Chapin Carpenter and several other recording artists from CBS Records’ 1975-95 glory days gather in Nashville to party and renew old acquaintances. … Emmylou Harris, Kathy Mattea, Patty Loveless, Alison Krauss, Big Kenny and Dave Matthews perform at the Music Saves Mountains benefit concert at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium to protest the mountaintop removal coal mining process. … Admirers throng the Texas Troubadour Theatre in Nashville to celebrate bluegrass great Mac Wiseman‘s 85th birthday. … Singer Ferlin Husky and producer-songwriter Billy Sherrill are officially inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

June
Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Carrie Underwood, Blake Shelton, Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant, Montgomery Gentry, Luke Bryan, Taylor Swift, LeAnn Rimes, Martina McBride, ZZ Top, Miranda Lambert, Jason Aldean, Miley Cyrus, Toby Keith, Sandra Bullock, Trace Adkins, Julie Roberts and Billy Ray Cyrus perform at the Nashville Rising concert at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena to raise money for flood relief. … Forbes magazine lists Taylor Swift No. 12 on its list of the 100 most powerful celebrities, a list that also included Miley Cyrus (No. 13), Kenny Chesney (No. 54), Rascal Flatts (No. 62), Toby Keith (No. 67) and Keith Urban (No. 76). … The Judds welcomes thousands of visitors to the four-day 2010 CMA Music Festival with a 10-song concert and later announce the dates for their Last Encore tour. … Carrie Underwood is the big winner at the 2010 CMT Music Awards telecast live from Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena. … Alabama’s Randy Owen announces he has prostate cancer. … Alan Jackson‘s home near Franklin, Tenn., sells for $28 million.

July
Carrie Underwood and Canadian hockey player Mike Fisher marry on July 10 at a Georgia resort. … Rascal Flatts, formerly with the now-shuttered Lyric Street Records, sign to Big Machine Records, the label home of Taylor Swift. … Lady Antebellum’s Need You Now loses its No. 1 perch on Billboard‘s country albums chart after a 24-week run.

August
Veteran concert promoter Steve Moore is named chief executive officer of the Country Music Association. … The wooden circle cut from the stage of the storied Ryman Auditorium is restored to center stage of the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville after that venue was extensively damaged in the May flooding.

September
Brooks & Dunn perform their final show as a duo Sept. 2 at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena. … Ryan Bingham is big winner at the Americana Honors and Awards show in Nashville, earning the artist of the year trophy and sharing song of the year honors with T Bone Burnett for writing “The Weary Kind,” the theme from Crazy Heart. … ASCAP bestows its Founder Award on Alan Jackson at its annual Country Music Awards gala and honors Brett James as songwriter of the year, Dierks Bentley as songwriter-artist and “Need You Now” as top song. … Taylor Swift’s former high school, Henderson High School in Hendersonville, Tenn., names its auditorium in her honor. … The Grand Ole Opry returns to its official residence on Sept. 28 following extensive repair of the flood damage incurred in May and invites Blake Shelton to be its newest member. … For the third time running, Dailey & Vincent win the International Bluegrass Music Association’s entertainer of the year award and also capture album and vocal group of the year trophies.

October
Tapping into proceeds from its 2010 CMA Music Festival, the Country Music Association splits $2,924,936 evenly between Nashville’s Keep the Music Playing educational initiative and the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee’s relief program for flood victims. … Keith Urban’s We’re All for the Hall benefit concert in Nashville raises nearly $450,000 for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. … The Recording Academy — dispenser of the Grammy awards — honors Loretta Lynn with a musical tribute at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium. … Taylor Swift accepts her third trophy as the songwriter-artist of the year from the Nashville Songwriters Association International, while Pat Alger, Steve Cropper and the late Paul Davis and Stephen Foster are inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.

November
Taylor Swift sells 1,047,000 copies of her new album, Speak Now, during its first week of release to debut at No. 1 on both Billboard‘s country albums chart and the all-genre Billboard 200 list. … Garth Brooks sells out nine flood benefit shows at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena as soon as tickets became available. … Kris Kristofferson headlines a 50th anniversary celebration show at Ryman Auditorium for fabled Nashville saloon, Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge. … Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott is named songwriter of the year at SESAC’s Nashville Music Awards ceremony; Jim Lauderdale given newly instituted Inspiration Award. … Taylor Swift wins songwriter and song of the year trophies at BMI Country Awards ceremony, while songwriter-producer Billy Sherrill walks away with the Icon Award. … Brad Paisley wins entertainer of the year prize at the 44th annual CMA Awards show. Country sweethearts Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton win five honors. … Montgomery Gentry’s Eddie Montgomery announces he has prostate cancer. His wife subsequently files for divorce but says his cancer had nothing to do with this decision. … Naomi and Wynonna Judd embark on their Last Encore tour Nov. 25 in Green Bay, Wis.

December
Merle Haggard wins Kennedy Center Honor for his contribution to American culture and is serenaded at the event in Washington, D. C., by Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Sheryl Crow, Vince Gill, Jamey Johnson, Kid Rock, Miranda Lambert and Brad Paisley. … Willie Nelson’s single, “On the Road Again,” is inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, as is Hank Williams with His Drifting Cowboys’ “Lovesick Blues” and Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys’ recording of “Steel Guitar Rag,” featuring Leon McAuliffe. … Curb Records owner and philanthropist Mike Curb publicly criticizes Nashville’s Belmont University, home of the Mike Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business, for forcing out a soccer coach for being a lesbian, pointing out that gays have made “incredible contributions” to the entertainment industry. … Reba McEntire ends the year with a No. 1 single — “Turn On the Radio” — 28 years after she scored her first chart-topper, “Can’t Even Get the Blues.” … Shania Twain announces her engagement to Swiss businessman Frederic Thiebaud. … LeAnn Rimes announces her engagement to actor Eddie Cibrian.