(CMT Offstage keeps a 24/7 watch on everything that’s happening with country music artists behind the scenes and out of the spotlight.)
Thirty seconds — that’s about all it took from last night’s (March 20) two-hour Celebrity Apprentice episode to make country listeners love John Rich. Whether or not you’re a fan of his music, the way he defended country fans was enough to make me want to run down to Nashville and thank him. Here’s what happened. The two teams had to come up with a branding campaign for Camping World, an RV and outdoor retailer. When Rich was doing what he does best, coming up with a catchy little jingle for the brand, both Jose Canseco and Richard Hatch started criticizing the song as “hickish country-ish” (Canseco) and “backwards” (Hatch). That set Rich off. “I will not be happy if anybody stereotypes my audience as low intelligence, or folks that can’t think or have their own money,” Rich said. “And if anybody in this van wants to step up on that subject I will be more than happy to square off with you about it. Please be careful when talking about my audience. Be careful about how you bring it up. Do not disrespect country music fans. To keep harmony on this team, do not challenge the intelligence of my audience.” So not only was Rich defending us, he was actually willing to fight a former professional athlete over it. Cross your fingers that will actually happen on one of the next episodes.