Country Music Year in Review

Taylor Swift, Shania Twain, Keith Urban, Randy Travis Among Those Making Headlines

There was plenty of good news for country music in the year just concluding. During the first half of 2012, album sales experienced a substantial increase over those of the year before, and Taylor Swift’s Red set sales records when it debuted in October. Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Eric Church and Miranda Lambert emerged as superstars, all racking up lots of ticket sales and hauling down armloads of awards. Shania Twain returned from her long retirement to start a two-year run in Las Vegas.

However, it was a difficult year for some. Randy Travis clashed repeatedly with the law in his adopted home state of Texas before rising to the occasion several months later during a taping of CMT Crossroads with the Avett Brothers. And drummer Cactus Moser, Wynonna Judd’s new husband, lost a leg in a motorcycle accident.

And in news that’s sure to make the recap again at the end of 2013, the two King Georges — Jones and Strait — announced farewell tours.

CMT.com will be running a separate review of the year’s notable deaths, but here are the other country music news highlights of 2012:

January
Glen Campbell plays Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium for two nights on his farewell tour. … Total country album sales dipped 1.8 percent in 2011 from their 2010 level, according to Nielsen SoundScan, a slide from 43.7 million albums to 42.9 million. … Garth Brooks wins a breach-of-contract lawsuit against an Oklahoma hospital that failed to construct a women’s health center in honor of his late mother, Coleen Brooks. The judgment calls for the hospital to return the singer’s original $500,000 donation and pay an additional $500,000 in punitive damages.

February
The CMA Foundation donates $1.4 million to benefit music education programs for Nashville’s 78,000 public school students. … Working in league with Scholastic Books, Taylor Swift donates 14,000 books to the Nashville Public Library. … Keith Urban returns to the stage at the Grand Ole Opry for his first public appearance since undergoing vocal cord surgery in November 2011.

Randy Travis is arrested on suspicion of public intoxication after being found with an open bottle of wine outside the First Baptist Church in Sanger, Texas. … Rodney Atkins is cleared of a domestic assault charge in connection with a dispute he had with his wife in November 2011. … Lady Antebellum, Taylor Swift and Alison Krauss & Union Station win Grammy Awards and Glen Campbell performs on the Grammy broadcast. … Capitol Nashville and EMI Nashville president Mike Dungan is named to head Universal Music Group Nashville.

March
A news tip reveals that Tammy Wynette’s name has been removed from her tomb at Nashville’s Woodlawn Cross Mausoleum and replaced with “Virginia W. Richardson,” her married name at the time of her death in 1998. … Garth Brooks, Connie Smith and session musician Hargus “Pig” Robbins are named as the 2012 inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame. … Vince Gill, Bruce Hornsby, Ronnie Dunn, Emmylou Harris, Martina McBride, Charlie Daniels and K.T. Oslin perform at the T. J. Martell Foundation’s honors gala fundraiser in Nashville.

April
Taylor Swift scoops up the entertainer of the year prize at the Academy of Country Music awards show in Las Vegas. … Keith Urban headlines the third annual We’re All for the Hall concert at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena. The event raises $465,000 for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. … On April 10, Urban becomes an official member of the Grand Ole Opry, inducted by Opry members Trace Adkins and Josh Turner.

May
The International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) announces it will relocate its annual World of Bluegrass Week (including the awards show) to Raleigh, N.C., for three years starting Sept. 23-29, 2013. … Taylor Swift ranks No. 11 on Forbes magazine’s list of the 100 most influential celebrities. Toby Keith placed No. 49, Kenny Chesney No. 53, Brad Paisley No. 68 and Larry the Cable Guy No. 91. … Tim McGraw signs to Big Machine Records, label home to Taylor Swift and Rascal Flatts, following his court-sanctioned separation from Curb Records. … Dolly Parton’s “Coat of Many Colors” and Patsy Montana’s “I Want to Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart” are added to the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress.

June
Carrie Underwood takes two trophies at the fan-voted 2012 CMT Music Awards at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena — collaborative video for “Remind Me” (with Brad Paisley) and video of the year for “Good Girl.” … CMA Music Festival is held June 7-10 in Nashville. … In an interview with a British newspaper, Carrie Underwood declares she supports gay marriage. … Wynonna Judd marries drummer Cactus Moser, formerly of Highway 101, on June 10.

July
Country album sales for the first half of 2012 increased by approximately 1 million units over those for the same period the previous year, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Country’s jump was from 18.4 million to 19.4 million copies, a 5.6 percent rise, higher than that of any other genre. … Taylor Swift is the highest-paid celebrity under the age of 30, according to Forbes magazine, which estimates the singer-songwriter reaped $57 million between May 2011 and May 2012. Athletes were not included in the roundup.

August
After being found naked and threatening to kill police officers, Randy Travis is charged with driving while intoxicated near his home in Tioga, Texas. … 80-year-old George Jones announces he will retire from touring in 2013. … Wynonna Judd’s husband, Cactus Moser, has leg amputated following Aug. 18 motorcycle accident in South Dakota. Two weeks after the accident, she announces she will resume touring. … Police cite Randy Travis with assault following his altercation with a man in a church parking lot in Plano, Texas.

September
Vince Gill is honored with star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. … Bonnie Raitt receives the Americana Music Association’s lifetime achievement award. … The Academy of Country Music honors Vince Gill, Kenny Chesney, Alan Jackson, Emmylou Harris, Ricky Skaggs, Dwight Yoakam, producer Billy Sherrill, songwriters Bobby Braddock and Dallas Davidson and the late singer-songwriter Roger Miller in ceremonies at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium. … George Strait announces he is embarking on his final two-year the Cowboy Rides Away tour that will end in 2014. … Loretta Lynn celebrates her 50th anniversary as a member of the Grand Ole Opry, musically assisted by sister Crystal Gayle, Miranda Lambert and Lee Ann Womack. … The Gibson Brothers win the International Bluegrass Music Association’s entertainer of the year award.

October
Punch Brothers mandolinist and vocalist Chris Thile (earlier with Nickel Creek) wins $500,000 “genius grant” from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. … Representatives of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame announce the hall will be housed permanently in the new Music City Center, which is due to open in 2013. … Mary Chapin Carpenter, Larry Henley, Kim Williams and Tony Arata are inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. … Darius Rucker is inducted into the Grand Ole Opry by Opry veteran Vince Gill. … Garth Brooks, Connie Smith and Hargus “Pig” Robbins are officially inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. … Catt Gravitt is named SESAC’s songwriter of the year. … ASCAP declares Ben Hayslip and Brad Paisley its top songwriters of 2012. … Dallas Davidson and Luke Laird win BMI’s top country songwriters award. Tom T. Hall is cited with BMI’s Icon award. … After experiencing personal problems earlier in the year, Randy Travis teams with the Avett Brothers to tape a CMT Crossroads special in Nashville. … Taylor Swift sells more than 1.2 million copies of her album Red its first week out.

November
Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton are the big winners at the CMA Awards, with Shelton copping the entertainer of the year prize. … The Civil Wars cancel their concert dates in the midst of a European tour, citing as its reasons “internal discord and irreconcilable differences of ambition.” … Carrie Underwood donates the proceeds from her Atlantic City, N.J., concert to that city’s hurricane relief fund. … Underwood, Taylor Swift, Luke Bryan and Lady Antebellum win American Music Awards for favorite country album, favorite country female artist, favorite country male artist and favorite country group, respectively. … Swift, Toby Keith and Kenny Chesney ranked as eighth, 10th and 17th on Forbes magazine’s list of highest paid musicians.

December
Shania Twain opens her two-year Shania: Still the One run Dec. 1 in Las Vegas. … Tim McGraw and Faith Hill open their Soul2Soul concert series in Las Vegas. … The Recording Academy broadcasts The Grammy Nominations Concert Live from Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena. … Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Kenny Chesney, Eric Church, Toby Keith, Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood are honored in the CMT Artists of the Year special.