2017: A Year in Country Music News

Las Vegas Massacre Gave Country Music Its Darkest Headlines This Year

In a business that propels itself on hit records and self-conferred awards, it was only natural that those subjects commanded the lion’s share of this year’s headlines. But the most compelling ones came in October and told of 58 people being massacred by a lone gunman at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas.

Here’s a rundown of the main events that captured the country music community’s attention in 2017:

January

Billboard changes the way it ranks albums on the country charts, moving from basing the process on CD sales only and expanding it to include track equivalent and streaming equivalent albums. . . .Nielsen’s year-end music survey finds that country accounted for 10 percent of the total sales of albums in the U. S in 2016. . . . Toby Keith, Lee Greenwood and Big & Rich perform at the inaugural for President Donald Trump. . . . Grand Ole Opry manager Pete Fisher moves from that post to become CEO of the Academy of Country Music.

February

Using an in-house system designed to thwart ticket scalpers, Eric Church cancels 25,000 tickets for his Holdin’ My Own Tour. . . . Sturgill Simpson’s A Sailor’s Guide to Earth wins best country album Grammy. . . . The Farm Hands win entertainer of the year trophy at the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America Awards.

March

Dailey & Vincent is inducted into the Grand Ole Opry.

April

Billy Ray Cyrus announces that he will henceforth be known professionally only as “Cyrus.” . . . CMT.com celebrates its 20th anniversary. . . . Alabama’s Jeff Cook reveals he has Parkinson’s disease and will no longer tour with the group. . . . More than 30 artists — including Willie Nelson, Alison Krauss and Keith Richards — perform at the “Sing Me Back Home” concert at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena honoring Merle Haggard. . . . Jason Aldean wins the Academy of Country Music’s entertainer of the year award.

May

Kenny Chesney, Florida Georgia Line, Blake Shelton and Chris Stapleton are the country music winners at the Billboard Music Awards. . . . Toby Keith performs to an all-male audience in Saudi Arabia. . . . Loretta Lynn suffers a stroke at her home in Hurricane Mills, TN. . . . The Last Songwriter, a documentary on the economic perils faced by composers in the digital age, premieres at the Nashville Film Festival.

June

Tracy Lawrence, Brothers Osborne, Darius Rucker, Little Big Town, Keith Urban and Brad Paisley headline the closing concerts at the CMA Music Festival. . . .Ty Herndon’s Concert for Love and Acceptance draws big crowd at Nashville’s Wildhorse Saloon. . . . CMT Music Awards serves as the glamorous opening event for the CMA Music Festival with Keith Urban’s “Blue Ain’t Your Color” copping the CMT video of the year prize. . . . Vince Gill tapped to tour with the Eagles.

July

Scotty McCreery earns misdemeanor citation for having a loaded gun in his luggage at a North Carolina airport. . . . Billboard lists Luke Bryan (No. 8, $27.3 million) and Kenny Chesney (No. 10, $25.4 million) among its Top 10 list of moneymakers in 2016.

August

Reba McEntire, Dolly Parton, George Strait, Toby Keith, late songwriter Shel Silverstein, Kelsea Ballerini, the TV series Nashville, disc jockey Bob Kingsley and songwriter Lori McKenna win special Academy of Country Music industry citations. . . . Sam Hunt makes history when his “Body like a Back Road” tops Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart for 25 consecutive weeks.

September

Earls of Leicester win International Bluegrass Music Association’s entertainer of the year award for a third year. . . . Rodney Crowell cancels the rest of his 2017 concert schedule for health reasons. . . . John Prine wins Americana Music’s artist of the year honor. . . . In a double blow to country music, Don Williams and Troy Gentry of Montgomery Gentry die the same day, Sept. 8. . . . CMT honors Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line, Chris Stapleton and Keith Urban as its artists of the year.

October

Fifty-eight are killed and 489 are injured by a lone shooter at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas. . . . . Kenny Rogers performs final his Nashville concert at Bridgestone Arena . . . . The Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame inducts Tim Nichols, Walt Aldridge, Jim McBride, Vern Gosdin and Dewayne Blackwell. . . . Loretta Lynn makes a surprise appearance to induct Alan Jackson into the Country Music Hall of Fame, along with fellow inductees Jerry Reed and Don Schlitz. . . . Chris Young welcomed into the Grand Ole Opry cast.

November

Chris Stapleton scores most country Grammy nominations for 2018 ceremony. . . . Kirt Webster , publicist for Kenny Roger, Dolly Parton, Kid Rock and others, closes his company after multiple accusations of sexual misconduct. . . . Eddie Montgomery announces he will continue to perform under the Montgomery Gentry logo. . . . Sturgill Simpson, who won a Grammy earlier in the year for best country album, protests exclusion from the CMA awards by busking in front of the arena where the ceremonies are being held. . . .Sugarland stages a reunion performance at the CMA Awards after-party. . . . Garth Brooks voted Country Music Association’s entertainer of the year for sixth time. . . . Bob DiPiero honored as BMI Icon, while Keith Urban wins organization’s Champion award. . . . Ashley Gorley is ASCAP’s songwriter of the year for the fifth time. . . . SESAC honors Kenny Rogers with its Legacy award. . . . CMA issues and then rescinds order telling journalists what they cannot ask artists about on the red carpet after show’s co-host, Brad Paisley, ridicules the rule.

December

Grand Ole Opry opens Opry City Stage in Times Square. . . . Nashville cast members announce a farewell tour. . . . Kalie Shorr, Kelleigh Bannen and Lindsay Ell do a video cover of Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” to publicize a national sexual assault hotline. . . .Michael Ray is arrested for drunk driving.

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