Taylor Swift was far and away the biggest news in country music the past year, selling out Madison Square Garden, peering out from a sheaf of glossy magazine covers, wowing fans and critics in her role as host of Saturday Night Live, riding the wave of invaluable publicity created by Kanye West's rude and ill-timed remarks at the MTV Video Music Awards, winning the Country Music Association's entertainer of the year trophy and, maybe most important, selling more albums than anybody else. Shades of Garth Brooks!
Garth made some headlines of his own, announcing that he would do an extended run of one-man shows in Las Vegas. On the downside, Brooks & Dunn sent forth the word that they will split up for good after the end of their 2010 tour.
Here's what else happened while we were all getting a year older:
January: Taylor Swift announces she will begin her first national tour as a headliner in April. . . . Garth Brooks and Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles are among country artists performing at Washington, D.C., concerts for Barack Obama's inauguration. . . . Rockabilly pioneer Wanda Jackson inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. . . . Carrie Underwood wins three People's Choice Awards, including favorite female singer. . . . Nielsen SoundScan tallies reveal that Swift sold more record albums than any other American artist in 2008, moving more than 4 million copies. Country album sales overall, however, were down 24 percent from the year before.
February: Singer Jeff Carson ("Not on Your Love," "The Car") reveals on his MySpace page that he has joined the Franklin, Tenn., police department. . . . Taylor Swift graces the cover of Rolling Stone. . . . Dailey & Vincent win the top song, band, vocal group and contemporary gospel group awards from the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America (SPBGMA). Rhonda Vincent is named that organization's entertainer of the year. . . . Robert Plant and Alison Krauss sweep the Grammys by winning awards for overall album, overall record, best contemporary folk/Americana album, best country collaboration with vocals and best pop collaboration with vocals, all for their work on the album Raising Sand.
March: Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles loses her voice on European tour. Band cancels two concerts. . . . LeAnn Rimes co-stars in the Lifetime Channel movie, Nora Roberts' Northern Lights, with Eddie Cibrian and Patricia Arquette. ... Kellie Pickler, James Otto, Chuck Wicks, Lady Antebellum and the Zac Brown Band perform on New Faces Show at Country Radio Seminar. . . . Country Radio Broadcasters present Alabama's lead singer, Randy Owen, its humanitarian award.
April: Forbes magazine proclaims Kenny Chesney country music's top money-maker for the past year, with an estimated income of $65 million, followed by Rascal Flatts ($60 million), Toby Keith ($52 million), Taylor Swift ($18 million), Brooks & Dunn and Tim McGraw ($16 million each), Brad Paisley ($15 million), Sugarland and Carrie Underwood ($14 million each) and Alan Jackson ($12 million). . . . Doug Stone arrested in Florida following an altercation with his 21-year-old son. . . . Joe Nichols announces he has been chosen to play the lead role in the Broadway stage version of the 1992 George Strait movie, Pure Country, scheduled to open in 2010. . . . Garth Brooks presents Strait the Academy of Country Music's artist of the decade award. . . . Carrie Underwood wins the ACM's fan-voted entertainment of the year trophy, while Swift's Fearless is named top album. . . . Sheryl Crow, Emmylou Harris, Kathy Mattea and Big Kenny (of Big & Rich) form the Music Saves Mountains campaign to resist mountain top removal mining in Appalachia.
May: John Rich freed on bond after former Nashville Star contestant charges him with assault and harassment. . . . Taylor Swift given BMI's President's Award. . . . Barbara Mandrell, Roy Clark and Charlie McCoy inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. . . . Swift profiled on special one-hour edition of Dateline NBC.
June: Brad Paisley is top winner at the CMT Music Awards. . . . Organizers announce attendance at the CMA Music Festival (June 11-14) was up 7.2 percent over that of last year. . . . The trade magazine Radio & Records and the consumer journal Performing Songwriter go out of business. . . . The duo Montgomery Gentry join the Grand Ole Opry.
July: Taylor Swift joins cast of the movie Valentine's Day. . . . Gretchen Wilson splits from her label at Sony Music Group. . . . Performances at the White House by Brad Paisley, Alison Krauss and Charley Pride are streamed live. . . . Swift's "Picture to Burn" included on new Band Hero video game. . . . The Browns celebrate the 50th anniversary of their crossover hit, "The Three Bells," with a rare performance at the Grand Ole Opry.
August: Taylor Swift plays sold-out show at Madison Square Garden. . . . . Brooks & Dunn announce they will discontinue their act at the end of their 2010 tour.
September: 9 to 5: The Musical closes on Broadway. . . . Miranda Lambert sings all the songs from her forthcoming album, Revolution, at Ryman Auditorium show. . . . Academy of Country Music honors Kenny Rogers, Randy Travis, Jerry Reed and Hank Williams Jr. with Pioneer awards and confers its Poet trophies on Merle Haggard and Harlan Howard. . . . Fire destroys Little Nashville Opry building in Nashville, Ind. . . . Americana Music Association bestows artist of the year prize on Buddy Miller, presents John Fogerty, Sam Bush and Asleep at the Wheel lifetime achievement awards. . . . Rapper Kanye West disses Taylor Swift at the MTV Video Music Awards, interrupting her acceptance remarks for the best female video (for "You Belong With Me") and telling her the award should have gone to Beyoncé's "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)." . . . Barbara Mandrell inducted into the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame. . . . The Recording Academy, which confers the Grammy awards, salutes 20-time Grammy winner Vince Gill with special Nashville concert. ... LeAnn Rimes announces her marriage to Dean Sheremet is over.
October: Tammy Wynette,, Mark D. Sanders and Kye Fleming inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. . . . ASCAP honors J. D. Souther with its Golden Note award, cites Alan Jackson as songwriter-artist of the year, Ashley Gorley as songwriter of the year and Gorley's "You're Gonna Miss This" as song of the year. . . . Taylor Guitars says it will introduce a Taylor Swift signature guitar line. . . . Garth Brooks announces he will do a series of acoustic shows, starting Dec. 11, at the Encore Theater at Wynn Las Vegas. . . . The "We're All for the Hall" benefit concert for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, headlined by Keith Urban, plays to a sold-out crowd at Nashville's Sommet Center. . . . Musicians Hall of Fame in Nashville inducts Toto, Chet Atkins, Charlie Daniels, Fred Foster, Billy Cox, Dick Dale, Victor Feldman and Paul Riser. . . . International Bluegrass Music Association names Dailey & Vincent entertainer of the year, inducts the Dillards and the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers into its International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame.
November: Taylor Swift hosts and is musical guest on Saturday Night Live. . . . Swift wins five American Music Awards, including entertainer of the year. . . . John Rich cleared in Nashville court of assault and harassment charges. . . . Swift teams with American Greetings to create a worldwide-distributed line of greeting cards, gift packaging, stationery, online photo personalization products and online greetings. . . . Evelyn Shriver and Susan Nadler tapped to head Country Crossing Records. . . . Swift wins four Country Music Association awards, including entertainer of the year, and is also named recipient of the CMA's International Artist Achievement honor. . . . Kris Kristofferson is presented BMI's Icon award, Bobby Pinson named its songwriter of the year and Swift's "Love Story" song of the year. . . . SESAC crowns Monty Powell its songwriter of the year and his "Sweet Thing" song of the year. . . . Disney closes its short-lived Carolwood Records label.
December: Tammy Genovese, CEO of the Country Music Association resigns after 24 years with the trade group. ... Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles sings at Kennedy Center in tribute to Bruce Springsteen. . . . The Country Music Association contributes $1,066,632 for music programs in Nashville's public schools. . . . Taylor Swift's picture featured on cover of People magazine's year-end issue. . . . Toby Keith's Show Dog Records merges with Universal South Records. . . . Carrie Underwood confirms her engagement to National Hockey League player Mike Fisher.