Just when you think you've got the Country Radio Seminar figured out, mainstream country artists perform songs made famous by acts as diverse as George Jones and Mötley Crüe.
The annual convention of programmers and air talent is in full force in Nashville this week, so record labels and artists are rolling out the red carpet and open bars to win the favor of the movers and shakers who still essentially control the destiny of mainstream country music via terrestrial radio.
The Jones/Mötley Crüe connection is somewhat ironic since the late country singer frequently complained he seldom received substantial radio airplay late in his career -- and the hard rock band never got any airplay on country stations to begin with.
Nonetheless, Josh Turner got a rousing response when he paid tribute to Jones with a performance of the Possum's 1988 hit "I'm a One Woman Man" at Wednesday's (Feb. 19) Universal Music Group lunchtime concert at the Ryman Auditorium.
Later that night at the Big Machine Label Group's party at Marathon Music Works, Justin Moore brought Mötley Crüe vocalist Vince Neil onstage for a duet of the rock band's "Home Sweet Home." Brantley Gilbert showed up for the Crüe's "Wild Side," and an all-star cast joined Neil for another hit, "Kickstart My Heart." The presence of Neil and bandmate Nikki Sixx at the party called attention to an upcoming country tribute to Mötley Crüe. The project will be released this summer by Big Machine Records.
Wednesday's Big Machine Label Group party marked the second night of two private events co-sponsored by CMT Radio Live With Cody Alan and After Midnite With Cody Alan. In addition to individual sets by Moore and Gilbert that led to the Mötley Crüe tribute, The Band Perry and Danielle Bradbery also performed. Tuesday's concert featured Tim McGraw, Rascal Flatts, the Eli Young Band and the Cadillac Three.
The Universal Music Group's fifth annual showcase at the Ryman once again proved to be one of the most-attended events of the week. With UMG's corporate merger with EMI, the company has an undeniably strong artist roster with the Capitol, EMI, MCA and Mercury imprints. Executives were anxious to show the company's clout by presenting one-song sets by Turner, Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town, David Nail, Eric Paslay, Kip Moore, Easton Corbin, Jon Pardi, Billy Currington, Dierks Bentley, Darius Rucker, Scotty McCreery and Eric Church.
Luke Bryan and Vince Gill had the luxury of playing two songs each during the UMG show. Bryan closed the show with his latest hit, "Drink a Beer," and his next single, "Play It Again."
Gill and steel guitarist Paul Franklin played two classic country songs from their recent Bakersfield album. Before he sang, Gill thanked the radio programmers for their support when he was a new artist. He also apologized to syndicated radio personality Bob Kingsley for being unable to attend a party in his honor. Gill performs each Monday night with The Time Jumpers at 3rd & Lindsley, a local bar.
"I work Monday nights because you don't play my records anymore, and I need the money," he joked.
Other CRS highlights include Wednesday's opening ceremonies which began with Brett Eldredge's performance of the national anthem and was followed with the presentation of the CRS humanitarian of the year award to Carrie Underwood.
Activities continue Thursday night with Sony Music's all-star concert on the General Jackson showboat and Friday evening with the New Faces Show featuring Eldredge, Tyler Farr, Cassadee Pope, Thomas Rhett and Charlie Worsham.