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The Year In Country Music: Country Music Remained Steady In 2006
By CMA Communications    © 2007 CMA Close Up News Service / Country Music Association, Inc.

Country Music remained steady in 2006 with a modest 0.5 percent drop in album sales from 2005, according to figures released Jan. 4, 2007, by Nielsen SoundScan. Total all-genre album sales (CD, CS, LP, digital albums) for the entire music industry were down 4.9 percent from 2005, while overall music sales (albums, singles, music video and digital tracks) were up 19.4 percent. 

“Last year really showcased the depth of Country Music’s diversity across all areas of our business, from record sales to tours, movies to books and outstanding media coverage,” said Tammy Genovese, CMA COO. Overall, the number of Country albums sold in 2006 was 74.9 million down slightly from 75.3 million in 2005. 



1. Me and My Gang - Rascal Flatts - 3,479,994 
2. Some Hearts - Carrie Underwood - 3,015,950 
3. Taking the Long Way - Dixie Chicks - 1,856,284 
4. Greatest Hits Vol. 2 - Tim McGraw - 1,595,688 
5. Your Man - Josh Turner - 1,547,081 
6. The Legend of Johnny Cash - Johnny Cash - 1,430,885 
7. White Trash with Money - Toby Keith - 1,205,296 
8. Precious Memories - Alan Jackson - 1,185,860 
9. Feels Like Today - Rascal Flatts - 1,105,432 
10. Be Here - Keith Urban - 1,054,016 
*Source: The Top 10 Country albums of 2006, according to Nielsen SoundScan (Dec. 28, 2006 YTD): 

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certified 30 Gold, 20 Platinum and 21 multi-Platinum Country albums in 2006. Gold indicates sales of 500,000 units; Platinum, 1 million units; multi-Platinum for each successive million units sold; and Diamond indicates sales of 10 million albums. The RIAA continues to award these rankings throughout the life of the album; an album does not have to be released in the same year it achieves one or more of these rankings. 

Even in retirement, Garth Brooks continues to rack up strong album sales in 2006. His 1998 album, Double Live, surpassed 20 million; Sevens (released in 1997) passed 9 million; and Scarecrow (released in 2001) surpassed 5 million. His latest album, The Lost Sessions (released in November 2005) was certified Gold, Platinum and Multi-Platinum (2 million) in early 2006. Newly inducted Country Music Hall of Fame member George Strait earned his 31st and 32nd Platinum certified albums for It Just Comes Natural and George Strait Fresh Cut Christmas. In 2006, Strait’s Greatest Hits compilation reached quadruple-Platinum status and his album, 50 No.1s, released in 2004, was certified six times Platinum. 

Three artists received their first multi-Platinum album certifications in 2006: Trace Adkins (Songs About Me) at 2 million albums sold; Sugarland (Twice the Speed of Life) at 2 million albums sold; and Carrie Underwood (Some Hearts) at 4 million albums sold. Country Music Hall of Fame member Ray Price (For the Good Times) received his first Platinum album certification in 2006. Keith Anderson (Three Chord Country and American Rock & Roll); Rodney Atkins (If You’re Going Through Hell); Billy Currington (Doin’ Somethin’ Right); Little Big Town (The Road to Here); Van Zant (Get Right with the Man); and The Wreckers (Stand Still, Look Pretty) received their first Gold album certifications in 2006. RIAA Digital Gold Sales Awards were given to 34 Country singles. Single tracks are awarded Gold (100,000 downloads), Platinum (200,000) and multi-Platinum (400,000+) certifications. 

In addition, the RIAA certified five Gold (50,000 units sold) and two Platinum (100,000 units sold) Country longform videos. The Platinum Country longform videos were Johnny Cash (Live at Montreux, 1994) and Gretchen Wilson (Undressed). 

On June 15, 2006, the RIAA announced ringtones would be awarded for sales of Gold and Platinum. Only ringtones with the artist’s actual vocals would be recognized, known as mastertones. Gold ringtones signify 500,000 downloads and Platinum marks 1 million downloads. Four Country artists were given the Gold RIAA Mastertone award in 2006: Big & Rich (“Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)”); Waylon Jennings (“Good Ol’ Boys”); Carrie Underwood (“Jesus Take the Wheel”); and Gretchen Wilson (“Redneck Woman”). 

Listed below are the Top 10 all genre tours based on total gross dollars; the Top 10 Country tours based on total attendance; and the Top 10 Country tours based on total gross dollars, according to Billboard for shows played between Nov. 16, 2005 and Nov. 14, 2006. * 

ALL GENRE TOP 10 TOURS (Total Gross) 

1. The Rolling Stones - $425,072,371
2. Madonna - $194,754,447
3. Bon Jovi - $131,388,461
4. U2 - $95,880,340
5. Tim McGraw & Faith Hill - $88,808,729
6. Cirque Du Soleil’s Delirium - $78,529,777
7. Barbara Streisand - $76,112,426
8. Kenny Chesney - $65,975,442
9. Dave Matthews Band - $58,042,933
10. Aerosmith - $57,941,203

COUNTRY TOP 10 TOURS (Total Gross)

1. Tim McGraw & Faith Hill - $88,808,729
2. Kenny Chesney - $65,975,442
3. Rascal Flatts - $46,214,743
4. Toby Keith - $37,738,077 *
5. Brad Paisley - $27,742,368
6. Dixie Chicks - $23,024,881
7. George Strait - $17,132,602
8. Brooks & Dunn - $16,934,805
9. Keith Urban - $10,244,031
10. Martina McBride - $9,210,228

ALL GENRE TOP 10 (Total Attendance)

1. The Rolling Stones - 3,499,405
2. Bon Jovi - 1,823,834
3. Dave Matthews Band - 1,217,951
4. Madonna - 1,209,618
5. U2 - 1,201,669
6. Kenny Chesney - 1,131,231
7. Tim McGraw & Faith Hill - 1,095,653
8. Rascal Flatts - 1,000,036
9. Cirque Du Soliel’s Delirium - 892,174
10. Nickelback - 767,547

COUNTRY TOP 10 TOURS (Total Attendance) 

1. Kenny Chesney - 1,131,231
2. Tim McGraw & Faith Hill - 1,095,653
3. Rascal Flatts - 1,000,036
4. Toby Keith - 741,872 * 
5. Brad Paisley - 698,820
6. Brooks & Dunn - 455,798
7. Dixie Chicks - 339,565
8. George Strait - 291,751
9. Keith Urban - 264,116
10. Martina McBride - 209,363 

* The Toby Keith total attendance amounts are amended with amounts that were reported after Billboard’s Year-End rankings were published. This new information moved Keith from No.10 to No.4 on both charts. 

Some of Country Music’s biggest stars teamed up on the road to give fans every penny’s worth of entertainment value. Kenny Chesney invited Dierks Bentley, Little Big Town, Sugarland and Carrie Underwood to open his “The Road and the Radio Tour.” Sugarland also joined the second half of Brooks & Dunn’s “The Long Haul Tour” in 2006 along with Jack Ingram. Underwood finished out the year on Brad Paisley’s “Time Well Wasted Tour” after Sara Evans joined him on the first leg. It was an all-guys event when Gary Allan and Eric Church joined Rascal Flatts on the “Me and My Gang Tour” until The Wreckers joined the tour in the summer. Toby Keith’s “Hookin’ Up and Hangin’ Out Tour” featured newcomers Lindsey Haun and Rushlow Harris. “CMT on Tour” tapped Trace Adkins, Jason Aldean and Billy Currington for its series of shows. Adkins also joined Gretchen Wilson to co-headline the “Redneck Revolution Tour.” Reba McEntire continued her Las Vegas concert run at the Hilton Hotel in 2006. The unstoppable husband/wife team Tim McGraw and Faith Hill entertained millions in 2006. Their tour, “Soul2Soul ll Tour,” was the fifth highest grossing tour in all genres and the top grossing tour for Country Music in 2006, bringing in $88.8 million gross dollars, according to Billboard. 

The award-winning CMA Music Festival is steeped in more than three decades of Fan Fair® tradition. Since Fan Fair was established in 1972, Country Music fans have visited Nashville each June, traveling from every state and around the globe to see hundreds of their favorite artists perform, get that coveted autograph, to share the excitement and passion of Country Music and to create lifelong memories. In 2006, a record-breaking 161,000 aggregate attendance celebrated America’s music at CMA Music Festival, June 8-11 in Downtown Nashville. Things got off to a rowdy start at the kick off parade and block party featuring performances by Big & Rich, Cowboy Troy, Emerson Drive, The Grascals and more. Though the final night of concerts at LP Field was cut short due to inclement weather, the spirits of the fans weren’t dampened. CMA Music Festival won the International Entertainment Buyers Association “2006 iebaLIVE!” Award for Festival, Fair or Non-Tour Special Event of the Year. CMA Music Festival also won this award in 2004. The LIVE! Award is presented each year by IEBA to a Festival, Fair or Non-Special Event that utilizes artists as a major element of the event while attracting a large and diverse audience, and having displayed professional organization, management and production. Thirty-three acts appeared in the Nightly Concerts at LP Field, including Trace Adkins, Jason Aldean, Dierks Bentley, Brooks & Dunn with Keith Urban, Kenny Chesney, Terri Clark, Billy Ray Cyrus, Sara Evans, Little Big Town, Los Lonely Boys with Ronnie Milsap, Martina McBride, Montgomery Gentry, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Brad Paisley, Blake Shelton, Sugarland, Josh Turner, Carrie Underwood, Hank Williams Jr., Wynonna, Trisha Yearwood and more. 

The legendary Charlie Daniels Band kicked off the Festival at the Greased Lightning® Daytime Stages in front of thousands of dancing and cheering fans. The dual stages bustled with a rich array of 86 acts performing more than 32 hours of concerts. Artists included Rhett Akins, Rodney Atkins, Steve Azar, Sarah Buxton, Tracy Byrd, Eric Church, John Corbett, Neal McCoy, The Oak Ridge Boys, Jake Owen, Aaron Tippin, Tanya Tucker, Darryl Worley, Chris Young and more. 

A total of 326 artists and celebrities appeared in the Wrangler® Fan Fair (Exhibit Hall) at the Nashville Convention Center for the popular autograph and photo sessions. One of the highlights was a wedding in the MuzikMafia booth. In 2005, Jo Ann Dresch and Brad Moyer of Pennsylvania got engaged while waiting in line at the booth and this year they returned to tie the knot with Big & Rich in attendance. 

Nearly 700 journalists were credentialed for CMA Music Festival representing more than 200 domestic and international media outlets. 

The official CMA Music Festival broadcaster, Premiere Radio Networks, brought 19 of Country radio’s top-rated stations (including Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Indianapolis, Seattle, Tampa and Washington) and the nationally syndicated “After MidNite with Blair Garner” to Nashville for three days of remote broadcasts from the Nashville Convention Center. A wide variety of 75 artists, celebrities and athletes participated in the remotes reaching nearly 9 million listeners. 

The Chevy Sports Zone moved to a new central location in 2006, but still featured games and friendly competitions with “The Fifth Annual Andy Griggs Celebrity Archery Tournament,” “The Steve Azar Celebrity Sports Challenge,” “The Craig Morgan FLW Outdoors Fishing Tournament” and “The Michael Peterson / New Holland Celebrity Tractor Race” among others. The Chevy “All Access Music Tour” Stage was set up on the plaza of the Gaylord Entertainment Center for even more musical entertainment. The Family Zone featured more fun — and food — than ever with the Crisco® Country Favorites Corner. Fans made pit stops at the Fun Zone for giveaways, product samples and to sing a little karaoke. 

CMA Celebrity Close Up hosted by Lorianne Crook featured John Corbett, Cowboy Troy, members of Diamond Rio, Josh Gracin, Jamie O’Neal, Phil Vassar and members of Lonestar. The Q&A sessions were taped by GAC and aired later in the year. The NBC Daytime Stars visited CMA Music Festival for the sixth time, making appearances at various events and hosting their popular After Hours party at the Wildhorse Saloon. 

ABC’s “Good Morning America” sent correspondent Mike Barz to CMA Music Festival to broadcast live from Downtown Nashville. CMA Music Festival is organized and produced by CMA. Board member Tony Conway is the Executive Producer of CMA Music Festival. 

CMA Music Festival promotional partners included ABC-TV, Advil, American Airlines, AmSouth, Auto Zone, Bridgestone Firestone, Camping World, Carl Black Chevrolet, Chevrolet: An American Revolution, Chick-Fil-A, CMT, Coca-Cola, Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Country Weekly, Crisco, Dave & Busters, FLW Outdoors, GEICO, Gillette Venus Vibrance, Grand Ole Opry, Great American Country, Greased Lightning, HCA, Major League Baseball, Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority, Monroe Carell Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, Mr. Coffee, Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau, Nashville Zoo, New Holland, Office Depot, On The Run and Exxon, Papa John’s Pizza, Premiere Radio Networks, Prilosec OTC, Purity® Dairies, RealTree, Southwest Airlines, Sharpie, Super 8, Tennessee Education Lottery Corp., T.G.I. Fridays, The Tennessean, Ultra Pet/Zen Puppy, U.S. Navy, WellPatch Pain Relieving Pads, Wrangler and Yamaha Motor Corporation, U.S.A. 

As Country Music fans were busily making plans to head to Nashville for the CMA Music Festival, CMA brought a taste of the Festival to lucky fans in nine cities across the South and Southwest. For “Crisco Presents the Road to CMA Music Festival,” Wal-Mart parking lots in Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Fayetteville, Ark., Jacksonville, Raleigh, San Antonio, Tampa and Tulsa were transformed into mini versions of CMA Music Festival, complete with live performances from some of today’s hottest Country acts. Radio stations including KAJA, KKIX, KTYS, KWEN, WKHX, WQDR, WQYK, WROO, WSOC and WYAY helped promote the tour. Also sponsoring the tour were Greased Lightning Cleaning Products and Southwest Airlines. Performers included Jason Aldean, Steve Azar, Jeff Bates, Blue County, John Corbett, Emerson Drive, Jace Everett, Jamey Johnson, Little Big Town, Lila McCann, Jamie O’Neal, Danielle Peck, Julie Roberts, Ray Scott and Mark Wills. Following their performances, and in keeping with a CMA Music Festival tradition, artists greeted fans and signed autographs after every show. Event sponsors were on hand to offer free samples of their products. 

The 2007 CMA Music Festival will take place Thursday through Sunday, June 7-10, in Downtown Nashville. To order tickets, call 1-800-CMA-FEST (262-3378); visit CMAfest.com to download an order form to fax or mail; visit ticketmaster.com to buy online or charge-by-phone at (615) 255-9600. Ticket prices do not include applicable handling fees and are subject to change without notice. All sales are final and non-refundable. 

CMA Music Festival was filmed for a two-hour television special that aired on the ABC Television Network in July. The concerts and the interactions were captured in the special with heart-pounding performances interspersed with heart-warming encounters between the artists and their avid admirers. Taped exclusively for the special, cameras followed the stories of several Festival attendees, who had their dreams come true when they were granted a once-in-a-lifetime meeting and personal encounter with their favorite Country stars. Robert Deaton was the Executive Producer and Gary Halvorson was the Director. 

Artists donate their time at CMA Music Festival for the good of the industry and part of the receipts in the past were donated to charities through CMA’s “Cause For Celebration!” campaign. In 2006, CMA launched a new charity initiative, “Keep the Music Playing,” where half of the net proceeds from CMA Music Festival will be given to the Nashville Alliance for Public Education to provide equipment and services to Nashville’s public school music education programs. The donation is expected to top $300,000 and CMA will reveal some exciting news about the distribution of these funds soon.

The annual CMA Awards — “Country Music’s Biggest Night™,” represents the pinnacle of achievement for Country Music artists, producers, publishers, songwriters, video directors and industry executives. The CMA Awards is a cornerstone of the fall television sweeps ratings season, and marks the launch of the holiday album-selling season. “The 40th Annual CMA Awards” broadcast live from the Gaylord Entertainment Center in Downtown Nashville. The Nov. 6 broadcast, which was hosted by Brooks & Dunn, aired on the ABC Television Network for the first time. 

“Country Music’s Biggest Night” was a big hit on ABC, winning Monday evening in total viewers (16.0 million) and adults 18-49 (5.4/13), producing ABC’s most competitive finish on the night this season in both measures. With its three-hour broadcast of the music awards show, ABC also took the top spot across each of the key women demographics (W18-34 – 5.2/14, W18-49 – 7.0/16 and W25-54 – 7.9/17), as well as teens 12-17 (2.6/8) and kids 2-11 (2.0/8). An estimated 32.3 million viewers watched all or some of the “The 40th Annual CMA Awards,” which was ranked the No. 14 show of the week in total viewers, and tied with “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” as the No. 12 show of the week in adults 18-49. 

Brooks & Dunn were the big winners at the 2006 CMA Awards. The duo picked up Music Video and Single of the Year for “Believe,” and their 13th Vocal Duo of the Year Award. With an additional trophy for producing the Single of the Year, Brooks & Dunn increased their overall tally to 19 Awards, surpassing Vince Gill as the top winners of all time. Half of Brooks & Dunn, Ronnie Dunn, won Song of the Year honors with co-writer Craig Wiseman for “Believe.” Carrie Underwood captured the Female Vocalist of the Year and Horizon Award. Brad Paisley took home Album of the Year for Time Well Wasted and Vocal Event of the Year with Dolly Parton for “When I get Where I’m Going.” Though absent from the ceremony, Keith Urban picked up his third consecutive Male Vocalist of the Year Award. Kenny Chesney won his second Entertainer of the Year trophy. 

The Country Music Hall of Fame welcomed three new members into its hallowed hall. Harold Bradley, Sonny James and George Strait were officially inducted into the Hall of Fame on the Awards broadcast. 

CMA Broadcast Awards winners were presented CMA Awards during pre-telecast ceremonies and recognized throughout the Awards broadcast. 

The broadcast of the CMA Awards increased public awareness of Country Music and gave album sales an all-important upward surge heading into the holiday buying season. Brad Paisley’s Time Well Wasted, which was named Album of the Year, saw a 101 percent sales increase, while his Christmas album, Brad Paisley Christmas, saw an 86 percent bump. Hosts Brooks & Dunn saw an increase of 222 percent in consumers who took home their Hillbilly Deluxe album. Sugarland, who released their sophomore album, Enjoy the Ride, the week of the CMA Awards, posted impressive first-week sales of 210,867. The exposure and attention focused on the CMA Awards fueled consumer interest and in all, Country Music sales took a 22 percent increase in sales in the full week following the Awards broadcast. 

Disney-ABC Television Group went all out for the CMA Awards on ABC.com with customized online video content offering site visitors a unique glimpse into the inner workings of the Awards, from daily updates leading up to the big night to exclusive interviews on the Red Carpet and backstage during the Awards. 

The CMA Awards’ return to Nashville attracted unprecedented media interest. More than 300 journalists, photographers and television reporters were credentialed, representing in excess of 100 domestic and international media outlets. ABC’s “Good Morning America” broadcast live outside of the Gaylord Entertainment Center with a concert by Sugarland and a special appearance by Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi. 

For the 15th year, Premiere Radio Networks, the official radio broadcaster of the Awards, partnered with CMA to provide exclusive radio programming and packaging for the Awards. The package provided coverage of the nominees news conference; a two-hour special highlighting the hottest stars in Country; a four-hour pre-CMA Awards show hosted by Keith Urban, featuring behind-the-scenes information and interviews with nominees; a live radio simulcast of the Awards; a one-hour wrap up show; Red Carpet coverage hosted by Jack Ingram; and vignettes inspired by 40 years of the Awards. 

Exclusive CMA Awards artwork was created for the second straight year by renowned 3-D pop artist Charles Fazzino. The two new works of art served as the official artwork of “The 40th Annual CMA Awards” and are featured on fine art posters, limited edition 3-D giclee fine art prints and on the cover of the official CMA Awards Program Book. All of these items as well as artwork and program books from last year are available to purchase at CMAawards.com. 

A week of events, dubbed “Nashville Celebrates Country,” led up to CMA Awards day with special concerts, receptions, a fashion show and more including a CMA Global Showcase, “Broadway Meets Country” benefit concert and a CMA Awards 40th Anniversary Reunion. 

CMA Celebrity Close Up hosted by Lorianne Crook featured Keith Anderson, Lorrie Morgan, Julie Roberts, Trent Tomlinson, Van Zant and Lee Ann Womack. The Q&A sessions were taped by GAC and will air in February and March. 

“The 40th Annual CMA Awards” is a production of the Country Music Association. Walter C. Miller is the Executive Producer; Robert Deaton is the Consulting Producer; Paul Miller is the Director; and David Wild scripted the ceremonies. Premiere Radio Network is the official radio packager of the CMA Awards, including a stereo-radio simulcast of the gala event. American Airlines is the official airline of the 2006 CMA Awards. Chevy, an American Revolution, is the official ride of the 2006 CMA Awards. Additional promotional partners include aolmusic.com, Camping World, Carl Black Chevrolet, Coca-Cola, CMT/Country Music Television, Inc., Crisco, Gibson Guitar, Greased Lightning Cleaning Products, Hallmark Cards, Miller Brewing Company, Prilosec OTC, Purity Dairies, T.G.I. Friday’s, The Biography Channel and Yankee Candle. Charles Fazzino is the official artist of the 2005 and 2006 CMA Awards.

Country radio continues to stay on top as the most dominant radio genre in 2006 with 2,046 stations across the U.S., up from 2,042 stations in 2005, according to Inside Radio/M Street. 

In Spring 2006, Country radio had the largest share of national listeners since 1999 with a 9.5 share, according to Arbitron’s American Radio Listening Trends Format Report.

Billboard’s and Radio & Records’ Top 5 Country Songs 

1. Rodney Atkins “If You’re Going Through Hell (Before the Devil Even Knows)” 
2. Brad Paisley “The World” 
3. Kenny Chesney “Summertime” 
4. Rascal Flatts “What Hurts the Most” 
5. Carrie Underwood “Jesus, Take the Wheel” 

Country Aircheck’s Top 5 Country Songs 

1. Rascal Flatts “What Hurts the Most” 
2. Josh Turner “Your Man” 
3. Rodney Atkins “If You’re Going Through Hell (Before the Devil Even Knows)” 
4. Carrie Underwood “Jesus, Take the Wheel” 
5. Bon Jovi w/ Jennifer Nettles “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” 

Steve Azar contributed music to independent film soundtrack, Americanizing Shelley. “Broken Bridges” stars Toby Keith, Willie Nelson and Lindsey Haun appeared on the film’s soundtrack. Brad Paisley and Rascal Flatts appeared on the soundtrack to the Pixar animated film “Cars.” Another animated flick, the baseball-inspired “Everyone’s Hero,” featured Jessi Alexander, Brooks & Dunn, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Lonestar and Jon Randall on its soundtrack. Billy Ray and Miley Cyrus had a duet on the soundtrack for the TV show “Hannah Montana.” Billy Ray Cyrus also had a song on Music Inspired by the Motion Picture Charlotte’s Web. Patsy Cline’s “Sweet Dreams” was included on the soundtrack for the Martin Scorsese film “The Departed.” Tim McGraw, The Warren Brothers and Holly Williams appear on the Flicka soundtrack, released on McGraw’s new imprint StyleSonic. The soundtrack for the Vince Vaughn / Jennifer Anniston comedy “The Break-Up,” featured a song by Dwight Yoakam, who also had a song as well as Merle Haggard and Hank Williams Jr. on The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada soundtrack. Brenda Lee’s classic “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” was on the soundtrack for the holiday movie “Deck the Halls.” Montgomery Gentry and James Otto contributed tracks to the Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector soundtrack. Josh Gracin, Little Big Town, Reba McEntire and Trisha Yearwood had cuts on the soundtrack for the straight to DVD movie “The Fox and the Hound 2.” The Thank You for Smoking soundtrack featured Patsy Cline, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Jerry Reed and Tex Williams. 

Tim McGraw continued his love affair with acting, starring in the remake of “Flicka.” Toby Keith made his acting debut in “Broken Bridges,” starring alongside Willie Nelson, Kelly Preston, Burt Reynolds and newcomer and Show Dog Records labelmate Lindsey Haun. The film was directed by two-time CMA Video of the Year director Steven Goldmann. Dwight Yoakam appeared in Lions Gate’s fast action thriller “Crank,” “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada” and “Banditas,” which played exclusively in Cinema Latino theaters. Reba McEntire was the voice of a wise-cracking cow in the big screen remake of “Charlotte’s Web.” The Dixie Chicks starred in the documentary “Shut Up & Sing.” Kris Kristofferson appeared in “Fast Food Nation,” alongside an all-star cast that included Ethan Hawke, Greg Kinnear and Bruce Willis.

Joanna Cotten, Josh Gracin, The Grascals, Raul Malo, Barbara Mandrell, Lorrie Morgan, Joe Nichols, Clay Walker, Lee Ann Womack, Trisha Yearwood and Chris Young joined Broadway performers Laura Bell Bundy, Michael Cerveris, Felicia Fields, Felicia Finley, Peter Gallagher, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Brian d’Arcy James, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Julie Murney and Ben Vereen for the second “Broadway Meets Country” benefit concert at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center in Downtown Nashville as a part of “Nashville Celebrates Country,” a week of events leading up to the CMA Awards. Lari White starred in the Broadway musical “Ring of Fire,” about the life of Johnny Cash.

Country artists made their presence known on television specials and concerts. Dolly Parton appeared on the Academy Awards to perform her Oscar-nominated song “Travelin’ Thru” from the film “Transamerica.” Parton was feted by Alison Krauss, Reba McEntire, Kenny Rogers, Shania Twain and Carrie Underwood among others on the CBS broadcast of “The Kennedy Center Honors.” Tim McGraw’s special, “Tim McGraw: Reflected,” aired on NBC, with a performance from Faith Hill and Hank Williams Jr. McGraw and Hill performed on the Conde Naste “Fashion Rocks” television special on CBS at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall. A&E aired “Hairdos and Heartache: The Women of Country Music,” that featured Loretta Lynn, Reba McEntire, Tanya Tucker and Trisha Yearwood. Jo Dee Messina appeared on the PBS special “A Capitol Fourth,” a live broadcast from the U.S. Capitol. Trace Adkins, Little Big Town with John Mellencamp, Messina and Sugarland each performed at the Major League Baseball World Series on FOX. Lonestar taped a performance of their new single, “Mountains,” for “An American Celebration at Ford’s Theatre: The July 4th Special,” on ABC. Kenny Chesney, Sara Evans and Martina McBride appeared on CBS on the “JC Penney Jam: The Concert for America’s Kids” hosted by Dr. Phil and Robin McGraw. McBride also performed on “Christmas at Rockefeller Center” on NBC. Professional ice skaters leaped and twirled while Gretchen Wilson performed on “Gretchen Wilson’s Country on Ice,” which aired on NBC. Wilson also performed on TNT’s “Christmas in Washington.” Rascal Flatts appeared on NBC’s “The 80th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade” and “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” on ABC. John Conlee, Josh Gracin, Heartland, Sammy Kershaw, Messina, Aaron Tippin, Van Zant and Williams appeared on “A Nashville New Year with Sean Hannity” on FOX News Channel. Reality shows got a dose of Country in 2006. Sara Evans danced her way into American homes and hearts on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.” Martina McBride performed on an episode of “Dancing with the Stars.” Cowboy Troy, Crystal Gayle, Alan Jackson, McBride, The Oak Ridge Boys and Hank Williams Jr. each appeared on ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” Trace Adkins, Jason Aldean, Big & Rich, Sara Evans, Naomi Judd, Kenny Rogers, Hank Williams Jr. and Gretchen Wilson made appearances on season four of USA Network’s “Nashville Star” (hosted by Cowboy Troy and Wynonna, and featuring Phil Vassar as a judge), where Chris Young was named the winner. Trick Pony’s Heidi Newfield was on the home decorating show “Picture This,” on the Discovery Home Channel. Big Kenny of Big & Rich was on an episode of NBC’s “Celebrity Cooking Showdown.” Kenny Rogers and “Idol” alum Carrie Underwood performed on FOX’s “American Idol.” Clint Black, Randy Travis, Lee Ann Womack and Wynonna appeared on “Celebrity Duets,” on FOX. 

“The Oprah Winfrey Show” saw numerous Country stars appear, including Garth Brooks with Trisha Yearwood, Tim McGraw with Faith Hill and the Dixie Chicks and Carrie Underwood in separate episodes. 

Hank Williams Jr. returned to perform “Are You Ready for Some Football?” in the opening for “Monday Night Football” on its new ESPN home with an all-star band, including Charlie Daniels, Little Richard and Joe Perry from Aerosmith. Sitcoms and dramas showcased Country artists in 2006. Reba McEntire’s sitcom “Reba” returned for a sixth season on the new CW network. LeAnn Rimes appeared in the CBS series “Love Monkey.” Naomi Judd hosted a program on the Hallmark Channel entitled, “Naomi’s New Morning.” Billy Ray Cyrus starred alongside his daughter Miley in the Disney Channel series “Hannah Montana,” where Dolly Parton made a cameo. Sugarland appeared in the season finale for NBC’s “Las Vegas.” Lee Ann Womack and Darryl Worley appeared on the same episode of “48 Hours Mystery” on CBS. Josh Gracin made his acting debut on an episode of CBS’s “The Young and the Restless.” Rascal Flatts appeared as themselves in an episode of “Yes, Dear” on CBS. 

“CMT Crossroads” featured some memorable pairings in 2006, including Little Big Town with Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham; Steve Earle and Rosanne Cash; Los Lonely Boys and Ronnie Milsap; and Lucinda Williams and Elvis Costello. CMT debuted a new special, “CMT Giants,” honoring Reba McEntire with Country and pop artists and Hollywood celebrities paying tribute to the guest of honor. 

GAC aired “CMA Celebrity Close Up with Lorianne Crook,” an in-depth, question-and-answer show with some of Country’s hottest stars that was taped during CMA Music Festival and the CMA Awards. GAC also aired a series of specials called “CMA Riverfront Concert Series,” hosted by Craig Morgan and taped at the Daytime Stages during CMA Music Festival.

Willie Nelson and Turk Pipkin wrote The Tao of Willie: A Guide to the Happiness in Your Heart. Johnny Cash’s longtime bass player and manager, Marshall Grant, penned I Was There When It Happened: My Life with Johnny Cash. Royal Wade Kimes released his first book Eminent Domain and Old Man Smith, the tale of an elderly World War II veteran who is fighting to save his farm. Sara Evans wrote the intro for a gift book based on her hit “You’ll Always Be My Baby,” written by Evans, Tony Martin and Tom Shapiro. Gretchen Wilson released her memoir, Redneck Woman: Stories from My Life, co-written with Allen Rucker. Bill Anderson wrote Award Winning Whispers from the Kitchen cookbook. Barbara Mandrell provided the foreward for her chef son Matthew Dudney’s The Mandrell Family Cookbook. 

Attorney Rob Monath wrote a national copyright law guide called By the Book: A Simple Copyright Compliance Method for Musicians and Music Professionals. Country: A Regional Exploration by Ivan Tribe provides a detailed history of Country subgenres. Music journalist and songwriter Michael Kosser examines Nashville’s rise to epicenter of Country Music in How Nashville Became Music City USA — 50 Years of Music Row. Joe Wilson’s A Guide to the Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail was written to shepherd musical pilgrims to seven historical sites in southwestern Virginia. Country Music Hall of Fame member Ken Nelson wrote My First Ninety Years Plus Three. A Shot in the Dark: Making Records in Nashville, 1945-1955, by Martin Hawkins discusses records, artists and entrepreneurs including Bill Beasley, Owen Bradley and Jim Bulleit. Music historian Michael Streissguth tells the story of the Man in Black in Johnny Cash: The Biography. A deep history of Country is explored in Will the Circle Be Unbroken: Country Music in America, edited by Paul Kingsbury and Alanna Nash. Richard Carlin examines the roots and complexities of the genre in the aptly titled Country Music. Tony Bywater released The Definitive Encyclopedia of Country Music. Clint Black, Tim McGraw, Dolly Parton and more contributed recipes and anecdotes to A Country Music Christmas by Edie Hand and Buddy Killen. Randy Rudder released his annual collection of essays and news articles, The Country Music Reader, with a foreward by Rosanne Cash. Songwriter Liz Hengber authored The Do’s and Dont’s of Music Row, an instruction guide for up-and-coming songwriters. Novelist and songwriter Alice Randall penned My Country Roots: The Ultimate MP3 Guide to America’s Original Outsider Music, a listing of must-download Country songs. 

Several artists appeared on the covers of magazines. Carrie Underwood could be seen on newsstands and in mailboxes across the country, appearing on the covers of Cosmo Girl! Prom, Parade, SELF and Reader’s Digest. Faith Hill and Tim McGraw appeared on the cover of People, which featured an in-depth interview about life on the road and their sold-out “Soul2Soul II Tour.” Hill was also featured on the covers of Ladies Home Journal and SELF. Alan Jackson was on the cover of American Profile. Brooks & Dunn were featured in an at-home cover story in Cowboys & Indians. Wynonna was on a cover of Ladies Home Journal. Brad Paisley graced the cover of Vintage Guitar. 

Ladies Home Journal, People and Vanity Fair each featured Country Music prominently in special issues leading up to the CMA Awards. People featured an all-Country issue on newsstands with Kenny Chesney on the cover; Vanity Fair had an entire section dedicated to Country artists in original photos; and Ladies Home Journal profiled women in Country Music. 

CMT started a new publication called CMT Life Set to Music, a monthly newspaper editorial insert distributed in 25 top markets. CMT also put out its first release in the video game market, “Karaoke Revolution: Country,” for the Sony Playstation 2. The game lets players create characters to perform their choice of 35 popular Country songs in front of virtual crowds for points.

Charlie Daniels was named spokesperson for Gravely Tractor’s 90th Anniversary. Daniels also appeared in a commercial for Bojangles restaurants with NFL quarterback Jake Delhomme. Carrie Underwood appeared in her second Skechers footwear campaign and posed with a milk mustache for a “Got Milk?” ad. Bomshel was coined the “Wicked Women of Tequila Rose” in a national promotion with McCormick Distilling and featured in Cruel Jeans ads. Sara Evans was named national spokeswoman for the National Eating Disorders Association. Evans also recorded two new songs for a special Mother’s Day album, Always There, distributed in Hallmark Gold Crown stores. Hallmark also released an exclusive George Strait Christmas CD, Fresh Cut Christmas, which went Platinum in a matter of weeks. Cracker Barrel released an exclusive CD, Songs of the Year, featuring Dierks Bentley, Jo Dee Messina, Trisha Yearwood and more, sold only in Cracker Barrel stores. Trace Adkins became the spokesman for IdleAire Technologies, which produces parts that make idling easier for long haul truck drivers. Adkins also teamed up with Major League Baseball to debut his single “Swing” on MLB.com. George Jones joined Ronnie Gilley Properties, a real estate development firm, as its national spokesman. Alan Jackson is an official endorser of the La Borgata residential develpement in Panama City Beach, Fla., developed by Ronnie Gilley Properties. Taylor Swift appeared with NASCAR driver Darrell Waltrip in a “NASCAR AutoCare” commercial. The PovertyNeck Hillbillies were named “The Official Band of the 2006 NFL World Champion Pittsburgh Steelers.” Country Music couple Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis appeared and performed in a Claritin commercial. Brooks & Dunn appeared on 2.9 million packages of Coca-Cola as part of the “Tailgate at Game Time at Wal-Mart with Brooks & Dunn” promotion. Garth Brooks appeared in commercials for Oklahoma State University. George Dickel Tennessee Whisky sponsored Darryl Worley’s tour. Prilosec OTC sponsored Big & Rich’s headlining tour and the duo also appeared in national commercials for the heartburn reliever. Toyota Motor Sales was title sponsor of Brooks & Dunn’s tour, a partnership that extends into 2008. Dierks Bentley scored Bud Light as a sponsor for his first headlining tour. Gary Nichols partnered with Dippin’ Dots ice cream to sponsor his tour. 

Willie Nelson broke ground on a new biodiesel refinery, Pacific BioDiesel Texas, in Carl’s Corner, Texas. Hank Williams Jr. has his own BBQ sauce, Hank Williams Jr.’s Family Tradition BBQ Sauce, which is available in grocery stores nationwide. Dwight Yoakam threw his hat into the frozen foods ring with Dwight Yoakam’s Bakersfield Biscuit Brand Chicken Lickin’s. Tim McGraw joined with producer Byron Gallimore to start his own label, StyleSonic Records. Aaron Tippin jumped into the record label biz, opening Nippit Records. Tracy Lawrence launched Rocky Comfort Records with his manager and brother Laney Lawrence. 


The Grand Ole Opry honored members of the military in 2006 with an “Opry Summer Salute,” Memorial Day through Labor Day weekends. The summer-long event featured patriotic-themed performances and discounts and specials for military personnel. 

Country artists participating in USO shows and tours in 2006 included: Bill Engvall, Jeff Foxworthy, Josh Gracin, Toby Keith, Jo Dee Messina, Montgomery Gentry, Craig Morgan, Keni Thomas, Carrie Underwood, Mark Wills, Lee Ann Womack, Darryl Worley and Chely Wright. 

Dierks Bentley, Cowboy Crush, Charlie Daniels, Diamond Rio, Aaron Tippin, Lee Ann Womack and Chely Wright performed for troops as part of the Stars for Stripes organization, which provides entertainment to U.S. military service men and women. 

“The Spirit of America Tour” featured concerts by Asleep at the Wheel, Confederate Railroad, Cowboy Crush, Cross Canadian Ragweed, Billy Ray Cyrus, Charlie Daniels, Joe Diffie, Buddy Jewell, Neal McCoy, Jo Dee Messina and Lorrie Morgan at military bases across the United States. 

The annual “American Freedom Festival,” an event to honor U.S. veterans, featured Rodney Atkins, Henry Cho, Mark Wills, Darryl Worley and more. 

Lee Greenwood and Restless Heart entertained U.S. troops in Europe, Southwest Asia and the Pacific. 

Trace Adkins, Garth Brooks and Dwight Yoakam were among the more than 2,000 friends, family members and devoted fans that paid tribute to the late Buck Owens at a memorial service in Bakersfield, Calif. Rodney Crowell, Patty Griffin, Steve Earle and Dave Matthews performed in a musical tribute to Emmylou Harris at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center in Nashville. A slew of stars, including Kenny Chesney, Terri Clark, Sara Evans, Reba McEntire, Willie Nelson, Brad Paisley, LeAnn Rimes, Gretchen Wilson and more, recorded songs for the album She Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool: A Tribute to Barbara Mandrell. Glen Campbell, Raul Malo, Ricky Skaggs and more performed at a concert tribute to Roy Orbison at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Nelson, Randy Scruggs, Wilson and more paid tribute to a living legend on The Pilgrim: A Celebration of Kris Kristofferson. Rascal Flatts paid tribute to legendary crooner Tony Bennett at his 80th birthday bash at the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles. The Dixie Chicks and Tim McGraw each performed a duet with Bennett on his Duets: An American Classic album. In 1985, Waylon Jennings recorded songs for a Hank Williams tribute album, Waylon Sings Hank Williams, which was released in 2006. Asleep at the Wheel, Lyle Lovett, Nelson, Reckless Kelly, Bruce Robison, Kelly Willis and Dwight Yoakam contributed to Why the Hell Not ... The Songs of Kinky Friedman. 

Two of Country Music’s luminaries received honors from President George W. Bush in 2006. Ralph Stanley was presented the National Medal of the Arts, the highest honor in artistic excellence, in the Oval Office of the White House. Dolly Parton was one of five recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors, one of the highest awards for achievement in the arts. 

Darryl Worley was presented the Silver Medal award by the Order of Saint Michael for his outstanding support of Army Aviation and service to America by way of his many trips overseas and across the country performing for America’s armed forces. Craig Morgan received the USO Merit Award from the USO of Metropolitan Washington.

The Year in Country Music is a partial listing and was compiled by Peter Cronin, Amanda Eckard, Ryan Noreikas, Athena Patterson, Wendy Pearl, Brandi Sanford and Scott Stem. Special thanks to all the Communications Dept. interns for gathering information throughout the year. All photos and logos used by permission. 

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