NASHVILLE, TN (August 7, 2012) – Amid a sea of industry change that has seen major creative empires and labels rise and fall, the strength of Curb Records, which was founded in 1963 by Mike Curb while attending California State University as a student, remains intact.
On the eve of a half-century of success and in the midst of a field of gold standard milestones, Curb Records is a rare and enduring independent force of influence in the land of giants.
As Curb Records celebrates its 50th anniversary in the business of making and selling music, the success of the label and its founder are inseparable.
At the half-century mark as a creative brand, Curb’s presence eclipses history as the longest operating record label with the same ownership. Accumulated accolades include:
432 #1 Records
- 323 singles
- 109 albums
1,514 Top Ten Records
- 1,102 singles
- 412 albums
4,518 Charted Records
- 3,231 singles
- 1,287 albums
Today, Mike Curb is one of the most prominent figures in the music/entertainment world and presides over his own independent record label that is recognized as one of the most successful in music industry history.
If Curb has a magic formula for success, it might be captured in the portrait of its artistic family. Throughout the early years, Curb scored success with artists as diverse as the Stone Poneys (featuring Linda Ronstadt), Eric Burdon & War, Sammy Davis Jr., the Osmond Family, (including Donny & Marie), Lou Rawls, Exile, the Righteous Brothers, Solomon Burke, Gloria Gaynor, the Hondells, the Arrows (featuring Davie Allan), Debby Boone, Shaun Cassidy, Roy Orbison, the Electric Flag (featuring Buddy Miles and Mike Bloomfield), the Sylvers and the Four Seasons.
In 1969, Curb merged his young label with MGM Records and became the President of MGM. Under his reign, he boosted MGM’s war chests with a litany of hits, some of which he produced. His signings brought a new emphasis on Nashville based artists including Kenny Rogers and the First Edition, Hank Williams Jr., Don Gibson, Mel Tillis, Ray Stevens, and Eddy Arnold. Curb also served as president of Verve Records, the historic jazz label, and scored a coup by signing superstar Tony Bennett. During the same period, Mike Curb went on to receive the Billboard Overall Producer of the Year Award, and he acquired the highly coveted BMI Award for writing Hank Williams Jr’s first #1 single, “All For The Love Of Sunshine”. He also won the BMI Award for composing the theme song to Clint Eastwood’s motion picture, Kelly’s Heroes - “Burning Bridges” which was a worldwide hit by the Mike Curb Congregation.
In the 80’s, Curb Records signed such emerging artists as Lyle Lovett, The Judds, Don & Phil Everly, Sawyer Brown, Chris Hillman’s Desert Rose Band, Jeffrey Steele’s band Boy Howdy, The Bellamy Brothers, Ronnie McDowell, Hal Ketchum and The Righteous Brothers who delivered the triple platinum selling album and single “Unchained Melody.”
Throughout the 90’s, Curb Records continued to establish ground as an independent force to be reckoned with. The label surprised many with the meteoric launch of superstar Tim McGraw, whose album Not A Moment Too Soon went on to become one of McGraw’s top selling albums to date. All told, Curb Records has sold over 40 million units and produced over ninety seven billion impressions at radio with Tim McGraw’s music. By 1997, Curb was Billboard’s #1 country label in four major categories for albums and singles and recognized as the overall #1 country label in the industry according to Nielsen SoundScan. Additional milestones for Curb in the 90’s included the signing of teenage superstar LeAnn Rimes whose single “Blue,” became an industry phenomenon who crossed multiple genres. Rimes’ “How Do I Live,’ co-produced by Mike Curb and written by Diane Warren, earned the label a Billboard Award for the longest running record of the 20th Century on Billboard’s Top Hot 100 chart. Curb also co-produced LeAnn Rimes’ “You Light Up My Life” which became the first album to debut #1 on Billboard’s pop, country, and contemporary Christian charts. Co-published by Curb’s publishing division, “You Light Up My Life” won both an Academy Award and a Grammy. This credit brought further honors to the Curb Publishing division—a side of the indie giant too often overlooked. Curb’s publishing interests have scored more than 100 ASCAP, BMI and SESAC award winning songs including the first record in Billboard history to debut at #1 on the Billboard Country Chart – Garth Brooks “More Than A Memory”. History was in the making when Curb published and released Lee Brice’s record, “Love Like Crazy” which was Billboard’s #1 record of the year in 2010 and the longest running song in the history of the Billboard chart. Curb recently co-published “Crazy Girl” by The Eli Young band which was the 2012 ACM Song Of The Year and Billboard’s most played song of 2011.
At the launch of the 21st century Curb Records had established one of the strongest country rosters in Nashville. Superstar artists such as Tim McGraw, LeAnn Rimes, Jo Dee Messina, Hank Williams Jr., Wynonna, Lyle Lovett, Clay Walker, Trick Pony, and Rodney Atkins were consistently pushing out hit product. In 2001, and for the first time in the history of music business, Curb Records became the first independent label to be named Billboard’s Country Music Label of the Year.
Building on the success of country, Curb expanded throughout the new millennium to play a major role in the contemporary Christian genre with artists such as multi-award winning “Female Artist of the Year” Natalie Grant, multi-Dove winning group Selah, Plumb, MIKESCHAIR, Michael English, and Nicol Sponberg all producing hits. Curb’s own personal involvement in contemporary Christian music began with the early signings of groundbreaking artists such as Larry Norman, 2nd Chapter of Acts, DeGarmo & Key, Debby Boone, and continued into the 80’s & 90’s to include Stryper, Whiteheart, Patti Cabrera, Jonathan Pierce, and Fernando Ortega. Curb also continues to serve as Chairman and Partner in Word Records, the oldest gospel record company in history.
In 2012, this their 50th Anniversary, label success on the scoreboard already includes:
Breaking Lee Brice as one of the most exciting new artists in country music in recent memory. His Hard 2 Love album debuted with a trifecta as the #1 Digital Country Album, #2 Billboard Country Album and Billboard’s #5 best selling album on the Top 200 Chart across all genres. The album has already scored a #1 single and a platinum certification for its lead single, “A Woman Like You”.
Rodney Atkins’ has produced his 7th number one record with the title track to his current album, Take A Back Road.
Curb’s January 2012 release of Tim McGraw’s Emotional Traffic, debuted as Billboard’s #1 Country album and the single “Better Than I Used To Be” became McGraw’s historic 100th Top 5 record on the Billboard charts.
Curb Records has achieved over 300 number one records on the Billboard chart and Mike Curb recently received a star on both the Music City Walk of Fame and the historic Hollywood Walk of Fame.
In April of this year, Natalie Grant was named Female Vocalist Of The Year in the annual Dove Awards – her 5th win in the category. Curb again took home honors with Grant’s “Your Great Name” having won Worship Song Of The Year. Curb’s Christian Division was again honored with dual wins by Selah for Inspirational Album Of The Year and Inspirational Song Of The Year (“Hope Of The Broken World”).
New projects still ahead in the coming year include new releases from LeAnn Rimes, Andy Gibson, Wynonna, Plumb, Rachel Holder, Michael English and more. Also in 2012, Curb revitalized subsidiary imprint Sidewalk Records which plans new music from Heidi Newfield, Clay Walker, Morgan Frazier, Dylan Scott, and a new duet between Tyler Dean and Ashley Gearing.
Mike Curb exclaims, “We’ve been successful in large part to our employees, our artist roster, radio and a huge passion for music that inspires people across the globe. We are forever up to the challenges of the next half century and look forward to expanding upon our success.”
Born with American ingenuity, Curb Records’ independent spirit lives on. In celebration, Curb Records is announcing its 50 albums over 50 years feature on iTunes today. To view, click here: http://bit.ly/Curb50
One cold November day in 2010, Landau Eugene Murphy, Jr. of Logan, W. Va. and his wife Jennifer stood for hours outside of the Jacob Javits Convention Center in Manhattan. They were among the thousands of people – young and old, singers, dancers, jugglers, mimes, and more -- lined up to audition for NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.” It would take several more hours for Landau to finally get inside and sing a few bars, and his day grew even longer as he sang for one producer after another. Soon, he was the last one sitting in a huge rehearsal hall. “I knew that was a good sign,” remembers Jennifer.
Almost a year to the day later, Syco/Columbia Records is proudly releasing Landau’s first album, That’s Life. Not only did his unique singing style make him stand out from all of his competition, Landau’s humility, charm and confidence endeared him to the AGT judges and viewers. After receiving standing ovations from judges Sharon Osbourne, Piers Morgan and Howie Mandel, a singing duet with the iconic Patti LaBelle, and a rousing rendition of “My Way,” Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. was finally named the winner of AGT’s sixth season on Sept. 14, 2011.
When Landau made his first appearance before the AGT judging panel four months earlier he told them simply, “I am here to show America I can sing.” And when he did, he gave the audience a moment of astonishment that was reminiscent of when Susan Boyle first sang on “Britain’s Got Talent” two years earlier. Landau’s cool, jazzy rendition of “Under My Skin” brought the audience – and even the judging panel -- to their feet and filled Radio City Music Hall with raucous applause.
Landau’s recollection of the moment was that “I had nothing to lose. I walked out there, and when I saw the judges, I felt a little star-struck, especially to see Howie Mandel, who I’ve always been a fan of. But singing in front of that big audience was something I’ve always wanted. I felt right at home. I walked out there with all the confidence in the world because I have known all my life that I have had this talent. I feel like Howie and the others twisted the knob and opened the door and all I had to do was walk right through.”
Many have compared Landau’s smooth vocals and phrasing to that of Frank Sinatra, a singer he’s always admired. That’s why all of the tracks from “That’s Life” are Sinatra standards, but Landau does them his way. “I put my own voice and my own soul into this album.” He decided to honor Sinatra as a salute to the fans who voted for him. “For a lot of my fans, especially older people, I can bring back some happy memories. And hopefully I can create new memories for generations to come. I think I think my album encompasses all of that. I want to give back as much as possible and stay true to the people who supported me,” he says.
Since winning AGT, Landau spent several weeks working side by side with legendary record producer and GRAMMY Award winner, Steve Tyrell, himself an aficionado of Sinatra’s music. During his storied 40-year music career, Tyrell has scored movies (That Thing You Do, Father of the Bride), produced albums for dozens of top artists (most recently, Rod Stewart’s #1 album, Stardust: The Great American Songbook Volume III, Diana Ross, Ray Charles, Smokey Robinson, Linda Ronstadt, Mary J Blige, Chris Botti, Bonnie Raitt, Bette Midler and Stevie Wonder among them) and recorded his own albums.
“I loved working with him” says Landau. “He’s so cool. We got on well – he totally understood me and he brought out the best in me.” The vocals for the album were recorded in Houston and then in LA at the legendary Capitol studio “B” with a full orchestra on the same hallowed ground where Sinatra, Dean Martin, Judy Garland, Nat King Cole and others have recorded so many classics.
And, as part of his AGT prize, Landau realized a lifelong dream and headlined a show at the Colosseum Theater at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas – the legendary playground for Sinatra and his iconic Rat Pack.
This sudden rise to fame has been in keeping with Landau’s roller-coaster ride of a life. As a young man, he was once reduced to sleeping in his car; he worked at a car wash during the months leading up to his TV performances -- and was down to his last pair of pants and jacket when he arrived to sing at Radio City Music Hall that day in June.
“We didn’t discuss this during the show because we didn’t want people feeling sorry for us. But my wife and I had been away taking care of her mother, who had just been hospitalized, and someone broke into our house and cleaned us out. They robbed us blind. And we were so heartbroken. Thank goodness we were able to move in with my mother-in-law. We had no place else to go.”
After they got over the initial shock of their situation, Landau said he began to take stock of what they had left, physically and emotionally. “I remember lying on the bed, looking at the ceiling. Jennifer was so down. I was talking to God and I heard him say, ‘You need to get on a bigger stage – and hold your head up.’ That’s when I knew I had to try out for ‘America’s Got Talent’.”
It wasn’t the first time Landau felt the pull of music. He had once been the lead singer of a band, Top Shelf, which played clubs in and around West Virginia. The R&B band soon had a following; they became a popular addition to local music festivals and always participated in an annual concert that benefits a local children’s charity. But when the band broke up acrimoniously, Landau’s spirit felt depleted. It was a situation similar to one he had faced as a younger man.
“My father, Landau Sr., was a coal miner and he really loves music; my mother is from a musical family, too. After my parents split up when I was 8, I moved with my mother and two brothers and two sisters to Detroit,” Landau explains. “It was completely different from Logan; I had to get used to the streets. My focus wasn’t on school” and he dropped out in the 11th grade to put his energy into looking out for the safety of himself and his family. “Church and basketball were the only things that got me out of the house and kept me going. I played for a church league, which kept me off the streets and they would take us to events where we could eat. Basketball was my first love and I grew up playing basketball with some great ballplayers like NBA star Chris Webber. There were times when I’d make a shot or dunk on someone and I’d run back down the court with a smile on my face singing ‘Fly Me To The Moon’, everyone got a big kick out of it.”
In his late teens Landau was without a place to live and didn’t want to impose on his sisters, both of who had recently married. “I had a car, and I would pull it up on a ridge, and I would sleep in it,” he remembers. He and his girlfriend had a son and soon married and their church helped them find a place to live. “I was working at a car wash at a dealership, and I would sing there” for fun and to pass the time, he remembers. The couple had two more children before the relationship ended.
In 1999, Landau moved back home to Logan and later renewed a friendship with a childhood friend, Jennifer Carter. “We started working together at a restaurant” where she was a manager and they married in 2005. Landau has stayed very close to his children, Michael, Marcus and Morgan, as well as Jennifer’s daughter, Kyra, who lives with them. “I love my kids with all my heart and more than anything, I want to make sure that they don’t have the same struggles I have had. I want them to have more opportunities. I want them to be able to do what they want to do.”
Despite having gone from wash rags to riches, “I’m still happiest when I’m home and when I’m with my family. I like it when there is no stress and I’m doing what I want to do – which is to sing.”
LEE BRICE’S SOPHOMORE ALBUM, HARD 2 LOVE,
IN STORES NOW, RECEIVING RAVE REVIEWS
Hard 2 Love Debuts With Two Tracks in the Top 10 on iTunes Country Songs Chart
The New York Times – “…one of the year’s most impressive country albums.”
– Jon Caramanica
USA Today – “…Hard 2 Love is as well-crafted a set of country tunes
as you’ll hear all year.” – Brian Mansfield
Billboard – “Brice is gearing up for many more trips to the top
with music this good.” – Chuck Dauphin
Nashville, Tenn. – (April 25, 2012) – Award-winning singer/songwriter, Lee Brice, launches his new album, Hard 2 Love, with the lead single, “A Woman Like You,” having reached No. 1 and the next single, “Hard to Love,” hitting radio now. With Hard 2 Love, an ACM Award for “Song of the Year,” and his first No. 1 as a vocalist, Brice’s career is soaring to new heights.
Brice’s high-profile media blitz began with co-hosting duties on the No. 1 national morning show “Today” on March 20 and continues through the next two weeks. This week, Brice is back in New York promoting the new album and has already appeared on “Fox & Friends,” CNN’s “Showbiz Tonight,” and “Imus In The Morning.”
In the event you have missed one of these appearances, you can click on the link below:
“Imus In The Morning” - http://video.foxbusiness.com/v/1580204048001/
Next week, Brice is off to the West Coast to make his late night debut on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” on Monday, May 1, followed by a “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson” performance later in the week (date TBD). He will also will appear and perform on the mid-day syndicated “The Better Show” on Wednesday, May 2. His busy week will end back east with a visit to “Huckabee” to tape on Saturday, May 5, and will air on May 12.
Hard 2 Love gives audiences a glimpse into Brice’s current place in life. In addition to songs explicitly written by Brice for his fiancé and son, the album contains an assortment of songs that cover a multitude of emotions from boisterous party songs to songs about coping with the loss of a loved one.
Brice commented on the selection of tracks: “Everything on the new album is very pertinent to who I am right now and where I am in my life. I have some very personal stuff on there, and had to be really honest with it. Hopefully, folks will see that.”
In addition to co-producing the album, Brice has co-written eight of the 13 tracks. 12 of these songs are currently charting inside the iTunes Top 200 songs on the Country chart. Hard 2 Love is available now in stores. For further information, please visit www.leebrice.com.
# # #
Chart-topping Country Artist Receives Endorsement
From America’s Best Selling Beer
Nashville, TN - (April 20, 2012) Country Star Lee Brice, whose #1 single, “A Woman Like You,” was recently certified Gold, is the newest addition to the Bud Light family of select country artists endorsed by Anheuser-Busch. The long-term endorsement deal will expose Brice to a broader audience of fans nationwide through Anheuser-Busch’s extensive marketing platforms and reach.
Brice, who is busy touring and preparing for the release of his album, Hard 2 Love, on April 24 took time out to comment on this new partnership.
“Looks like all the years I spent supporting Bud Light are paying off,” Brice commented upon the news of being backed by the beer powerhouse. “I’m honored that they recognized my efforts. We will make quite a team!” Brice joins a multitude of country stars that have been endorsed by the Anheuser- Busch subsidiary including Tim McGraw, George Strait and Dierks Bentley.
Over the next few weeks, Brice has a jam-packed schedule with national TV appearances on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson,” “Fox & Friends,” “Huckabee,” "IMUS in the Morning," “The Better Show,” and CNN’s “Showbiz Tonight.” Fans can also see him live as he will be visiting the following cities in the next couple months:
04/20 – Fayetteville, AR – SLR Yard
04/21 – Star City, AR – StarDaze Festival
04/23 – New York, NY – Joe’s Pub
04/26 – Louisville, KY – 4th Street Live
04/27 – Savannah, GA – Desperado’s
04/28 – Charlotte, NC – Coyote Joe’s
04/29 – Biloxi, MS – Mississippi Coast Coliseum
05/04 – Murray, KY – CFSB Center
05/10 – Ruston, LA – Rabb’s Steak and Spirits
05/11 – Jasper, TX – Jasper Lions Club Rodeo Ground
05/12 – Mission, TX – Las Palmas Race Park
05/18 – Topeka, KS – Landon Arena
05/19 – Batesville, MS – Springfest
05/23 – Ship Bottom, NJ – Joe Pop’s Shore Bar
05/24 – Foxborough, MA – Toby Keith’s I Love this Bar & Grill
05/25 – Uncasville, CT – Mohegan Sun – Wolf Den
05/26 – Roanoke, VA – Elmwood Park
06/01 – Bloomington, IN – Bluebird Nightclub
06/02 – Harlan, KY – Harlan Poke Sallat Festival
06/08 – Sparta, IL – World Shooting & Recreation Complex
06/09 – Lincoln, NE – Celebrate Lincoln Festival
06/16 – N. Lawrence, OH – Clay’s Park Amphitheater
06/17 – Big Flats, NY – Tag’s Summer Sound Stage
06/22 – Oshkosh, WI – Country USA
06/24 – Cardott, WI – Chippewa Valley – Country Fest
06/29 – Bluefield WV – Mitchell Stadium
06/30 – Huntington, WV – Harris Riverfront Park
For further information on Lee Brice and a complete list of tour dates, please visit, www.leebrice.com
DEBUTS AT # 2 ON BILLBOARD’S TOP DVD
MUSIC VIDEOS CHART
Thousands of Fans Spend An Evening With…Dolly
Lebanon, Tenn. (April 11, 2012) – Cracker Barrel Old Country Store® and country music superstar Dolly Parton are pleased to celebrate the #2 debut of the DVD/CD An Evening With…Dolly on Billboard’s Top DVD Music Videos Chart (week ending April 6, 2012). The first-ever Cracker Barrel two-disc set is available for $11.99 exclusively at all Cracker Barrel locations and online at crackerbarrel.com.
“I’m thrilled that this DVD and CD set has been welcomed so warmly,” said Dolly. “While I was performing in front of the sold-out audience at the O2 arena in London for that concert, I could feel the energy and excitement of the fans and I was able to send it back to them in the songs I sang that night. Sharing them through the Cracker Barrel exclusive music program was a natural way to continue the excitement of that concert experience. Cracker Barrel fans are the same wonderful people who are my fans.”
“Working with Dolly for a second time has been has been doubly exciting,” said Julie Craig, Cracker Barrel Marketing Manager. “It’s the first time we have released a two-disc set, and together they are just jam-packed with music including some of Dolly’s biggest hits, on stage entertainment, and down-home conversations with Dolly. The DVD offers a rare look behind the scenes at one of Dolly’s concert tours and complements the CD beautifully.”
An Evening With...Dolly CD Track Listing:
1. Two Doors Down
3. Coat of Many Colors
4. Only Dreaming
5. Little Sparrow
6. The Grass is Blue
7. Do I Ever Cross Your Mind
8. Here You Come Again
9. Islands in the Stream
10. 9 to 5
11. I Will Always Love You
12. Shattered Image* - previously unreleased live bonus track
13. My Tennessee Mountain Home* - previously unreleased live bonus track
An Evening With...Dolly DVD Track Listing:
1. Two Doors Down
3. Backwoods Barbie
4. Coat of Many Colors
5. Only Dreamin’
6. Better Get to Livin’
8. Little Sparrow
9. The Grass is Blue
10. Do I Ever Cross Your Mind
11. Here You Come Again
12. Islands in the Stream
13. 9 to 5
14. I Will Always Love You
15. Jesus and Gravity
An Evening With….Dolly is the latest in Cracker Barrel’s exclusive music program. In January, Cracker Barrel released the Gospel Side of Dailey & Vincent CD. In September of 2011, The Oak Ridge Boys’ CD It’s Only Natural was released through Cracker Barrel’s exclusive music program. In July, Cracker Barrel released Jason Michael Carroll’s all-country Numbers with 11 new songs and one previous hit. In May, Cracker Barrel released Teddy Gentry’s Best New Nashville with original music from 12 talented new artists and Randy Travis’ self-titled album Randy Travis. In March of this year, Cracker Barrel released Kenny Rogers’ The Love of God, which debuted at #8 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart and #2 on the Top Christian Albums chart. In January, Cracker Barrel released The Grascals & Friends - Country Classics With A Bluegrass Spin, which debuted at #1 on Billboard magazine’s Bluegrass Albums chart and at #26 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart. In November 2010, Cracker Barrel released Smokey Robinson’s Now & Then, which debuted at #19 on Billboard magazine’s R&B chart and was nominated for an NAACP IMAGE AWARD. September saw the release of the self-titled Rodney Atkins, which included four #1 hits, and Mandy Barnett’s Winter Wonderland. Over the last few years, Cracker Barrel has released exclusive CDs with Craig Morgan, Wynonna, Alan Jackson, the Zac Brown Band, George Jones, Montgomery Gentry, Bill Gaither, Ricky Skaggs, Aaron Tippin, Alison Krauss & Union Station, Josh Turner, Amy Grant, Sara Evans and Charlie Daniels.
About Cracker Barrel
Cracker Barrel Old Country Store provides a friendly home-away-from-home in its old country stores and restaurants. Guests are cared for like family while relaxing and enjoying real home-style food and shopping that’s surprisingly unique, genuinely fun and reminiscent of America’s country heritage…all at a fair price. The restaurant serves up delicious, home-style country food such as meatloaf and homemade chicken n’ dumplins as well as its made from scratch biscuits using an old family recipe. The authentic old country retail store is fun to shop and offers unique gifts and self-indulgences.
Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc. (Nasdaq: CBRL) was established in 1969 in Lebanon, Tenn. and operates 612 company-owned locations in 42 states. Every Cracker Barrel unit is open seven days a week with hours Sunday through Thursday, 6 a.m. – 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, 6 a.m. - 11 p.m. For more information, visit crackerbarrel.com.
The rugged feel of steel guitar and fiddle, the images of growing up in a world of fields and farms, of heartbreak and hard work … You can't miss the fact that Lee Brice is country all the way.
It's in his voice – think of it as honey trickling through lines of melody etched in leather – and in the images it conjures, of "country girls and redneck boys" anticipating the night to come in the sunset glow of a Dairy Queen ("Sumter County"), of growing up "on the edge of a cornfield" ("Picture of Me").
And that makes one detail in his dream seem especially surprising.
"Ten years from now," he says, smiling at the idea, "I'd love to hear my songs on the radio – on the rap stations, not just country."
This sounds absurd, but only until you remember what makes Lee's debut CD, Love Like Crazy, one of the strongest debuts in any genre over these past several years. That's when you realize that if anybody can make this happen, it's this young man from backcountry South Carolina. His voice, his sound, even his wide-open grin are as country as they come – but his view of life is much broader than that.
Begin with his tastes in music. Ask him to name the artists who influenced him, and he'll answer with Garth Brooks and Hank Junior, sure, but also Coldplay, John Mayer, Brian McKnight, Tom Petty, 3 Doors Down, Whitney Houston, Edwin McCain, Ray Charles … a list you might assemble by grabbing randomly at bins as you wander through the Tower closing sale.
But Brice insists that something ties all these artists together: "They're all great, which appeals to me because I want to make every song I do as great as I can too. I'm not comparing myself to them in any way, but I want the same thing that I love in what they do: They all make music that you can believe in."
Brice takes a big step toward his dream with his debut album. This is music that takes you to special places, from the farms that he worked as a kid through the dirt roads where he and his buddies would spin their wheels and race for the smiles of their girlfriends. He has that knack for making memories come alive that he sensed in the songs of his heroes.
The thing is, it took him a while to figure out who those heroes were. While most people his age across America were tuning in to MTV, Brice was growing up on gospel, as sung by his mother and her side of the family. His Aunt Henrietta played the piano, and through the singing she did with her sisters, Lee built his own music on the rock of the church.
"I was completely sheltered, even from country music," he remembers, "so my first influences were those gospel singers. Man, those tenors could wail! I started to sing by imitating them."
By age seven he was teaching himself the basics of piano on Aunt Henrietta's old upright. Shortly after that he began writing songs; aside from church quartets and his father's Alabama and Oak Ridge Boys albums, he had only his own imagination to mine for inspiration. By the time he'd entered high school, though, he'd assembled enough originals to perform them at the talent pageant – which he won, by the way, three years in a row.
Around that same time Lee finally became aware of other styles of music, through friends who had trouble believing he'd never heard groups like Aerosmith. "Now, I'd heard of Aerosmith," he insists, just to set the record straight. "But that's when I got exposed for the first time to them, to John Mayer and Dave Matthews and all that stuff. My first huge influence, though, was Garth. That had a definite effect on my writing, especially in making my lyrics more mature and my hooks stronger, although even when I was ten years old I was writing very emotional songs, songs that told stories."
There were two loves in Lee's life at that time: music and football. His father, a star player in high school, had passed on an offer to play for Clemson in order to marry and open shop as an electrician. Lee, not having yet met the lady of his life, picked up where Daddy left off by enrolling at Clemson and making it onto the team, long-snapping for punts and then moving to center .
But fate changed the game plan. After playing the first game of his senior year, Lee woke up one morning unable to straighten his right arm. "I'd been snapping the wrong way, 500 times a day," he explains. "They had me in surgery the next day, took out all this cartilage, and that was the end of that."
He could have stayed and finished his civil engineering degree; instead, Lee resolved to chase his other dream. He'd kept playing music during spare time at Clemson and had even spent spring break in Nashville, checking out the town and its possibilities. During that visit he met and performed some of his tunes for Doug Johnson, which prompted the well-established songwriter/producer to offer advice that, by his own admission, Lee's family might not have appreciated.
"He told me, 'Lee, I see that you love music with every bone in your body, so unless you love civil engineering as much as you love music, you need to be here. And if you do come to Nashville, I'll stand by you from the moment you get here."
Brice laughs at the memory of that conversation and at his decision to leave Clemson that summer and take his chances in Music City. With Johnson as his mentor, he sharpened his writing, played out at songwriter circles, and hooked up with some of the top talent in town on co-writing sessions. His partners included Bob DiPiero, Craig Wiseman, Walt Wilkins, Marv Green, and more than a dozen other heavy hitters.
When Johnson took on A&R duties at Curb, one of his first acts was to bring Brice onboard for a writing deal with Curb Music Publishing. For a year the young writer blossomed, creating songs that would be covered by a diverse group of artists, including Cowboy Crush, Keith Gattis, and, on his upcoming CD, Jason Aldean. "I was writing two and three times a day," he remembers. "I'd go to one session at 9:30 in the morning and write until two. Then I'd go from three to six, and again from seven to ten. I just wanted to write, write, write. I did 150 songs that year, and some of them were pretty good."
How have things changed since then? Brice grins as he answers, "I might have written 60 songs this year – but they're 60 songs that really matter."
They especially matter when it's Brice delivering them. Powered by musicians hand-picked for the session, with Johnson bringing the same sensitivity and feel for the material that distinguished his productions for Clay Walker, John Michael Montgomery and Hank Jr., Lee's album alternately flows like a stream of memory or pounds like the tide along the Carolina shore. The songs represent the cream of Brice's catalog, whittled down from more than 300 compositions. Taken together, they forecast years of success ahead for an artist who has the key bases, writing and performing, more than covered.
"I love what I'm hearing on the radio today," Brice insists. "People aren't trying to be perfect or slick anymore. It reminds me of records back in the day, when everything sounded like it was played live. I'd love it if someday people could look back on what I'm doing now too and say, 'When Lee Brice arrived, something changed in a positive way.'"
Why look back? That day has already come … right now.
The Kentucky HeadHunters
Once upon a time, in a deep and dark forest, in the Bluegrass state of Kentucky, not far from the village of Edmonton, stood a psychedelic shack where the only rock and roll band in Metcalfe County rehearsed.
The year was 1968, and the band was called “Itchy Brother.” The shack was really a farmhouse now known as the infamous “Practice House.” The deep and dark forest was on Richard and Fred family farm.
Together, with cousins Anthony Kenney and Greg Martin, armed with a pickup-truck load of amps, drums, and guitars, and a stack of American and English rock records, they set out to conquer the world by creating their own brand of rock and roll.
As the years went by, they made good on their promise to each other, and the record companies came. First, from Cincinnati, then Atlanta and Macon, Georgia, California, New York, and England, but something always stopped them from leaving the rock club circuit and becoming a national recording act. Presidential elections, plane crashes, the death of a record executive and disco, but most of all, their ages. The train hauling the “heyday” of Southern rock had come and gone. Itchy Brother got caught in the changing of the guard. They never got to ride the train, but they never gave up.
In the Early 80′s
“In the early ’80s, we started to hang out in Nashville. Because it wasn’t known as one of the rock and roll cities, we had always avoided it like the plague. Our only bout with Nashville was a TV show called Young Country, said Richard Young. Itchy Brother played Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads” on the show in 1970 and though it was fun. “It opened our eyes and pointed our hearts in a different direction,” he recalls.
Nashville was only 85 miles from Edmonton, but it seemed a million miles from where we started. Greg, then Fred, later took jobs as sidemen where their Southern rock skills proved to be handy and exciting to those acts who wanted to follow in the footsteps of Charlie Daniels and Hank Williams, Jr. Richard took a different route by hanging around writing houses. In 1981, with the help of their longtime friend and manager, Mitchell Fox, the boys were signed as writers to Acuff/Rose Publishing Company. Nashville didn’t know it, but there was a roots movement starting to happen, and the “No Depression Era” was just over the hill. “It was during this time that we learned a lot about the music business and that Nashville was really only three streets wide,” said Fred Young.
In 1986, Greg introduced Richard and Fred to Doug Phelps. Prior to this, the plan had been to record an Itchy Brother album and go for it again, but Anthony declined.
Doug Phelps was asked to join in Anthony’s place. “We couldn’t see using the Itchy Brother name without Anthony. At the time, I was reading a book called Deep Blues by Robert Palmer. It spoke about the head chopping ritual and the fact that Muddy Waters’ band was nicknamed the Headhunters. I told the other guys about the story and it struck a nerve with all of us,” said Greg Martin.
The HeadHunters started rehearsing in March of 1986 in Greg’s basement, then moved to the Practice House when the weather warmed up.
“We were determined to create a whole new sound just like Itchy Brother had in the ’70s. I knew there was a true passion from the first rehearsal and the fact that the other three were relatives, and had spent their whole lives playing together, made it like a fast-drying glue. For me, it was magic from day one,” said Doug Phelps.
The mid-to-late ‘80s were very special. “If you go back and look at the musical diversity going on, especially the roots and college music scene, even country music was allowing things to happen. Their guards were down. This spilled over into the local scene around here. Bowling Green, KY, Louisville, and Nashville were all hopping, as well as the rest of the country. This had a huge impact on us and helped fuel the formation of the HeadHunters,” observed Greg.
“We are who we are and that’s what makes us what we have become. From our life experiences and how we approach and interpret music is how we became a band that tells real life stories. We are a band of many styles—rock, blues, country, jazz, bluegrass, rockabilly, and other roots music. That is the foundation of our sound. Johnnie Johnson once told me ‘Music has no color.’ If I had to color the HeadHunters…I’d color us ‘music with a feeling.’” says Fred.
“It started to gel from the first rehearsal. When you can’t put a label on it, even when you create it, you know you’ve got something special,” says Richard.
Doug had a brother who also loved music. Ricky Phelps was a wandering soul, West Coast-type folkie who had a knack for bluegrass and a love of the Beatles.
“He had moved to Nashville to try his hand as a country songwriter/performer, and like the rest of us, wasn’t having much luck. I suggested he should ride up to Kentucky with me and jam with our band, the HeadHunters, for kicks,” says Doug.
“You know, Doug and Ricky had never really had a chance to sing together in a band. When he came up and jammed with us the first time and we put those brother harmonies together with our rock and roll music, the room literally went neon,” observed Richard.
“Ricky joined the band, and the very next month, we had a great opportunity presented to us to record in Acuff/Rose’s Hickory Records Studio. They were literally dismantling the studio around us, but we still managed to record a demo of “Walk Softly, ” “Dumas Walker” and “Oh Lonesome Me,” the latter being in recognition of all the help Wesley Rose had been to Richard over the years. After that, we started playing more and more gigs locally, but it was really our live radio broadcast, The Chitlin’ Show, on WLOC in Munfordville, KY, and the Practice House that brought it all together,” remembers Greg.
The Late 80′s
In the earlier part of 1988, the HeadHunters met a very interesting fellow by the name of Jonathan D. W. Lyle. He was a huge blues music fan and fell in love with the HeadHunters music. He had a history of helping struggling bands, and ended up giving us $4,500 to go into the studio and record our music. We booked time at the Sound Shop with Mike Bradley and had just enough money to record for three days. We recorded eight tracks and called it “Pickin’ On Nashville,” Doug remembers.
In late 1988, after much coaxing from Tom Long at ASCAP and song publisher Larry Shell, the HeadHunters agreed to do a record company showcase at Douglas Corner, a local Nashville hangout.
“Lee Roy Parnell was showcasing that night and we were a last minute tag on. After Lee Roy played, we sat up and kicked off with “Walk Softly on this Heart of Mine.” It was like someone had said…there’s a bomb in this place! The room cleared out in about two minutes, except for the sound man, waitresses, Tom, Larry, Harold Shedd and a few hangers-on,” remembers Richard. “Lee Roy later told us that when he heard us that night, he thought, ‘Oh my God, Heavy Metal Bluegrass!’” Greg recalls.
Harold was the President of Mercury Records and had a reputation and success record for taking chances on the unlikely. He called us the next day and said “we may be cooking hamburgers next year, but I’ve got to try this.” The HeadHunters signed with Mercury in July of 1989. We added the Kentucky part of our name at this point, because Herbie Hancock was already using it as a stand alone.
“Pickin’ On Nashville came out in October 1989. It blew up like an atom bomb, and changed our lives forever. The rest is history. Well, almost,” says Richard.
After the release of the HeadHunters’ second album Electric Barnyard, all hell broke loose. On June 2, 1992, Doug and Ricky Phelps left to start a duo career.
Longtime friend and cousin Anthony Kenney came to their rescue to play bass, and buddy Mark Orr was recruited for vocals. “It felt good to have Anthony back in the band, and we were proud to have a great blues rock singer like Mark Orr,” say Fred, Richard, and Greg.
Mark should have been one of those great Southern rock singers of the early ‘70s, but he missed the boat because of Vietnam. “When we were listening to the Beatles’ White Album in the Practice House, Mark was fighting on Hamburger Hill with the 101st Airborne Division,” says Fred.
During this time, the Kentucky HeadHunters returned to their blues-rock roots. They released two albums in 1993. The first entitled Rave On, on Mercury, and the critically acclaimed blues record That’ll Work on Elektra-Nonesuch, with legendary blues pianist and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Johnnie Johnson.
“Recording and playing with Johnnie Johnson has been one of the highlights of our musical journey. He was like your old uncle, laid-back and cool offstage, but when he sat down at the piano, he was in charge and anyone who ever played with him became a better musician.” said Richard Young.
In 1994 and 1995, there were a lot of changes in store for the HeadHunters. Mark Orr left the band, Harold Shedd left Mercury, Luke Lewis came in as president and, during this time, Mercury released a greatest hits package called Still Pickin.
“When Mark left, I called the Phelps boys and asked if they would like to make another go of it. You gotta love Ricky. He said ‘*’^* yeah! Let’s change the name and start all over!’ Now the HeadHunters have big balls, but I don’t think anyone (including Doug) wanted to risk losing the HeadHunters brand,” says Richard.
In the end, it was Doug who came back. He has and always will be our friend, band mate, and a team player. Ricky will always be our friend, and we love him for who he is.
In 1996, the HeadHunters were signed by Joe Galante at BNA in Nashville after hearing what they had been up to since Doug’s return. “Joe had always liked the HeadHunters and he had us record a song for Roy Roger’s last album early on. We will never forget him for that opportunity,” said Fred.
The BNA record was called Stompin’ Grounds. It was a trek back to the HeadHunters more country roots. Joe heard the record in his office and signed us on the spot. To set it up at radio, he and Connie Bradley at ASCAP got us on the New Faces Show. In 1989, we had blown the roof off of the place. We didn’t get the same reaction the second time around. “When we kicked in, it reminded us of Douglas Corner in 1988. If the doors had been locked, those radio folks would have knocked them down to get out! Joe walked up at the end and said ‘Boys, that’s one of the best shows I’ve ever seen.’ What a class act!”
In 2000 and 2003, the HeadHunters came back with two of their best ever. Grass String Ranch was a rebel rouser’s dream that saw the band dig deep into their Southern rock bag of tricks. Then came Soul, lauded by many to be the Heads at their best since Pickin’ On Nashville and That’ll Work. The record was an experiment to re-create the vibe, sound, and style of the early Muscle Shoals recordings. Once again, the rub of being from Kentucky created something all together different. Both records were on Koch Records.
2005 saw the release of Big Boss Man. Sony music’s Tom Long called us and asked if we would take the Sony catalog and “HeadHunterize” a bunch of classics for movie tracks. Once they heard it, they put it out as a record. “We had a lot of fun messing with all those old songs, and it was great working with Tom, who was first to discover our talents back in the ’70s,” said Fred.
In 2006, Flying Under the Radar was released. “This CD was a mixture of album cuts that we hoped would get a second chance to be heard, from the previous three CD releases. We’re glad we put the record out. A lot of folks come up and say, ‘Oh, I like this song or I like that song.’ That’s proof that if you put a great song on a record when the times and the way people are thinking are off, it will go right over their heads,” said Doug.
“Sometime around the first of 2009, we were riding down the road on the bus and got to talking about all those dusty recordings we had lying around. We’ve been recording since the early ’70s, and there are still a ton of things no one has heard. Then we got to thinking… what if all of a sudden, the bus grew wings and carried us all off somewhere, like heaven. No one but us would know where all those recordings are hidden. So we decided right then and there to get off our rumps and start putting them out for people to enjoy,” said Richard.
(Nashville, Tennessee) -- February 1, 2012 – Emotional Traffic, Tim McGraw’s much anticipated studio album debuts this week on Billboard’s Country Album chart at #1.
In hitting the top spot, Emotional Traffic carves a notch as McGraw’s 13th album package from Curb Records to top the charts at #1 in its first week of release. The new McGraw offering posted sales of over 67,000 units to best all competition in the brief span since its January 24 release date. The critically acclaimed album also landed at #2 on the Billboard Top 200 chart.
The latest McGraw release is also home to his current hit single, Better Than I Used To Be, which is currently #22 and on the rise on the Billboard Country Singles chart.His previous #1 single, Felt Good On My Lips, also included on the new package was certified digital gold just days prior to Emotional Traffic hitting the streets.
McGraw’s longtime producer, Byron Gallimore spoke recently to Associated Press entertainment writer Chris Talbott about the new release, noting: “We’re certainly happy with it and feel like it’s one of our best. We’ve got a great batch of songs on here, and I’m just excited that it’s getting out there…I feel very strongly about this record.”
With a remarkable dynasty of 32 #1 singles and 44 million units of music sold, Emotional Traffic launches 2012 as a good year for McGraw’s legions of fans.
About Tim McGraw:
The release of Emotional Traffic is a fresh reminder of the unparalleled superstar presence Tim McGraw has carved in the music industry since the 1994 impact of his first #1 single Don’t Take The Girl skyrocketed him to national visibility and instant stardom. His most recent hit single, Felt Good On My Lips continues the now three decade history of #1’s on Billboard charts. With over 9 million spins logged at radio, McGraw was deemed the “Artist of The Decade (2000-2010) by Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems. He was won multiple Grammy® Awards, 14 Academy of Country Music Awards, 11 CMA Awards, 10 American Music Awards, a trio of People’s Choice Awards and numerous other industry awards and accolades to varied to mention. His creativity has branched from music to acting—having starring roles in such films as the Oscar nominated blockbuster, The Blind Side (2009) and a breakthrough to major film in the 2004 release of the critically acclaimed Friday Night Lights.
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