The leveling off in the popularity of country music in the mid-‘90s seems to have been overemphasized by a couple of huge non-music companies who are betting a lot of money on it in the next year.
Alan Jackson announced his new role as a spokesman for Ford less than a week after spokespeople for Reba McEntire and Brooks & Dunn disclosed that their 1997 85-city tour will be sponsored by Mobil 1. This is the first time a music event has been sponsored by a major petroleum company.
And these two items came on the heels of a third: that Ronnie Dunn of Brooks & Dunn has just re-signed his songwriting contract with the huge Sony/ATV Tree music-publishing organization for an unspecified amount of money.
“There certainly were countless offers that cropped up from other companies, once the word spread that we were nearing the end of our contract,” Dunn says, “but we opted to … keep the catalog there to grow those songs as a legacy for our children and grandchildren.”
It is hard to presume that Dunn and his music would be worth “legacy”-type money if both weren’t highly popular, and Mobil 1 moguls obviously agree.
So Mobil 1 agreed to sponsor the mammoth McEntire/Brooks & Dunn road show that will open in Memphis Feb. 28 and haul 40 tons of equipment and a crew of 88 in 10 buses and 18 tractor-trailers.
The teaming of two acts of this stature, both of which have maintained their individual top-grossing tours for several years, is evidence of country music’s softening market, but it also should be noted that neither of these acts has worked on an enterprise as large as their combined ‘97 operations will be.
Brooks & Dunn rose to prominence partly as an opening act for McEntire, and the fact that they were inclined to rejoin her again as superstars happened because their “special relationship” allowed their staffs “to put this together without a lot of the barriers that normally exist,” according to Brooks & Dunn co-manager Bob Titley.
“There hasn’t been a time in the last decade in country music that two superstar (act)s have gone on tour together,” Titley goes on. “This represents a tremendous entertainment value for the fans.”
Alabama gets personal
The next album from Alabama will be the most personal in its 16-year, 18-album history, RCA spokespeople claim.
Titled “Dancin’ on the Boulevard,” 70 percent of the package has been written by the band itself, the most its members have written for any Alabama collection. Not that the group isn’t used to doing some of its own writing. The 18 previous albums have included 68 tunes written by band members.
The album is set for release in April.
Success ‘overwhelms’ Sharp
Twenty-five-year-old Kevin Sharp, the former cancer patient whose debut album, “Measure of a Man,” has yielded a hands-down hit in the single “Nobody Knows,” says he is so “overwhelmed” with the immediate success of his record that he feels as if all his dreams have already been achieved. He admits, however, that he has others.
He has, of course, visions of million-selling albums and more.
“I love acting and I want to be in a movie someday in a lead role,” discloses the singer, who spent some of his country music apprenticeship working in musical theater productions in the Northwest.
“I’ve always grown up loving the performing arts. I used to watch movies and the music they used for that, and how much it was a big part of that, so I’ve always, like, tied the two together. I think music’s more my passion and my love on an individual level, but I just love entertaining and escaping to play other roles. To get into other characters is real fun.”
A farm boy and former football player, Sharp spent most of his youth in northern California and Idaho.
Regina Regina steps out
Regina Regina, the new female duo made up of a couple of former Reba McEntire employees, “sounded like sisters” to Giant Records President James Stroud when they auditioned for Giant, Stroud recently told Billboard magazine.
“They matched vibratos, they matched their phrasing, their pitch was great. And they actually enjoyed singing with each other. They’re special.”
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