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Country Music Wraps 2005 On Strong Note

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NASHVILLE, TN. (Country Music Association/ - While the bulk of the music industry slumped with an across-the-board decline of 7.2 percent for music sales in 2005, Country Music finished stronger than every format except Latin, with a more modest 3.3 percent drop, according to figures released this week by Nielsen SoundScan.

"As an industry we face the same challenges as all musical formats, but in 2005, we had some advantages too," said Tammy Genovese, CMA Chief Operating Officer. "Country Music received a lot of national attention with Carrie Underwood winning 'American Idol,' the Johnny Cash biopic 'Walk the Line' hitting movie theaters, network television specials for Kenny Chesney and Faith Hill, and of course the CMA Awards one-time visit to New York City. With all of these important factors impacting the marketplace right before our fourth quarter sales season, we were able to carry that momentum through the end of the year."

In fact, sales of Top Current Country Albums were strong in the holiday sales period (the last six weeks of 2005), finishing ahead of the same period in 2004 by 8 percent, while sales of the Top 200 Current Albums fell 16 percent, according to Nielsen SoundScan's annual tally.

During the busiest retail week of the year (Dec. 19-25), 11 Country albums scanned more than 100,000 units each including Carrie Underwood (400,625); Kenny Chesney (268,898); The Legend of Johnny Cash (177,548); Rascal Flatts (172,369); Faith Hill (145,498); Trace Adkins (134,157); Reba McEntire (124,086); Keith Urban (122,780); Martina McBride (121,099); Big & Rich (119,323); and Sugarland (117,476). Gretchen Wilson was close behind with 98,366.

Overall, the number of albums sold in 2005 was 75.3 million down from 77.9 million in 2004, but Country's market share increased in 2005 from 11.69 to 12.7 percent. Frustrating the number watchers is the fact that Garth Brooks' box set, which was sold exclusively at Wal-Mart, was not included in the Nielsen SoundScan count. The retail giant has said that more than a million copies have been sold, but estimates place that figure as high as 2.5 million.

"If those numbers had been included in the final SoundScan figures, we would have ended the year on the positive side of the equation," Genovese said. "Still, Country Music held its own during a very tumultuous period for the music industry. The creative depth of our artistic community, loyalty of our fan base and the breakthrough success of some of our bright new talent all contributed to this achievement."

Contributing to those gains in 2005, was a diverse slate of performers representing the broad terrain of the format from newcomers Underwood and Sugarland to legacy artist Cash; cross-over superstar Faith Hill to one of the premiere entertainers in the industry Kenny Chesney; Toby Keith, who continued to sell strong in 2005, to trio Rascal Flatts, who broke into the upper sales ranks across all formats for the first time. The trio's album Feels Like Today sold 2,511,209 units in 2005, claiming the No. 7 best selling album of the year spot among all genres.

"The diversity of these performers illustrates the strength and future potential of the genre," Genovese said. "Country Music is strong as a format, when you have artists at virtually every phase of their careers selling albums at this pace."

Album Sales

- The Top 10 Country albums of 2005, according to Nielsen SoundScan (Dec. 28, 2005 YTD):

Top 10 Country Albums (in millions)
1. Feels Like Today, Rascal Flatts 2.5 million
2. The Road & The Radio, Kenny Chesney 1.8 million
3. Be Here, Keith Urban 1.7 million
4. Some Hearts, Carrie Underwood 1.6 million
5. Fireflies, Faith Hill 1.5 million
6. Twice The Speed of Life, Sugarland 1.5 million
7. Honkytonk University, Toby Keith 1.4 million
8. Here for the Party, Gretchen Wilson 1.2 million
9. Be As You Are, Kenny Chesney 1.1 million
10. Vol. 2 Greatest Hits, Toby Keith 1.0 million

- Albums making simultaneous No. 1 debuts on the Billboard 200 and Country Albums Charts in 2005 included Kenny Chesney's Be As You Are and The Road and the Radio; Faith Hill's Fireflies; George Strait's Somewhere Down in Texas; and Gretchen Wilson's All Jacked Up.

- Garth Brooks released Garth Brooks: The Limited Series box set exclusively at Wal-Mart and Sam's Club locations on Nov. 25. Wal-Mart announced the box set sold more than 500,000 copies on its first day of release, making it the top-selling musical component in Wal-Mart history. In the second week after its release, Wal-Mart announced the box set had sold more than one million copies. RIAA has not yet announced a certification of these sales. These sales are also not reflected in the Nielsen SoundScan figures.

- Country female newcomers Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood made their mark in 2005. Lambert's debut album Kerosene and Underwood's Some Hearts both entered the Billboard Country Albums Chart at No. 1. At the end of 2005, Lambert got her Christmas wish when her album went Gold. Underwood's album sold 314,000 units in its first week, making it the biggest first week sales of a debut album by a new Country artist in Nielsen SoundScan history. The album was certified Gold after only two weeks in stores, and was certified Platinum soon after. Underwood's album continued to be a strong seller throughout the holiday sales period and into the new year, with more RIAA certifications sure to follow in 2006.

RIAA Album Sales Certifications

- The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certified 35 Gold, 22 Platinum and 15 multi-Platinum (including 1 Diamond) Country albums. Gold indicates sales of 500,000 units; Platinum indicates sales of 1 million units; multi-Platinum is 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.

- The legendary Patsy Cline's Greatest Hits album received the Diamond award for reaching 10 million units sold in 2005. After more than 40 years, the Country Music Hall of Fame member's music continues to inspire and entertain new generations of fans.

- Big & Rich (Horse of a Different Color) received their first multi-Platinum album certification in 2005, selling over 2 million albums. Dierks Bentley (Dierks Bentley); Chris LeDoux (20 Greatest Hits); Sugarland (Twice The Speed Of Life); and Carrie Underwood (Some Hearts) received their first Platinum album certifications in 2005. Jason Aldean (Jason Aldean); Rodney Carrington (Greatest Hits); Josh Gracin (Josh Gracin); Miranda Lambert (Kerosene); Sugarland (Twice The Speed Of Life); and Carrie Underwood (Some Hearts) received their first Gold album certifications in 2005.

- In 2004, RIAA launched the Digital Sales Awards, reflecting sales of singles downloaded from legal online music sites. RIAA Digital Gold Sales Awards were given to 34 Country singles and a Platinum Sales Award went to six singles in 2005. Single tracks are awarded Gold (100,000 downloads), Platinum (200,000) and multi-Platinum (400,000+) certifications. Platinum Digital Sales certifications went to Big & Rich's "Save A Horse, Ride A Cowboy;" Tim McGraw's "Live Like You Were Dying;" Rascal Flatts' "Bless The Broken Road;" Keith Urban's "You'll Think Of Me;" Gretchen Wilson's "Redneck Woman;" and Lee Ann Womack's "I Hope You Dance."

- In addition, the RIAA certified five Gold (50,000 units sold) and four Platinum (100,000 units sold) Country longform videos. Platinum Country longform videos included Trace Adkins (Video Hits); Big & Rich (Super Galactic Fan Pack); and Keith Urban (Video Hits and Livin' Right Now).
- For more information on album, single and video certifications, visit the searchable database on

Touring Events
- Listed below are the Top 10 all-genre tours and the Top 10 Country tours based on attendance, according to Pollstar magazine for shows played between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2005:

ALL GENRE TOP 10 (attendance)
1. U2 1,432,890
2. Dave Matthews Band 1,211,430
3. The Rolling Stones 1,209,429
4. Kenny Chesney 1,131,326
5. Green Day 912,843
6. Rascal Flatts 807,899
7. Motley Crue 791,591
8. Neil Diamond 750,210
9. Eagles 725,598
10. "Vans Warped Tour" 717,736

COUNTRY TOP 10 (attendance)
1. Kenny Chesney 1,131,326
2. Rascal Flatts 807,899
3. Toby Keith 684,968
4. Jimmy Buffett 536,391
5. Keith Urban 515,596
6. Brooks & Dunn 489,239
7. Brad Paisley 362,341
8. Alison Krauss and Union Station Featuring Jerry Douglas 292,217
9. George Strait 261,322
10. Alan Jackson 247,202

- Some of Country's hottest stars teamed up on the road in 2005. Reba McEntire, Terri Clark and Brad Paisley had the "Two Hats and a Redhead Tour;" Brooks & Dunn hooked up with other high-energy duos Big & Rich and the Warren Brothers for the "Deuces Wild Tour;" Kenny Chesney invited Gretchen Wilson, Keith Urban, Uncle Kracker and Pat Green on his "Somewhere in the Sun Tour;" and Alan Jackson and Sara Evans collaborated on the "What I Do Tour." Urban headlined his own tour, "Livin' Right Now," with Little Big Town and Miranda Lambert. Toby Keith invited Lee Ann Womack and Shooter Jennings on his "Big Throwdown II Tour." Rascal Flatts and Blake Shelton and Shelly Fairchild performed on the "Here's To You Tour."

CMA Music Festival
Country Music's Biggest Party

- In 2005, CMA Music Festival broke attendance records with 145,355 people attending "Country Music's Biggest Party," June 9-12 in Downtown Nashville. Though persistent showers from a tropical storm drenched many of the venues, the fans still came out in force, dancing, singing and clapping along to more than 50 hours of music. Thirty-five acts appeared in the Nightly Concerts at The Coliseum including Trace Adkins, Dierks Bentley, Big & Rich, Sara Evans, Alan Jackson, Miranda Lambert, Jo Dee Messina, Dolly Parton and The Grascals, Rascal Flatts, Kenny Rogers, Blake Shelton, Sugarland, Travis Tritt, Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, Gretchen Wilson, Lee Ann Womack, Wynonna, Trisha Yearwood and more. Montgomery Gentry kicked off the Festival at the Greased Lightning Daytime Stages with a rousing performance before thousands of fans. The riverfront dual stages bustled with a rich array of more than 100 acts from major and independent labels. The Wrangler Fan Fair (Exhibit Hall) was once again a hit with fans seeking that much- coveted autograph.

- 2006 CMA Music Festival will take place Thursday through Sunday, June 8-11, in Downtown Nashville and tickets are available now. To order tickets for the 2006 CMA Music Festival call 1-800-CMA-FEST (262-3378); visit to download an order form to fax or mail; visit to buy online or charge-by-phone at (615) 255-9600. Prices do not include applicable handling fees. Ticket prices are subject to change without notice. All sales are final and non-refundable.

- For the second year, the CMA Music Festival was filmed for a two-hour, primetime television special that aired Aug. 2 on the ABC Television Network. The special was produced by Robert Deaton and directed by Gary Halvorson.

CMA Awards
Country Music's Biggest Night

- "Country Music's Biggest Night" took a trip outside of Nashville for the first time in history. The gala event, hosted by duo Brooks & Dunn, was broadcast live from Madison Square Garden in New York City. A week of events, dubbed "Country Takes NYC," lead up to the Nov. 15 broadcast with special theme days that featured concerts, fashion shows, art gallery openings, sports events and more.

- "The 39th Annual CMA Awards" took a bite out of the Big Apple and the competition, giving CBS Television network a nightly win in viewers and key demographics. The CMA Awards was first in households (11.1/17), viewers (17.73m), adults 18-49 (5.4/13) and adults 25-54 (6.7/15). "The 39th Annual CMA Awards" was Tuesday's No. 1 program in households, viewers and adults 25-54. CBS Research estimates more than 36 million viewers watched all or part of the ceremony. CBS posted season high Tuesday deliveries in viewers and key demographics with the Network's best Tuesday ratings in adults 18-49 since May 10, 2005 and its best Tuesday performance in viewers and adults 25-54 since Nov. 9, 2004 (also the CMA Awards).

- Lee Ann Womack and Keith Urban were the big winners at the 2005 CMA Awards. Womack won Single, Album and Musical Event of the Year honors and Urban received his first Entertainer of the Year trophy and his second consecutive Male Vocalist of the Year Award. Gretchen Wilson won her first Female Vocalist of the Year Award and Dierks Bentley took home the Horizon Award. During the broadcast, Alabama, the late DeFord Bailey and Glen Campbell were formally inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

- With 23 performances, the 2005 CMA Awards certainly lived up to its reputation as "Country Music's Biggest Night." Performance highlights included duets by Elton John and Dolly Parton; Paul Simon and Willie Nelson (accompanied by Norah Jones); and Bon Jovi with Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland. Country superstar Garth Brooks came out of retirement to perform "Good Ride Cowboy," his tribute to the late Chris LeDoux, live in Times Square. LeDoux received the CMA Chairman's Award of Merit. CMA Board Chairman Kix Brooks presented the Award LeDoux's sons backstage following the show.

- For the first time, Joan and Melissa Rivers covered arrivals on the CMA Awards Red Carpet live on the TV Guide Channel.

- CMA and the ABC Television Network announced in 2005 that the CMA Awards will move to ABC beginning in November 2006, as the CMA Awards celebrates its 40th Anniversary. "The 40th Annual CMA Awards" will be broadcast live from the Gaylord Entertainment Center in Nashville, Tenn. The deal will keep the CMA Awards on ABC through 2012.

Country Radio

- Country radio is still on top as the most dominant radio genre in 2005 with 2,043 stations across the U.S., according to Inside Radio/M Street.

- For the Spring and Summer ratings period, Country stations had the largest share of national listeners 12 and older since Fall 1999, according to Arbitron's American Radio Listening Trends Format Report.

- Billboard's Top Five Hot Country Songs included: No. 1-Craig Morgan, "That's What I Love About Sunday;" No. 2-Toby Keith, "As Good As I Once Was;" No. 3-Rascal Flatts, "Bless The Broken Road;" No. 4-Sugarland, "Something More;" No. 5-Rascal Flatts, "Fast Cars And Freedom."

- Radio & Records' Most Heard of 2005 included: No. 1-Craig Morgan, "That's What I Love About Sunday;" No 2-Rascal Flatts, "Bless The Broken Road;" No. 3-Josh Gracin, "Nothin' To Lose;" No. 4-Sugarland, "Baby Girl;" No. 5-Rascal Flatts, "Fast Cars and Freedom."


- Kenny Chesney and Faith Hill had concert specials on the day before Thanksgiving, though on different networks and different time slots. "Kenny Chesney: Somewhere in the Sun" aired on ABC and helped the network to a second place finish for the night with a 5.2/9 rating/share. "Faith Hill: Fireflies" pulled 4.4/7 rating/share for NBC. Willie Nelson and Big & Rich performed for American troops overseas on the ABC special "Nick & Jessica's Tour of Duty" with Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson. Gretchen Wilson, Big & Rich and Cowboy Troy celebrated Independence Day on the "Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular" on CBS. Trace Adkins saluted America's veterans on PBS' "National Memorial Day Concert." Carrie Underwood performed on NBC's "Christmas at Rockefeller Center." CBS aired a special dedicated to the late Johnny Cash, "I Walk the Line: A Night For Johnny Cash," which included performances by Sheryl Crow, Foo Fighters, Shooter Jennings and Jessi Colter, Norah Jones, Kid Rock, Alison Krauss, Kris Kristofferson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Martina McBride, Brad Paisley, U2 and Dwight Yoakam. Gretchen Wilson performed with her hero Charlie Daniels on the Super Bowl pre-show entitled "Bridging the Generations." Blake Shelton played himself and performed his hit single "Nobody But Me" on the CBS movie special "The Christmas Blessing." Sugarland rang in the New Year on NBC's "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve." Josh Gracin and SHeDAISY performed on NBC's "Capital One Holiday Celebration on Ice." Billy Ray Cyrus starred alongside his daughter in the Disney Channel movie "Hannah Montana." Josh Gracin, SHeDAISY and Rhonda Vincent performed on the Christmas-themed "Capital One Holiday Celebration on Ice" on NBC. Lonestar performed on "The 22nd Annual Christmas Day Parade" on ABC.

- Country Music was represented in a big way on the two top-rated morning shows in the nation. Julie Roberts recorded the theme song "Good To Go" and appeared in the promos for ABC's "Good Morning America." Phil Vassar's song "Live For Today" was used on NBC's "Today" for its special series Live For Today that aired in May.

- Hank Williams Jr. celebrated his 16th and final year singing the theme song for ABC's "Monday Night Football." Tim McGraw inked another season-long deal with the football program to use McGraw's popular song "I Like It, I Love It."

- Reality shows dominated the airwaves in 2005 and Country artists had their fair share of appearances. Rascal Flatts appeared on "American Idol" on FOX to sing "Bless the Broken Road" with eventual winner Carrie Underwood, making them the first Country act to appear on the popular series. LeAnn Rimes took over hosting duties for USA Network's third season of "Nashville Star" with Phil Vassar, Bret Michaels and Anastasia Brown as judges. Winner Erika Jo released her debut album on Universal South Records. Fans got to see behind the scenes of two of Country's hottest acts, Gretchen Wilson and Big & Rich, in CMT's "MuzikMafia TV." Amy Grant hosted "Three Wishes," a new show on NBC that grants wishes to deserving people. New group Ryan Shupe & the RubberBand's song "Dream Big" was featured in promos for "Three Wishes" and Craig Morgan performed on an episode. Tanya Tucker starred in her own reality show "Tuckerville" on TLC. Aaron Tippin appeared on TLC's "Trading Spaces." Martina McBride, Brad Paisley, Mark Wills and Trisha Yearwood each taped episodes on ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." LeAnn Rimes performed the theme song and appeared on an episode of GSN's equestrian challenge "American Dream Derby." Naomi Judd signed on as host of "Naomi's New Morning," a weekly variety series on the Hallmark Channel.

- Some Country stars showed off their humorous sides in sitcoms in 2005. Wynonna played a New York socialite in ABC's "Hope & Faith" and Dolly Parton appeared as a real estate agent in "Reba" on The WB. Montgomery Gentry, Trace Adkins and Van Zant made cameos on The WB's "Blue Collar TV." Adkins also appeared as himself on NBC's "My Name Is Earl." Clint Black guest starred on an episode of ABC's "Hot Properties."

- Kids shows had a Country sound with Alison Krauss and Union Station visiting "Sesame Street" and Trace Adkins guest starring on The Disney Channel's "Higglytown Heroes."

- Charity always brings out Country's biggest hearts. Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Keith Urban and Toby Keith were part of Bob Geldoff's multi- city "Live 8" benefit concerts to raise awareness about global poverty.

- Big & Rich appeared on the NBC drama "Las Vegas." In the soap opera department, Blue County appeared on "As the World Turns" and Trick Pony took a turn on "Days of our Lives."

Commercials / Advertisements / Business Ventures

- Country artists are throwing their hats into the clothing arena. Reba McEntire teamed up with Dillard's to launch her own clothing line aptly called Reba. George Strait lent his name to Wrangler for a line of jeans and shirts called The George Strait Collection. Keith Urban joined pop stars Joss Stone and Liz Phair for a GAP jeans ad campaign called "Favorites." Urban also recorded his song "Most People I Know Think I'm Crazy" for television ads and an exclusive CD only available in GAP stores. Carrie Underwood appeared in print ads for Sketchers shoes.

- Martina McBride and LeAnn Rimes were immortalized in plastic when Mattel introduced a line of Barbie dolls sculpted in the Country ladies' images.

- Phil Vassar appeared in commercials for Prilosec OTC. "American Idol" winner Carrie Underwood appeared in a series of commercials for Hershey's, singing classic jingles. Gretchen Wilson signed a huge endorsement deal with Chevy to appear in commercials nationwide. Garth Brooks and Martina McBride appeared in holiday-themed commercials for Wal-Mart. Brooks inked a deal earlier in the year to distribute his music exclusively through Wal-Mart, which included a limited edition box set of Brooks' music. Target featured commercials for holiday wake-up calls from Brad Paisley and other celebrities. Charlie Daniels, Sara Evans and Alison Krauss teamed up with Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores to distribute exclusive CDs only available in Cracker Barrel stores. Martina McBride teamed up with Hallmark Gold Crown Stores to distribute the exclusive CD My Heart. Toby Keith continued to appear in Ford truck commercials.

- Country was the music of choice for companies connecting to their audiences. Terri Clark recorded a new song, "Better In A Dodge," for Dodge truck commercials. Trent Willmon's "Home Sweet Holiday Inn" was used by the hotel chain for its television ads. Joe Diffie rerecorded his hit "Pickup Man" for Applebee's Carside-To-Go advertising campaign. Darryl Worley recorded a new song, "I Found Love In A K-Mart Store" for the retailer's television ads. Collin Raye was the singing voice for one of the Fruit of the Loom characters in the garment maker's commercials.

- Investment opportunities for Country artists continued to grow in 2005. Toby Keith opened I Love This Bar & Grill restaurants in Las Vegas and Oklahoma City and also introduced his own line of marinades and spices. Keith also started his own record label Show Dog Records, which will distribute Keith's music as well as other Country acts. John Michael Montgomery also opened a restaurant, John Michael's Hometown Bar & Grill in Nicholasville, Ky. Willie Nelson started a company called Willie Nelson's Biodiesel that will market a new environmentally friendly truck and bus fuel made from vegetable oils. Tim McGraw became part owner of Arena Football League team the Nashville Kats and appeared in local commercials for the team. Darryl Worley opened Darryl Worley Home Furnishings in Enterprise, Ala., selling flooring, furniture, appliances and more. Neal McCoy started his own record label, 903 Music. Marty Stuart also delved into the record label business, opening Superlatone Records.

- Corporate sponsors lined up to sign Country stars to endorsement deals in 2005. Shania Twain released a new fragrance, Shania by Stetson. Trace Adkins teamed up with Waffle House restaurants for a multi-city contest where fans got to meet Adkins at a local Waffle House where he shared his favorite meal and even flipped an egg or two. Steve Azar signed a deal with ExxonMobil to sponsor his tour through 2006. Sonny Burgess signed endorsement deals with Bailey Hats and Wrangler. Swiss watch company Tissot signed Brad Paisley to expand awareness of its line of sports watches in the U.S. Dorfman Pacific and the Milano Hat Company signed Toby Keith to a three-year deal for a signature line of headwear.

Motion Pictures

- The silver screen saw the return of a redheaded stranger when Willie Nelson played Uncle Jesse in the big screen version of "Dukes of Hazzard," also starring Jessica Simpson, Burt Reynolds and Johnny Knoxville. Junior Brown narrated the movie. Tim McGraw signed on to star in a remake of "My Friend Flicka" while his acting debut in the Rick Schroder film "Black Cloud" was released nationally in 2005. Dolly Parton made a cameo playing herself in "Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous" with Sandra Bullock. "Walk the Line," a biopic about the early years of Johnny Cash and June Carter starred Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon and co-starred Country artists Shelby Lynne as Cash's mother, Shooter Jennings as his young father Waylon Jennings, and Waylon Payne as Jerry Lee Lewis. Kris Kristofferson starred in "Dreamer: Inspired By A True Story," also starring Dakota Fanning and Kurt Russell and "The Jacket," starring Adrian Brody and Keira Knightly. Dwight Yoakam starred in the Tommy Lee Jones-directed "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada" and had a short cameo in "The Wedding Crashers." Mark Collie continued to add to his acting credits, appearing in "Lost Lake." Deans Sams of Lonestar appeared in his first independent film, "Drone Virus." Blake Shelton will appear in the upcoming movie "The Red Knot."

Musicals and Plays

- The League of American Theatres and Producers, Inc. and CMA brought Broadway's elite together with some of Country Music's biggest stars for "Broadway Meets Country" at the Frederick P. Rose Hall, Home of Jazz at Lincoln Center during "Country Takes NYC" week leading up to the 2005 CMA Awards. Performers included Broadway's Jason Danieley, Renee Elise Goldsberry, Adriane Lenox, Marin Mazzie, Andrea McArdle, Brian Stokes Mitchell, James Naughton, Marian Seldes, Ben Vereen and Patrick Wilson. Country stars included Trace Adkins, Glen Campbell, Billy Currington, Raul Malo, Neal McCoy, Richie McDonald of Lonestar, Jamie O'Neal, Julie Roberts, Carrie Underwood, Lee Ann Womack and Trisha Yearwood.

- Dolly Parton is planning her first musical on Broadway, an adaptation of the hit workplace satire "9 to 5." Parton is writing 10 new songs for the musical, but will not appear onstage. "Ring of Fire," a musical about the life of Johnny Cash, is set to begin on Broadway in 2006 and stars Lari White. Carlene Carter starred in the Nashville and New York productions of "Wildwood Flowers," a musical about the original Carter Family. Billy Ray Cyrus played Frank Butler in a Toronto production of "Annie Get Your Gun." Billy Currington joined a star-studded collection of performers taking part in the fourth annual "Broadway Under The Stars" event, which marked the start of New York City's summer outdoor cultural season. Sherrie Austin starred in Broadway's "The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde." Mandy Barnett, Kathy Mattea, Jeannie Seely and Pam Tillis appeared in a Nashville production of the off-Broadway play "The Vagina Monologues."

Armed Forces Shows

- The Grand Ole Opry partnered with the U.S. Department of Defense's "America Supports You," a nationwide program to showcase and communicate America's support to the men and women in the armed forces. Through the partnership, "Grand Ole Opry Live" was made available to troops around the world through the Armed Services Network.

- "The Spirit of America Tour" featured more than 20 shows with artists including the Oak Ridge Boys, Miranda Lambert, the Charlie Daniels Band, Pam Tillis, Buddy Jewell, Cowboy Crush, The Bellamy Brothers, Little Texas, Dierks Bentley, Cross Canadian Ragweed, Joe Diffie and more performing for U.S. troops stations overseas.

- Stars for Stripes events took celebrity entertainment into the remote areas to perform for the troops. Participants this year included Bellamy Brothers, Charlie Daniels, Jolie Edwards, Aaron Tippin, Trick Pony, Mark Wills and Chely Wright and more.

- Ty England, Toby Keith, Neal McCoy and Rascal Flatts participated in USO Tours this year.

- Clint Black performed a special concert for the troops stationed at Fort Campbell, Ky. and was made an Honorary Member Of The 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and Fort Campbell Screaming Eagles. Craig Morgan and Keni Thomas performed at the first annual "America Supports You" concert in Washington, D.C. Former U.S. soldier Bobby Pinson performed at military bases in Texas and North Carolina. Josh Gracin performed at Washington, D.C.'s Ford Theater in a special that honored American troops. Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran Luke Stricklin performed at various military bases throughout the country.

- The American Freedom Festival, organized by the American Freedom Foundation Inc. in New York on Veterans Day as part of CMA's "Country Takes NYC" activities, featured performances by Charlie Daniels, Keni Thomas, Mark Wills, Darryl Worley and more, raising money and awareness for the veterans of America's armed forces and their families, whose lives have been affected by Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Tsunami / Hurricane Relief

On Dec. 26, 2004, one of the biggest tsunamis in history killed more than 160,000 people in South Asia. People all around the world chipped in to help, including many in the Country Music community.

- Kenny Chesney performed on the NBC special "Tsunami Aid: A Concert of Hope," with music downloads available of the performances with all proceeds going to the Red Cross. In Nashville, Kathy Mattea and Michael W. Smith hosted a benefit called "An Evening for Restoration: Music City Comes Together For Tsunami Relief," which raised more than $50,000 for World Vision. Diamond Rio, Crystal Gayle, Vince Gill, Lee Greenwood, the Oak Ridge Boys and Ricky Skaggs were among the performers. In Texas, Pat Green, Jack Ingram and Jerry Jeff Walker hosted a benefit. Willie Nelson's benefit concert, which featured Joe Ely, Patty Griffin, Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks, Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis, was released as a CD and DVD with proceeds going to C.A.R.E. and UNICEF.

Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast of the United States in late August 2005, killing thousands of people and displacing more than a million others from their homes in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. Less than a month later, Hurricane Rita hit the Gulf again, effecting people in Texas and parts of Louisiana. Country artists and organizations sprung into action, donating money, supplies and comfort to those people whose lives were turned upside down by the disaster.

- The terrible suffering and loss left in the wake of Hurricane Katrina compelled CMA's Board of Directors to double the amount of funds donated as part of CMA's "Cause for Celebration!" charitable benefit program with half of the money going to The Salvation Army to aid in the relief effort. CMA donated $200,000 to The Salvation Army on behalf of the artists who participated in 2005 CMA Music Festival in addition to the $200,000 earmarked to give to charities designated by the artists.

- Garth Brooks, the Dixie Chicks and Trisha Yearwood performed while Reba McEntire helped answer phones on the cross-network fundraiser "Shelter From the Storm: A Concert for the Gulf Coast" to benefit victims of hurricanes that ravaged the Gulf Coast. Faith Hill, Tim McGraw and Willie Nelson appeared on NBC's "A Concert for Hurricane Relief." Another hurricane relief concert, "ReAct Now: Music and Relief," which aired on CMT, MTV and VH1, featured performances by Big & Rich, Emmylou Harris, Alan Jackson and Sugarland.

- Faith Hill visited Gulfport, Miss., one of the hardest hit areas from Hurricane Katrina, to help distribute supplies that she bought for victims. Jo Dee Messina and her band loaded supplies in their tour trucks and drove down to Louisiana to unload relief supplies and food. Brooks & Dunn sent two of their semi trucks down to Jackson, Miss., loaded with relief supplies. Charley Pride directly helped 40 families displaced by Hurricane Katrina by buying them everyday necessities.

- Darryl Worley contributed $50,000 from the proceeds of his annual "Tennessee River Run" to the American Red Cross. Lane Brody included animal victims of the hurricanes as beneficiaries from her annual benefit for Walden's Puddle. Montgomery Gentry urged their fans to contribute all they could to help hurricane victims and even donated all of the proceeds from fan club memberships to the Red Cross. Keith Urban donated proceeds from the theater events at 85 screens nationwide of his "Livin' Right Now" concert DVD to the Red Cross. Travis Tritt donated $10,000 from his performance at the Silver Star Casino to hurricane victims. The Recording Academy's MusiCares Foundation pledged an initial donation of $1 million to help musicians whose lives were uprooted by Hurricane Katrina. Cupit Records set up a Web site for people to contribute funds to specific families in need. Hank Williams, Jr. donated $125,000 from a concert at Pearl River Resort to hurricane relief efforts in Biloxi, Miss. Aaron Tippin urged his fans to give generously to hurricane victims at his concerts and gave all donated monies to the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund. Alan Jackson donated proceeds from several of his concerts to Katrina relief organizations. Jeff Bates donated $25,000 from a benefit concert in Mississippi to the Salvation Army. Broken Bow Records donated $1 from each CD sold on their imprint through the end of 2005 to the Red Cross. Farm Aid, headed by Willie Nelson, raised money for the Family Farm Disaster Fund to aid farmers in the hardest hit areas get their lives back together.

- The Grand Ole Opry hosted "Country Reaches Out: An Opry Benefit for the American Red Cross" live on GAC with performers including Terri Clark, Billy Currington, Little Jimmy Dickens, Alan Jackson, Alison Krauss, Craig Morgan, LeAnn Rimes, Julie Roberts, Marty Stuart, Keith Urban, and more. Phil Vassar and Shelly Fairchild performed at "One Country, One Night" for the Red Cross in Kansas City. Buddy Jewell performed a benefit concert at Sam's Town Casino in Tunica, Miss. with proceeds going to the Central Mississippi chapter of the Red Cross. Carrie Underwood headlined a benefit concert with her "American Idol" castmates with proceeds from ticket sales and merchandise going to the Red Cross and the Humane Society of the United States to help pets stranded in the disaster. The Music City Jam, held at the Expo Center at Music Valley Drive in Nashville, raised nearly $5,000 for the Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief Center with performers including Cowboy Crush, Todd Fritsch, Hilljack, Daniel Lee Martin, Lila McCann, Kevin Sharp and more. Alabama performed a free concert in their native state for all evacuees from the storm. Gretchen Wilson and Big & Rich added a date to their tour with all proceeds going to victims.


- Dierks Bentley was surprised at a show in California by Marty Stuart who told Bentley that he was being inducted as the newest, and youngest, member of the Grand Ole Opry. Country Music Hall of Fame member Dolly Parton received the National Medal of Arts from President George W. Bush. Shania Twain received Canada's highest civilian honor, the Order of Canada, which was established to recognize the lifetime contributions made by Canadians who made a major difference to Canada.

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