ON THE ROAD TO “THE LAST RODEO”

So I’ve spent the past three weeks working once again at Dick Clark Productions as a researcher on “ACM Presents Brooks & Dunn: The Last Rodeo.” This is a show in the mold of last year’s “Artist Of The Decade” tribute concert to George Strait, where the biggest stars in country music perform the songs of the honoree. This time out, producer RAC Clark has rounded up another great slate of artists to salute the career of Brooks & Dunn, including Carrie Underwood, Darius Rucker, Faith Hill, George Strait, Jason Aldean, Jennifer Hudson, Keith Urban, Kenny Chesney, Lady Antebellum, Miranda Lambert, Rascal Flatts, Sugarland, Taylor Swift, Tim McGraw and Reba McEntire. Many of the performers will also appear on the Academy of Country Music Awards, which will air live on CBS on April 18th. The Brooks & Dunn special will tape the following night and will be aired May 23rd. Because the George Strait show did so well in the ratings last year, CBS is placing “The Last Rodeo” in sweeps against tougher competition, the finale of “Lost.”

My main job on the show has been convincing the performers’ publicists to set up short phone interviews so I could talk to the artists about their memories of Brooks & Dunn and how they feel about the contribution the much awarded duo has made to country music. The show’s writer, Fred Bronson, would then take what I found out and use it to craft what each singer would say about Brooks & Dunn before performing. Naturally, while I talked to a few of the artists in the week leading up to when the script was due, I think due to the previous week being Easter week, quite a few of the performers came through with interviews on deadline day, making it a challenge for Fred to finish the script in time. He did though, and we got some great stories about the real Brooks & Dunn behind the scenes, who in addition to being great singers and songwriters are fun-loving guys who love to play practical jokes and are always helpful to new artists on their way up.

This year, I also agreed to help find the photos that will go in the background screens during various performances on the Academy of Country Music Awards. I’ve been tracking down photos of some illustrious country music couples as well as some country music legends, and while I won’t say exactly which performances they’re for, I will say that they should help create some strong emotional moments for the audience.

One thing you might not know about television is that every image used has to be “cleared.” That is, if you don’t own a photo or footage you want to use, you have to get permission from the owner and sometimes even pay a fee for usage. This can be a huge headache for the clearance department when there’s a lot to get cleared in a short time. I think this year it was easier for me to set up interviews with big stars like Tim McGraw than it was finding a useable photo of Johnny and June Carter Cash. Fortunately many of the photos I needed were of artists from Sony Music. Rather than approach the artists’ managers one by one, I took a chance that I could get all the photos I needed from the art department at Sony. They really came through for me, delivering everything I needed from them. I finished the photo side of the job on Friday when within five minutes of each other, both the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Hank Williams Museum sent me photos of Hank Williams. You probably could hear my sigh of relief wherever you were!

Tomorrow I depart for Las Vegas, where I will be based in the production office at the MGM Grand for the coming week. Hopefully all the work I completed prior to going will enable me to kick back and enjoy the rehearsals, meet the stars and get a few CD covers signed. I should also have some time to blog about what’s going on behind the scenes during the run-up to the Awards and “The Last Rodeo,” so check back during the week.

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