Archive for the ‘George Strait’ Category

BACKSTAGE AT THE “GEORGE STRAIT: ACM ARTIST OF THE DECADE ALL STAR CONCERT”

May 27, 2009

In less than 24 hours, CBS will broadcast the “George Strait: ACM Artist Of The Decade All Star Concert,” which I worked on all through March until the concert was taped on April 6th.

As the researcher on the show, I had a number of duties. The first thing I did when I got the job was learning about the life of George Strait and developing fact sheets about each of the songs the performers would be singing. This task was helped along by the fact I still had the 72 page booklet that was included in George’s box set, “Strait Out Of The Box.” The book had George’s thoughts on all the songs in the 4 CD set, as well as a year by year chronology of George’s life, and it really came in handy when I wrote up some questions that George was asked during an interview at his ranch for the show.

Another job I had was gathering materials like photos and videos that would be used in the montages saluting the past ACM Artist Of The Decade winners. The producers also needed extra photos of those previous winners to project behind the performers who were singing their songs during the concert. Garth Brooks sent us plenty of exciting concert footage, so I was easily able to check him off my list. Alabama was a little trickier. Since they are no longer an active group, RCA Records donated all their memorabilia to the Country Music Hall Of Fame, so there wasn’t much available. Fortunately, Dick Clark Productions had featured Alabama many times on their shows and had even produced a one hour special about the group, so in the end, we found what we needed. As for Loretta Lynn, her tour manager Jim Hill was a huge help, sending us plenty of great photos from throughout Loretta’s life. I also enjoyed researching the life of Marty Robbins, in which I was helped by Marty’s son, Ronny, who came through again and again for us. Not only did he send us some great photos, but he was able to identify some footage of Marty we wanted to use. It turned out to be from a show that Ronny himself owned!

My most important task on the All Star Concert was also the most fun (at least until we got to Las Vegas during the week of the show itself!). The show’s writer, Fred Bronson, asked me to try to get phone interviews with all of the artists performing on the show to find out what George Strait and his music meant to them, as well as why they picked the song they were performing. Now while in the past I’ve worked for months to get an interview with a single rock singer, I talked to just about every artist I needed within a week of starting to arrange the interviews. Those that couldn’t find time in their schedules or were overseas that week sent e-mailed replies to my list of questions. This is a tribute to the stars of country music, their accessibility and their work ethic. I especially want to single out Kix Brooks of Brooks & Dunn who left his sickbed to call me and Blake Shelton who told me some very funny stories and was hilarious in a self depreciating way.

Fred tried to stick as close as he could to what the stars told me during their interviews. In fact, once we got to Vegas and started rehearsals, Taylor Swift couldn’t believe how Fred captured her admiration of George, at least until Fred pointed out to her that he just used what she had said in her interview with me, whcih caused Taylor to come over and give me a hug.

While the rehearsals for the ACMA’s went on in the Grand Garden Arena, the performers that were also on our show came by to rehearse in a huge ballroom across the street. I thought it was funny that while fans had staked out the entrances to the Arena in an effort to meet their favorite stars, no one knew about our rehearsals so there were no fans hanging out around the ballroom where they could have easily spoken to a long list of country superstars. Wait, I take that back. There was one fan getting autographs: me! I was well prepared, having brought a tall stack of booklets from the various Greatest Hits CD’s in my collection and was rewarded with signatures from Dierks Bentley, Keith Urban, Montgomery Gentry, Taylor Swift, Toby Keith and Lee Ann Womack.

Unlike on the Awards where all the singers played with their touring bands, each performer on our show (with the exception of George Strait) was backed by a house band, which had set up their instruments in a corner of the ballroom. It was exciting to see the singers come in one by one and communicate what they wanted their song to sound like. Some just ran through the song once or twice and were satisfied, while others experimented with tempos and sound.

There was one sad moment during the rehearsals. While Alan Jackson was rehearsing “The Fireman,” he asked who had chosen to perform my favorite George Strait song, “The Chair.” The answer was no one, and Alan said he’d wished he’d known because he would have sung that. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, those long legs of Alan’s carried him out of the ballroom before I was able to ask him for an autograph! Still, I’m not going to hold it against him. In fact, during the actual concert, I was up and dancing while Alan was onstage and the cameraman in the audience took a shot of me, so hopefully you’ll see me if you watch the show. I’m the bald man in black…

While the stars you’d expect to be great on the show are just that, some others who aren’t as well known (or even aren’t well known for country music) provided some of the highlights. For instance, R&B and movie star Jamie Foxx received a well deserved standing ovation for putting a Marvin Gaye spin on George’s “You Look So Good In Love,” while up and coming country star Jack Ingram turned “All My Ex’s Live In Texas” into a pulse-pounding rocker.

I just wish you had all been at the show, because there’s no way the producers will be able to fit everything that happened that night into just two hours (maybe you start making plans now to attend the Next Artist Of The Decade Concert in 2019!)  Each star would speak from the heart about George or the  earlier Artist Of The Decade winner they were paying tribute to, perform their song and then talk some more about George, which usually lead to a handshake or hug between George and the artist. It was all very emotional and you can see it for yourself tonight.

And if you do, you’ll see it before me, because I’ll be overseas on a new job. Check back in a few days for the adventures of Brian, International Courier…

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