Country Star Trivia

Comstock/ThinkstockWhich song has spent the most time atop Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart? ANSWER:  Florida Georgia Line's "Cruise" logged 24 weeks on top, beginning in December of 2012.

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Willie Nelson to Launch Cannabis Brand, Willie’s Reserve

Image Courtesy Shock InkWillie Nelson has never been bashful about how much he enjoys smoking marijuana.  Now that states are legalizing it, he's branching out into the pot business.

Willie's new cannabis brand, dubbed Willie's Reserve, seeks to provide customers with a regulated, natural and high-quality marijuana product in U.S. legal markets.  Willie says, "I am looking forward to working with the best growers in Colorado and Washington to make sure our product is the best on the market."

The Country Music Hall of Fame member has long been a supporter of cannabis for personal use and industrial hemp production. He details his long-time use of marijuana, as well as his run-ins with the law for possession, in his new book, It's a Long Story: My Life, due out May 5.

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Carrie Underwood, Kenny Chesney, Dierks Bentley Will Headline ACM Party for a Cause Concert

Academy of Country MusicThe Academy of Country Music has announced the headliners for next year's ACM Party for a Cause Festival will be two-time ACM Entertainers of the Year Carrie Underwood and Dierks Bentley, and four-time ACM Entertainer of the Year Kenny Chesney

The charity-based event, which will be held on April 1-3, 2016, also promises to attract "a whole bunch" of the headliners' friends. This year's event attracted the likes of Clint Black, The Gatlin Brothers, Darius Rucker, and Luke Bryan.

The event benefits ACM Lifting Lives, the philanthropic arm of the Academy of Country Music, as well as military charities like the Wounded Warrior Project.

Tickets for the event at Las Vegas' MGM Resorts Festival Grounds go on sale on April 27 on Ticketmaster.com

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ACM Awards 2015 Backstage Report

Academy of Country MusicMiranda Lambert was proud to show off her home state of Texas to the world at Sunday night's ACM Awards, where she picked up three trophies, including her fourth Album of the Year award.

Miranda says, "The crowd was so warm and so excited and such huge fans of country music, and you could feel it in the room. And that made me really happy. My chest was swelled up, 'cause I'm from around here."

Miranda's husband, Blake Shelton, hosted the show once again with Luke Bryan, but Miranda doesn't have much of an idea of how he did as emcee. It turns out the sound was really bad in her section of the audience.

Miranda says, "My recommendation for next time, if it's here, would be, like, have monitors for the artists so we hear what's going on. But he's hilarious. I'm sure he did amazing."

Even though Miranda hasn't seen much of Blake in the last few days due to his hosting duties, they're used to spending time apart.

"It's definitely a different way to live and to be in a relationship," Miranda says, "but I feel like our relationship started on going separate ways, and we just make it work, and we make sure our time together really matters. So, when we're apart, it's not a big deal, because we know that when we're together, we're really together."

-- Luke Bryan won his second Entertainer of the Year trophy at Sunday night's ACM Awards, but time was running short as the CBS broadcast was drawing to a close. Luke only had 18 seconds to give his speech, but he had been onstage as co-host with Blake Shelton all night long.

Luke says, "Being a host, I'm backstage, and I can see the tenseness of this thing running over. There are many factors."

He's also glad Taylor Swift's mother, Andrea, who was recently diagnosed with cancer, had plenty of time on the broadcast to pay tribute to Taylor as one of the Milestone Award winners.

He says, "Taylor's mother being up there and that opportunity with what is going on in their life. People want to talk. It's a great thing. You don't want to rush people winning awards."

Luke also got to meet American Sniper Chris Kyle's widow, Taya, after the people on his staff initially turned her down for a photograph with him. Luke was in the middle of changing for the show, but immediately sent people to find Taya to get the photo once he realized who she was.

He adds, "[I] told her just how amazing the movie was and that their story is, and apologized. I had egg on my face big time that I didn't get the selfie with her."

-- Playing for 70,000 fans at AT&T Stadium at Sunday night's ACM Awards felt just like home for Jason Aldean, who won his third Male Vocalist trophy.

He says, "That's kind of how I tried to approach my performance tonight, too, like I would in a normal show. 'Cause a lot of times you get wrapped up in the fact that it's an award show, and it's real stiff and, ah, it's just weird."

Jason goes on to applaud the fans on hand for the show.

He says, "The crowd here in Dallas seemed like they were real into what was going on and obviously very supportive, which that just makes all the difference in the world."

-- Florida Georgia Line are big fans of the bus compound for artists set up just outside AT&T Stadium for the ACM Awards. They got to spend lots of quality time with pals Jason Aldean and Jake Owen in between show rehearsals, and they even threw some hoops. FGL's Tyler Hubbard adds, "There's a full-court basketball court, just saying."

The bus compound also gave Florida Georgia Line a chance to hang with their hero Alan Jackson, whose bus was parked next to theirs. They even gave him a red velvet cake and some crab.

FGL's Brian Kelley adds, "Then he brought us some amazing sake. The fact that we exchanged gifts with Mr. Jackson, probably gonna pass out Monday, come Monday, 'cause that's pretty surreal. But amazing time. Bus compound rocks."

-- Lee Brice won ACM Single of the Year for "I Don't Dance," a song he wrote for the first dance at his wedding to wife, Sara. They celebrate their anniversary this week, too.

Says Lee, "Having her in my life has done a lot of stuff for me, seems like."

-- Little Big Town's Karen Fairchild was thrilled to perform their latest hit, "Girl Crush," for the 70,000 fans at AT&T Stadium Sunday night, but one audience member in particular made her a bit nervous  to sing the song.

Karen says, "I had to talk myself down from the ledge before I sang "Girl Crush," 'cause I was thinking about Trisha [Yearwood]. Trisha was sitting right in front of us all night, and I love her so much. And Martina [McBride] and all these amazing vocalists, and I just thought, 'Man, I gotta zone out and not think about Trisha.'"

While they look up to the acts that paved the way for them, Little Big Town also takes the time to encourage the next generation of country stars, like New Artist nominee Thomas Rhett.

Karen adds, "I love being backstage and seeing Thomas Rhett right before he goes on, and him saying, 'Say a prayer,' and me saying, 'No, you say a prayer.' I love that. I love the nurturing aspect."

After they finished their backstage press duties, Little Big Town headed off to celebrate their win with a big dinner and some cocktails.

-- Reba was honored with an ACM Milestone Award recognizing her as the all-time winner in the Female Vocalist category with seven trophies. Reba performed on Sunday night's broadcast, but only Miranda Lambert got a performance slot among the current Female Vocalist nominees during the three-and-a-half-hour program.

When asked what advice she had for up-and-coming female acts like Maddie & Tae and Kelsea Ballerini, Reba said, "I hope they don't get so discouraged that they quit, because it is so important to realize that everything is cyclical. Sometimes it's very traditional, sometimes it's very contemporary. Sometimes it's all the girls are on the radio, sometimes it's all the boys."

As for what Reba would like to hear on country radio in the next few years, she told reporters,  "I hope it's more romantic music with a lot more females on the charts."

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Kenny Chesney Launches No Shoes TV

Image Courtesy Sony Music Nashville/Blue ChaiThis weekend, Kenny Chesney launched the first installment of No Shoes TV with a recap of the kick-off of his Big Revival Tour last month in Nashville.

 “I’ve always said there is so much more to these shows and this tour than what happens onstage… I wanted to give the people who can’t be there a chance to get the feel for the whole day... because some of what happens, you’ll never get a regular TV network to make part of a concert special,” Kenny says.

The premiere not only gives viewers a glimpse at the day in the life of concert-goers, it also offers the opportunity to get closer to Kenny himself. Host Deanna Kay hides tickets near the venue and then drops clues via social media, before rescuing other fans from the nosebleeds and bringing them down front.  She also surprises a group of partiers who are about to send a friend off to Afghanistan with passes to the show. Openers Jake Owen and Chase Rice pop up in episode one, as well as special guests Taylor Swift and Grace Potter.

You can watch this and subsequent editions of No Shoes TV at KennyChesney.com. The Big Revival Tour’s next stop is Thursday night in Albany, New York.

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Nashville Notes

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Eric Church edges out Jason Aldean, Fleetwood Mac and Miranda Lambert to land at number one on Billboard’s latest weekly Hot Tours ranking.  Eric raked in $2.1 million dollars, finishing ahead of Jason at number 2 with $1.5 million in sales. Stevie Nicks and company rank third, while Miranda checks in at number ten.

Thomas Rhett and Kellie Pickler led Rhett Akins, Lauren Alaina, Danielle Bradbury, Chase Bryant, Kristian Bush, Dan + Shay, Love & Theft, Scotty McCreery, Cassadee Pope and Jamie Lynn Spears in a life-sized game of “human checkers” Saturday in Arlington, Texas. In the end, Kellie’s team was victorious, with Cracker Barrel donating $35,000 to the USO and DAV through the ACM’s Lifting Lives charity.

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