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ISSUE 116 VOL 13 PUBLISHED 3/7/2003

Finding the heart of Country

By Betsy Pedersen
Staff Writer

Friday, March 7, 2003

Nashville is the heart of country western music and the home of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Across the state, Graceland is as much a legend as its former owner Elvis Presley.

The Music

Husband and wife Tim McGraw and Faith Hill are two of the biggest names in country music today. Both set foot in the country music arena around the same time.

Hill began her music career in Nashville at the age of 19. Since her debut single, “"Wild One,”" was released in 1994, Hill has gone to take the country music scene by storm. Her most recent album, “Cry,” sold over 472,000 copies in its first week.

McGraw is one of today’s hottest country artists. His self-titled debut album was released in 1992, although his first major release, “Not a Moment Too Soon,” didn’'t come out until 1994. Like Hill, McGraw has received numerous awards for his musical talent. Most recently, he was awarded with the CMT Flameworthy Video Music Awards Hottest Video of the Year. His newest multi-platinum album, “Tim McGraw and the Dancehall Doctors,” was released in November.

The network Country Music Television (CMT) is a cable network dedicated to anything and everything country. It is the MTV of country music. Considered the number one country music authority, CMT brings viewers original programs, live concert series, exclusive world premiere videos, and a diverse play list.

The Awards

The year 2002 marked the first annual CMT Flameworthy Video Music Awards show and was viewed by 6.3 million people. According to the CMT website, the awards show is country music’'s first and only. It is also the only fan-voted awards show.

Viewers vote for nominees in a variety of categories, including breakthrough, fashion plate, concept, group/duo, hottest female, hottest male, cocky, female and male video of the year, as well as video of the year. The final five nominees will be announced Tuesday. Toby Keith and Pamela Anderson will co-host this year’s awards show. It will be telecast live from Nashville on Apr. 7 at 7 p.m.

The Hall of Fame and Museum

The new Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum hosted its grand opening in May 2001. The $37 million structure is located in the heart of Nashville and honors the cultural significance of the music and the achievements of country singers. Country fans and stars alike flock to the Hall of Fame and Museum for both the historical and entertainment experience.

The first Hall of Fame members (Jimmie Rogers, Fred Rose, and Hank Williams) were inducted in 1961. Country superstars Elvis Presley and Dolly Parton were inducted in 1998 and 1999, respectively.

Presley moved to Memphis when he was young, and first made records while he was working as a truck driver. What happened next is no secret. His early hits, which include “Heartbreak Hotel,”“ Hound Dog,” and “Don’'t Be Cruel,” changed country music forever. Presley also acted in 33 movies. He died from a drug-related heart attack in 1977. His legacy as the King of Rock and Roll lives on.

Memphis is home to the Graceland Mansion, Presley’s 14-acre estate. Open for tours, guests can enjoy a digital audio guide featuring the voices of Presley and his daughter Lisa Marie. According to the official Elvis Presley website, the mansion tour consists of the living room, music room, Presley’'s’ parents'’ bedroom, the dining room, kitchen, TV room, pool room, and den in the main house, and, behind the house, Presley'’s racquetball building and his original business office. Most would argue, however, that the highlight of the tour is Presley’s trophy building, which houses his collection of gold records and awards, in addition to career mementos, stage costumes, jewelry, and photographs.

Parton moved to Nashville after high school, where she started singing and began her solo career in 1974. Country singer turned television and movie star, Parton is still active in the country circuit today. She released “Halos and Horns” in July 2002.

The Festival There is country outside of Tennessee. Many St. Olaf students are familiar with WE Fest, an outdoor country music festival held annually in Detroit Lakes, Minn. This coming summer, performing artists will include country greats like Rascal Flatts, Neal McCoy, Sara Evans, Montgomery Gentry, Wynonna Judd, Trick Pony, Keith Urban and Le Ann Womack. The four-day festivities will run Aug. 7-10.

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