Country Music Has Strong Year In 2004 With Double Digit Sales Increase Over 2003
By CMA Communications Staff
NASHVILLE - Early predictions of increased album sales of Country Music in 2004 proved true with 77,912,000 units sold from Jan. 5, 2004, through Jan. 2, 2005 - a 12 percent increase over 2003, which had sales of 69,311,000 units, according to figures released today by Nielsen SoundScan.
The news was promising with a 1.6 percent rebound of the total music industry following a four-year period of steady decline, which was stemmed slightly in 2003 once Internet and digital track sales were factored into the equation by Nielsen SoundScan research. Overall music purchases in 2004 exceeded 800 million for the fist time since 2000. And while the bulk of the industry slumped since that time, Country Music pushed to develop the next round of Country hitmakers. By mid 2004, the outlook was promising when for the first time in five years, Recording Ind ustry Association of America shipments for the first half of the year increased (RIAA tabulates store shipments which are expected to be future sales to consumers and Nielsen SoundScan tracks point-of-purchase sales of recorded music product).
"Country Music held its own and even enjoyed growth during a very tumultuous period for the music industry over the past five years," said CMA Executive Director Ed Benson. "The vision of our industry leaders, the loyalty of our fan base, the caliber of our artists community and the breakthrough success of some of our bright new talent all contribu ted to this achievement."
Driving Country Music's gain in 2004 was the phenomenal success of Kenny Chesney, Gretchen Wilson and Tim McGraw, who all had albums in the Top 10 Selling Albums of the Year - Chesney's When The Sun Goes Down (No. 4 - 3,072,224); Wilson's debut Here For the Party (No. 5 - 2,931,097); and McGraw's Live Like You Were Dying (No. 6 - 2,786,840). Shania Twain's Come on Over continues to reign supreme atop the Top Ten Selling Albums of the SoundScan era with 15,267,050 units sold.
Rounding out the list of the Top 10 Country Albums of the Year according to Nielsen SoundScan were No. 4 Shania Twain Greatest Hits (2,336,048); No. 5 Toby Keith Greatest Hits Vol. 2 (1,916,897); No. 6 George Strait 50 Number Ones (1,878,295); No. 7 Big & Rich Horse of a Different Color (1,778,247); No. 8 Toby Keith Shock 'N Y'All (1,649,358); No. 9 Jimmy Buffett License To Chill (1,260,380); No. 10 Brad Paisley Mud on the Tires (1,163,292). Together, the Top 10 Country albums of the year accounted for 20.8 million units or 27 percent of all Country album sales, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
What follows are Country Music highlights from 2004. This is not a comprehensive list, but just a sampling of some of the accomplishments and act ivities of Country Music artists.
» Albums making simultaneous No. 1 debuts on the Billboard 200 and Country Albums chart included Kenny Chesney's When the Sun Goes Down, Tim McGraw's Live Like You Were Dying, Alan Jackson's What I Do, Rascal Flatts' Feels Like Today and George Strait's 50 Number Ones. Jimmy Buffett's Country-oriented License to Chill topped the Billboard 200 in its first week of release to become his first No. 1 on any chart.
» Country Music Hall of Fame member Loretta Lynn's album Van Lear Rose premiered at No. 24 on the all-inclusive Billboard 200 and at No. 2 on the trade publication's Country Albums chart as her highest-debuting album since the start of her recording career in 1959. Jack White of The White Stripes produced the critically acclaimed album. Lynn wrote all 13 tracks.
RIAA Album Sales Certifications
» The RIAA certified 30 Gold, 19 Platinum and 28 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.
» Shania Twain's 2003 album UP! received the Diamond Award for reaching 10 million units sold in 2004. The album continued to appeal to music buyers, as later in the year it was certified for sales of 11 million units. Of special note is that Twain's 1997 album Come On Over was certified for sales of 20 million units this year, remaining the best selling Country album of all time.
» George Strait's recently released album 50 Number Ones was certified five times Platinum, making it the second highest certified recording of any genre (behind Usher's Confessions) and the highest certified Country title of 2004.
» RIAA launched the Digital Sales Awards in 2004, reflecting singles sales downloaded from legal online music sites. Single tracks are awarded Gold (100,000 downloads), Platinum (200,000) and multi-Platinum (400,000+) certifications. The first Country artist to earn an RIAA Digital Gold sales award was Big & Rich for their single "Save A Horse, Ride A Cowboy." Gretchen Wilson also earned a Digital Gold certification for "Redneck Woman."
» Wilson's debut album Here For The Party was certified triple Platinum, tying her with pop artist Ashlee Simpson's Autobiography as the highest certified debut album by a female artist in 2004.
» Brad Paisley (Mud on the Tires), Rascal Flatts (Melt), Keith Urban (Golden Road) and Gretchen Wilson (Here for the Party) received their first multi-Platinum album certifications in 2004. Big & Rich (Horse of a Different Color), Josh Turner (Long Black Train) and Wilson (Here for the Party) received their first Platinum album certifications in 2004. Dierks Bentley (Dierks Bentley), Big & Rich (Horse of a Different Color), Pat Green (Wave on Wave), Buddy Jewell (Buddy Jewell), Julie Roberts (Julie Roberts), Turner (Long Black Train) and Wilson (Here for the Party) received their first Gold album certifications in 2004.
» In addition, the RIAA certified 13 Gold, 9 Platinum and 2 multi-Platinum Country Longform Videos.
» For more information on album, single and video certifications, visit the searchable database on www.RIAA.com.
» Listed below are the Top 10 all-genre tours and the Top 10 Country tours based on attendance and gross sales, according to Pollstar magazine for shows played between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2004:
ALL GENRE TOP 10 (attendance)
1. Prince - 1,431,454
2. Kenny Chesney - 1,143,909
3. Metallica - 1,054,238
4. Dave Matthews Band - 951,488
5. Toby Keith - 913,520
6. Tim McGraw - 764,100
7. Sting - 749,988
8. Kid Rock - 723,163
9. Van Halen - 710,504
10. John Mayer - 690,462
COUNTRY TOP 10 (attendance)
1. Kenny Chesney - 1,143,909
2. Toby Keith - 913,520
3. Tim McGraw - 764,100
4. Alan Jackson/Martina McBride - 660,040
5. Jimmy Buffett - 580,829
6. Shania Twain - 525,930
7. George Strait - 391,167
8. Brooks & Dunn - 366,121
9. Rascal Flatts - 344,827
10. Alabama - 304,311
ALL GENRE TOP 10 (gross sales)
1. Prince - 87.4 million
2. Celine Dion - 80.4 million
3. Madonna - 79.5 million
4. Metallica - 60.5 million
5. Bette Midler - 59.4 million
6. Van Halen - 54.3 million
7. Kenny Chesney - 50.8 million
8. Sting - 50.1 million
9. Toby Keith - 43.7 million
10. Elton John - 43.3 million
COUNTRY TOP 10 (gross sales)
1. Kenny Chesney - 50.8 million
2. Toby Keith - 43.7 million
3. Tim McGraw - 40.1 million
4. Jimmy Buffett - 34.6 million
5. Shania Twain - 34.5 million
6. Alan Jackson/Martina McBride - 34.0 million
7. George Strait - 24.8 million
8. Brooks & Dunn - 15.0 million
9. Alabama - 14.4 million
10. Rascal Flatts - 11.1 million
In addition to the tours listed above, notable touring events in 2004 included:
» The legendary Alabama ended 25 years of relentless touring with "The American Farewell Tour." MuzikMafia leaders Big & Rich and Gretchen Wilson launched their "American Revolution Tour." Reba McEntire returned to touring after a three year hiatus. And, Country Music Hall of Fame member Willie Nelson joined Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Bob Dylan on his "Still on the Road" summer tour for 21 dates.
» Keeping a Country Music tradition alive, several Country artists performed separate Christmas tours in December 2004 including: Clint Black, Suzy Bogguss, Vince Gill and Amy Grant, Martina McBride and Kenny Rogers.
CMA Music Festival/Fan Fair®
» Attendance at the 2004 CMA Music Festival/Fan Fair® took a jump from 124,000 in 2003 to a record-setting 132,000 fans throughout the four-day event in June. In its 33rd year, "Country Music's Biggest PartyT" featured more than 40 artists performing during the Nightly Concerts at The Coliseum; more than 80 artists performing on the Daytime Concerts at The Greased Lightning® Riverfront Park Stages; and a total of 346 artists appearing in the Wrangler® Fan Fair (Exhibit Hall) at the Nashville Convention Center, which featured the new Acoustic Corner. Also new, CMA's Sports Zone included the first annual Fisher's ATV World Celebrity ATV Rodeo, "The Third Annual Andy Griggs Celebrity Archery Tournament," The BASSMASTER TOUR EXPO and more. The Bush's® Baked Beans Family Zone was buzzing with activities for family members of all ages. Returning in 2004 were CMA Celebrity Close Up, CMA Music Festival After HoursT, and the stars of NBC Daytime dramas "Days of our Lives" and "Passions."
» For the first time, the 2004 CMA Music Festival was filmed for a two-hour television special that aired July 14 on the CBS Television Network. The special was second in households (6.1/11), viewers (9.19m), adults 25-54 (3.4/09) and adults 18-49 (2.6/08). CBS won the night in households (8.0/14), viewers (11.68m), adults 25-54 (4.7/13), adults 18-49 (3.9/13) and adults 18-34 (3.0/11). CBS won every half-hour in households and viewers, adults 25-54, adults 18-49 and adults 18-34. "CMA Music Festival: Country Music's Biggest Party" was ranked the No. 16 show of the week ending July 18, 2004.
» CMA Music Festival is also an opportunity to help raise money for charities supported by the participating artists with its "Cause for Celebration!" charitable benefit program. The artists appear pro bono but are able to designate charities to receive funds from the Festival's net proceeds on their behalf. In 2004, 241 participating artists selected 94 separate charities as beneficiaries of the "Cause for Celebration!" program. In the four years of the "Cause for Celebration!" program, a total of $400,000 has been donated to causes important to the artists.
» CMA Music Festival returns to Downtown Nashville, Thursday through Sunday, June 9-12, 2005. Tickets are on sale now. Visit www.CMAfest.com for more information. CMA Music Festival's popular Gold Circle ticket option is already sold out.
» Airing during the crucial November sweeps period, "The 38th Annual CMA Awards" gave the CBS Television Network its most watched and highest rated Tuesday in adults 18-49 and adults 25-54 since November 2001, according to final national Nielsen ratings for Nov. 9. The CMA Awards was first in households (11.5/18), viewers (18.46m), adults 18-34 (4.3/12), adults 18-49 (5.9/15) and adults 25-54 (7.3/17). CBS won every half-hour in households, viewers, adults 25-54 and adults 18-49. Those numbers placed "The 38th Annual CMA Awards" at No. 7 in the Top 10 Nielsen shows for the week. CBS Research estimates more than 37 million viewers watched all or part of "Country Music's Biggest Night.ä"
» The gala event lived up to its reputation, as the viewers liked what they saw enough to go out and invest in the music. In the week immediately following the CMA Awards broadcast, the Billboard Top 75 Country albums chart reflected a 166 percent increase according to Nielsen SoundScan, factoring in new releases from Shania Twain (529,567) and Toby Keith (435,489) who performed on the CMA Awards. According to Nielsen SoundScan, more than 30 other artists who either performed or presented trophies on the CMA Awards also enjoyed sales spikes.
» For the first time, Brooks & Dunn hosted the CMA Awards with special guest Shania Twain. Kenny Chesney won his first two CMA Awards, including Album and Entertainer of the Year. Keith Urban fulfilled the promise of his Horizon Award win in 2001 when he was named Male Vocalist of the Year in 2004. Martina McBride was named Female Vocalist of the Year for the fourth time, tying the record set by Reba McEntire. And the year's biggest new success story, Gretchen Wilson, took home the Horizon Award. During the Awards broadcast, former music industry executive Jim Foglesong and legendary singer/songwriter Kris Kristofferson were formally inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
» For the first time, the nominees for the CMA Awards were jointly announced on both CBS's "The Early Show" and "CMT Insider" in August.
» On Oct. 5, New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and CMA President Kix Brooks of Brooks & Dunn announced that the 2005 CMA Awards will be held at New York City's Madison Square Garden on Nov. 15, 2005. This one-year move is designed to increase the awareness for Country Music in the media capital of the world. That same day, Brooks and Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell announced in Nashville that the CMA Awards will return to Music City, USA in 2006 for the CMA Awards 40th Anniversary celebration from the Gaylord Entertainment Center in Nashville.
» Country continued to be the dominant radio genre in 2004 with 2,021 stations across the U.S., according to Inside Radio/M Street.
» For the spring ratings period, Country stations captured their largest share of national listeners 12 and older since spring of 2000. Country's national market share of 13.7 far outdistanced the second place urban genre, which had an 8.9 share.
» Billboard's Top Five Hot Country Singles & Tracks included: No. 1-Tim McGraw, "Live Like You Were Dying;" No. 2-Alan Jackson, "Remember When;" No. 3-Keith Urban, "You'll Think Of Me;" No. 4-Kenny Chesney featuring/Uncle Kracker, "When The Sun Goes Down;" and No. 5-John Michael Montgomery, "Letters From Home."
» Radio & Records' Top Five Country Songs included: No. 1-Alan Jackson, "Remember When;" No. 2-Kenny Chesney featuring/Uncle Kracker, "When the Sun Goes Down;" No. 3-John Michael Montgomery, "Letters from Home;" No. 4-Rascal Flatts, "Mayberry;" and No. 5-Tim McGraw, "Live Like You Were Dying."
» Julie Roberts performed atop "Tom Turkey," the first float in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, watched by an estimated 55 million television viewers on the NBC Television Network. The float, sponsored by Big 3 Entertainment, featured signs promoting "The 39th Annual CMA Awards" in New York City in 2005.
» Tim McGraw raked in the ratings for his second NBC television special "Here and Now," which featured appearances by R&B artist Nelly, Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre and McGraw's wife Faith Hill. The McGraw special won its time period in 18-49, total viewers and other key categories. Toby Keith and Willie Nelson kicked off the Super Bowl pre-show; Rascal Flatts performed on "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve;" Kenny Rogers appeared on the ABC special "The Nick & Jessica Variety Hour;" Alison Krauss performed two songs from the movie soundtrack "Cold Mountain" on the Academy Awards; Kid Rock, Merle Haggard, Jerry Lee Lewis and Rolling Stones guitarist K eith Richards paid tribute to Willie Nelson on the USA Network special "Outlaws and Angels;" and Kenny Chesney performed on NBC's "Christmas at Rockefeller Center."
» Sitcoms were a good place to find Country artists in 2004. Trace Adkins, John Hiatt and Travis Tritt appeared on CBS's "Yes Dear;" Adkins' voice also made a repeat appearance on the animated FOX series "King of the Hill;" Comics Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Engvall and Larry the Cable Guy brought the success of their stand-up tour to the WB with the variety program "Blue Collar TV;" Country comedian Rodney Carrington landed his own show "Rodney," on ABC; and Reba McEntire celebrated the fourth season of her WB show "Reba."
» Country artists hit the talk show circuit with Shania Twain taking over Nashville's Lower Broadway for ABC's "Good Morning America" live concert series. While in Music City, USA, the morning show toured the homes of Ronnie Dunn of Brooks & Dunn, LeAnn Rimes and Joe Don Rooney of Rascal Flatts. "60 Minutes" taped a segment in Nashville spotlighting the meteoric rise of MusikMafia members Big & Rich and Gretchen Wilson; and "The Oprah Winfrey Show" featured Kenny Chesney and Martina McBride performing at Oprah's huge baby shower for the wives of U.S. soldiers. Clint Black, his wife Lisa Hartman Black and Wynonna also appeared on "Oprah."
» Reality television had its share of Country cameos in 2004. LeAnn Rimes, Randy Travis and Lee Ann Womack performed for families on "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition;" Travis Tritt played poker for charity on Bravo's "Celebrity Poker Showdown;" Brad Paisley and Wynonna's nuptials were covered on "In Style: Celebrity Weddings;" and Trace Adkins, Clint Black, Terri Clark, Rodney Crowell, Buddy Jewell, Willie Nelson, Joe Nichols and LeAnn Rimes all appeared on the second season of "Nashville Star," with Rimes being announced as the new host for the 2005 season. CMT gave the Warren Brothers their own reality series with "Barely Famous ."
» Brooks & Dunn rolled the dice on NBC's new drama "Las Vegas;" Blue County and Lonestar made guest appearances on the NBC daytime drama "Days of our Lives."
» Country stars heard but not seen include Trace Adkins, whose single "Rough & Ready" was featured on the ABC drama "Desperate Housewives," and Travis Tritt whose "Girls Gone Wild" single played in the background of promos for the FOX reality show "Simple Life 2."
» Country Music Television (CMT) continued to show strong ratings with original programming hits including "CMT Crossroads" and "CMT Outlaws." CMT celebrated the biggest viewing month in its history during November. Meanwhile, Scripps Networks added Great American Country (GAC) to its cable network family, which includes The Food Network and Home & Garden Television (HGTV). GAC continued to expand its programming with "Country Music Across America" and "Lorianne Crook's Celebrity Kitchen."
» Trace Adkins was chosen as the voice for KFC's new national television commercial campaign throughout North America in 2004. Adkins appeared in several of the ads as well. Pepsi tapped Jessi Alexander; "Nashville Star 2" winner Brad Cotter; Buddy Jewell; and Montgomery Gentry as spokespersons for the summer's Pepsi Smash Country campaign. While Big & Rich's hit single "Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)" was featured in ESPN's 2004 World Series of Poker on-air prom os on all ESPN networks.
» Clint Black, along with members of the U.S. House of Representatives, helped announce the landmark formation of the Recording Arts and Sciences Congressional Caucus. The caucus will work to advance and protect the rights of musicians, songwriters, singers, producers and other recording professionals.
» Toby Keith continued to appear and perform in Ford Truck commercials while also opening I Love This Bar and Grill in Las Vegas. Reba McEntire and LeAnn Rimes appeared together in a Dr. Pepper commercial; McEntire also appeared in a Habitat for Humanity commercial. Tim McGraw appeared with L.A. Laker Rick Fox in a 30- second ad for Budweiser, which premiered during the television broadcast of Super Bowl XXXVIII. McGraw's second commercial for the corporation marked the debut of the new, alcohol awareness tagline "Responsibility Matters," promoting the use of designated drivers. In addition, McGraw purchased a minority interes t in the Nashville Kats arena football franchise.
» For the second consecutive year, Willie Nelson was featured in a new TV commercial for financial advisors H&R Block that also made its debut during the broadcast of Super Bowl XXXVIII. Brad Paisley endorsed TracFone Wireless' prepaid wireless cell phones, promoting them during the weekly "American Country Countdown with Bob Kingsley" national radio show. Paisley also completed a series of public service announcements on behalf of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). Julie Roberts was featured in a promotional television spot for the Tennessee Titans NFL Team.
» Shania Twain signed on to promote Febreze's Scentstories, a CD-player-like device that allows you to enjoy a variety of refreshing scents. Gretchen Wilson was one of the first artists featured in the Sony Music/Bank One campaign to offer consumers the Sony Card.
» Country stars continued to appear on the big screen in 2004. Mark Collie appeared in the action thriller "The Punisher" and Billy Ray Cyrus had a short role in "Elvis Has Left the Building." Faith Hill played a dysfunctional robot in the remake of "The Stepford Wives." Country Music Hall of Fame member Kris Kristofferson reprised his role as Abraham Whistler in "Blade: Trinity" and also appeared in the political satire "Silver City." In the football drama "Friday Night Lights," Tim McGraw portrayed an alcoholic father living his life through his son. Shania Twain made a cameo in the romantic comedy "I Heart Huckabees," and Trisha Yearwood voiced a character in Disney's animated "Home on the Range." In addition, Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks, Robert Earl Keen, Charlie Robison and George Strait all appeared in the western-themed family film "Grand Champion." Kenny Chesney's tour documentary, "Roadcase: The Movie," debuted in Regal Cinema theaters across the nation. "The Portrait of Billy Joe," director Luciana Pedraza's documentary on singer-songwriter Billy Joe Shaver hit the independent film festival circuit.
» Country Music was also heard in national promos for movies. The Bellamy Brothers' "Let Your Love Flow" was featured in the promos for the Ben Stiller/Jennifer Anniston film "Along Came Polly." Phil Vassar's "American Child" played in the promos for "Jersey Girl" starring Ben Affleck.
» Chet Atkins' instrumental version of "Jingle Bell Rock" appeared on the "Surviving Christmas" soundtrack. Johnny Cash's "A Satisfied Mind" was featured on the "Kill Bill Vol. 2" soundtrack. "If I'm Not In Love" by Faith Hill (from her Breathe album) was featured in the Mandy Moore film "Chasing Liberty." Tim McGraw contributed to the soundtrack for the animated Disney feature "Home On the Range." Kristyn Osborn of SHeDAISY recorded "Whose Life Am I In?" for the soundtrack of the Kate Hudson film "Raising Helen." Asleep at the Wheel, the Dixie Chicks, Willie Nelson and George Strait contributed songs to the soundtrack for "Grand Champion." In conjunction with the DVD release of Francis Ford Coppola's 1982 film "One From the Heart," a newly remastered edition of the soundtrack album was released featuring music from Crystal Gayle and Tom Waits.
Books and Magazines
» Tim McGraw's No. 1 hit "Live Like You Were Dying" inspired two books. CMA Song of the Year winners Tim Nichols and Craig Wiseman wrote the first book based on their song and Michael Morris wrote the second, a fictional story. McGraw contributed forewards for both books.
» Country stars turned authors in 2004 included Naomi Judd, who penned the inspirational Naomi's Breakthrough Guide: 20 Choices to Transform Your Life; Oak Ridge Boys member Joe Bonsall wrote G.I. Joe & Lillie, a biographical tale about his parents' relationship, and a 30-year chronicle of the band in An American Journey: The Oak Ridge Boys; and LeAnn Rimes and husband Dean Sheremet penned Jag's New Friend, a sequel to the popular children's book.
» CMT and Simon & Schuster's Pocket Books created a new imprint, CMT Books, and released Cash: An American Man by Bill Miller and Music Row Dogs and Nashville Cats: Country Stars and Their Pets by Karen Will Rogers and Laura Lacy. The Johnny Cash biography The Man Called CASH: The Life, Love and Faith of an American Legend by Steve Turner was released in September on the first anniversary of the Country Music Hall of Fame member's death. Kristine M. McCusker and Diane Pecknold examined sociological aspects of Country in A Boy Named Sue: Gender and Country Music and Aaron A. Fox spotlighted the socio-economic side in Real Country: Music and Language In Working-Class Culture. Country Music Changed My Life by Ken Burke included interviews with Country legen ds on how the music shaped their lives growing up. Country Music history books released in 2004 included Smile When You Call Me Hillbilly: Country Music's Struggle for Respectability, 1939-1954 by Jeffrey J. Lange; Bristol Sessions: Writings About the Big Bang of Country Music by Charles K. Wolfe and Ted Olson; Country Music Records: A Discography, 1921-1942 by Tony Russell and Bob Pinson; and Country Music's Most Wanted: The Top 10 Book of Cheatin' Hearts, Honk-Tonk Tragedies, and Music City Oddities by Francesca Peppiatt.
» Dierks Bentley was named one of People magazine's Most Eligible Men.
» In a year of continued military activity, Country stars did their parts to entertain soldiers at military bases at home and around the globe including Iraq and Afghanistan. A partial list of stars included Sherrié Austin, Jeff Bates, Brooks & Dunn, Tracy Byrd, Kenny Chesney, Billy Ray Cyrus, Charlie Daniels, Vince Gill, Toby Keith, Martina McBride, Neal McCoy, John Michael Montgomery, Craig Morgan, Collin Raye, Sawyer Brown, SHeDAISY, George Strait, Travis Tritt, Mark Wills, Darryl Worley, Chely Wright and Wynonna.
» Vince Gill, Alison Krauss, Marty Stuart, Ricky Skaggs and more helped celebrate Country Music Hall of Fame member Earl Scruggs' 80th birthday at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
» Friends of Ray Charles paid tribute to the late singer with a joyful funeral in Los Angeles including Willie Nelson's tearful rendition of the Charles' signature hit, "Georgia on My Mind." Kenny Chesney performed on the CBS television special "Genius: A Night to Remember" that aired in October saluting Charles' life and career.
» PBS broadcasted "George Jones: 50 Years of Hits," a star-studded special salute featuring Alan Jackson, Kenny Chesney, Wynonna, Trace Adkins, Vince Gill, Trick Pony, Joe Diffie, Harry and Merle Haggard, among others. The event was taped in Nashville at the BellSouth Acuff Theatre and aired on Thanksgiving.
» Terri Clark and Del McCoury were inducted as the newest members of the Grand Ole Opry. Clark was the first Canadian female to receive such an honor.
» Music legend Ray Charles, 73, died June 10 at his Beverly Hills, Calif. home. Charles went blind at age 8 and was performing in dance halls by the age of 15. His music was a gumbo of classical, Country, jazz, big band, gospel and blues. Charles released two volumes of Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music in the early 60s. Those albums produced some of Charles' biggest hits, including "Born to Lose," "Take These Chains From My Heart (And Set Me Free)" and "I Can't Stop Loving You." Charles shared a 1985 CMA Award nomination for Vocal Duo of the Year with Willie Nelson.
» Country Music lost these contributors in 2004: Julian Aberbach; Charles Bailey; Max D. Barnes; Ernie Ball; Kenny Buttrey; Ray Condo; Albert F. Crockett; Skeeter Davis; Roy Drusky; Dave Dudley; Al Dvorin; Jack Emerson; Melvyn Endsley; Joe P. "Pat" Ethridge; Hank Garland; Albert "Big Al" Gore; Walt Grealis; Sam Hogin; Bobby Lee House; David Earl Hughes; Gene Hughes; Jim Hurt; Dave Kirby; Katz Kobayashi; Grelun Landon; Bill Lowery; Rusty Mac; Jeff Newman; Bob Paisley; Rick Rentz; Tom Rivers; Rick Smith; "Pappy" Dave Stone; Joyce Triplett; Kyle Tullis; Charlie Waller; Tommy Vaden; Randy VanWarmer; L.E. White; and William "Lum" York.