» Strait Rides Away: Though careful to note that retirement is not imminent, George Strait's 2013-2014 The Cowboy Rides Away tour will be his last. At a press conference at Nashville's Country Music Hall of Fame, Strait revealed he'll embark on his final tour Jan. 18 in Lubbock, TX, with Martina McBride in support. "This is going to be a very special, emotional tour for me," Strait says. "Everywhere we're going holds fond memories and I'm looking forward to paying my respects." McBride surprised reporters by joining Strait at the event. "Being part of this historic tour is truly a career highlight for me," she said. Strait, 60 and already a Country Music Hall of Famer, will continue to record and perform select dates.The first 20 markets are already set. See the initial list here.
» Head Solo Pup? With Reba officially stepping down from her co-host duties on the Academy of Country Music Awards, the question becomes whether Blake Shelton will have a new partner or fly solo. "Reba has hosted the ACM Awards a record 14 times since 1986, and we fully understand and support her decision to focus her energies on her new television project," says ACM CEO Bob Romeo. "We've known about this for a while and have something very special planned with Blake returning – he’s got something big up his sleeve that we’ll be announcing soon. Stay tuned!"
» Honors Roll: There's usually a reason "non-televised" awards ceremonies are non-televised, but Monday's 6th Annual ACM Honors in Nashville were definitely an exception (9/24). Dierks Bentley hosted a night of live music and tributes associated with 47th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards, which were held in April. Honorees included Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award recipients Emmylou Harris, Billy Sherrill, Ricky Skaggs and Dwight Yoakam. Kenny Chesney was presented the Crystal Milestone Award. Vince Gill accepted the Career Achievement Award; Alan Jackson was the Jim Reeves International Award recipient. All ACM honorees are listed here.
» Welcome To The Big Show: The first wave of performers for the 46th Annual CMA Awards are Jason Aldean, Dierks Bentley, Little Big Town and Kelly Clarkson. Hosted for the fifth consecutive time by Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood, the show will broadcast live from Nashville's Bridgestone Arena Nov. 1 on ABC-TV. Info here. Tickets go on sale Saturday (9/29) at 11am ET here.
» Good People Doing Good Things: Country music's long affinity with Memphis' St. Jude Children's Research Hospital was affirmed again this week as Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum and Big & Rich join doctors, patients and other celebrity voices to help raise awareness in a video for the "Hey St. Jude" campaign. Donate and watch the video here. In other country and kid news, a Flint, MI radio station created a touching take on Taylor Swift's "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" in support of their work with Children's Miracle Network. The clip stars local cancer survivor Emma Hudson, who is in year three of her fight with the disease. Be sure to watch through to the very end here.
» Click A Little: Kenny Chesney is offering his radio station, web store and social media channels through iPhone, Android, iPad and Mac apps. "I wanted these apps to be an extension of my albums and shows," says Chesney, who was personally involved in the design. "Even in the middle of the winter, fans can open up the app wherever they are, listen to a little No Shoes Radio, take a photo that looks like it came straight out of my music video, and feel like they're back at the party." Details here.
» Lullabuy Of Broadway:One of the many events that makes Nashville "Music City" is the annual Capitol Records street party, which this year will be headlined by Luke Bryan. The free Oct. 17 show draws thousands, promising to swamp downtown with revelers from near and far. Those hoping to see the show but avoid the crowds are in luck as VIP packages are available starting at $100. The Hard Rock Café VIP and Ultimate VIP experiences include complimentary food and drinks, an autographed poster, exclusive VIP viewing and more. Event proceeds benefit the Wounded Warrior Project. VIP details here.
» Like Me Up:Hunter Hayes has partnered with Country Financial to give away a download of his song “Light Me Up” exclusively via Facebook. Previously unavailable, the tune is featured in Hayes' live show. Facebook "likes" earn the ability to enter a contest for a VIP experience with Hayes. Details here.
» In Case You Missed It: Little Big Town performed the television debut of "Tornado" on Wednesday's Late Night With Jimmy Fallon (9/26). Watch here.
Karen Fairchild (Little Big Town) (9/28) Jerry Lee Lewis (9/29) Marty Stuart (9/30) Eddie Montgomery (9/30)
Friday (9/28): Dwight Yoakam, The Late Show With David Letterman (CBS); Hunter Hayes, Late Night With Jimmy Fallon (NBC).
Monday (10/1): Kip Moore, Today (NBC)
Upcoming Album Releases
Blake Shelton, Cheers, It's Christmas(Oct. 2) Jerrod Niemann, Free the Music (Oct. 2) Jason Aldean, Night Train (Oct 16) Scotty McCreery, Christmas with Scotty McCreery (Oct. 16) Taylor Swift, Red (Oct. 22)
» Gilbert Godspeed: CMA New Artist of the Year nominee Brantley Gilbert lit the fuse on his 19-city Hell On Wheels tour Thursday in Lafayette, IN (9/27). Gilbert's fans must have thought they were in heaven Wednesday, however, as the Georgia-rooted roof-raiser showed off his tour's "wheels" in downtown Nashville. Judging by the photo (above), Gilbert's Facebook post announcing the impromptu event led to quite a turnout. Or maybe there are just a lot of homeless women in Nashville eager for a free shirt. You be the judge...