Top 11 Country Music News Stories of 2011
We're baffled by the fact that there's never been a successful reality show about the lives of country music stars! The news we report here on The Boot every day is a rollercoaster of highs and lows (mostly highs, thankfully). This year has been one of several "I do"s and a couple of "we're through"s ... along with some huge accolades that have allowed country music to step into the spotlight and shine just as bright as any other genre. The Boot counts down the Top 11 news stories of 2011, from those that made us smile to the stories that will likely still sadden us well into 2012.
11. Country Wedding Bells
Kellie Pickler's private New Year's Day Caribbean wedding ceremony with songwriter Kyle Jacobs was just one of many country nuptials that took place in 2011. Shania Twain also chose Jan. 1, 2011 to say "I do." Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles married her 'Want To' video co-star, Justin Miller, at a chapel in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains. Openly gay country singer Chely Wright wed GLBT activist and author Lauren Blitzer on Aug. 20 in Connecticut. And on the opposite coast, LeAnn Rimes married actor Eddie Cibrian at a private home in California in April.
Other notable nuptials include Randy Houser and singer-songwriter Jessa Lee Yantz, who exchanged vows on Sept. 2 in the Dominican Republic. Sunny Sweeney and Jessica Andrews were both brides on 11-11-11. (Think we've forgotten one VIP newlywed couple? Keep reading!)
10. Country Rules 'American Idol'
Country music took center stage during this season of the wildly popular reality competition series, crowning Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina the winner and runner-up, respectively, during the May 25 season finale. Both teenaged singers have been warmly accepted into the country music industry, with Scotty celebrating the gold certification of his debut album, 'Clear as Day,' and Lauren landing a coveted opening act slot on Jason Aldean's 2012 My Kinda Party tour. Scotty is currently climbing the charts with 'The Trouble With Girls,' with Lauren not far behind with her second single, 'Georgia Peaches.'
9. Trace Adkins' House Fire
Trace Adkins' three youngest daughters were home with a babysitter when their Brentwood, Tenn., home burned to the ground back in June. Thankfully, Trace and wife Rhonda taught the girls an 'in case of fire' plan, and they -- along with their dogs -- rushed outside to safety, unharmed. "It's just stuff," the resilient Rhonda said just hours after the devastating fire, concentrating on her elation that no one was hurt, rather than on the loss of so many of her precious possessions. The fire was caused by an overheated or loose electrical connection in a power strip in the singer's garage. Nearly six months later, the Adkins family is finally in the process of rebuilding.
8. Shania Twain's Triumphant Return
After seven years away from the spotlight to concentrate on her family and then to weather a painful divorce, Shania resurfaced with the documentary TV series, 'Why Not? With Shania Twain,' which chronicled the superstar's apprehension at returning to music. "I have lost my ability to express myself and my ability to sing," the five-time Grammy-winning superstar told the Toronto Sun at the time. "For some reason, I'm not comfortable singing in front of people anymore." Shania eventually regained her confidence, announcing her residency at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, which will begin on December 1, 2012.
A driving force behind her emergence is Shania's husband, Frédéric Thiébaud, whom she married on New Year's Day 2011. "I'm in love!," Shania shared with fans. "Frédéric Nicolas Thiébaud has been a true gift to me as a compassionate, understanding friend and over time, an amazing love has blossomed from this precious friendship."
7. Rodney Atkins' Shocking Split
They seemed to have one of the happiest marriages in country music, but something went terribly awry behind the closed doors of Rodney and Tammy Jo Atkins' home on Nov. 21. Tammy called police early that morning, alleging that her intoxicated husband had tried to smother her with a pillow, assaulted her and threw her down a hallway. Rodney admits to a verbal dispute but denies all allegations of domestic violence, and his lawyers are insisting Tammy lied to police. The singer was arrested and released on $2,500 bail. He has since filed for divorce. The couple have a 10-year-old son, Elijah. "Mr. Atkins wants to thank his fans for standing by him," states the singer's attorney, "as he is confident the truth will prevail."
6. Mindy McCready Flees With Son
The already oft-beleaguered Mindy made news again in the past month, after allegations she had kidnapped her five-year-old son, Zander, from the custody of her mother, Gayle Inge. Claiming to be "too pregnant" with twins to travel, Mindy missed a court-ordered deadline to return Zander to his grandmother's custody. The singer and her son were eventually found by police at her current boyfriend's home in Arkansas. Despite the scandal, Mindy revealed that she may have caught a break. "I can't talk about it, but I'll tell y'all, I'm a happy girl," she said after leaving an Arkansas courtroom (quote via ABC News). "I love Judge (Lee) Harrod, I'll tell you that. I love that man. He's a good man." The custody case is still pending.
5. Lady Antebellum Are 2011 Grammy Darlings
The talented trio scored big at this year's Grammy Awards ceremony, taking home five trophies on the strength of their massive crossover hit, 'Need You Now.' Aside from sweeping the country categories, Lady Antebellum won Song and Record of the Year honors, beating out music heavyweights Eminem, Rihanna, Jay-Z and Alicia Keys. "We really wanted to make Nashville and the country music community proud tonight, and I hope that they feel that way," Lady A's Hillary Scott said in the Grammy press room after the show. "It just shows that country music is relevant and relatable. I just hope they think we're flying the flag right."
4. Glen Campbell Reveals Alzheimer's Battle
Appearing on a 'World News With Diane Sawyer' segment earlier this year, the legendary entertainer disclosed he was in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. The 'Rhinestone Cowboy' singer capped his successful 50-plus-year career with the Aug. 30 release of 'Ghosts on the Canvas,' and mounted a "goodbye" tour set to run through March 2012. "I have been blessed, I really have," the 75-year-old told ABC's Terry Moran. "I figured it out that I'm not that bright, but God gave me a break." The Country Music Hall of Fame member has sold more than 45 million records and has earned nine No. 1 country singles. Click here to purchase tickets for the remaining dates on the tour.
3. Taylor Swift's Awards Sweep
To say Taylor had a good year would be the understatement of the ... year. The 'Ours' singer collected a trifecta of top honors for 2011: CMA and ACM Entertainer of the Year as well as the AMA trophy for Artist of the Year. "I just am so shocked and stunned and absolutely out-of-my-mind happy about this," said the superstar following her sweep at the AMA Awards ceremony. "The fact that the fans have been there for me more and more each year -- it just blows my mind."
In total, Taylor took home 11 major industry awards in 2011, and we're betting she'll add a couple more to her trophy case at February's Grammy awards. The superstar outdid herself yet again, wrapping the North American leg of her extravagant Speak Now wold tour just before accepting Billboard's 2011 honor as Woman of the Year.
"I'm married to my best friend!" Miranda told US Weekly following the May 14 ceremony, for which she donned her mother's wedding dress. "Looking forward to a lifetime of laughter." Country music's newest power couple tied the knot in Texas, in front of family and a number of their famous friends, making their union official after five years of dating. "I wanted to be married to Miranda the day I proposed," says Blake. "Finally, it's official!"
The two superstars' careers have skyrocketed since their mid-2011 nuptials, with both singers winning respective Male and Female Vocalist of the Year honors at the CMAs. Blake and Miranda both have headlining tours scheduled in 2012, and Blake will resume his duties as celebrity judge for the second season of NBC's singing competition, 'The Voice.'
1. Sugarland's Stage Collapses in Indiana
In what can only be described as a horrific accident, the Aug. 13 stage collapse occurred shortly before Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush were due onstage at the Indiana State Fair. Wind gusts upwards of 60 miles per hour swept through the Indianapolis fairgrounds, toppling the stage's scaffolding and sending the heavy equipment plummeting into the crowd. "We are praying for our fans and the people of Indianapolis. We hope you'll join us. They need your strength," said the duo immediately following the tragedy.
Despite their Oct. 28 free concert in Indianapolis that raised more than $1 million for victims' relief, 44 survivors and family members of four of the seven people who passed in the accident are suing the band, the show's producers and stage crew for an undisclosed amount.
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