Assassin attacks 22,000 fans as singer Jason Aldean performs Oct. 1 in Las Vegas!
NASHVILLE — Country music suffered a blow, as did all America, when a lone gunman situated on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, opened fire on some 22,000 fans at an all-star concert headlined by Jason Aldean, Oct. 1. Besides assailant Stephen Paddock, who committed suicide following his shooting rampage, there were 58 known deaths and another 500 wounded. Artists and attendees alike scrambled, seeking safety at the outdoor Route 91 Country Harvest Festival, which offered scant space for cover. Paddock, 64, busted out two of the hotel’s secured windows with a hammer, enabling him to fire automatic assault weapons with telescopic sights down into the crowd, located some 400 yards below. Hotel reps said he had checked in Sept. 30. First responders were hampered somewhat by frightened fans trying to capture the melee with cell-phones, making it difficult for the police and rescue teams to determine where the shots came from. Assisting the county sheriff and local police were FBI agents, as victims were rushed to nearby hospitals for ER treatment. “Tonight has been beyond horrific,” tweeted Aldean, Oct. 1. “I still dont (sic) know what to say but wanted to let everyone know that Me and my Crew are safe. My Thoughts and prayers go out to everyone involved tonight. It hurts my heart that this would happen to anyone who was just coming out to enjoy what should have been a fun night.” Reportedly Paddock was a regular visitor to the gambling capitol, and known as a high roller who bet many thousands of dollars. He met his girlfriend Marilu Danley, 62, a Filipino native, there where she had been a casino hostess. Police learned she had been in the Far East at the time of the shooting, traveling on an Australian passport, and allegedly had recently deposited $100,000 in a U.S. bank in The Philippines. She returned Stateside Oct. 4 as “a person of interest,” undergoing extensive questioning by officials, hoping to find out what may have set Paddock off, and perhaps why he had purchased more than 50 weapons in five states, including high-powered rifles and machine guns utilized in his Oct. 1 shooting spree, just prior to taking his own life. Younger brother Eric Paddock disclosed that through real estate sales and his gambling, Stephen was worth in excess of $2 million dollars and had been living with Danley in a Mesquite, Nev. retirement community some 60 miles from Vegas, but he also owned property in Reno, another gambling mecca. Although ISIS tried to take credit for the tragedy, authorities indicate it was a more likely a domestic terrorist act committed solely by Paddock. In 2012, he sued another Vegas casino after slipping on its floor, but a judge threw that suit out in 2014. As the shooting began, Aldean was the final act to perform, and was into his fifth song – “When She Says Baby” – as he heard the popping sounds, and scurried off-stage. On Instagram, Aldean, 40, father of two daughters and expecting a baby with new wife Brittany, sent the following message in part: “Over the last 24 hrs I have gone through lots of emotions. Scared, Anger, Heartache, Compassion and many others. I truely dont (sic) understand why a person would want to take the life of another . . . Something has changed in this country and in this world lately that is scary to see . . . At the end of the day we arent (sic) Democrats or Republicans, Whites or Blacks, Men or Women, we are all humans and we are all Americans and its (sic) time to start acting like it and stand together as ONE.”
Scene Stealers: Hurricane Irma did a number on Kenny Chesney’s estate on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, demolishing his home; however, the country singer says “That place and the people mean so much more to me than my house. And I’m going to do everything that I possibly can to try to relieve some stress from people that I’ve really grown to love over the years, who have meant so much to my life.” Regarding his house, he mused, “When you look through the window right now, as you can tell, it’s just devastation.” When the storm struck the island Sept. 7, he wasn’t at home, but says 20 people and pets sought shelter there and when the windows blew out, moved into a big closet. Meanwhile, the British Virgin Islands suffered significant damages and it was even worse for 3-1/2 million Americans residing in Puerto Rico, hit by Irma and 14 days later by Hurricane Maria. Aid for these residents has been much slower, and as of this writing many were without power and lacked necessities, particularly water and food . . . Luke Bryan has been invited to participate as a judge on the newly revived American Idol, which was canceled by Fox network in 2016. In a Twitter posting, Luke boasted, “I’ll be joined by the beautiful Ms. Katy Perry and my hero Lionel Richie. I can’t wait to be a part of the show and I’m so excited to see all the talent out there that America has. It’s going to be an exciting year. I’m so honored and we’re going to have some fun.” Reportedly Ryan Seacrest returns as host for the talent series being telecast by ABC as a Sunday night program, premiering in March 2018.
Bits & Pieces: Country singer Scotty McCreery just confided he’ll marry his former kindergarten classmate Gabi Dugal, currently a pediatric cardiac nurse at Duke University Hospital in Durham, N.C. Scotty popped the question near Grandfather Mountain in their native North Carolina, getting down on his knees to do so: “I’ve been planning this moment for so long that it feels surreal for it to have finally happened. Gabi is the perfect girl and my true love, and I cannot wait to begin building our life together as husband and wife.” . . . Country queen Carrie Underwood is upset by the claim of Canadian songwriters Georgia Lyons and Ron McNeill that her hit “Something In the Water” was cribbed from their creation of the same title.
Reportedly, the pair had submitted their song for consideration through a Nashville promoter, and are now suing Underwood, her co-writers of the song she recorded, Brett James and Chris DeStefano, along with producer Mark Bright, their publishers and the label Sony Music, seeking “unspecified damages.” Carrie’s 2014 release reached Billboard’s #1 hot country songs and #1 Christian charts, and earned her a Grammy for best country solo performance. The artist says she’s “saddened” being accused of stealing the song, adding it was actually a deeply personal number . . . Meanwhile, Carrie’s mate Mike Fisher, himself a Canadian, recently retired as captain of the Nashville hockey team The Predators, and can take heart in the fact it took not one but two players to succeed him as skipper. Roman Josi was voted initially to serve as Captain, however, for the first time ever, the Preds have added the title Associate Captain, elevating teammate Ryan Ellis into that position. It was in September 2016 that Fisher succeeded Shea Weber as team captain, becoming the seventh since 1998. But recently he decided to hang up his skates and spend more time with Carrie and son Isaiah . . . The Academy of Country Music’s current Entertainer of the Year, Jason Aldean has announced a new book for sale, “Family, Friends & Fans,” which he’s written with Tom Carter. Reportedly, it presents the people who helped shape him, including anecdotes and stories. Meantime, “Jason Aldean: Asphalt Cowboy,” a special exhibit currently honoring the hit-maker at the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum, wraps Nov. 7.
Honors: Superstar Keith Urban and veteran songwriter Bob DiPiero are slated to receive specialty awards at the 65th annual BMI Country Awards, Nov. 7. Urban’s will be the Broadcast Music Inc.’s Champion Award, recognizing his efforts on behalf of promising writers and his generosity towards music education programs. He’s currently hitting with his CD “Ripcord.” According to BMI Nashville chief Jody Williams, “Not only is Keith Urban one of the most talented and prolific songwriters in the industry, but he’s also a true humanitarian.” DiPiero will be named a BMI Icon that evening, acknowledging his profound influence on the music industry. DiPiero’s credits include such standards as “American Made,” “Blue Clear Sky,” “Wink” and “Little Rock.” . . . The Association For Recorded Sounds Collections (ARSC) has announced its winner of the best country book of the year is Bill Anderson’s biography “Whisperin’ Bill Anderson: An Unprecedented Life In Country Music,” co-written with Peter Cooper. Their award will be presented at a May 12, 2018 ceremony during ARSC’s annual conference. Congrats! . . . The Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum now boasts Ray Stevens’ permanent exhibit “Sing Me Back Home: A Journey Through Country Music.” The display celebrates Stevens’ 60 years in music – “Ray Stevens: Everything Is Beautiful” – and includes his Grammy awards, Nashville Songwriters Association International’s Hall of Fame Induction Award (1980) and his Spinet keyboard. Incidentally, Stevens’ CabaRay Nashville telecast on Public TV is now in its third season.
More Awards: Previously announced inductees into the 2017 International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame are pioneering artists Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard, fiddler Bobby Hicks, and mandolinist Roland White, all honored at the 28th annual International Bluegrass Music Awards show, Sept. 28, in Duke Performing Arts Center, Raleigh, N.C. Winners cited include: Best Entertainer: The Earls of Leicester; Female Vocalist: Brooke Aldridge; Male Vocalist: Shawn Camp; Vocal Group: Flatt Lonesome; Instrumental Group: Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper; Emerging Act: Volume Five; Best Song: “I Am a Drifter,” Volume Five, co-writers Donna Ulisse and Marc Rossi; Best Album, “Mountain Voodoo,” Balsam Range; and as Best Songwriter: Tim Stafford. Winners in the following categories were: Best Bluegrass Event: “Pickin’ In Parsons,” Parsons, W. Va.; Best Gospel Performance (a tie): “I Found a Church Today,” The Gibson Brothers, with writers Eric & Leigh Gibson; and “Sacred Memories,” Joe Mullins & Radio Ramblers with artists Sharon White and Ricky Skaggs, and as writer Dolly Parton. Best Recorded Event: “I’ve Got a Message To You,” Bobby Osborne with guests Sierra Hull, Alison Brown, Rob Ickes, Stuart Duncan, Trey Hensley, Todd Phillips, Kenny Malone, Claire Lynch and Bryan McDowell, as produced by Alison Brown. Best Instrumental Recorded Event: “Fiddler’s Dream,” Michael Cleveland, artist, and writer Arthur Smith; and Molly Tuttle became the first female to win Best Guitarist. Other instrumental winners: Noam Pikelny, banjo; Alan Bartram, bass; Josh Swift, dobro; Patrick McAvinue, fiddle; and Sierra Hull, mandolin.
Ailing: Singer-songwriter Rodney Crowell has canceled his remaining gigs for 2017, to obtain treatment for a health problem. The artist, best known for such self-penned #1 singles as “I Couldn’t Leave You If I Tried,” and Grammy-winning “After All This Time,” noted on Facebook: “An impressive team of doctors have confirmed what for the past year I’ve instinctively known: dealing with the root cause of my health issues requires complete rest . . . For the foreseeable future, with expert medical guidance, my work will consist of quietly encouraging my body to return to its natural state. I’m sorry for any inconvenience this may cause.” . . . Veteran Grand Ole Opry trouper Jesse McReynolds, 88, has suffered an aneurysm that sidelines the master mandolinist, who won fame with his late brother Jim McReynolds as Jim & Jesse, known for hits such as “Diesel On My Tail.”
Farewell Curtain: This past month saw the passing of country family members. Billie Christene (Doan) Gatlin, 88, died Sept. 15. She was Mom to entertainers Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers (Steve and Rudy), and daughter LaDonna Johnson. Survivors include her husband of 70 years William (Curley) Gatlin, four children, nine grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren (and one on the way).
Bobbye Jean Drusky, 87, widow of 1960s’ hitmaker Roy Drusky, Sept. 20, following a brief illness. Hubby, a longtime Grand Ole Opry star, was famed for such successes as “Another,” “Second Hand Rose” and “Yes, Mr. Peters.” Surviving are the couple’s three sons, Roy, Jr. (Twig), Tad and Tip; and four grandchildren. (Drusky died in 2004.)
Doris Shrode Loden, 86, widow of singer-songwriter Sonny James, died Sept. 23, in Nashville. The couple had no children, but she is survived by sisters Sally Ribble and Betty Harris. Sonny, born James Hugh Loden, enjoyed a string of #1 singles including “Young Love,” “Running Bear” and “When the Snow Is On the Roses.” (He died Feb. 22, 2016.)
(Editor’s note: Jason Aldean band photo by Patricia Presley.)