93Q Country's Recipe For Successful Radio

Photos courtesy of KKBQ-FM
The staff of KKBQ onstage during this year's A Day In the Country festival at the Cynthia Woods Pavilion
At some point during this evening's CMA awards in Nashville, one of the presenters will announce Houston's 93Q (92.9 FM) as the 2014 winner of the association's Radio Station of the Year-Major Market division. It's yet another piece of hefty hardware for the Cox Media Group-owned property, whose "Q Morning Zoo" show is also up for Outstanding Morning Show-Major Market for the team of Kevin Kline, Erica Rico and Tim Tuttle.

But that's not all. KKBQ is also coming away from this year's Marconi Radio Awards, given by the National Association of Broadcasters, with its second trophy in a row -- and in a much broader category this year. In 2013 the station won for Country Station of the Year, but this year graduated to Major Market Station of the Year, an honor that covers all formats. Within the industry, KKBQ is increasingly being recognized as a model of how to run a successful radio station.

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Country Music Time Machine: World Series Edition

Mike Kalasnik via Flickr
Sluggerrr is ready for Game 7.
Right now Texans are in the middle of football season, and therefore even attempting to talk about any other pro sports amounts to ripping a wet fart into the wind -- unless it's the Rockets, and most of us Houstonians can't watch them on TV anyway. But in case you haven't noticed, and you probably haven't, the Major League Baseball fans among us have been enjoying one of the most entertaining postseasons in ages.

It ends tonight, one way or another, when the Kansas City Royals and San Francisco Giants meet in the first World Series Game 7 in three years. And while it's been fun to watch former Astro Hunter Pence's slow transformation into Hayes Carll, once you watch them play a little while it's nearly impossible not to root for the club from Kansas City. Not only do they bunt and steal bases and move runners over and make spectacular outfield catches, but the Royals also have the most entertaining mascot in the major leagues, a goofy-ass lion named Sluggerrr.

Thus far the most interesting music-related news to come out of this series is ex-Staind singer/current country solo artist Aaron Lewis' three-base error while singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" before Game 5 at San Francisco's AT&T Park. Even Sluggerrr could have sang better than that.

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Jim Lauderdale Is Way Past Where the Sidewalk Ends

Photo by Jay Blakesberg Photography
Buddy Miller (l) and Jim Lauderdale (r) will produce the next Ralph Stanley (c) album.
One of the most respected songwriters in the suddenly-chic genre called Americana had been chasing the dream of a recording deal ten years when he finally found success through the backdoor to Nashville at age 35.

Jim Lauderdale, 57, who visits Dosey Doe's satellite Music Cafe in Conroe Friday night, struggled for a decade in New York -- even working as a messenger for Rolling Stone magazine -- and Los Angeles before finally hitting the big time in 1992 when two of his songs, "King of Broken Hearts" and "Where the Sidewalk Ends"" from his first album Planet of Love, were selected by Tony Brown and George Strait for the soundtrack of Strait's movie, Pure Country.

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Ray Johnston Now a Baller With a Guitar


Being a baller was his ultimate dream, but sometimes what you want isn't always what you get.

That's the case for former Dallas Mavericks player turned Texas musician Ray Johnston. His current album is called No Bad Days, and that's also his life's anthem.

"Thinking about the theme of the album No Bad Days, to me is the strongest song I've ever been a part of writing and I think it summed up my last ten years as far as getting a shitty diagnosis -- sorry, crappy diagnosis -- and doing my best to turn a lot of frowns upside down," says Johnston. "It was really dark for a while, man. Having leukemia five times in 12 years, there's a lot of pissed-off moments, but my parents wouldn't let me sulk."

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Kacey Musgraves at Warehouse Live, 10/2/2014

Photos by Jason Wolter
Kacey Musgraves
Warehouse Live
October 2, 2014

Kacey Musgraves feels almost too good to be true. The 26-year-old Texan seems as sweet as can be, both onstage and in her media appearances, and sparks the kind of connection with fans that has them singing her songs back to her without her even asking them to. Running across this kind of guileless talent in 2014, not just in Musgraves' chosen realm of country but in all of pop music, feels a little like driving past a jackalope on your evening drive home from work. You're not sure it's real, but you won't soon forget it all the same.

Although it came out a while ago (March 2013), Musgraves is still touring behind Same Trailer, Different Park, prompting her to slyly dub the leg that brought her to Warehouse Live Thursday evening "Same Tour, Different Trailer." As she apologetically explained to the venue's near-packed ballroom, she's been so busy she simply hasn't had time to make another record. Picking up award after award and spending the balance of the year as Katy Perry's hand-picked opening act will do that.

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The 10 Biggest Country Stars Who Live in Texas

Photo courtesy of EB Media
By Chris Gray and Matthew Keever

Thus far mainstream success has eluded Sunny Sweeney, but not for lack of either talent or trying. According to her Facebook page, Sweeney (a former standup comic) has now played the Grand Ole Opry 41 times but continues to reside in Austin, where she did an acoustic set at Waterloo Records last month to celebrate the release of her third LP, Provoked. Both Country Weekly and NPR have come calling since then, so Sweeney -- also a 2013 nominee for the CMA's New Female Vocalist -- can't possibly stay under the radar much longer.

Facebook fans: 106K

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The Musical Cream of This Fall's County-Fair Crop

Photo by Axel Naud via Flickr
Now that's a super moon all right.
If you've been lucky enough to see the so-called "supermoon" the past couple of nights, you know good things are coming: not only cooler temperatures but fairgrounds full of carnival midways, fried foods, beauty pageants, golf tournaments, parades, cookoffs, livestock auctions and top-notch country music. In other words, small-town Texas in all its harvest-season splendor.

Although this season is somewhat overshadowed by that big shootin' match that takes place next to the Dome (which is now just six months away), almost every county that touches Harris is having some sort of officially sanctioned celebration between this weekend and late October; lest we forget, so is Harris County's second-largest city. To salute them, Rocks Off picked out a dozen acts that are worth the short drive outside the Loop to see while eating Frito Pie and drinking light beer from a plastic cup or aluminum bottle. Don't forget those boots, because they might even make you want to dance.

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Welcome to Country Music Time Machine

Country music has an interesting relationship with current events. Unlike other forms of pop that deal with one form of fantasy or another -- starlets forever falling in love with that guy who is just out of reach; aspiring rappers' dreams of a ghetto-fabulous lifestyle, for example -- country draws a large part of its credibility from its basis in reality, a direct link to its roots in folk music that improbably remains very much intact.

Now, that may be an idealized, exaggerated or otherwise distorted reality, true, but even the biggest country stars are careful not to put on too many airs lest they be criticized for being "out of touch" with their fans -- a creed that more or less holds true from Hank Williams Sr. and Loretta Lynn through Florida Georgia Line and Kacey Musgraves. Compare that with, say, Kanye or Lady Gaga, whom many people idolize and almost no one faults for acting like they're above the rest of us.

It might even be argued that listening to country music is like reading the newspaper of regular people's lives, which is why thisdayincountrymusic.com is so much fun. The UK-based site itself is an invaluable almanac of country facts, and actually just released a new app for iPhone and iPad this week. Furthermore, the section that allows users to input their birthday to reveal what song was No. 1 on that date also reveals that country music is just like history in a different way: just as sometimes it seems like weeks or even months can go by without something truly historic happening, a lot of songs that reach even the pinnacle of popularity are really nothing special.

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Jayhawks Take Flight Again on Raft of Reissues

Marina Chavez/UME
The Jayhawks "Sounds of Lies" lineup 1997: Karen Grotberg (keyboards), Tim O'Reagan (drums/vocals), Gary Louris (guitar/vocals), Marc Perlman (bass), and Kraig Johnson (guitar).
At the end of 1995, Gary Louris had a problem. A big one.

His band, the critically acclaimed, Minneapolis-based Jayhawks, was just starting to gain some commercial traction after a decade of existence at the front of the No Depression/Americana/alt-country pack. Their release earlier that year, Tomorrow the Green Grass, was (and is) considered a masterpiece, and single "Blue" seemed to have them poised to break even more.

Then, Louris' fellow singer/guitarist/songwriter Mark Olson quit, relieving the band of its co-leader and, more importantly, one half of the harmony vocals that were the band's trademark.

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Nashville Stars Step Onstage But Not Out of Character

Photos courtesy of Dancy Ware PR
Claire Bowen
It's been several decades, since The Monkees and The Partridge Family, that a television show about fictional musicians has turned its actors into real-life singing stars. Maybe it was MTV's fault, or the flood of reality programming, but the '80s through '00s were painfully short on shows capitalizing on the dramatic opportunities begged by even the most quotidian musician's life. Not until Nashville, ABC's hourlong soap set in the country-music capital, did viewers weaned on American Idol-ish competition shows realize that other forms of music could be ready for prime time too.

True, even without all the music, Nashville would be one of the better dramas on network television. It's a well-written, well-acted, totally immersive window into a glamorous but treacherous segment of American society. Imagine Scandal with fewer skeletons in its characters' closets (but not many), or The Good Wife set backstage at the Grand Ole Opry instead of courtrooms. But Nashville, created by Thelma and Louise screenwriter Callie Khouri, came up with an ingenious twist: on this show, the songs and the characters are for all intents and purposes inseparable.

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