National media has been buzzzzzing about the CMA Awards. Good Morning America, LIVE with Regis and Kelly, along with others have featured musical guests and live performances to feature the nominees of the show. Even the online radio station, http://www.pandora.com had advertising spots pushing the show. You have seen the likes of Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift, Kellie Pickler, Brad Paisley, and Tim McGraw just to name a few grace the air waves pushing their agenda and giving good press for the CMA Awards.
A few names you will not see in the general press are the nominees for Musician of the Year. These individuals have dedicated their lives to country music and they will be in small print at the bottom of press releases and breezed by on the red carpet. This town is about hard work and sacrifice. These people leave their families and friends and travel on the road right along the side of the artists but you can’t see them cause they are standing in the shadows of the spotlight.
In honor of the years of dedication and tremendous talent – here is a little snippet about each nominee for Musician of the Year. (All the info below was taken directly from online sources – bios, personal web pages, and wikipedia)
Eddie Bayers – DRUMS
Eddie Bayers was born in Pautaxant River Maryland, being the son of a Naval Fighter Pilot, he grew up in various parts of the US, and spent 4 years of his life in North Africa.
Trained as a classical pianist, it was during his college years in California that his musical interests took a turn. “I loved playing the music … but I was in an interpretive mode. In the collegiate years you are subject to interpreting the music exactly the way the professors think you should.” Certainly not to go against that, to Eddie, it was more fun feeling it the way he wanted to feel it. Not to demean the original composer, but he was starting to see there was a creative part of music.”
Establishing himself in Nashville as one of the top studio drummers, Eddie has since worked with some of the biggest names in the music industry, including Vince Gill, George Strait, Alan Jackson, Steve Winwood, Peter Frampton, Bob Seger, Trisha Yearwood, Garth Brooks, Kenny Chesney, Uncle Cracker……well the list goes on and on. Playing on hundreds of gold and platinum albums and numerous movie soundtracks, He received the Academy of Country Music Drummer of the Year Award for 11 straight years, something that no artist or musician as yet accomplished within the academy’s history, and has recently won his 12th award for 2004. He won the “Top Ten” award in Music Row Mag, which is given to musicians who play on the most top ten albums country in Billboard Mag. so many times, that he still has played drums on the most top ten albums in country for the past 12 years. He was put into the Honor Roll for Modern Drummer Magazine for winning the readers poll 5 years consecutive. more info
Paul Franklin – STEEL GUITAR
Paul Franklin moved from Detroit to Nashville in 1972 to play the pedal steel guitar with Barbara Mandrell. Later in the 70’s, he recorded and toured with Jerry Reed and Mel Tillis. In 1981, Paul decided to quit the road and focus strictly on session work in Nashville. Since then, he has been well received throughout the recording industry. You can listen to his playing behind such legendary artists as Sting, Mark Knopfler, George Strait, Alan Jackson, Shania Twain, Barbara Streisand and Megadeth for examples of Paul’s musicianship. His ability to create music outside of the country field has taken him well beyond the stereotype by which the pedal steel guitar has always been limited. Paul’s soulful playing on this uniquely voiced instrument is clearly from the heart and makes him one of the busiest session musicians in Nashville. more info
Dann Huff – GUITAR
Guitarist and singer Dann Huff was born in 1960 and was raised in a musically gifted family. Dann favored the guitar. He took a few lessons; some even classical, but mostly played by ear. When he was 13, a session guitarist by the name of John Darnall spent some time teaching him a scale, and that kind of set the young Dann Huff on the career path he followed.
When Huff was only 16 years old, he began performing on demos in Nashville. By the time he hit 20, he helped form the Christian rock group Whiteheart. Whiteheart completed three albums before Dann called it quits in 1985. After leaving Whiteheart, maybe with a taste for something different, Dann and his brother David joined forces to create another band, Giant. This one left Christian music behind to offer heavy metal, hard rock albums like Last of the Runaways and Time to Burn.
In the early ’90s, Dann went out on his own again, and went back to session work, something he excels at. Over the years he has sat in on recorders for artists such as Barbra Streisand, Kenney Loggins, Reba McEntire, Celine Dion, DC Talk, Shania Twain, Michael Bolton, Luther Vandross, Donna Summer, Rod Stewart, and just about any other artists who have topped the charts in genres from country to rock to Christian and back again. Dann Huff has also moved into the role of producing, working on albums with metal superstars like Megadeth. more info
Brent Mason – GUITAR
Brent Mason is one of the most in-demand guitarists in Country Music. Growing up in a musical family, Mason taught himself how to play guitar starting at age 5. After graduating from high school in 1981, Mason moved to Nashville to pursue music full-time. He landed a regular gig at the Stage Coach Lounge where one night Country Music Hall of Fame member Chet Atkins was in the audience. Atkins invited Mason to play on his album, Stay Tuned, and news of Mason’s talent spread throughout Music City.
Mason has played on albums for Montgomery Gentry, Alan Jackson, The Mavericks, Trisha Yearwood and many more. He’s also written numerous instrumental pieces for television and radio programs and performed guitar on tracks used in commercials. Nominated 12 times for CMA Musician of the Year, Mason took home the trophy in 1997 and 1998. Responding to requests to learn his techniques, Mason produced his own instruction video, “Brent Mason’s Nashville Chops & Western Swing Guitar.” In 1997, Mason released an instrumental album, Hot Wired. more info
Mac McAnally – GUITAR
The release of his new self-penned album Down By The River, his signing to a prominent Nashville label and a recent No. 1 single – as a writer and an artist – are all significant pieces of this unexpected new image. Case in point, McAnally’s recent signing to Show Dog Nashville, the young but immensely successful independent label owned and operated by Toby Keith. When a man with Keith’s musical and business acumen puts his chips down, it means something. “There’s nobody more respected, at least when it comes to musicians and people who really know this business, than Mac McAnally,” Keith said of bringing McAnally to the company. “Getting to be a part of whatever Mac wants to do is an honor for me, and for everyone at the label.”
Next at the podium, Kenny Chesney. The man who had already recorded McAnally’s “Back Where I Come From” asked for a little help when he decided to cut Mac’s “Down The Road.” Powered by vocals from both artists, the song reached the No. 1 spot in the spring of 2009 and was nominated in the ACM Vocal Event category.
Music was the most obvious road for Lyman “Mac” McAnally to take from his Red Bay, Alabama birthplace and Belmont, Mississippi hometown. He was a guitar and piano prodigy who performed in clubs at 13, wrote his first song at 15 and landed as a Muscle Shoals studio musician at 18. Mac signed his first record deal, with Ariola, at 20 and launched two singles to moderate success on the Billboard Hot 100. “It’s A Crazy World” peaked at No. 37 and “Minimum Love” topped out at No. 41. more info