Spears 'X Factor' Deal in the Works; Jackson Brothers to Launch 'Unity Tour'

Spears smiles on stage at the 2011 Wango Tango concert in Los Angeles.
Spears smiles on stage at the 2011 Wango Tango concert in Los Angeles.
Mary Morningstar

Spears X Factor Deal in the Works

TMZ reports that Britney Spears is close to signing a $15-million deal to be a judge on the second season of America’s X Factor. Creator Simon Cowell dismissed X Factor judges Nicole Scherzinger and Paula Abdul following the show’s debut season.  Host Steve Jones was also let go.  An official statement regarding the signing of Spears will reportedly be made within the next week.

Jackson Brothers to Launch 'Unity Tour'

Brothers Tito Jackson (L-R), Jackie Jackson, and Marlon Jackson (file photo)
Brothers Tito Jackson (L-R), Jackie Jackson, and Marlon Jackson (file photo)
Michael Jackson’s brothers Jackie, Jermaine, Marlon and Tito have announced they’ll launch their “Unity Tour 2012” on June 18 in Louisville, Kentucky.  The reunion tour marks their first outing since 1984.  Jackie said, “I can’t believe this is finally happening.  There’s nothing like having all the brothers on stage at the same time.  This will be exciting for our fans around the world - and I know at each concert, MJ’s spirit will be in the house with us.”  Twenty-seven U.S. concerts are scheduled through July 29.

Dick Clark Dies After Massive Heart Attack

Dick Clark, host of the American Bandstand television show (2002 file photo)
Dick Clark, host of the American Bandstand television show (2002 file photo)
Television legend Dick Clark died on April 18 after suffering a massive heart attack.  He was 82.  Affectionately referred to as the “America’s oldest teenager,” Clark started his career as a radio broadcaster.  He later hosted the local afternoon dance show “Bandstand” in Philadelphia, which went national as “American Bandstand” in 1957.  In 1972, Clark began hosting the annual “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” from New York’s Times Square.  He suffered a serious stroke in 2004, but returned to the New Year’s Eve show the following year with co-host Ryan Seacrest.  Seacrest, who hosts the FOX-TV singing competition “American Idol,” said, “This is a tremendously emotional day for so many people - fans of music, fans of television, broadcasters and certainly me personally, as Dick Clark was one of those incredible pioneers of our business.  He taught me how to do television.”  (For more on Dick Clark’s long career, see Katherine Cole's Music Programs feature Remembering Dick Clark.)

Dixon Exits 'American Idol'

Colton Dixon, 20, from Murfreesboro, Tennessee is the latest contestant to be voted off American Idol. Colton, who auditioned for last year’s American Idol, arrived at a Season 11 audition with his sister to give her moral support.  The judges convinced him to try out again this year and he won a spot in the Hollywood rounds.  Colton plans to pursue a career in Christian music.  Six finalists remain on the show: Hollie Cavanagh, Elise Testone, Jessica Sanchez, Phillip Phillips, Joshua Ledet and Skylar Laine.

The Band Drummer Loses Cancer Battle

71-year-old Levon Helm, drummer and vocalist with  The Band, lost his battle with throat cancer on April 19.  The Band’s classic songs include “Up On Cripple Creek,” “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” and “The Weight.”  The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994 and received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008.  Helm’s label, Vanguard Records, said in a statement that he “will be remembered by all he touched as a brilliant musician and a beautiful soul.”

White Plans NYC Concert to Promote New Album

Jack White's
Jack White's "Blunderbuss" CD
Jack White will perform a concert at New York’s Webster Hall on April 27, to kick off the release of his new album, Blunderbuss.  The show will stream live on VEVO to launch the third season of American Express’ “Unstaged” series.  “Blunderbuss” is the first solo album by the former White Stripes frontman.

Monica Finds Success on Billboard 200

Monica's "New Life" CD
Three new albums debut in the Top 10 on this week’s Billboard 200 chart.  New Life by Monica enters at Number 4, Slipstream by Bonnie Raitt comes in at Number 6 and Hodie Allen’s All American lands on the list at Number 10.  In other Billboard 200 news, Lionel Richie reaches the summit with his new album, Tuskegee.  His last Number One album on that list was Dancing on the Ceiling in 1986.  Tuskegee spends its second week in the top spot on the Country Albums chart.

Police Recover Tom Petty's Stolen Guitar

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers CD
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers CD
Five guitars stolen from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were recovered after the thief sold one to a pawn shop.  The guitars were lifted from The Culver Studios in Los Angeles, where the band was rehearsing for an upcoming concert tour.  Police arrested a security guard, who worked at The Culver Studios lot.  The guitars were reportedly worth a total of $100,000.

New Album Releases / April 24:

“Blunderbuss” by Jack White
“Up All Night” by Kip Moore

Musical Events/Festivals/Benefits:

An Earth Day rally and concert took place April 22 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.  Performers included Cheap Trick, British singer Dave Mason and teen pop group Kicking Daisies.  The theme of this year’s rally was “Mobilize the Earth.”  Interactive exhibits and demonstrations by NASA, the United Nations and others were featured at the rally’s EcoVillage.

The 2012 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival begins on April 27.  The two-weekend multi-genre event will feature appearances by The Eagles, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Jill Scott, Herbie Hancock, the Eli Young Band, the Neville Brothers, Foo Fighters, Ne-Yo and hundreds of other acts.  Festival producer Quint Davis said, “This festival really offers the best of both worlds.  The heart and soul of the festival is all the Louisiana artists, but added to that list is the very best of all these other genres.”

The 2012 Stagecoach Festival takes place April 27-29 in Indio, California.  Some of today’s biggest stars from Country, bluegrass and blues will headline the sold-out event.  They include Brad Paisley, Miranda Lambert, Martina McBride, Kenny Rogers, Ralph Stanley and His Clinch Mountain Boys and the Del McCoury Band, among many others.

Star Birthdays:

On April 22, British rocker Peter Frampton will celebrate his 62nd birthday.  Frampton made his professional debut at age 16 with The Herd.  Three years later, he formed Humble Pie.  Frampton launched his solo career in 1974, and the following year, recorded “Frampton Comes Alive” at the Winterland in San Francisco.  The release topped Billboard’s Top 200 chart for 10 weeks and became one of the best-selling albums of all time.  It produced the Top 10 singles “Show Me The Way,” “Baby, I Love Your Way” and “Do You Feel Like We Do?”  Following a seven-year absence from recording, Frampton returned with a self-titled album in 1994.  2001 marked the 25th anniversary of the release of “Frampton Comes Alive.”  To celebrate the occasion, the album was re-released with four bonus tracks.  In 2003, Frampton released “Now” on his own Framptone Records.  He included a cover of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” as a tribute to his late friend George Harrison.  Frampton’s 2006 album, “Fingerprints,” earned him a Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Album.  His latest collection, “Thank You Mr. Churchill,” was released in 2010.  Last year, Frampton kicked off a world tour to celebrate the 35th anniversary of his multi-million-selling live album, “Frampton Comes Alive.”  On April 19, Frampton was honored by publishing rights organization ASCAP.  He received ASCAP’s Global Impact Award “in recognition of the enduring popularity of his music and major success on the worldwide stage.” 

April 23 marks the birth date of the late Roy Orbison (b. 1936).  During the 1960s, his chart hits included “Running Scared,” “Crying” and “Oh, Pretty Woman.”  In 1987, Orbison was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  The following year, he began performing with the rock supergroup Traveling Wilburys.  Orbison died of a heart attack in December 1988. 

Grammy-winning singer Kelly Clarkson turns 30 on April 24.  After winning the “American Idol” Season One title in 2002, the Texas native was signed to RCA Records.  Her 2003 debut album, “Thankful,” entered the Billboard 200 at Number One.  Since then, Kelly has recorded four more albums, “Breakaway,” “My December,” “All I Ever Wanted” and “Stronger.”  Hits from her latest album, “Stronger,” include the Number One title track and “Mr. Know It All,” which was also released in a Country version.  On July 21, Kelly will begin a 29-city North American co-headlining tour with The Fray. 

On April 24, singer and actress Barbra Streisand will celebrate her 70th birthday.  Streisand made her Broadway debut in 1962.  Two years later, she won the lead role in Broadway’s “Funny Girl.”  In addition to a successful recording career, she has appeared in several motion pictures, including “The Way We Were,” “Hello, Dolly” and “Yentl,” a film Streisand also produced, directed and co-wrote.  In 1994, she embarked on her first concert tour in 28 years.  Sold out performances at New York’s Madison Square Garden were recorded for a live album.  In 1997, Streisand recorded the album “Higher Ground,” which featured her Number One duet with Celine Dion, “Tell Him.”  Her 1999 CD, “A Love Like Ours,” included the hit duet with Vince Gill, “If You Ever Leave Me.”  Streisand announced her retirement from live performing in 2000.  In 2002, she recorded the album “Duets,” which compiled many of her previously released collaborations.  The collection also included two new duets with Josh Groban and Barry Manilow.  Streisand’s 2003 CD, “The Movie Album,” was nominated for a Grammy Award in the category of Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album.  In 2004, she made a return to the big screen after an eight-year break to star with Dustin Hoffman in “Meet The Fockers.”  In 2005, Streisand collaborated on a new studio album with Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees.  “Guilty Pleasures” was released in conjunction with the 25th anniversary of their 1980 collaboration “Guilty.”  Streisand performed a 2006 concert tour to raise millions of dollars for environmental, educational and women’s health organizations.  In 2008, she received a Kennedy Center Honor.  That same year, Streisand began work on the album, “Love Is the Answer.”  She collaborated on the project with Grammy-winning Canadian jazz artist Diana Krall and her quartet.  Streisand is reportedly in negotiations to star in a film revival of “Gypsy.”  Her latest album, “What Matters Most,” is a collection of songs written by her longtime collaborators and friends, Alan and Marilyn Bergman. 

April 25 marks the birth date of the late jazz vocalist Ella Fitzgerald (born 1918).  In 1938, she scored her first hit with “A-Tisket A-Tasket.”  The song sold more than two million copies, spent 10 weeks at Number One and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1986.  Fitzgerald received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1967.  She died on June 15, 1996 of complications from diabetes.  In 1998, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. displayed an exhibit that chronicled Fitzgerald's life and career with awards, stage outfits and many personal items from her estate. 

TLC’s Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins will turn 42 on April 26.  Watkins was born in Des Moines, Iowa, where she began singing in church.  In 1991, TLC was signed to LaFace Records, which released the trio’s debut album the following year.  TLC recorded its second CD, “CrazySexyCool,” in 1994.  The collection sold more than 11 million copies and earned the group two Grammy Awards.  Their next album, 1999’s “FanMail,” sold six million copies.  In August of 2000, “T Boz” married rapper Mack 10.  The couple welcomed a daughter in October of that year.  In 2005, she filed for divorce, saying Mack 10 committed adultery and threatened to kill her.  In 2002, TLC member Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes died in an automobile accident in Honduras.  “T-Boz” and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas completed the album they were working on prior to Lisa’s death. “3D” was released in November of 2002.  Three years later, T-Boz and Chilli auditioned singers on the seven-episode UPN Network series “R U The Girl.”  They chose O’so Krispie, a choreographer from Atlanta, to record a song and perform one concert with them.  Their first single together, “I Bet,” never charted.  Last year, TMZ reported that T-Boz filed for bankruptcy for the second time since 1995. 

On April 27, singer Sheena Easton celebrates her 53rd birthday.  In 1981, Easton burst onto the pop music scene with her self-titled debut album, which contained the Number One single “Morning Train (Nine To Five).”  She later recorded numerous other hits, including “You Could Have Been With Me,” “The Lover In Me” and her 1983 Top 10 duet with Kenny Rogers, “We’ve Got Tonight.”  In 2000, Easton performed in Las Vegas with David Cassidy in the Broadway-style show “At the Copa.”  That same year, she recorded her latest album, “Fabulous,” a collection of dance cover songs.  Sheena is the only artist in Billboard history to have Top 5 hits on five different charts - Adult Contemporary, Dance, Pop, Country and Rhythm-and-Blues.

Awards Presentations/Winners:

The Gospel Music Association handed out its annual Dove Awards on April 19 in Atlanta, Georgia.  Laura Story led the winners with four trophies, including Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year for “Blessings.”  Kirk Franklin, LeCrae, NEEDTOBREATHE and Jason Crabb also won multiple awards.  Crabb took home the night’s top honor, Artist of the Year.

Adele, LMFAO, Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Lil Wayne lead the nominees for the upcoming 2012 Billboard Music Awards.  Adele is nominated in 18 categories, including Top Artist, Top Female Artist and Top Billboard 200 Artist.  LMFAO follows close behind with mentions in 17 categories.  Rihanna earned nods in 13 categories, while Lady Gaga and Lil Wayne picked up 10 apiece.  The 2012 Billboard Music Awards will be presented on May 20 in Las Vegas.

Look Who's Going On Tour!

On April 24, the Beach Boys will kick off their 50th anniversary reunion tour in Tucson, Arizona.  The 50-date North American trek includes an appearance at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival on April 27 and the Bonnaroo Music Festival on June 10.  The Beach Boys also plan to release a new studio album later this year.

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