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Michael Jackson Launches Effort to Keep Neverland Ranch; Academy of Country Music Award Nominees Announced


Just days after San Francisco-based Financial Title Company filed notice of a trustee's sale of Michael Jackson's Neverland Valley Ranch, CNN reports that the self-proclaimed "King of Pop" is working out financial details to keep the property. An auction had been set for March 19 at the Santa Barbara County courthouse. Michael left Neverland in 2005 after being found not guilty of child molestation charges. He reportedly owes more than $24 million on the estate.

Mike Smith, singer and keyboardist with the 1960s group The Dave Clark Five, died of pneumonia on February 28. He was 64. Smith suffered a spinal cord injury in 2003 after falling from a fence at his home in Spain. The injury left him paralyzed below his ribcage and he had only limited use of his upper body. Smith had been hospitalized since the accident until last December, when he and his wife moved into a specially designed home near a London hospital. The Dave Clark Five will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 10. Smith's agent, Margo Lewis, said he had hoped to attend the event.

On March 4, Arista Records released Country star Alan Jackson's new album, Good Time. The collection features his current Top 5 hit "Small Town Southern Man." Other highlights include a duet with Martina McBride called "Never Loved Before." For the first time in his career, Alan wrote all 17 songs on Good Time.

Eric Clapton has been invited to perform in North Korea. His spokesperson said, "Eric Clapton receives numerous offers to play in countries around the world. There is no agreement whatsoever for him to play in North Korea, nor any planned shows there."

The concert would mark the first time a Western rock artist has performed in Pyongyang. The son of leader Kim Jong Il is reportedly an Eric Clapton fan.

Stephen King has written the script for the upcoming stage musical "Ghost Brothers of Darkland County." Midwest rocker John Mellencamp wrote the score for the production, which is scheduled to open at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta in early 2009. The show is described as "a sultry Southern gothic mystery with a blues-tinged, guitar-driven score."

The financial terms of Paul McCartney and Heather Mills' divorce settlement will be announced by a British judge on March 17. The former Beatle's fortune has been reported to exceed $1.5 billion. McCartney and Mills separated in 2006 after four years of marriage. Their daughter, Beatrice, is four years old.


New albums scheduled for release on March 4 include: "Soul Speak" by Michael McDonald, "Warpaint" by The Black Crowes, "Still" by the Bodeans, "Sounds So Good" by Ashton Shepard, "Solo Acoustic, Vol. 2" by Jackson Browne, "Live" by Rakim and "Stronger" by Carlene Carter.


The 2008 Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo began on March 3. Many of today's biggest stars will perform at the 20-day event. They include Rascal Flatts, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Fergie, Miley Cyrus, John Legend, Martina McBride and Brad Paisley.


On March 4, Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley announced the nominees for the 43rd annual Academy of Country Music (ACM) Awards from the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville. This year's ACM Awards will be presented on May 18 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Reba McEntire will host the ceremony. "I am celebrating my 10th anniversary of hosting the Academy of Country Music Awards. I'm excited to honor Country music's greatest talent at this spectacular awards show," she said.