Influential Guitarist Les Paul Dies

On August 13, legendary guitarist and innovator Les Paul (real name Lester William Polsfuss) died of pneumonia in White Plains, New York.  He was 94.  Paul is regarded as one of America's most popular and influential electric guitarists.  He developed the solid body guitar, which became the template for Gibson's best-selling electric Les Paul guitar.  Paul also pioneered multi-track recording.  In the 1950's, he performed with his late wife, Mary Ford.  Their hits included "How High the Moon," "I'm Sitting on Top of the World" and "Vaya Con Dios."  

Jackson Estate Generates $60 Million

The Los Angeles County coroner's office finished its autopsy report on Michael Jackson, but won't yet release the results to the public.  Police asked that the cause of Jackson's death remain sealed so that they can continue their investigation.  In other news, Michael Jackson's estate has reportedly earned $60 million since his June 25 death.  John Branca, who is one of the executors of his estate, said in a Los Angeles Times interview that Michael's estate is expected to generate $200 million by the end of this year.  He based that figure on record sales, a movie that will be released on October 30 and other business deals.

Paul Greer, who writes Billboard's Chart Watch column, says Michael Jackson will make chart history on the 2009 year-end charts.  He wrote in his latest column that Jackson "is likely to become the first artist to have three albums in Nielsen/SoundScan's year-end Top 20 since Garth Brooks achieved the feat in 1992."

Reba McEntire Releases New Album

Last year, Country star Reba McEntire ended her 25-year association with MCA Nashville Records and signed with the independent label Valory Music.  On August 18, her first album for Valory was released.  "Keep On Loving You" features Reba's recent hit, "Strange," which became the fastest rising single of her career.  The album's second single, "Consider Me Gone," debuts on this week's Country chart at Number 51 (week ending August 22).

Brooks & Dunn Split

Country duo Brooks & Dunn announced on their web site that they'll be ending their musical association next year.  They wrote, "After 20 years of making music and riding this trail together, we have agreed as a duo that it's time to call it a day.  This ride has been everything and more than we could ever have dreamed.  We owe it all to you, the fans.  If you hear rumors, don't believe them, it's just time."  Kix Brooks told Country Music Television, "I'm proud to say we've never had a fight, never even yelled at each other.  I just think we've kind of exhausted it."  Brooks & Dunn's new 30-track album, #1's and Then Some, will be released on September 8.  The set contains two new songs, including the duo's new hit, "Honky Tonk Stomp."

Rapper Found Guilty of Murder

Rapper "C-Murder" (real name Corey Miller) has been found guilty of second-degree murder.  Miller shot a 16-year-old fan in 2002 at a nightclub in New Orleans, Louisiana.  He faces a mandatory life prison sentence.  Miller's 1998 debut album, Life or Death, entered the Billboard 200 at Number 3 and went on to sell one million copies.

Rhino Records Remembers Woodstock

On August 18, Rhino Records celebrated the 40th anniversary of Woodstock with the release of a six-CD box set.  "Woodstock - 40 Years On: Back To Yasgur's Farm" includes 38 previously unreleased tracks by such artists as the Grateful Dead, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, Country Joe & The Fish, and others.  The 77 tracks appear chronologically as they were performed at the 1969 Woodstock festival.

Jennifer Hudson Becomes a Mom

Singer Jennifer Hudson gave birth to her first child on August 10.  The boy was named David Daniel Otunga, Jr. after Jennifer's fiancé.  Her publicist reported, "The baby is beautiful and perfect.  His parents are ecstatic."

Sugarland Tops Billboard Chart

Sugarland debuts at Number One on the Billboard 200 this week (week ending August 22) with Live On The Inside.  Sugarland is the only Country duo to top the Billboard 200 in the chart's 53-year history.  They also reached Number One on that list with 2008's "Love On The Inside."

Steel Magnolia Wins CMT Contest

Steel Magnolia won the second season of Country Music Television's (CMT) "Can You Duet."  The duo consists of 23-year-old Meghan Linsey from Ponchatoula, Louisiana and her boyfriend, 28-year-old Joshua Scott Jones from Charleston, Illinois.  Both now live in Nashville.  Their prize was a recording contract with Big Machine Records, whose roster also includes Taylor Swift, Trisha Yearwood and Jack Ingram.  Steel Magnolia's debut single is "Keep On Loving You."

New Album Releases August 18

"Play Time" by Brady Seals, "Ursa Major" by Third Eye Blind, "Imperial Blaze" by Sean Paul, "Turn Me Loose" by Ledisi, "Acquired Taste" by Delbert McClinton & Dick50, "Release" by Sister Hazel, "American Sunshine" by Colin Hay, "I'm About To Come Alive" by David Nail and "Anything Goes" by Herb Alpert & Lani Hall.

Musical Events/Festivals/Benefits

On August 19, Country singer Jewel returned to her hometown of Homer, Alaska to perform a benefit concert.  The show raised money for Bunnel Street Arts Center's "Artists in Schools" program.  The program serves more than 1,000 students each year by exposing youth of diverse socio-economic backgrounds to varied art forms.  Jewel says, "I'm so thankful for this town and all that I have been able to accomplish because of the support I received as a young and aspiring artist.  When I was 15, I was accepted to Interlochen, an arts school in Michigan, to pursue my studies in visual art and music.  My hometown of Homer, Alaska helped me raise the $11,000 that I needed to go.  That was a critical stage in my journey that led me to where I am today.  I'm happy to be able to give back and help others in this wonderful community.  The people here are so talented and gifted. I'm very proud of where my family and I come from."  Jewel is currently working on her second Country music album.

Awards Presentations/Winners

The Dan Tyminski Band leads the nominees for the 2009 International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Awards.  Collectively and individually, the members received a total of nine mentions, including Entertainer of the Year.  Following close behind with eight nominations is Dailey & Vincent, the IBMA's reigning Entertainer of the Year.  Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper and comedian-actor-musician Steve Martin, who recently released the bluegrass album "The Crow: New Songs for the Five-String Banjo," earned six nods apiece.  Singer Kathy Mattea and the Hot Rize will co-host the 20th annual IBMA Awards ceremony on October 1 at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium.

Look Who's Going on Tour!

On August 20, Britney Spears will kick off the second round of North American concerts on her "Circus" tour.  She'll begin the 23-date outing in Hamilton, Ontario and wrap up shows on September 27 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Britney wrote on her web site, "I'm so excited to bring 'The Circus' back to North America.  I've made some really cool changes to the show that I think my fans are really going to love.  I also get to bring the show to some new cities we missed the first time around."