Friday Morning Country Music Headlines


UNDATED (AP) -- Freddie Combs, a Tennessee minister, makes it on "The X Factor." At 540-pounds, Combs is confined to a wheelchair. But Combs is down from more than 900 pounds! Simon Cowell says he has a vision of Combs standing. Cowell added that he hopes the prospect of standing on-stage will inspire Combs to continue his weight loss. Auditions are finished for the sophomore season of "The X Factor." The boot camp phase begins next week in Miami.


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- George Strait may be hanging up his touring hat, but he's still going to record albums and write. Strait says that for a while he "got lazy" about writing his own material because over the years he's had access to so much good material by other artists. But, about two or three years ago he realized how much he missed writing and how important it was to him. He credits his son Bubba for inspiring him to re-visit some old songs and the two are also writing new material -- "whatever feels good" according to Strait.


UNDATED (AP) -- Reba McEntire is retiring from her duties as host of the ACM Awards. She's hosted the ceremonies a record 14 times since 1986, but has no plans to return for the 2013 program. McEntire told Country Weekly that she's "passed the torch to Blake" -- Blake Shelton that is -- who co-hosted with McEntire during the 2011 and 2012 Awards. McEntire can still be found on the airwaves, though. In November, ABC premieres "Malibu Country," a new comedy series starring McEntire and actress Lily Tomlin. It's McEntire's first regular television gig since "Reba" was canceled in 2007. ACM CEO Bob Romeo said in a statement that the Academy fully understands and supports McEntire's "decision to focus her energies on her new television project," and he said they've "known about this for a while." He also said that they have something "very special planned with Blake returning -- he's got something big up his sleeve" that will soon be announced.


UNDATED (AP) -- Some country music fans may be surprised to hear the Bee Gees' Barry Gibb on Ricky Skaggs new album, but Skaggs says Gibb is a natural for country music. He told Fox News that classic pop songs by the Bee Gees including "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart," "I Started a Joke," and "To Love Somebody" "are prime country songs." Skaggs contacted Gibb after hearing a song Gibb wrote called "Soldier's Son" and asked him if he would consider singing it together. Gibb agreed and the two have become close friends and collaborators since. Skaggs is currently on the road in support of his new album released this week, "Music to My Ears."


NEW YORK (AP) -- Kenny Chesney has unveiled a package of mobile phone apps which he says will allow fans to "feel like they're back at the party all year long." The apps combine Chesney's signature radio station, web store and social media channels. Chesney got personally involved with designing the apps because he wants them to be what he calls "an extension" of his albums and shows. "Even in the middle of the winter," he says, "fans can open up the app wherever they are, listen to a little No Shoes Radio" and "take a photo that looks like it came straight out" of a music video.


NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Little Big Town was in New York City Wednesday night to perform their soon-to-be released new single "Tornado." The group debuted the song on "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon." It's official radio release will be October 1.

Copyright 2012. The Associated Press.

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