WPOC to be honored as top country station in large market

THE BALTIMORE SUN

You may have to look quickly, but a Baltimore figure will be among the recipients of a Country Music Association Award during tonight's live broadcast of the 26th annual awards telecast from Nashville.

"I'm really going to be on television, even though it'll only be a few seconds," said Jennifer Grimm, general manager of radio station WPOC-FM 93.1.

For the second time in the past three years, the station has won the Large Market Station of the Year Award in the CMA competition. And for the first time, the award will be presented during the CBS telecast, which begins at 9 p.m. on WBAL (Channel 11) and features Reba McEntire and Vince Gill as co-hosts.

Ms. Grimm said she and her counterparts from stations that won the medium and small market categories will be announced and will rise to be recognized on camera for garnering the crystal trophy. Two years ago, the radio awards were not announced during the TV broadcast, although Ms. Grimm was in Nashville to accept.

"It's very much the most prestigious awards show in the country field," said Robert Moody, program director at WPOC, who will also attend the award festivities in the country music capital.

Not surprisingly, tonight's show is being simulcast on WPOC. A half-hour pre-show special is also scheduled for 8:30 p.m.

Station DJ Laurie DeYoung, who was among the five finalists for CMA broadcast personality of the year, began broadcasting live from Nashville yesterday and will continue with personality interviews and other features from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. tomorrow.

How does a radio station get recognized by the CMA?

"We judge a number of factors, based on an air check provided by each station, a ratings history, information about their community involvement and their leadership in their areas in promoting country music," said Ed Benson, executive director of the association.

He added that the radio awards are judged by a panel of broadcast industry representatives.

Ms. Grimm said the station prepared a 20-minute tape of its sound for sampling and provided a book of background information about the station. But as for knowing specific reasons WPOC won, she said, "Well, I think that we are just a very alive radio station.

"I was going to the show anyway, because it's a birthday present to my mother. I'm just getting a better seat [because of the award]," she joked. Her mother, Genene, 65, was flying in for the show from her home in Salt Lake City.

As the song says, country seems to be cool these days. And Irving Waugh, the longtime producer of the CMA telecast, says the audiences seem to be getting younger.

"As the years have gone by, I've seen it change and grow, particularly in the last three or four years. There's been a tremendous influx of teen-agers into the audiences. I went to a concert recently and the majority appeared to be teens, although it was probably really no more than half."

Why are young people showing more interest?

"There's more professionalism in the staging and the lighting and the sound. There's really no major difference between a rock concert and a country music concert today," Mr. Waugh said.

Artists, too, have recognized a demand for more than a soft song crooned into an open microphone.

"They're not mired in a rut. They're really willing to experiment. There's more theater in what they do," said Mr. Waugh.

And he said that country music's adoption of the music video format pioneered by rock artists, and now featured on two country music cable networks, the Nashville Network and Country Music TV, "helps create an awareness" of country's crossover appeal.

As with the Emmys, Academy Awards and other televised honors, top performers are scheduled as both presenters and performers tonight, and Mr. Waugh says "the key performers are very responsive when we ask them to participate."

Both co-hosts Mr. Gill and Ms. McEntire, for example, are among the nominees for Entertainer of the Year. And each is a nominee in the respective female and male vocalist categories.

Also up for Entertainer of the Year are Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson and Travis Tritt. Nominees for female vocalist also include Mary-Chapin Carpenter, Wynonna Judd, Tanya Tucker and Trisha Yearwood. Top male nominees include Mr. Brooks, Joe Diffie, Mr. Jackson and Mr. Tritt.

"I'm really looking forward to meeting Mary-Chapin Carpenter, Reba McEntire and Kathy Matea," said Ms. Grimm of WPOC. And she added, "and of course, Garth Brooks, Clint Black and Rick Van Shelton."

Mr. Waugh said the awards show this year has cut back by about half the number of presenters, in hopes of limiting talking.

He also noted "we try to stay way from politics and religion on our show," making reference to last month's Emmy Awards telecast in which a number of comics hammered away at Vice President Dan Quayle and the Republicans' family values theme.

He noted that J. Walter Thompson, director of the Emmy show, also directs tonight's CMA telecast.

"It wasn't his idea to use comics" at the Emmys, said Mr. Waugh, noting "they all thought they were funny, but it was a little bit pitiful. The crying you heard sometimes was Walter."

CMA Award nominees

@4

Nominees for Country Music Association Awards:

Entertainer of the Year

* Garth Brooks

* Vince Gill

* Alan Jackson

Reba McEntire

* Travis Tritt

Single of the Year

* "Achy Breaky Heart" (Billy Ray Cyrus)

* "Look at Us" (Vince Gill)

* "I Feel Lucky" (Mary-Chapin Carpenter)

* "Love, Me" (Collin Raye)

* "Maybe It Was Memphis" (Pam Tillis)

Album of the Year

* "Brand New Man" (Brooks and Dunn)

* "For My Broken Heart" (Reba McEntire)

* "Ropin' the Wind" (Garth Brooks)

* s "What Do I Do With Me" (Tanya Tucker)

* Wynonna Judd's self-titled solo debut

Song of the Year

* "Achy Breaky" (Billy Ray Cyrus)

* "Don't Rock the Jukebox" (Alan Jackson)

* "Down at the Twist and Shout" (Mary-Chapin Carpenter)

* "Here's a Quarter (Call Someone Who Cares)" (Travis Tritt)

* "Look at Us" (Vince Gill)* "Love, Me" (Collin Raye)

Female Vocalist of the Year

* Mary-Chapin Carpenter

* Wynonna Judd

Reba McEntire

* Tanya Tucker

* Trisha Yearwood

Male Vocalist of the Year

* Garth Brooks

* Vince Gill

* Alan Jackson

* Travis Tritt

* Joe Diffie

Vocal Group of the Year

* Alabama

* Diamond Rio

* McBride and the Ride

* Sawyer Brown

* Shenandoah

@Vocal Duo of the Year

* Baillie and the Boys

* Bellamy Brothers

* Brooks and Dunn

The Judds

* Sweethearts of the Rodeo

Vocal Event of the Year

* Roy Rogers and Clint Black

* Travis Tritt and Marty Stuart

* Keith Whitley and Earl Thomas Conley

* Tammy Wynette and Randy Travis

The Buzzin' Cousins, including John Mellencamp, Dwight Yoakam, John Prine, Joe Ely and James McMurtry

Musician of the Year

* Eddie Bayers

Larrie Londin

Mark O'Connor

Matt Rollings

* Brent Rowan

Music Video of the Year

* Billy Ray Cyrus' "Achy Breaky"

* Travis Tritt's "Anymore"

* Reba McEntire's "Is There Life Out There"

Vince Gill's "Look at Us"

* Alan Jackson's "Midnight in Montgomery"

Horizon Award

* Suzy Bogguss

* Brooks and Dunn

* Billy Dean

* Pam Tillis

* Trisha Yearwood

Hall of Fame

* Don Gibson

Merle Haggard

* George Jones

Willie Nelson

Ray Price

Non-performer category for Hall of Fame

* Harold W. "Pappy" Daily

* Don Law

* Ken Nelson

* Frances Preston

* Irving Waugh

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