This is What Makes Country Great [PHOTOS]

Last night (3/14) Blake Shelton brought his “Friends and Heroes Tour” to the Wells Fargo Arena to a capacity crowd. I had the opportunity to spend some time with both Blake Shelton and Lauren Alaina before the show. I’d met Lauren before when she was in town last year opening for Jason Aldean. I fell in love with her personality and spirit instantly. She has an infectious laugh and genuine sweetness about her. I was excited to hear her soundcheck and watch our listeners interact with her (let me add she is an extremely underrated vocalist). Lauren couldn’t have been more gracious with her time and made them all feel like they were the most important people in the room.

Afterwards, we went back to the radio room backstage to talk and hang before her 7:00 set time. She’s still dealing with the loss of her stepfather who passed of stage four melanoma last October. We talked about how that loss has impacted her and how hard it is to regroup after losing such an important person like that in your life. I can relate because I was raised by an amazing stepfather who loves me like I’m his own flesh and blood. Do yourself a favor and check out her latest single “Ladies in the ’90s.” Lauren is the real deal both on and off the stage. I would say they don’t get more authentic and articulate.

I set up a time for the legendary Bellamy Brothers to stop by the radio room to sign my Billboard Book of #1 Hits. Since I started in radio back in the mid 90s I’ve had artists or bands that reached the #1 spot on the Hot 100 sign the book (thanks to my best friend, Jim Cech). The Bellamy Brothers hit the top spot back in 1976 (shortly after I was born) with the song “Let Your Love Flow.” We talked about where they were when they got the news that they had the #1 song in the country. At this point Blake Shelton walked in and wanted to hear their answer. The guys think they were in Germany on tour but can’t remember who delivered the life changing news. I have a weird connection to the brothers because I lived about 10 miles from their family ranch in Pasco Country, Florida back in the early 00s. They have both a new record and new book available.

After the Bellamy Brothers left to get ready for the show, it was all about Blake Shelton. He’s everything you hope he’d be (funny, charismatic and extremely friendly). Blake took a genuine interest in everybody in the room and talked about his experiences touring in Iowa over the years. He told us all to sit and relax as he played a new single getting ready to hit radio at the end of the month. All I can say at this point is…its a smash! I even said “let me be the first to congratulate you on your next #1 at country radio.”

My mother-in-law has never once asked me for tickets to a show…that’s until Blake announced his stop in Des Moines. I let him know she was in the audience but wasn’t able to get around very easy (at that point he asked where she was) and I told him she was settled in her seat eagerly awaiting his show. Blake was disappointed he couldn’t meet her personally, so he recorded a video for her. You can only imagine her reaction when she got the video a few minutes later (I may win son-in-law of the year for this one).

His show was three hours long…and I could’ve stayed another three. It’s one of the best shows I’ve seen in a long time, and the addition of Blake’s “heroes” John Anderson, The Bellamy Brothers and Trace Adkins, made for an unforgettable night of  “WHAT MAKES COUNTRY GREAT!”

a MASSIVE thank you to both Bridgett Herrmann (Warner Nashville) and Charlie Dean (Mercury) for the hospitality and making this experience possible. Two very talented women who are amazing at what they do. The true unsung heroes of the industry.