Disgraced Publicist Kirt Webster Working with George Jones Estate, Others

If you’re a victim of abuse at the hands of Kirt Webster, please reach out to Saving Country Music.

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On December 20th, 2022, a press conference was held on Facebook Live to announce the “Still Playin’ Possum” 10th Anniversary concert for George Jones that was held on April 25th, 2023 at the Propst Arena in Huntsville, Alabama. While announcing all the details and the initial list of performers, multiple individuals made sure to thank a man by the name of Kirt Webster for helping to organize the event.

Though the name likely came and passed in the ears of the many George Jones fans who watched the live announcement without much regard, those in the country music industry and the media specifically took note.

Before George Jones’ widow Nancy Jones spoke, the Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong spoke at the press conference. Strong is now the United States Representative in Alabama’s 5th Congressional District.

“Mrs. Jones, we want to welcome you to Rocket City, to Huntsville, Alabama, Madison County, and I want to thank each of you for the exciting announcement that’s coming today,” Rep. Dale Strong said. “I want to thank Austin Smith, Kirt Webster—two friends that I’ve known for a long time.”

Executive Director Steve Maples of the Von Bruan Center where the Propst Arena is located also thanked “Kirt, Austin, and the team.”

The announcement video was promptly taken down, and the news of the George Jones anniversary concert was soon what everyone was talking about, not Kirt Webster’s involvement. But over time as Webster’s role in the event has revealed itself, it has raised alarm bells with some throughout the country music industry.

Kirt Webster is the former President and CEO of the once major country music publicity firm Webster Public Relations. On October 27th, 2017, a country artist by the name of Austin Rick, who performed under the name Austin Cody in the late oughts, enumerated numerous instances where he said Kirt Webster sexually assaulted him, in part with promises that he could help further Rick’s career if the young performer complied. Webster allegedly bribed and intimidated Rick to keep the behavior quiet.

“My name is Austin, and I know that men don’t talk about these things as often, but I have been victimized by a very powerful businessman over the period of a year. I didn’t know what to do and how to say no, because he held such power over my music career and overtly reminded me of it,” Austin Rick’s Facebook statement said.

“In 2008, Kirt Webster, the CEO of the powerful ‘Webster Public Relations’ did terrible, terrible things to me,” the statement continued. “He sexually assaulted me repeatedly, he drugged and sexually violated me, he offered me publicity opportunities and magazine columns in exchange for sexual acts. He paid me to keep my mouth shut. And he did everything under threat that he’d make sure nobody in the industry ever heard my name again. It took me a year to escape from him and get away to where he couldn’t find me or reach me any longer — although he still continued to harass me via phone and text messages.”

Austin Rick says he decided to come out publicly to expose the type of behavior he was subject to in hopes it would not happen to others in the future.

At that time, the importance, power, and the magnitude of Webster Public Relations and Kirt Webster in country music and beyond was significant, and can’t be overstated. The firm represented a large stable of artists, including legends like Dolly Parton, Hank Williams Jr., Kenny Rogers, and Tanya Tucker, more contemporary artists such as Justin Moore and William Michael Morgan, and artists outside of country music such as Cyndi Lauper, Kid Rock, and Kenny G. Beyond the publicity work, Kirt Webster was also a significant power player in Nashville in other roles.

The accusations from Austin Rick were significant, but they were just the very beginning of a wave of accusations that emerged in the coming days and weeks. A second young male singer came forward, as did nearly two dozen employees and other associates of Webster Public Relations, speaking to both The Nashville Scene and Buzzfeed about the toxic environment working for Kirt Webster at Webster Public Relations. Many spoke on condition of anonymity due to fear of retribution from the powerful publicist.

The 2nd aspiring young male singer claimed, “[Webster] was just like, ‘You want to meet Reba and Dolly, don’t you?’ And then he was like, ‘You know you have to make sacrifices to be a star, don’t you?’ He told me after that he was going to have to see me naked. It ended up happening, and I’m definitely not proud of it. That was the first time. He wanted me take a shower, and I said, ‘No, I’ve already showered,’ and I felt really uncomfortable and said I was going to go. Then he was like, ‘Put your clothes back on, I’m sorry.’ ”

Employees said they were asked inappropriate sexual questions by Kirt Webster, that pornography was played in the work environment, and that sexual favors were requested from Webster in exchange for favors within the industry, among other disturbing allegations. Amid the scandal, high-profile Webster artists began to leave the firm including Dolly Parton and Kid Rock. Then on November 1st, 2017 as the allegations continued to pile up, Webster Public Relations closed.

Metro Nashville Police investigated the allegations against Kirt Webster from Austin Rick, and released a report on December 21st, 2017 that showed there was enough evidence to prosecute Kirt Webster for sexual assault. But since the alleged occurrences happened in 2008 (9 years previous), it was too late to bring charges due to the statute of limitations.

Though this marked the end of Webster Public Relations, it was just the very beginning of the saga of Kirt Webster trying to work his way back into the country music fold while never publicly addressing the allegations levied against him, or apologizing for his actions.

In early 2019, Kirt Webster made an active effort to re-emerge in the music industry by launching a new website and other moves, perhaps hoping that the public had forgotten about or moved on from the allegations against him. But this was not the case. Once again, the media sprang into action with The Nashville Scene, Rolling Stone, and other outlets stepping up to remind the public and the music industry about the gravity of the charges against the disgraced publicist.

Then in November of 2019, Kirt Webster emerged once again at the CMA Awards, posing in photos with numerous artists including Dolly Parton, Crystal Gayle, Janie Frickie, and confirming that he was currently representing numerous performers. As Nashville’s Channel 5 reported at the time, “The photo with Dolly backstage had many stunned due to the fact that Webster had been accused of exchanging meet and greets with Parton in exchange for sexual favors from Parton’s fans.”

Dolly Parton’s sister and country music performer Stella Parton has been an outspoken opponent of Kirt Webster since the beginning of the scandal, saying in part,

These predators feel entitled to do the horrific things they do and even super stars like my sister, Billy Ray Cyrus, Tanya Tucker and others that he represented won’t say a word. It is a shame on the artists who stay silent and the CMAs for condoning this man’s perverted acts.

Of course, he says it’s not true and acts like he is the victim, just like Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, R. Kelly and the legion of other perverts who prey on innocent young people in our business.

The truth will come out eventually. Those who have aided and abetted him and other predators like him are just as guilty. I hope by standing up against abuse of any kind that it will save at least one person from the tragedy of abuse, then it will be well worth the sacrifice. Truth should not come at such a high price.

However, the press has been quiet on Kirt Webster since 2019 as the disgraced publicist continues to make behind-the-scenes moves as a manager and representative of numerous artists and estates, including the George Jones Estate. There has also been an active effort to scrub the damaging allegations against Kirt Webster in numerous publications known for posting publicity copy presented as objective journalism.

On December 23rd, 2020, a quasi interview/feature with Kirt Webster was posted via Digital Journal. In the feature, Kirt Webster is interviewed as an expert in the music industry, and represents himself as an active publicist and talent rep without any mention of the details about the scandal that brought down his career. There is only a passing portion where the controversy is alluded to, and Webster responds, “I’ve definitely learned who my friends are—and who they never were. I’ve also learned that ‘innocent until proven guilty’ means nothing. You can be innocent and remain guilty in the minds of those who never knew the truth and never choose to seek it out.”

However, Kirt Webster has never addressed the allegations directly, and none of the allegations have ever been refuted directly by anyone.

Then on April 27th of this year, another interview/feature was published via the press release service Accesswire, attributed to Kirt Webster himself, touting his involvement as a co-executive producer of a Paramount+ documentary on Don McLean. The press release begins,

“It is with great enthusiasm that Kirt Webster, a producer, project manager, consultant, and 25 plus year veteran of the entertainment industry based out of Nashville, Tennessee, announces that the Paramount+ documentary “The Day The Music Died: The Story of Don McLean’s American Pie,” for which Webster served as the co-executive producer along with Ray De La Garza is nominated for an MTV Movie & TV award. Webster recently interviewed for a new, in-depth look at his career with an online periodical that concentrates on matters relating to business, technology, and thought leadership. The interview was published on April 5, 2023.”

Which “online periodical” interviewed Webster is not specified, and Saving Country Music could not find any online article corresponding with the interview or information. However, the basic information contained in the press release is correct. Kirt Webster continues to work with Don McLean even after dissolving Webster Public Relations, as well as country artist Janie Fricke who defended Webster when the initial allegations came out. Webster also reportedly continues to work with Lee Greenwood, Jana Jae, David Frizzell, and others.

Since 2019, these artists and others have worked with the publicity company 2911 Media, which is operated by close Kirt Webster associate Jeremy Westby. Webster allegedly is using the names of artists like George Jones and Don McLean, or moments like the release of the Don McLean documentary or the George Jones tribute concert to help launder his reputation without ever having to answer for the credible allegations against him by over two dozen individuals.

On March 20th, Saving Country Music itself was targeted in the apparent campaign to clean Kirt Webster’s reputation through a letter from business attorney firm Lambert Worldwide in reference to one of the three articles on the Kirt Webster scandal Saving Country Music published in 2017.

“We are reaching out on behalf of Kirt Webster in connection with an article published on your website,” the letter reads in part. “…there are ongoing negative impacts as a result of the above URL and the ease with which it is discoverable via simple internet search engines.”

The letter goes on to say,

We are happy to provide details related to the above. However, due to the sensitive nature of some information we are only able to do so if you agree to keep any information disclosed strictly off the record.

Please be advised that this letter does not constitute a notice of intent to take legal action. Though the undersigned is an attorney, we have been engaged as negotiators and facilitators.

It is no secret that the Internet and technology have made it so that even the most mundane of items live forever. This obviously can have lasting impacts on the subjects of such articles. Therefore, we would like to request that the article in question be removed from your website. Alternatively, we are open to compromise arrangement such as de-indexing the article or, perhaps, removing our Kirt Webster name from the article.

Needless to say, Saving Country Music did not comply.

The day after the “Still Playin’ Possum” tribute to George Jones in Huntsville, Alabama on April 25th, a press release from Jeremy Westby and 2911 Media announced that the concert had been recorded for national broadcast to premier on the PBS program Great Performances. The release goes on to clearly state, The television special was produced by Kirt Webster; Luke Pierce and Ben Haley of WORKS Entertainment; Greg Hall of TH Entertainment, and executive produced by Nancy Jones and Kirk West for No Show Productions.”

Saving Country Music reached out to the WNET Group that produces Great Performances to ask them about Kirt Webster’s involvement in the production of the special. They did not respond by the time of this post. Saving Country Music also reached out to the office of United States Representative Dale Strong, who referred to Kirt Webster as a “friend that I’ve known for a long time” at the “Still Playin’ Possum” press conference, but did not receive a response either.

The concerns over Kirk Webster’s involvement in the George Jones estate and his continued representation of music artists behind the scenes is only the very beginning of the worries multiple sources have shared with Saving Country Music. The concern is that Webster continues to attempt to use his standing with legacy artists to attempt to court younger artists, as well as to manipulate and intimidate other individuals in the country music industry.

Before the 2017 scandal broke, Kirt Webster was considered one of country music’s greatest rainmakers and power brokers, which is the reason he continues to curry favor with certain individuals who seem okay to look beyond the credible allegations against him. Everyone is innocent until proven guilty. But Kirt Webster has never even given any explanations or denied the accounts from Austin Rick and others.

Since 2019, Kirt Webster has continued to hide behind other associates or entities to be the unspoken hand behind certain artists and events. But in 2023, Webster appears to be even more emboldened to become the more public facing personality behind certain events like the “Still Playin’ Possum: Music & Memories of George Jones” tribute, while the media and the rest of the industry has remained mostly silent.

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Saving Country Music has conducted numerous interviews with individuals throughout the country music industry concerned about Kirt Webster’s continuing behavior. Stay tuned for further coverage that will be published in the coming weeks on this matter. If you’re a victim of abuse at the hands of Kirt Webster, please reach out.

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