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It looks like Hank Williams Jr. might be the next signee to the Cumulus Media / Big Machine Label Group joint venture known as NASH Icon meant to give new life to aging artists who’ve been passed over by mainstream country radio. On Monday night’s poorly viewed American Country Countdown Awards, Hank Williams Jr. closed the night out as a late edition to the show’s lineup with a rendition of his famous song from 1984 “All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight.” In the midst of the performance, Hank Jr. switched over from a cowboy hat to a black hat with gold lettering that simply read “ICON” across the front.
Since NASH Icon is part of Cumulus Media, who were one of the major underwriters of the American Country Countdown Awards, and the first signeee to the label Reba McEntire was honored on the night with a “NASH Icon” award herself, and the fact that Scott Borchetta was also a part of the presentation and Jr. was added to the lineup so late, it seems to match up that the “ICON” on Jr’s lid was the preliminary announcement of his partnership with the new label.
The NASH Icon record label is looking to sign legacy country music talent that is still commercially-relevant and help get them back on the radio through Cumulus Media NASH Icon radio stations which mix older music dating all the way back to 1980, with hits from the 90’s, 2000’s, and today. Hank Jr. would fit right into that NASH Icon sweet spot as an artist whose heyday was in the past, but is still releasing records to a loyal fan base. Hank Jr.’s last album, 2012’s Old School New Rules was released independently.
One extra layer of intrigue with the signing is that Hank Williams Jr. was a long-time artist of Curb Records, and a close personal friend of the label’s owner, Mike Curb. Like with many Curb Records’ artists, the relationship ended poorly between Hank Jr. and Curb, with Williams saying upon his exit, “We’re going to get off this old, dead sinking ship.” This would be the second major artist that has made the transition from Curb to the Big Machine Label Group. Tim McGraw made a similar move under a wave of lawsuits and counter-lawsuits between the two companies, with Big Machine and Tim McGraw eventually coming out as the victors in court.
Headgear was the way another potential signee to NASH Icon made his announcement. Ronnie Dunn, one half of Brooks & Dunn, posted a picture of himself wearing a “NASH Chetta” hat on his social network feed on November 27th after dropping hints he was signing with the label in weeks prior. However, the news of Dunn’s signing has never been announced or confirmed by the company. Subsequently, Brooks & Dunn have announced their reuniting with NASH Icon’s Reba McEnitre for a small run of shows in Las Vegas. No word on if it’s just Ronnie, or potentially Brooks & Dunn who would sign to NASH Icon, or if Ronnie’s “signing” simply had to do with the Vegas shows and not the label. Kix Brooks, the other half of Brooks & Dunn, is the host of the Cumulus Media syndicated show American Country Countdown, which was the backdrop for Monday’s American Country Countdown Awards.
If Hank Williams Jr. does eventually sign with NASH Icon, it would give the imprint an artist who is a two-time CMA Entertainer of the Year, a one who carries on of the most famous names in the history of country music.