Texaco Country Showdown
The Country Showdown is an annual talent contest to find undiscovered country music singers across the United States. As many as 100,000 acts compete in the Country Showdown annually, which is considered to be the largest country music talent competition in the United States. The contest will be aired on The Nashville Network starting in 2012.
History and sponsorship
The annual event was first started in 1982. At the time Wrangler sponsored the event. Wrangler served as sponsor from 1982 - 1986. After 1986 the Showdown switched sponsors to True Value. Various companies co-sponsored the event, including GMC, Dodge, Coca-Cola, and Jimmy Dean. True Value was active in the event sponsorship for 14 years, until in 2000, when Colgate became the event sponsor until 2011.
The different levels
Each year, acts from all over the country compete in different levels of the competition, including local, state, and regional contests in the hope of making it to the televised national final. Five regional winners compete in the national final trying to win the grand prize of $100,000, named "The Best New Act in Country Music".
The Showdown begins every Spring with over 50,000 contestants competing at a local level talent contest. The local contests are sponsored by over 450 country music stations nationally. Each radio station selects their local winner to represent them in the state competition. If they progress through the state finals, the contestants proceed to the regional final level. There are 5 regional finals held, with one finalist from the following regions: southwest, southeast, midwest, northeast, and west. The Colgate Country Showdown big finale is held at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee, in January of each year. The National Final is taped in front of a live audience and later televised as a 1-hour-long program, and is broadcast on syndication in March and April. The act which is crowned victorious wins a grand prize of $100,000, along with the title of "Best New Act in Country Music", and a chance at notability which would help them to further their musical career.
Throughout the competition the same judging criteria are used to ensure a fair competition in each level. There are five different aspects the judges use to decide the winner: marketability, originality of performance, vocal and instrumental abilities, stage presence, and overall charisma. Additional points can be awarded if the contestants perform original music.
The judges for the January 14, 2010, National Final were: Fred Foster, Cris Lacy, Brian Mansfield, Jim Catino, Fletcher Foster, and Rod Essig. The judges are music business executives from Sony Music, Atlantic Records, Warner Music, and Creative Artists Agency. Brian Mansfield, though not a music executive, is a correspondent from Nashville, who works for the USA Today. Judges in the past have included Autumn House, Carole Ann Mobley, Patti Page, and Beverly Keel.
The five finalists for the 2011 Texaco Country Showdown were Kendall Phillips who represented radio station WFMS of Indianapolis, Indiana; Carin Mari who represented radio station KBVC of Buena Vista, Colorado; Reggie Shaw who represented KRGI of Grand-Island, Nebraska; Greg Scudder who was representing KNTY of Sacramento, California; and Jaclyn North who represented KHOZ of Harrison, Arkansas.
The showdown was hosted by LeAnn Rimes and held at the Ryman Auditorium on January 13, 2011. Each contestant gave performances that proved them worthy of being a national contender. The $100,000 winner was Jaclyn North who was representing the Southeast regional.
The five finalists for the 2010 Showdown consisted of Kendall Phillips, Casey Lee Smith, Whisky Row, Terry Lee Spenser, and Karla Davis. The final competition to determine the winner was held at the Ryman Auditorium, and was hosted by former Country Showdown contestant LeAnn Rimes (who hosted for the 4th consecutive year). Contestants gave a tribute to past contestant, country music singer Garth Brooks who himself is a former Country Showdown contestant. The judges crowned Karla Davis the 2010 Showdown Winner.
LeAnn Rimes hosted the finale for the 2009 Showdown. The finalists included: Matt Reeves, LiveWire, Lance Lipinsky, Johnny Bulford, and Korey Blake. In the end, Johnny Bulford took home the grand prize.
Rimes also hosted the 2008 Showdown, which showcased performances by two-time National Finalists: Carrie Joy, Trevor Panczak, Christy Sugget, Nash Street, and Eldon Johnson. Regional Finalists were: Veronica Valencia (KUBB Country 96.3),Lesley Valadez, Emily Byers (97.3). The winner of that year's competition was Nash Street.
Notable contestants and winners
Many contestants of the Showdown have gone on to have music careers, mostly in the country music genre. Tracy Byrd, Tracy Lawrence, Carrie Underwood, Mark Chesnutt, Jason Aldean, Ashton Shephard, Jeff Bates, Katrina Elam, Toby Keith (as an Easy Money band member), and Brad Paisley all are contestants who won their local region of the Showdown. State and regional winners that are known in the country music business are Neal McCoy, Billy Dean, Sara Evans, Billy Ray Cyrus, Chris Young, Erika Jo, Miranda Lambert, John Michael Montgomery, Bobby Pinson, Chad Brock, LeAnn Rimes, Troy Gentry of Montgomery Gentry, and Rick Trevino. Some other notable contestants include: Garth Brooks, Tim McGraw Martina McBride,
Country Showdown and American Idol ties
Some acts who try out for American Idol and leave without the American Idol Title, take an attempt at the Country Showdown, due to the similarities between both "talent contests". Some contestants leave the American Idol stage for the Showdown as well. Although the Showdown has less popularity than American Idol, the Showdown is devoted to country music and serves as a radio promotion. The Showdown is won, not by viewers votes, but by the votes of judges alone.
A notable act that went from the Showdown to appear on American Idol is Shelby Dressel. After her band earned 5th place at the Showdown, Dressel tried out for season 9 of American Idol and was cut when the top-24 contestants were decided. Another act that appeared with the Country Showdown and also American Idol is Kendall Phillips, who was a 2010 and 2011 national finalist for the Showdown. Unlike Dressel, Phillips appeared on American Idol before she tried out for the Showdown.
Phillips felt that American Idol prepared her for the Showdown. She said,"My experience on American Idol was good, definitely a learning process. There is so much going on behind the scenes that people don't even know about — numerous auditions before the 'televised judging', late hours, re-taping, interviews ... I really didn't know what to expect at 16, but I learned a lot about what goes in to a reality television show and the music industry. I am still grateful for the doors that Idol opened for me, but it's such a game of luck and it's a very strenuous process. Although, nothing in the music industry is without stress." Phillips competed on American Idol during the 2005 season and competed in the Hollywood rounds. Some other notable contestants who were involved in both programs include: Carrie Joy Andreas, Deanna Freeman,
Jaclyn North, the 2011 winner, also auditioned for Season 9 of American Idol, being cut in the Hollywood rounds.
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