On Music Row: CMA exec Benson retires after nearly 30 years of leadership

Monday, August 25, 2008 at 1:05am
From left, former Arista Nashville president Tim DuBois, Alan Jackson, Sony BMG Nashville Chairman Joe Galante and longtime Jackson producer Keith Stegall celebrate Jackson’s milestone.

Ed Benson officially retired from CMA on Aug. 19 after 29 years with the organization. He was the group’s associate executive director from 1979 to 1991 and executive director from then until 2005.

That year, he was named chief strategic officer and began transitioning into retirement as longtime CMA executive Tammy Genovese was promoted to chief executive officer.

Benson will now focus on consulting and executive coaching in organizational dynamics and workplace environment. He also will continue his many volunteer leadership efforts, including the music industry retirement community initiative, Leadership Music, Tennessee Repertory Theatre, Nashville Alliance for Public Education and the Centennial Medical Center board of trustees.

Benson and his family have long been an important part of the local music industry: His grandfather founded Nashville’s first independent music publishing company in 1902.

Shelby Kennedy joins Cherry Heart

Shelby Kennedy has joined Cherry Heart Music & Entertainment as senior vice president and chief operating officer. In his new position, Kennedy will work with President and Manager Gratton E. Stephens III to grow Cherry Heart’s publishing arm as well as develop other divisions of the multi-faceted entertainment company.

Kennedy most recently worked for BMI as director of writer-publisher relations since 2005. His resume also includes time as A&R director at Lyric Street Records, working with Rascal Flatts, SHeDAISY and others. The Belmont graduate previously spent 10 years at ASCAP as director of membership, where he helped Alan Jackson sign with Arista Nashville.

An accomplished songwriter, Kennedy received an ASCAP Most Performed Country Song Award for writing and publishing the Reba McEntire hit “I’m A Survivor.” He is the youngest son of legendary musician and producer Jerry Kennedy.

“Shelby is a rare find,” Stephens said. “His understanding of music, the music industry and strategic marketing is surpassed only by his passion. We value his unique insight, creativity and ability to think beyond the box very highly and are thrilled to have him at Cherry Heart.”

VP exits Warner Bros.

“You gotta know when to fold ’em,” Tracy Gershon said when announcing plans to leave her post as vice president of A&R at Warner Bros. Nashville.

For the time being, she will serve as a consultant, searching for songs for the Nashville roster.

Alan Jackson celebrates his 50 million

Alan Jackson celebrated a magnificent career milestone — 50 million in album sales — Aug. 13 with an invitation-only soiree at the Vanderbilt University Student Life Center, hosted by his longtime label Arista Nashville.

In 1989, Jackson was the first artist signed to the fledgling imprint. Almost two decades later, his career has yielded 33 No. 1s, 23 of which he wrote or co-wrote. Just this year, he has topped the airplay charts with singles “Good Time” and “Small Town Southern Man” from his 17th album, Good Time.

“I like to think it all started with the music,” Jackson told the crowd gathered at his soiree. He fondly recalled his first work with longtime producer Keith Stegall, who, he said, “let me sing my own stuff in the studio,” which eventually got the attention of then Arista executive Tim DuBois.

Sony BMG chairman Joe Galante pointed out that only six artists have reached the 50 million mark, calling it a major milestone.

“But I don’t believe we’ve seen the last of the milestones in his career,” Galante added.

— © 2008 Music Row Communications Inc.

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