UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL
A yearly tradition- many stars hold their own get-togethers with their fan club members, allowing them an even more intimate visit.
ANDY GRIGGS transformed Caffe Milano into a crime scene with bright yellow caution - do not cross! police tape stretching out in every direction. "Those decorations look like something I'd be around," laughed Andy, alluding to his February arrest - and later dismissal of charges - for ambulance joyriding in Florida.
Andy's mom, Barbara Knight, told the crowd about Andy getting lost on an unlucky hunting trip. She said the family refers to that day as "The Big Circumstance."
It was no circumstance that Andy can do no wrong in the eyes of Brandy Woodward, his special guest from Peach Bottom, Pa. Brandy, who has spina bifida, met Andy through The Kids Wish Network. "First, he called me in the hospital," revealed Brandy. "Now I'm here!"
CHARLIE DANIELS brought a heaping helping of what he does best - Southern rock - to his party at the historic Two Rivers Mansion. The casual event featured a hamburger dinner, free prizes and, of course, chatting one-on-one with Charlie.
One die-hard fan, George Piesch, traveled from Vienna, Austria, to hang out with the fiddling legend. "This is my fifth year to see Charlie at Fan Fair," said George, whose body is adorned with Charlie Daniels tattoos. "This year was a big surprise. I didn't think I was going to be able to go. But last Sunday my wife gave me a plane ticket and said, 'Go there.' I cried like a baby. I was so happy."
TERRI CLARK offered fans an extra treat: her dead-on John Anderson impression. The crowd thrilled to Terri's rendition of his chart-topper "Swingin'," prompting the star to joke, "If I can sell eight million albums singing like that, I'll do it!"
Filing into Soundcheck, an enormous rehearsal facility, were more than 300 fans - including Terri's 4-year-old niece, Jourdan, who came onstage to help sing Terri's hit "No Fear."
"I'm creating a monster," Terri chuckled. "Next thing you know, she'll want to be on CMT." She may get her shot - the party was filmed for a CMT Canada documentary. "When I'm 80 years old," Terri said, "I'll be able to look at all the pictures and show them to my grandchildren."
KENNY CHESNEY proclaimed with a chuckle: "I'm real proud to be here - and to be a free man!" Hundreds of adoring fan club members crowding into Nashville's Texas Troubadour Theater were clearly happy Kenny was acquitted in the infamous "horse incident" case in Buffalo, N.Y. And it was obvious the singer was glad to thank the fans who supported him throughout the ordeal.
Kenny kicked off with a freewheeling acoustic show that included audience requests for hits like "Don't Happen Twice" and his new single, "The Tin Man." He also gave fans a sneak peek at tunes from his in-the-works album, due in the spring. Then he got fans fired up about his summer tour with his buddy Tim McGraw - which Kenny said will be making a stop in Buffalo!
CHELY WRIGHT turned her fan club party into an all-star concert extravaganza to raise money for her Reading, Writing & Rhythm program, which boosts music education in schools.
"I grew up with music in school," explained Chely, "and I think it's really important that music programs are funded and supported, because they foster a sense of belonging in kids."
Chely and guest performers Brad Paisley, Jessica Andrews, Darryl Worley, Ty Herndon and rockers Richard Marx and Nine Days kept the party cranking until the wee hours. The show, and the auctions going on throughout, netted over $100,000 for the cause.
"I think every kid in this country deserves the oppor-tunity to play an instrument - unless it's an accordion," joked Darryl, who auctioned off his boxer shorts for $525.
"You can't do anything better for a kid than start them in music," offered Brad, who sang several songs with Chely. "Country music is about that, isn't it? It's about helping people."
BILLY RAY CYRUS brought the set of his hit TV series, Doc, from where the show is filmed in Canada to Thompson Station, Tenn., outside Nashville, for his fan club party. His guests were Derek McGrath, who plays the popular show's loveable Dr. Derek Herbert, and Richard Leacock, the actor behind big-hearted policeman Nate Jackson.
"Derek is a picker and singer," Billy Ray told the crowd as McGrath broke into a jazzy, Ella Fitzgerald-like scat. And Leacock sang the Canadian national anthem, followed by Billy Ray's stirring version of "The Star Spangled Banner." During the party - featuring Billy Ray's wife, Tish, and their children - fans got a chance to get Doc scripts and autographed photos (some 4 feet by 4 feet!) through a silent auction benefiting Billy Ray's charitable foundation, which distributes money to a variety of causes.
KEITH URBAN launched his first fan club party at Caffe Milano with hot licks from his guitar and soaring vocals on his hits. Some fans surprised him with copies of the very first album he recorded 11 years ago. "How would you like it if your old high school yearbook photo got stuck in your face every day?" he asked the crowd, laughing. Keith's performance thrilled Lisa Dobson, who traveled all the way from Yorkshire, England. "This is my first Fan Fair - and this is the one thing I've really been looking forward to the most!" she gushed. "Keith is gorgeous, and I love his songs because they can make you laugh, dance and cry."
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