“I feel like an old man.”
A limping Chuck Wicks laughed off an injury Wednesday morning as he took a stage in the lobby of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum to sing four songs and welcome a contingent of fans to Nashville. Chuck, Chris Young, Joey + Rory and Love and Theft took part in the third annual GAC Fan Breakfast, an adjunct event to the CMA Music Festival, which officially began with a parade just a few hours later.
It wasn’t Chuck’s first public moment of the week. He took part Monday in the City of Hope Celebrity Softball Challenge, joining Joe Nichols, David Nail, Vince Gill and others on the “After Midnite With Blair Garner” team, which defeated the Grand Ole Opry squad 15-10. Chuck unfortunately got a raspberry chasing a ball, and the wound still stung Wednesday a.m., explaining his hobbling entrance at the Hall of Fame.
Much less painful for Chuck was his breakfast performance, which brought in some shrieks from a few excited female fans. He naturally slipped his best-known song, “Stealing Cinderella,” into the set, though he devoted the rest of the time to music that will appear on his sophomore album, including a Jason Mraz-like “She Gets To Me” and a Phil Vassar-ish “Old School.” Chuck closed with his current “Hold That Thought,” referencing the video’s steamy love scenes, which teamed him with “Twilight” actress Julia Jones.
“Great kisser,” he quipped. “Really all that matters at the end of the day,” he quipped.
Love and Theft started the morning with superb two- and three-part harmonies (particularly impressive at 7:30 a.m.), bookending their appearance with the catchy “Runaway” and the hit they wrote for Martina McBride, “Wrong Baby Wrong.”
Joey + Rory laced their mini-concert with a little edgy attitude, adding a “kick her ass” verse to the defiant “Cheater Cheater” and doing a verse and chorus of the Willie Nelson double entendre “I Think She Only Loves Me For My Willie.” They added a portion of “I’m A Little More Country Than That,” which Rory Feek wrote for Easton Corbin, and sang “This Song’s For You,” a soon-to-be-released Zac Brown co-write that offers support for U.S. soldiers, a put-down for Wall Street sharks and a thumbs up for country music.
With mother Becky watching from the back of the room, Chris got the morning’s biggest applause — understandably since one of his songs, “The Man I Want To Be,” just spent several weeks at No.1. The chart feat was “the best early birthday present I’ve ever gotten,” said Chris, who turns 25 on Saturday. He also received a round of “Happy Birthday” from the sold-out crowd.
Chris just launched a three-song collection online that features remakes of songs by John Anderson, Keith Whitley and Vern Gosdin, and he felt the connection to the genre’s past again Wednesday morning, calling it a “really big deal” to be singing at the Hall of Fame. The stage was, in fact, located in the same spot where “Wings Of A Dove” singer Ferlin Husky and “Stand By Your Man” producer Billy Sherrill were both inducted into the Hall just last month.
All of the acts signed autographs at the close of Wednesday’s breakfast, but they won’t be the last artists to make that fan connection under GAC’s watch this week. The network has a booth in the CMA Festival Exhibit Hall with more than 70 acts slated greet fans from Thursday through Sunday. The schedule includes Luke Bryan, Sawyer Brown, Diamond Rio, The Band Perry, Kellie Pickler and Jerrod Niemann. No breakfast included.