Ricky Kelley owner of Harley-Davidson of Cool Springs and Harley-Davidson of Columbia
Montgomery Gentry (Troy and Eddie), Willie G. Davidson, and Toby Keith.
Toby Keith aboard an Ultra.
Ira Dean and his pretty cool pants.
Nancy and Willie G. Davidson
Alana Grace and ACM Chairman Rod Essig
Alana Grace talks with Eddie Montgomery.
Charles Kelley, Krista Marie, James Ottos, and Willie G.
Two Foot Fred chats it up with Randy Houser while James Otto adjusts his GPS in the background.
James Otto with Ira Dean in the background.
It probably comes as no surprise to you that many country music fans are fiercely patriotic and bleed the good `ol red, white, and blue. It's a grassroots musical genre that evokes images of cowboys, the love of the land, as well as love lost. It's as American as Harley-Davidson.
It turns out that many of country music's biggest stars are also H-D lovers and riders. Each spring the Academy of Country Music (ACM) holds their annual awards to honor the best musicians and singers in the industry. For the past six years many of the stars also participated in the ACM Chairman's Charity Ride that raises money to benefit a wide array of ACM charities including the newly named Lifting Lives. Lifting Lives supports organizations that are improving lives through the power of music.
This year's invite only event took place April 4, in Las Vegas. It was the first time that Harley-Davidson was the main sponsor of the event. When H-D gets involved they do it all the way and this was no different as Willie G. Davidson, wife Nancy, and daughter Karen were in attendance. Also representing H-D were Joanne Bischmann (V.P of Licensed Product) and Marc-Hans Richter (Chief Marketing Officer). The ride, which departed from backstage at the MGM Grand Hotel was hosted by ACM Chairman and motorcycle enthusiast Rod Essig. Rod (and the Nevada Highway Patrol) led a group consisting of artists and music industry VIPs through the scenic Nevada desert highlighted by the Valley of Fire State Park.
Artists in attendance included Montgomery Gentry (Troy Gentry and Eddie Montgomery), Toby Keith, Richie McDonald, James Otto, Charles Kelley (Lady Antebellum), Randy Houser, John Michael Montgomery, Emerson Drive, Ira Dean, Krista Marie, Alana Grace, and 2 Foot Fred.
Did I mention yet that I was invited by Harley-Davidson to participate in the weekend's events? The ride was amazing and I was overwhelmed by the friendliness and approachability of the performers. There was no pretense at all--like a bunch of friends on a ride joking around and laughing all day. I got the scoop on many of the artists and their bikes from Ricky Kelley of both Harley-Davidson of Cool Springs and Harley-Davidson of Columbia (Tennessee). His dealerships provide bikes for many of the performers located in the Nashville area. James Otto's sweet Road Glide was just one example of the nice work the dealership does. In addition, Ricky hosts performances by many of country's biggest acts.
After the ride there were numerous free concerts held on historic Fremont Street as well as private parties throughout Vegas. The awards show was a great event that highlighted the best music past and present that the country music scene has to offer. If the awards weren't enough, there was another concert afterwards that went on into the early morning hours. I had one of the best weekends ever and I wasn't a fan before attending the event. That has definitely changed as I got to see and feel firsthand how integrated the H-D lifestyle and country music are. I'd like to thank Harley-Davidson, Rod Essig, and Ricky Kelley for being so accommodating to Baggers and me. I can't wait until next year's ride. B