by Chris W. Cox
NRA-ILA Executive Director
I KNOW WHEN you see my name, you’re used to reading about political and legislative issues. But this month we are launching a new, non-political effort I’m very enthusiastic about. So I wanted to be the one to tell you all about it.
Hold onto your hats for NRACountry--a new partnership between the NRA and the brightest stars of country music! We’re going to bring a new presence for the NRA into one of the fastest-growing entertainment segments today. The NRA is slated to become country music’s first brand of freedom.
Growing up in west Tennessee, I’ve been a country music fan all my life. And I know many of you are fans, too. We’ve been fortunate to host top performers at the recent NRA Annual Meetings--the Charlie Daniels Band, Toby Keith, Miranda Lambert, the Oak Ridge Boys and, of course, Hank Williams Jr.
But NRACountry isn’t going to be just about concerts. We’ve already held our kickoff event--a charity shoot in Nashville, where we were joined by some of the top rising talent in country music today. Chuck Wicks was there. Justin Moore was there, too--see the sidebar about the concert series we’re launching with him--as were many more.
NRACountry is going to be about shared values: patriotism, freedom, pride in America. We plan to celebrate these values with concerts and other events that will benefit our causes--gun safety programs, training and education for youth, and nonpartisan voter registration, to name just a few.
NRACountry’s First Event
And our work will also benefit the causes of the partners who share these values with us. Those partners are joining us in projects like a compilation CD, slated for release by the time you read this article. We’re working with a major retailer to place NRACountry merchandise in stores all across the country and there is much more to come.
Leading the way among our partners in country music is Justin Moore. He’s from small town in Arkansas and his current hit single “Small Town USA” captures the experience of growing up in this tight-knit community. I am pleased to announce we have launched the “Justin Moore, NRACountry Tour.” This is a must-attend event if the tour is coming to your area.
I’m also excited about our plans with Chuck Wicks. To learn more about Chuck, see my interview with him below.
There is no doubt in my mind that NRACountry will bring major benefits to the NRA, our partners in country music, our members and the Second Amendment itself. We’ll be tapping into a huge, new audience and we know that many of them already share our values.
We hope to bring many of them in, first as members, and then also as reinforcements in our ongoing battle to protect the Second Amendment. The partnership will also showcase the family fun of the shooting sports and help grow our base of friends and fellow shooters at the range. And hunting will get a boost from the passion that these artists have for going afield.
The sky is the limit with NRACountry, and I invite you to get in on the ground floor. Visit www.NRACountry.com to see the latest events and merchandise. Give a listen to the work of our country music partners--these folks are making some fine music. And be proud to be a part of NRACountry.
Come See Justin Moore on the NRACountry Tour!
Check www.NRACountry.com for dates and details, and visit www.theValoryMusicCo.com/JustinMoore to learn more about this rising artist.
I met Chuck Wicks for the first time at our first NRACountry event--a sporting clays shoot. We had a lot in common and I was impressed with his enthusiasm about our program. He’s an NRA Life member, longtime hunter and Second Amendment supporter. I caught up with him recently to discuss his contribution to the NRACountry program, his background, and some of his career highlights.
COX: Chuck, it was a big honor to have you at our first NRACountry event, the shoot at the CMA (Country Music Awards). As you know from that event, our NRACountry effort will be a partnership with country artists and record labels, putting on events and benefits to help fund important NRA Foundation programs like gun safety education, nonpartisan voter registration and more. We think it’s a natural fit and we’re going to structure it to benefit our partners in the country music industry as well. Can our members hope that you will be an ongoing part of the NRACountry program?
WICKS: Without a doubt--when I first got invited to the shoot in Nashville I was excited, because that’s how I grew up. NRA and country music are a natural fit. A lot of people in country music grew up on farms, and any time we have any excuse to pick up a gun and go shoot skeet or whatever, man, we’re on it. To do an event like you guys put together is awesome. It wasn’t one of those things where we thought we might try to fit it in--it was a highlight.
COX: Growing up on the farm, is that where you started hunting and shooting?
WICKS: My dad got me into hunting and shooting. When I was 8 or 9 I started to get curious and started asking my dad if I could tag along when he went hunting. I tagged along for a couple years and then when I turned 12, we got permission from Mom and I was allowed to go hunting and carry my own gun. So I went through the safety course, and I just fell in love with hunting. I owe it to my dad and the passion he had for it. We’d go hunting and have competitions--who got the most deer in the year--and I kicked his butt every year. My first buck was a six pointer, but it was better than any deer my Dad had shot in his thirty years of deer hunting. He was happy for me--but I could tell he was a little bitter, too. We kept track the first four years or so but I kept winning so we stopped keeping count.
COX: Our members always like to talk guns. Do you have any favorites?
WICKS: I’ve always loved my Browning short Mag. That gun has never ever missed, I’ve killed all my biggest deer with it. I’ve always been a Browning fan, it was the first gun I ever saved up my own money for. I’ve got others now, but that first gun is my favorite.
COX: Tell us about your music. Your breakout single “Stealin’ Cinderella” found a pretty famous fan in University of Tennessee’s then-football coach Phil Fulmer. And he asked you to sing it at his daughter’s wedding?
WICKS: It was just starting to hit the charts. They were so excited when they told me “Coach Fulmer called.” I didn’t really understand he was basically royalty. But we went there and I sang it. I can’t say enough nice things about him. He’s really down to earth, the nicest guy. The coolest part about it, he texted me not long ago asking when we’re going to go turkey hunting.
COX: I have to ask. What was it like going on “Dancing with the Stars”?
WICKS: It was kinda risky, some of those outfits they dragged me into. I didn’t know what to expect and it took me about three weeks to push aside fears about wearing the silk shirts. But I kept my “man card” because I was dancing with my girlfriend Julianne [Hough]. That was my safety net. I had a blast and if anyone reading this voted for us, my thanks to them.
COX: Julianne did make you look good, was she doing all the hard work?
WICKS: Pretty much, I just stood there and she did her thing around me.
COX: I understand she likes to shoot too?
WICKS: She’s a big fan of the outdoors. She’s never been deer hunting but she keeps telling me it’s going to be easy for her to kill one. She says she’s going to show me how to shoot a deer. I’ll keep you posted on that one.
COX: The NRA does a lot of work to support wounded veterans and I know you share that passion. Tell me about your latest single, “Man of the House.” It’s about a family where the young son is taking over for his father who’s deployed overseas. I’ve seen some pictures of you performing the song at military bases.
WICKS: I wrote the song, but the meaning didn’t really hit home for me until I spent some time at Fort Hood, Fort Bragg and Fort Sam Houston. I got the chance to sing the song to some guys who were about to deploy. They brought their kids and families, and I sang the song to people who are living it. That’s when it finally hit me right between the eyes.
COX: We know there are lots of NRA members who are country music fans, where can they hear some of your music?
WICKS: They can go to my website, www.ChuckWicks.com, and it links to my music page on MySpace. I’d love to have your members come visit.