MerleFest Announces 2005 Chris Austin Songwriting Contest Finalists

Wilkesboro, North Carolina: The Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at MerleFest
2005, presented in Wilkesboro by Wilkes Community College, has announced the
finalists for the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest, according to Art Menius,
MerleFest Partnership & National Marketing Coordinator. A panel of Nashville
music industry professionals, assembled by Chris Austin Songwriting Contest
chairperson Jim Lauderdale, evaluated a record 1122 entries to pick the dozen
finalists. The Finals will take place at MerleFest 2005 on Friday, April 29,
from 2:00 until 3:30 PM Eastern on the Austin Stage. The finalists are:General Category Finalists: “Please Love My Baby” by Connie Leigh,
Newport, AR; “Good Ol’ Days” by Zane Williams, Nashville, TN; “Lay On The
Tracks” by Stephen Simmons, Nashville, TN

Bluegrass Category Finalists: “Old #9” by Randy Barret, Falls Church, VA;
“T.V.A.” by Sam Quinn, Johnson City, TN; “Behind Those Big Closed Doors” by
Connie Leigh, Newport, AR

Country Category Finalists: “Hurry Home” by Zane Williams, Nashville, TN;
“Traded My Diamond” by Korby Lenker, Bellingham, WA; “O.K.C.” by Paul Kelly with
Salvador Guida, Jr., Santa Fe, NM

Gospel Category Finalists: “That First Stone” by Mike Finders, Iowa City,
IA; “Start with Amazing Grace” by Zane Williams, Nashville, TN; “Lessons of the
Book” by Lorraine Jordan, Garner, NC.

Contest chairperson Jim Lauderdale, Caroline Herring, Hayes Carll, and Darrell
Scott are scheduled to judge the finals. Each first place winner earns an
appearance on the Cabin Stage Friday evening, an Epiphone® Guitar from Gibson®,
a check for $125, and two boxes of D’Addario strings. Second place winners
receive a check for $250 and one box of D’Addario strings. Third place winners
receive one box of D’Addario strings. Each finalist also receives all access
credentials for three to MerleFest with motel accommodations, sponsored by
Fishman Transducers, and one-year subscription to Acoustic Guitar magazines.
Thomas Fisher, First Vice-President at Morgan Keegan, Durham, NC sponsored the
cash prizes. Additional sponsorship provided by SonicBids, the exclusive on-line
entry point for the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest.

Si Kahn, Kelly Willis, Carol Elizabeth Jones, and Martha Scanlan judged the
finals of the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest, which attracted 889 entries, 95
more than 2003. The following first place winners emerged: General Category (325
entries): “Granddaddy” by A.J. Roach, Oakland, CA. Country Category (271):
“Forgiveness” by Sarah Hawker. Bluegrass Category (188): “Adeline” by Mike
Finders, Iowa City, IA. Gospel Category (105): “Come By Here,” by Laurelyn
Dossett, Greensboro, NC (Dossett’s band Polecat Creek will perform at MerleFest

Net Proceeds from the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest go towards college
projects, including scholarships and the original construction of and
improvements at the Chris Austin Stage. ASCAP and No Depression magazine sponsor
The Chris Austin Stage.

The deadline to entry the next Chris Austin Songwriting Contest will be March 4,
2006. For entry information, visit
or call 1-800-799-3838. Those on
the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest mailing should receive entry forms during
the autumn. Entry forms will also be available on the web at that time. The
Chris Austin Songwriting Contest is open to anyone whose primarily source of
income is not as a songwriter. An official entry form and entry fee must
accompany each entry on tape or CD or on-line via

Pete Fisher, then of WarnerSongs and currently general manager of the Grand Ole
Opry, and then MerleFest consultant and “Pickin’ for Merle” video associate
producer Kari Estrin initiated the contest to honor the memory of Chris Austin,
a northwestern North Carolina native. On March 16, 1991, only a few hours after
Skaggs recorded his song, “Same Ol’ Love,” Austin, 27, was killed in a tragic
plane accident near San Diego along with other members of Reba McEntire’s band.
A solo record, Firm Believer, collected from his several singles, appeared
posthumously on Warner Brothers.

The Songwriter Showcase Coffeehouse, sponsored by AccuCopy, became a very
happening scene when it moved to The Lounge in the Student Center in 1998. There
the Coffeehouse consistently draws a standing room only audience. The
Coffeehouse returns on Friday evening, 8:00 PM to Midnight. Jerry Castor serves
as coordinator and emcee. Songwriters may register between 6:45 and 7:15 PM to
participate. At 7:15 a drawing will take place from among all registrants for
performance times. Those selected will be placed in twenty – minute slots with
two other songwriters. Those pulled from the hat will get four minutes each to
perform an original song. Ten alternates will also be drawn and worked in as is
possible. Registrants’ slots will alternate with fifteen-minute sets by the
stars: Tim O’Brien (8:20-8:35), Caroline Herring (8:55-9:10), Hayes Carll
(9:30-9:45), Gigi Dover (10:05-10:20), Robin & Linda Williams (10:40-10:55), Pat
Flynn (11:15-11:30), and Billy Jonas (11:50-12:05). All of these times and
performers are subject to change since publication deadline Check the Pocket
Schedule for the most up to date information.

MerleFest 2005 has added violinist Richard Greene to the lineup, replacing
Vassar Clements, who is fighting lung cancer. One of the first northern Blue
Grass Boys, Greene fiddled with Monroe from February 1966 until March 1967. He
founded the folk-rock ensemble Sea Train. In the thirty years since, he has been
a leading session violinist in LA, while exploring fusions of bluegrass, folk,
rock, and chamber music

Wilkes Community College will present MerleFest 2005, the 18th annual festival
in celebration of the music of the late Merle Watson and his father Doc Watson,
on its campus in Wilkesboro, NC on April 28 May 1, 2005. In addition to those on
the Fresh Faces collection, just a few of the artists joining Doc Watson and
Merle’s son Richard Watson for MerleFest 2005 will include Balfa Toujours;
BR549, Sam Bush; The Chieftains; John Cowan Band; Rodney Crowell; Donna the
Buffalo; the Duhks, Béla Fleck Acoustic Trio featuring Casey Driessen & Bryan
Sutton; Corey Harris; King Wilkie, Alison Krauss & Union Station featuring Jerry
Douglas, Robert Lockwood, Jr.; Loretta Lynn; Del McCoury Band; Buddy Miller;
Allison Moorer, Railroad Earth; Tony Rice; Earl Scruggs; and Ricky Skaggs &
Kentucky Thunder. MerleFest 2005 will offer a reunion of Bill Monroe’s Blue
Grass Boys featuring Scruggs, Greene, Bobby Hicks, host Peter Rowan, and others.
The festival will also present two nights of The Chieftains with guests from the
Down the Old Plank Road sessions including Scruggs, Douglas, Fleck, Moorer,
McCoury, and more. All bookings are subject to change without notice due to
circumstances beyond the festival’s control. Those with Internet access may
acquire their tickets easily by visiting
. Those without Internet access may purchase tickets by
calling 1-800-343-7857 (US only) or 336-838-6267 (non-US) from 10 AM through 4
PM, EST, weekdays. Tickets may also be ordered by fax (336-838-6263) and mail (MerleFest;
P.O. Box 120; Wilkesboro, NC 28697). Four-day, three-day, and single day general
admission tickets will be available at the festival.

Major MerleFest 2005 sponsors include Al Moss Promotions, American Express,, Burger King, C&J LP Gas Company/G&B Energy, Cedar Creek
Custom Case Shoppe/TKL, Charter Communications, Chetola Resort at Blowing Rock,
Collings Guitars, Curtis Media, Deering Banjo Company, Fender USA; GHS Strings;
Gibson Musical Instruments, Hardees/Dermox, Homespun Tapes Ltd., iBluegrass &
The Acoustic Network, JBL, J D’Addario & Co, John Pearse Strings, Kaffe Magnum
Opus; Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouses, Pepsi Bottling Ventures LLC, Sprint,
Stelling Banjo Works, Sugar Hill Records, Taylor Guitars, Tyson Foods, Inc.,
Western Beat Entertainment, WFMX-FM 105.7, Winston-Salem Journal, WNCW Public
Radio, WUNC 91.5 FM.