Georgia on My Mind Concert: ‘Old Town Road’ Choral Cover & Bill Anderson Tribute Help Benefit Music Education


The sixth annual Georgia on My Mind concert returned to Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium on Wednesday evening and included a wide roster of performances from Bill Anderson, Lindsay Ell, Riley Green, Jamey Johnson, Michael Ray and many more country acts.

For nearly three hours, artists and songwriters from Georgia took the famed stage to play songs inspired by their home state. Money raised from the event went to benefit the Georgia Music Foundation, which supports programs for music preservation and education. More than $400,000 has been raised by the Georgia on My Mind event, which is hosted each year by songwriting trio the Peach Pickers, made up of Rhett Akins, Dallas Davidson and Ben Hayslip.

During the evening, $50,000 was donated by sponsor Gretsch, while NAMM CEO Joe Lamond stressed the importance of music education. “We have a simple goal with music education, and that is to get more kids to start and fewer to quit,” he said. “I think it’s a rallying cry for all of us. … We all have a role in that. We believe in music education and that it is our duty and contribution to bring music into the world to heal all the stuff that’s going on.”

The nearly three-hour concert included additional performances by John Berry, Craig Campbell, Brent Cobb, Travis Denning, Colt Ford, Ray Fulcher, Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls, Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out, Cole Swindell and a special performance by Otis Redding Foundation’s Dream Choir. Emceed by SiriusXM’s Storme Warren, below are the five best moments from the sixth annual Georgia on My Mind concert.

The Peach Pickers play their chart-topping hits

Longtime friends and colleagues, the combined talent of Akins, Davidson and Hayslip accounts for more than 70 No. 1 hits on the country charts. Their friendship was evident throughout the evening as they took the stage, trading off on who sang lead on each song, as well as telling the often comical stories behind the hits they penned.

After performing several hits they wrote for Luke Bryan, including “Play It Again,” “What Makes You Country,” “Huntin’, Fishin’ & Lovin’ Every Day” and “I Don’t Want This Night to End,” Davidson joked that they have a different name when writing with the country star. “When we write with Luke, we’re the Peanut Pickers,” he said, alluding to Bryan’s upbringing on a peanut farm in Georgia.

Lindsay Ell is a one-woman band on “Criminal”

While Ell is from Canada, the singer jumped at the chance to help raise money and awareness for the Georgia Music Foundation. “Anytime I can be here for kids and music education … it changed my life when I was a little girl,” the singer said. She then showcased exactly what she learned with her strong musical upbringing, as she took the stage alone with her prized electric guitar, Jeremy. “I’m a nerd; I name all my guitars,” she later told Warren. The singer-songwriter captivated with a mesmerizing guitar introduction before she segued into 2018’s top 20 hit “Criminal.” With the help of a loop pedal, she recorded several guitar parts for an electrifying musical interlude and plenty of shredding that had the audience screaming along.

Bill Anderson honored, performs with Jamey Johnson

The annual Flamekeeper Award is given to “somebody who keeps the fire burning for the state of Georgia,” Davidson said. “There’s no greater songwriter that’s ever stepped foot in this town. We’re honored to stand on this stage with him,” Hayslip added, before Anderson himself addressed the room. “Thank you, this is humbling. I don’t know of any award that would mean more to me. They say you can’t go home again, but I’ve never forgotten where I came from. I’ve never forgotten the people that stood by me and believed in me and helped me get to this place tonight,” Anderson said.

Johnson then joined Anderson for a comical duet of 2018’s “Everyone Wants to Be Twenty-One” featured on Anderson, the Country Music Hall of Famer’s most recent album, and George Strait’s “Give It Away,” which they penned together with Buddy Cannon. “That’s a master songwriter,” Johnson said pointing to Anderson during their performance. “I’m proud to be a student of Whisperin’ Bill Anderson. He’s one of my signers on my guitar. More than that, he’s been a mentor to me. He’s taught me just as much about being a good human being and being a strong man as he ever did about writing.”

Otis Redding Foundation’s Dream Choir covers Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road”

The most spirited moment of the evening came from the Otis Redding Foundation’s Dream Choir, a mixed choir group that included students from 12-18, who covered Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road.” Donned with cowboy hats, sunglasses and bandanas, the choir’s energy filled the Ryman Auditorium. While one student assisted on fiddle, two men traded the verses and rap to the song while several students assisted on harmonies and others performed a choreographed dance to the track. Receiving a standing ovation at the end of their set, it was a reminder of the importance music education can have on a child’s life.

Jamey Johnson’s stirring rendition of “Georgia on My Mind”

While Johnson may call Alabama home, he let the audience know that he has family in Georgia and assured them that it’s like his second home… that is, until football season when they don’t talk to one another. Johnson delivered the most powerful performance of the night with his captivating cover of “Georgia on My Mind.” His number proved exactly why he’s one of the genre’s most revered vocalists. The Mother Church of Country Music remained silent during the entirety of the song as his whiskey-soaked baritone reverberated throughout the venue and entranced all in attendance.