A funny thing happened to Kirt Webster on the way to his own unexpected notoriety…
Like the Wizard of Oz. Kirt Webster has masterfully worked the dials behind the screens to illuminate his chosen land of the fantastic and the fanciful with bombastic bursts of eventful and often awe-inspiring sound and lights. So has been his approach to the land of entertainment. Webster has been nothing if not the skilled ringmaster of the artistic—a man in charge of directing the sequence of the three-ring circus that is show business.
He came by his flair for the business of entertainment quite naturally. His early absorption in music and his relationship with his uncle, Murl “Doc” Webster, who was successful in the carnival trade, left the young Kirt with a fascination for the artistry and ‘smoke and mirrors’ skill it takes to entertain an audience, or successfully direct the business careers of those that do.
Growing up in Arizona he chose the inroads of country music radio and live touring concerts to provide access to the fringes of his dream of working with major artists in Nashville. As a teen, Kirt would dummy fake “all access” backstage passes to get closer to the pulse beat of the music industry and to the performers he was listening to on radio and now meeting on tour. Worthy to note that several of these “road built” relationships were destined to become his earliest publicity clients. Associations that would become long-term business relationships and friendships included major name artists of the day such as Janie Fricke and Freddy Fender who met him initially on tour when Kirt was still too young to vote.
In 1995, and just breaking 20, Webster packed his Chevy S-10 Blazer with dreams and determination to reach for the stars and headed for Nashville. Setting up Webster Public Relations — first in his small apartment and soon after in a cramped space on Music Row, he soon became “the buzz” in the small town music clique of Nashville. His reputation of working 24/7 in pursuit of news placement for his clients combined with his innate ability to create “events,” that made news, quickly positioned Webster PR as a fast runner.
Throughout the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Webster PR grew into a nationally known and respected creative home-turf for major country artists such as The Bellamy Brothers, Carl Perkins, The Little River Band, Lee Greenwood, Crystal Gayle, and The Gatlin Brothers. With Carl Perkins’ passing in January 1998, it was his young publicist who helped orchestrate the top names in music — names such as former Beatle George Harrison, Ricky Skaggs, Billy Ray Cyrus, Wynonna — and even former Beatle Paul McCartney on video — to gather in Jackson, Tennessee, and celebrate a legend they had loved in a star-studded final tribute.
In 2002, Webster scored a major move into representing the iconic with his signing of Hank Williams, Jr. A year later, at the request of Johnny Cash’s longtime manager, Lou Robin, Webster was asked to help stage the now memorable Cash Memorial event held at the historic Ryman in Nashville. Webster worked with Robin on several Cash projects and it was even noted in the book, “The Man Called Cash,” how Kirt became a valued personal friend of Johnny and June . Orchestrating press that flew in from around the world and major artists that flocked to Nashville from literally every genre of music and performing arts, Webster’s help in staging the tribute event for Johnny Cash proved to be a labor of love as well as a flawless movement of people and creativity.
With his gift for “creating media magic” for the legendary careers as well as his own personal astute sense of the entrepreneurial, Webster’s reputation and client roster exploded exponentially. By the mid 2000’s Webster PR was the principal major publicity agency in Nashville to specialize in television and facilitate major network TV ties for their clients — CMA Awards and ACM Awards — across genres to the Today Show, Ellen, Oprah, Good Morning America and strong weekly presentations of his artists on the Fox News Channel — all were familiar turf for Webster’s clients. From late night network staples to across the dial on a wide new region of cable syndication, Webster clients — both new artists and legends, abounded on national TV.
Named one of the most successful business men in Nashville under the age of 40 in 2009 by the Nashville Business Journal, Webster was on a well-deserved roll with clients in Nashville, Los Angeles, and around the globe. Serving on the boards of the Academy of Country Music (ACM) and the Nashville Association of Talent Directors (NATD), his PR firm was now not only the media destination for the legendary names in country music, but also the new media address for mainstream music — names such as Meat Loaf, Kid Rock, Kevin Costner, Pat Benatar, Kenny G., Don McLean, K.C. and the Sunshine Band, Gloria Gaynor, Kiefer Sutherland, Tower of Power, Cyndi Lauper, Megadeth, Seether, 3 Doors Down and Sam Moore, to mention only a few, were onboard for national media.
In a creative growth spirt, Webster PR established their own production studio in-house to facilitate video and satellite functions for clients and began taking on corporate entities associated with the industry. Time-Life, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, StarVista Live and the NRA were among the notables.
Working in tandem with management, Webster had the opportunity to display his flair for creative news and opportunistic events that propelled media energy and new audiences for both new artists and name clients who needed a re-introduction into the “today” aspects of music. Webster had mastered the art of “career re-development,” as notably evidenced in the career of the legends such as George Jones. It was Kirt, in fact, who worked tirelessly with Nancy Jones in handling the planning and production of George’s historic one-hundred star “final show” extravaganza at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville on November 22, 2013 — unveiling a stage studded with top names such as Garth Brooks, George Strait, Reba McEntire, Megadeth and Alan Jackson listed among the Jones fans paying homage. The concert, aptly dubbed “Playin’ Possum—The Final No Show.” sold-out needless to say.
A strong ally of the Country Music Association, Webster personally found great satisfaction in designing Hall of Fame “induction campaigns” for the legends he loved, and whose music had drawn him to Nashville. Successful campaigns included those targeted for Webster clients including Charlie Daniels, The Oak Ridge Boys, Randy Travis, and Kenny Rogers. For Jim Ed Brown and The Browns induction, Kirt arranged a special early Hall of Fame medallion presentation ceremony while Jim Ed Brown was hospitalized, just a week prior to his passing and months before the official medallion ceremony was to be held.
Moving into the mid-teens of the 2000’s, the re-uniting of Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers onstage fulfilled yet another personal dream for Kirt Webster. Brought into the Parton team by Dolly’s manager, Danny Nozell, Webster cast a broad publicity/marketing strategy to enhance Dolly’s global tour, new music, and re-introduction to yet another iconic rung on her decade’s long ladder of unparalleled success. Teaming with Nozell, Kirt engineered a campaign that resulted in her latest CMA, ACM, Grammy and Clio Awards in recognition of a lifetime of career achievements.
When wild fires ravaged Parton’s beloved East Tennessee in the fall of 2016, Webster co-created and executive produced her ground-breaking Emmy Award winning telethon, Smoky Mountain Rise: A Benefit For My People, which raised more than $10 million dollars for those affected by the tragedy.
As homage to his stable of legacy artists, the “Legendary Lunch” was conceived in 2015 as a Webster PR produced promotional vehicle to bring radio and established career hit-makers together at the annual Country Radio Seminar in Nashville. It proved to be a fast “must do” industry event at the yearly gathering.
While keeping his finger on the pulse of music, Webster has also found creative fascination with politics –working to provide consultation, talent, and event facilitation for the administrations of Bush and Trump campaign efforts on the national scale, as well as for the regional and national campaigns of Romney/Ryan, McCain/Palin and the broader efforts of the Republican National Committee (RNC).
Perhaps the best personal tribute came recently in early 2018 from his first client, Janie Fricke, who noted in an email from the road:
“…I just want you to know I missed you being here, and thought of you every moment as I met folks everywhere who you influenced in our business. Your efforts & achievements over all the years are revered, and everyone knows what a difference you have made in our world!”