Hot country band gets warm welcome

Augusta rolled out the red carpet Monday for hometown hit-maker Lady Antebellum as the heralded country trio returned for two sold-out shows.

The appearances were the band's first Augusta performances in two years.

Since singing at Kicks 99's Guitar Pull in 2008, they've recorded four straight No. 1 hits on the country charts and racked up industry awards.

The first concert at the Bell Auditorium was a chance for the community to honor the achievements of Lady Antebellum members Charles Kelley, Dave Haywood and Hillary Scott -- and for the band to give something back.

"I've got to say we owe so much to the community. It's always been so supportive of us," Haywood said during the show to benefit the Medical College of Georgia Hospital's Children's Medical Center.

"Wherever we go, we take Augusta, Georgia, with us," said Haywood, who, like Kelley, is a graduate of Lakeside High School.

Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver presented the band with keys to the city and said a downtown street was being ceremonially renamed Lady Antebellum Way for the day.

Scott is a Nashville, Tenn., native, but Copenhaver said the city has "adopted" her.

The planned Evans Town Center Park in Columbia County will feature a Lady Antebellum Pavilion, Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross announced.

The band in turn surprised three teachers -- Sheila Hancock, Jim Tau and Stacy Branch -- from their alma mater with $1,000 gifts to their classrooms from OfficeMax.

"A lot of our friends here haven't got to see us perform and hear us live, so it's always kind of fun to reconnect with them, too, and show them what we're out here doing," Kelley said in a media briefing after the concert.

The support of their families and the community has been vital to their success, band members said.

"Sometimes you just need to chase a dream, so you never look back and say 'What if,' " Kelley said. "They definitely helped me do that."

The money from the midday show will specifically benefit the pediatric cancer and blood disorder clinic, said Rebecca Bruni, the philanthropy coordinator for Medical College of Georgia Hospital and Clinics.

"We can't even begin to understand their generosity," Bruni said of the band. "We understand how busy they are. To take time out of their day to help our kids is amazing."

A final tally of money raised wasn't completed Monday.

Scott said children's charities resonate with the group.

"That's reality, and that's what people face on a daily basis," Scott said. "No one is immune to being affected by that."

Lady Antebellum arrived onstage at Bell Auditorium with thunderous applause and performed three of their No. 1 hits -- Need You Now, American Honey and I Run to You -- during the short acoustic set.

Fans who packed the venue said it was refreshing to see the band donate all of the proceeds to charity.

"That's awesome. It just shows that they care about the community and want to give back," Carmen Hensley, 22, said before entering the building.

Lady Antebellum fan club member Amy Misenheimer drove two hours from Summerville, S.C., with her 6-year-old daughter, Ada, for the performance.

To their delight, they had front-row seats.

"They're really talented," Misenheimer said. "They're not out-of-the-box musicians."

Augusta residents Jeffrey and Laura Holder know the Haywood family from Trinity-on-the-Hill United Methodist Church and were happy to hear about the midday show after the band's Monday evening concert sold out James Brown Arena in seven minutes.

Lady Antebellum's quick rise to fame since forming in 2006 is pretty "incredible," Jeffrey Holder said.

"Lots of people try to do that, but here they are making it in the music industry," he said.

More about Lady A

Charles Kelley
Co-lead singer
Age: 29
Interesting fact: Charles also plays the drums and is the younger brother of singer-songwriter Josh Kelley, who will release his first country album next year. 

Dave Haywood
Back-up vocals, instrumentalist (including piano and guitar)
Age: 28
Interesting fact: Dave started playing the piano at 6 years old and his father also started teaching him guitar at a young age. In high school, he gave guitar lessons to students in the Augusta area. 

Hillary Scott
Co-lead singer
Age: 24
Interesting fact: Hillary is the daughter of country singer Linda Davis, who is perhaps most famous for her turn as the other women in the Reba McEntire duet, Does He Love You. Her father, Lang Scott, was a member of McEntire's band.

What's in a name?
The trio first performed together in 2006 and the name Lady Antebellum originated from a publicity shoot where they used a pre-Civil War Southern mansion in the background.

Awards 

Country Music Association Awards

  • 2008: Best New Artist
  • 2009: Single of the Year (I Run to You) and Vocal Group of the Year
  • 2010: Single of the Year (Need You Now) and Vocal Group of the Year.

Grammys:

  • 2010: Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals (I Run To You)

Academy of Country Music Awards

  • 2010: Song of the Year (Need You Now), Single of the Year (Need You Now), Vocal Group of the Year
  • 2008: Top New Duo or Vocal Group. 

Albums:

Lady Antebellum (released April 2008)
Need You Now (released January 2010) 

Singles:

Love Don't Live Here (No. 3)
Lookin' For a Good Time (No. 11)
I Run to You (No. 1)
Need You Now (No. 1)
American Honey (No. 1)
Our Kind of Love (No.1)
Hello World (No. 23 and climbing)

Source: Billboard country charts

Lady A on the Web:

Official site: http://ladyantebellum.com/

Music videos: http://ladyantebellum.com/media/videos

Fan blog: http://ladyantebellumfans.blogspot.com/

On Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/LADYANTEBELLUM

On the record charts: Billboard.com chart history

Videos:

Need You Now
American Honey

Our Kind of Love

Hello World

I Run to You

Lookin' for a Good Time

Love Don't Live Here Anymore

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