Tuesday, Dec. 2, 1997 | 5:24 a.m.
"PRIME TIME COUNTRY" HOST GARY Chapman puts an extra special spin on his evening talk show as he steers the series into the Las Vegas Hilton during National Finals Rodeo, Dec. 8-12.
And while pulling The Nashville Network's program together may not be as difficult as corralling a 2,000-pound bull, it promises to be every bit as exciting. For Chapman alone, taping the show in the city that never sleeps ranks right up there with spending a week on the edge of Nirvana.
"I'm crazy for Vegas," said Chapman, explaining the tour is the first time he's taken the show on the road. "I've enjoyed going to Vegas for a long time. I love the city, the excitement that's there, and I love rodeo."
With that, the host of TNN's flagship entertainment series will be in his element as he welcomes some of the biggest names in country music, including Patty Loveless, Bill Engvall, Deana Carter, Diamond Rio, Dwight Yoakam, LeAnn Rimes and more.
Very much at home in front of the camera, Chapman has been able to turn many of his off-air friendships with country's pride and joys into captivating interviews that put entertainers at ease, allowing them to kick off their boots, lean back and sit for a spell.
"I enjoy entertaining people. I naturally feel like I need to facilitate the evening--fill in the gaps that might be there in between the performers that are there. I tend to do it very naturally" and most of all, " I want this show to be fun," said Chapman. "I want it to be unpredictable, insightful and entertaining. I want the audiences to enjoy watching it, and as the host, I want to have fun doing the show every night."
Fun like, say, juggling SPAM (out of the can, of course, the gelatin is what makes the trick exciting), or how about riding a 6-foot-tall unicycle just for the heck of it. Or, better yet, what could be better than inviting Deana Carter to shave your leg (a clean tie-in to her hit "Did I Shave My Legs for This?"). You name it and Chapman's probably done it, or at least thought of it. Because, for him, that's what sets "Prime Time Country" above the rest.
"We spend the bigger part of the day planning what we think will happen and inevitably what we've learned is that what you can really count on is that we really don't know and I love that," said Chapman.
Aside from his desk duties, Chapman is a recording artist in his own right. Recently, he has released his seventh album "This Gift", a Christmas collection of Christian songs.
Born in Waurika, Okla., and raised in the small Texas town of De Leon, Chapman said he always dreamed of being an entertainer. From the time he was old enough to sing in the Church choir to his days as a member of a high school band, Chapman has honed his talents well.
Speaking of the show, Chapman said an added is the chance he gets to meet some of the legendary artists that inspired him along the way.
"Merle Haggard in particular was really wonderful. You know I had a country band in high school and we pretty much did all Merle all the time. ... Eddy Arnold is another one that comes to mind. He's just a wonderful, gentle, sweet man."
Don't ask how, but Chapman also finds time to host the ongoing live concert series "Sam's Place," "CCM Countdown with Gary Chapman," which airs on national radio, and he co-hosted the 28th Annual Dove Awards. At home, the 39-year-old songwriter, T.V. host and producer, who is married to singer Amy Grant, devotes his time to his three children--daughters Millie and Sarah, and son, Matt.
When asked how he finds the time for it all, Chapman said, "You prioritize and just work your way down the list. You don't get it all done every day, but you take care of the most important things."
"Prime Time Country" will originate each night from the 1,500-seat Starlight Theater inside the Las Vegas Hilton. The hourlong show will be taped between 5 to 6 p.m. and be telecast on TNN later that evening at 9. Tickets are free, and reservations can be made by calling the Hilton's box office at (800) 222-5361.
Patty Loveless extends her stay at the Las Vegas Hilton, topping off two evenings in concert at the resort with a guest spot on "Prime Time Country," Dec. 8.
Loveless, who is known far and wide for her sassy hits and powerful ballads brings fans yet another collection of surefire chart-toppers from her newest album "Long Stretch of Lonesome".
"To me, singing is almost like talking to a friend. You can unload any situation or problem in your life and it's OK. You're just sharing it with many friends--and they'll come back and say, "Yeah, I know."
"Dwight Yoakam is a little bit country and a little bit everything else," wrote "USA Today" of one of contemporary country's hottest artists, who'll be making a rare appearance during NFR on "Prime Time Country," Dec. 12.
Yoakam, who marks his first of two live performances for 1997 has been exceedingly busy this year, releasing two albums within the past five months, "Under the Covers" and "Come On Christmas."
On "Covers," Yoakam has compiled an eclectic collection of songs that include reworks of previous hits by the Clash, the Kinks, Glen Campbell and the Rolling Stones. Yoakam keeps up the creative pace on "Christmas," which features a combination of traditional hymns, country, jazz, pop, classic and original material.