By DENNIS DAILY, United Press International  |  March 5, 2003 at 2:00 PM
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Jimmy Fortune, for years the high tenor voice for the popular cross-over group the Statler Brothers, has decided to go it alone. CMT says Fortune has signed to work with Koch Audium Records as a solo performer. The singer already had put together an album on "spec" before being signed to the record label. The first single from the project -- the one song from the CD Fortune thinks has the greatest appeal -- will be out in June. The CD has not been given a name yet; it will be out some time in July. After leaving the Statler Brothers, Fortune has been doing some touring with rival group the Oak Ridge Boys. During his years with the former organization, he wrote three of the group's biggest hits: "My Only Love," Too Much on My Heart" and "Elizabeth."


Some classic American movie houses will be updated to keep their original charm but incorporate the latest sound and projection equipment. Upgrading will afford theatergoers the chance to soak in the atmosphere of the old "movie palaces" and the permeating sounds of state-of-the-art systems. The THX company tells United Press International it will launch its "Historic Cinema Certification Program." The first theater to be upgraded will be the historic Senator Theater in Baltimore, the scene of numerous premieres, including some for movies done by hometown boy John Waters. By the way, the building was built in the 1930s and is on the National Registry of Historic Places. It seats 900 and was built in the old Art Deco style.


The popular musical group the Chieftains has asked Alison Krauss and Martina McBride to help in its latest project. Additionally, Earl Scruggs and Emmylou Harris have taken part in the newest CD. The effort, "Down the Old Plank Road: The Nashville Sessions in Concert," has just been released on RCA. It's another example of the way country music groups have reached out to include the vocal and instrumental work of established stars in a cooperative effort. Couple this with the number of Johnny Cash tribute albums and Nitty Gritty Dirt Band works that have been "anthology" and "multi-artist" endeavors, and there's some great compilation work on the market right now. The group's Web site says the Chieftain's latest work was recorded at a live concert at the Ryman Auditorium that also featured Ricky Skaggs, Patty Griffin, Tim O'Brien, Jerry Douglas and a host of other acts. The CD also includes some behind-the-scenes looks at the way the concert and album were put together.


The death of Vera Hruba Ralston brings back memories of a time when the studio system tried to "make" stars overnight. In the case of Ralston, who was married to Herbert Yates, longtime head of Republic Studios, the star-making machine wasn't adequate to produce a winner from her meager talents. Yates was some 40 years older than his would-be star wife. Ralston began her career as a skating champion in her native Czechoslovakia and, like another skating star, Sonja Hennie, she eventually came to Hollywood. Unlike Hennie, her career did not take off. Before leaving her homeland Ralston showed her independence by spurning a request from Hitler to "skate for the swastika." Her reply: "I'd rather skate ON the swastika." She took the last plane out of Prague as the Nazis marched in. After coming to America and eventually marrying Yates -- according to an expansive obituary in the London Daily Telegraph -- the movie mogul repeatedly tried to make her a star. He put her in a succession of Republic movies. They bombed. At one point John Wayne refused to appear with her because of her on-screen failures. Despite the fans' dislike for Ralston, hubby Yates continued to worship her -- once presenting her with a diamond bracelet by hiding it inside a broiled trout. Ralston was 79.


Singer Annie Lennox is still going strong, just announcing an ambitious tour of North America, starting next month. Lennox's publicist says the singer, now hyping "Bare," her third recent CD, will kick off her multi-city tour in Miami at the Gusman Centre on April 26. Additional stops include: Tampa, Fla., Atlanta, Detroit, Chicago, Montreal, Toronto, Philadelphia, Washington, Nashville, San Diego and San Francisco. She also has announced she'll be playing two dates in Britain in June. The concert will draw from her solo work and her years with the Eurthymics. In addition to the many awards the singer has received during her career, she recently received Billboard magazines Century Award.


Members of Rascal Flatts say one of the best songs on the group's latest CD was actually added "just under the wire." says the lead singer for the group, Gary LeVox, notes "These Days," the No. 1 single from Rascal Flatt's second CD "Melt," came about "not at the 11th hour, but at the 15th hour!" The initial CD tapings had been completed and the project was as the industry puts it, "in the can." Producers then called the group to suggest a hot new song be added. Rascal Flatts listened, liked the song, agreed it had potential and went back into the studio to add the track to the finished product. To make room for "These Days" another song was dropped. It could show up on a future CD.


Today, inspired by the story about historic theaters, we are asking: "Is there a restored theater in your area? Is there a classic theater in your area that has fallen into disrepair?" Put THEATER in the subject line and send to via the Internet.


Last week we asked whether the generation gap was widening at a record pace. From a random dip into the e-mail inbox, here is a sampling of replies: BobW, a frequent contributor, says in his younger days -- he's now in his 70s -- he knew a lot about his father's generation. He knew the music because he thought it was the right thing to do to understand "history." MyraCo says it's a shame there no longer is a connection between the generations. She reminds us it was not that long ago families lived together in multi-generational homes, with the youngest kids coming into contact with the grandparents and sometimes great-grandparents on a daily basis. She says the TV show "The Waltons" was a good example of what we've lost. KyleR says there has always been a generation gap and kids have always wanted to "get away" and have their own lives, but things are exponentially worse than in past years. TOMORROW: How do you like your steak? GBA

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