Friday, December 15, 2006

Alabama site picked for $600M Earnhardt project

Alabama site picked for $600M Earnhardt project

Earnhardt siblings invest in racetrack and entertainment complex

By Garry Mitchell, The Associated Press
December 15, 2006
05:59 PM EST (22:59 GMT)

MOBILE, Ala. -- A $600 million Dale Earnhardt racetrack and entertainment complex will be built on 2,500 acres in the Prichard-Saraland area just north of Mobile, the track's investors announced Friday after ruling out two sites in south Baldwin County.

It could take about two years to build the four-track motorsports park off Alabama 158, near Interstate 65, with a full season of activity expected in 2010, track spokesman Bill Futterer of Raleigh, N.C., said. The chosen site faces the University of Mobile campus.

A 5,000-space RV park, a theme park and a 7,000-seat arena also are planned, along with hotels, retail, restaurants and music theaters. The site, while near the busy north-south I-65, also would benefit from its proximity to the east-west Interstate 10 on Mobile's southern edge.

Investors in the track include Dale Earnhardt Jr.; his brother, Kerry Earnhardt; and sister Kelley Earnhardt Elledge.

It is the Earnhardt siblings' first professional collaboration. The 20 investor partners are operating as Gulf Coast Entertainment LLC.

The Earnhardts will help design the seven-tenths-mile, lighted oval track in the complex. There also will be a three-eighths-mile dirt track; a 3-mile road course; and a quarter-mile drag strip.

Mobile County Commissioner Steve Nodine said that while no monetary commitment by the county has been made to the investors, the county will offer infrastructure improvements.

A project of this size would be a windfall for Prichard, which has a population of about 28,000 and is one of Alabama's poorest cities. Prichard Mayor Ron Davis said it's an "exciting day" for Prichard and he pledged to "focus on the partnership" to make the complex a success. Construction on the complex could generate 5,000 jobs.

Baldwin County sites in Loxley and Summerdale were considered. While Summerdale courted the track investors, Loxley was less than enthusiastic about the proposal because residents voiced concerns about racing noise and traffic.

"Most people I talked to were not in favor of it," Loxley Mayor Billy Middleton said.

Summerdale Mayor David Wilson said the cost of the land knocked his city out of the competition. He said property near the toll highway to Alabama beaches was considered.

Wilson said two of the investors already owned some of the Mobile County property needed for the project.

"We were humbled to have been considered," a disappointed Wilson said.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Fred Marsden, Merseybeat Drummer, Dies

Fred Marsden, Merseybeat Drummer, Dies

By Associated Press
Thu Dec 14, 12:47 AM

LONDON - Fred Marsden, the drummer in the Merseybeat band Gerry and the Pacemakers, has died at age 66, his family said.

Marsden died of cancer Saturday in Southport, England, according to a family death announcement published Tuesday in the Liverpool Echo newspaper.

The band, fronted by Marsden's brother, Gerry, was the second group signed by Brian Epstein, whose first band was The Beatles.

Gerry and the Pacemakers become the first from Liverpool to have a No. 1 single with "How Do You Do It?" in 1963, followed that year by another chart-topper, "I Like It."

Later hits included "You'll Never Walk Alone," "Ferry Cross the Mersey," and "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying," co-written by Fred.

The group disbanded in 1967. Gerry Marsden reformed the Pacemakers in 1973 but without Fred, who had given up the music business to be a telephone operator and later established the Pacemaker driving school.

Marsden is survived by his wife, Margaret, and two children. A funeral will be held Friday at Our Lady's Church in Formby.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Music Pioneer Ahmet Ertegun Dies at 83

Music Pioneer Ahmet Ertegun Dies at 83

5 hours ago

NEW YORK - Ahmet Ertegun, who helped define American music as the founder of Atlantic Records, a label that popularized the gritty R&B of Ray Charles, the classic soul of Aretha Franklin and the British rock of the Rolling Stones, died Thursday at 83, his spokesman said.

Ertegun remained connected to the music scene until his last days _ it was at an Oct. 29 concert by the Rolling Stones at the Beacon Theatre in New York where Ertegun fell, suffered a head injury and was hospitalized. He later slipped into a coma.

"He was in a coma and expired today with his family at his bedside," said Dr. Howard A. Riina, Ertegun's neurosurgeon at New York Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Ertegun will be buried in a private ceremony in his native Turkey, said Bob Kaus, a spokesman for Ertegun and Atlantic Records. A memorial service will be conducted in New York after New Year's.

Ertegun, a Turkish ambassador's son, started collecting records for fun, but would later became one of the music industry's most powerful figures with Atlantic, which he founded in 1947.

The label first made its name with rhythm and blues by Charles and Big Joe Turner, but later diversified, making Franklin the Queen of Soul as well as carrying the banner of British rock (with the Rolling Stones, Cream, Led Zeppelin) and American pop (with Sonny and Cher, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and others).

Today, the company, part of Warner Music Group, is the home to artists including Kid Rock, James Blunt, T.I., and Missy Elliott.

Ertegun's love of music began with jazz, back when he and his late brother Nesuhi (an esteemed producer of such jazz acts as Charles Mingus and Ornette Coleman) used to hang around with Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington in the clubs of Washington, D.C.

"My father was a diplomat who was ambassador to Switzerland, France and England before he became ambassador to the United States, and we lived in all those countries and we always had music in the house, and a lot of it was a kind of popular music, and we heard a lot of jazz," Ertegun recalled in an interview with The Associated Press. "By the time we came to Washington, we were collecting records and we amassed a collection of some 25,000 blues and jazz records."

Ertegun parlayed his love of music into a career when he founded Atlantic with partner Herb Abramson and a $10,000 loan. When the label first started, it made its name with blues-edged recordings by acts such as Ruth Brown.

Despite his privileged background, which included attending prep school and socializing with Washington's elite, Ertegun was able to mix with all kinds of people _ an attribute that made him not just a marketer of black music, but a part of it, said Jerry Wexler.

"The transition between these two worlds is one of Ahmet's most distinguishing characteristics," Wexler said.

Black music was the backbone of the label for years _ it was Atlantic, under Wexler's production genius, that helped make Franklin the top black female singer of her day.

"We had some pop music _ we had Bobby Darin ... and we developed other pop artists such as Sonny and Cher and Bette Midler and so on," said Ertegun. "But we had been most effective that set a style as purveyors of African-American music. And we were the kings of that until the arrival of Motown Records, which was long after we started."

But once music tastes changed, Ertegun switched gears and helped bring on the British invasion in the '60s.

"If Atlantic had restricted itself to R&B music, I have no doubt that it would be extinct today," Wexler said.

Instead, it became even bigger.

In later years, Ertegun signed Midler, Roberta Flack and ABBA. He had a gift for being able to pick out what would be a commercial smash, said the late producer Arif Mardin, who remembered one session where he was working with the Bee Gees on an album _ but was unsure of what he had produced.

"Then Ahmet came and listened to it, and said, `You've got hits here, you've got dance hits,'" Mardin once told the AP. "I was involved in such a way that I didn't see the forest for the trees. ... He was like the steadying influence."

One strength of the company was Ertegun's close relationships with many of the artists _ relationships that continued even after they left his label. Midler still called for advice, and he visited Franklin's home when he dropped into Detroit.

His friendships extended to the younger generation, too, including Kid Rock and Lil' Kim.

Besides his love of music, Ertegun was also known for his love of art, and socializing. It was not uncommon to find him at a party with his wife, Mica, hanging out until all hours with friends.

Although he was slowed by triple-bypass surgery in 2001, he still went into his office almost daily to listen for his next hit.

Finding those hits were among the most wonderful moments in his life, he said.

"I've been in the studio when you go through a track and you run down a track and you know even before the singer starts singing, you know the track is swinging ... you know you have a multimillion-seller hit _ and what you're working on suddenly has magic," he said. "That's the biggest."

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Exclusive breaking news--GORDON AND VANDEBOSCH 'EXPECTING'

Exclusive breaking news--GORDON AND VANDEBOSCH 'EXPECTING'

12/13/06 10:35 AM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (December 13, 2006) - Ingrid Vandebosch, wife of four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon, is pregnant.

"We're obviously very excited," said Gordon, who announced his engagement at Infineon Raceway in June and married Vandebosch on November 7. "Christmas came early for us this year.

"This is a very special gift for us – one that we're both looking forward to. The due date is early July, and Ingrid and I can't wait to be parents.

"We've known for a little while, but we couldn't wait any longer to share the good news with our friends and fans."