The story of gold chains, doctored charts and a Music Row murder
The recording is a true story about the Murder on Music Row back in 1989 of Kevin Hughes. Featuring Michael Lusk on vocals and written by Edward Ray Russell, Published by Alley Roads Music BMI Nashville.
The fight to promote country songs on a phony chart was real, even murder.
Kevin Hughes was a clean kid caught in a dirty business. In 1989, he was the Nashville chart researcher at Cash Box magazine, which had once ranked with Billboard as the industry’s most prestigious trade paper. For a 23-year-old who loved music and had made up his own charts growing up in rural Illinois, it should have been a dream job.
But Hughes had walked into a dark netherworld of tough-guy record promoters who wore gold chains, drove Cadillacs and bilked aspiring singers out of fortunes. He soon learned these were people whose livelihoods depended on doctoring the very charts over which he had been put in charge.
By the first week of March, Hughes was telling people that he had a big decision to make. He told his parents he wanted to come back home the following weekend to sort some things out. He never made it. On Thursday, March 9, 1989, he was gunned down on Music Row, the dream dying in a pool of blood on a cold, dark street.
The street hypothesis is that Dixon—a self-styled godfather of country music—ordered the murder, and D’Antonio carried it out. Kevin Hughes was unwilling to participate in a well-known system of chart manipulation that helped defraud an endless string of naive country singers, the theory goes, he was killed.
Dixon’s circle included Tony D’Antonio, who referred to himself as “The Tone” and fancied himself a Mafia type as well. Dixon, though, was the undisputed boss.
“He orchestrated everything with Gary Bradshaw and Tony,” says Robert Gentry, then an independent promoter who teamed up for a time with D’Antonio. “I mean, they used to kiss his ring, you know what I’m saying?”
The bottom-line payoff was supposed to be a buzz and a chart presence irresistible to the major labels. “The pretense of the promoters,” Bradshaw says, “is that if you do well on the independent charts, the majors will suck you right up, which was in fact just the opposite. Most majors wouldn’t touch somebody on those charts.”

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