Pair rubs elbows with country stars

October 02, 1997


Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Ricky and Cindy French didn't get to watch the Country Music Association Awards last week, but munching hors d'oeuvres with country singer Lorrie Morgan later that evening made their trip to Nashville a bit special.

The Martinsburg couple work for Edward Sowa Productions. Ricky's business card says he's in charge of artistic development. Cindy's describes her as the administrative director.

"I really don't know what you'd call me. I shop the artists around to record labels," Cindy French said Sunday after their return from the country music capital. She makes about six trips to Nashville each year to pitch singers; Ricky French joins her for a couple of the working vacations.


"He does most of the constructive criticism," Cindy French said of her husband. "He's got a real good musical ear."

Last Wednesday the couple, along with singer Mike Coursey of Maugansville, went to the General Jackson Showboat to rub elbows with record executives and celebrities at a party following the awards ceremony at the Grand Ole Opry. The bash was hosted by RCA/BNA Records.

"She was sitting right beside me," Ricky said of Morgan. He said her navel was pierced and she was wearing a fur-trimmed outfit.

The Frenchs got the invitation to the party through Cindy's relationship with Dale Turner, vice president in charge of promotions for RCA/BNA. She said she was able to establish a friendship with Turner, his assistant Britta Davis and other executives because, "I'm persistent."

"I'm a people person and I'll talk to just about anybody," said Cindy French, who got into the business about three years ago when she was working at a beauty parlor in Halfway. It was owned by Ed Sowa, a retired Philadelphia Eagles lineman who had an interest in country music.

"He's got the money and I've got the mouth," Cindy joked about her job.

Sowa, who has since purchased the Tommy Gun's club in Nashville, was backing David and Dwayne Sterling at the time. She helped out by getting the duo a booking at Ocean City's Sunfest.

"Well, you did pretty good at that, why don't you call up some record companies?" Sowa told her.

Since then she's been calling up and dropping in on the offices of Capital, Step One, Asylum, RCA/BNA and other labels in Nashville, hoping to get one of them to sign the artists with whom she and her husband work.

Coursey, Kimi Allen of Hagerstown and Sarah Cody of Williamsport are three of the singers they represent.

The two are trying to hook Coursey up with the right songwriters, perhaps Trey Bruce, who wrote "One" for George Jones and Tammy Wynette, or Harlan Howard, who has written scores of songs for Mel Tillis and other country and western artists.

Ricky French said he's trying to put together a band to back Coursey and Allen and book them in clubs around the region to build name recognition.

While in Nashville, they took Coursey around to the city's famous honky-tonks and clubs to watch some of the name performers who drop in to play or sing a tune. They also hit an MCA album release party for David Lee Murphy.

"He signed my Mark Martin hat," Ricky French said.

Until Coursey, Allen, Cody or some other artist they work with inks a label deal, the two must keep their day jobs. Rick is a truck driver and Cindy works in a restaurant.

Their avocation, however, has some obvious fringe benefits. One is the kind of access to country music stars and other celebrities that fans rarely get. Kenny Chesney, currently No. 1 on the Country Weekly singles and video charts, was on the General Jackson.

Martina McBride, Aaron Tippin, Noel and Marty Haggard, Willie Nelson and Clint Black are some of the other notables they've met during their travels.

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