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The mysterious final resting place of Merle Haggard

The mysterious final resting place of Merle Haggard

Hachette Books

Accomplished biographer Marc Eliot tackles the tale of one of country music's greatest legends in his new book, The Hag: The Life, Times, and Music of Merle Haggard.

Previously, the best-selling author's written books with James BrownDonna Summer, and Barry White, and taken on the stories of the EaglesBruce SpringsteenJohn Wayne and others.

Since Haggard's death in April 2016, Eliot's uncovered a little-known fact about the Country Music Hall of Famer.

"His wife had him cremated," he tells ABC Audio, "and all he wanted was to be put in the family plot with his mother and dad, Jim Haggard."

"But the wife [Theresa], the widow, still has the ashes," Eliot explains, "and there's some kind of dispute going on between whether she will give some to be buried there."

"I'm not sure what the facts are," he adds, "but he's not in the family plot and that's what he wanted."

Eliot counts Haggard's daughter Kelli -- who rarely speaks about her father -- and Merle's closest friend and advisor of 30 years as two of his primary sources.

"He knew the end was coming," the writer says of Merle, "and he told his best friend, Frank Mull, 'I want to be with my parents.' But so far -- he's been passed away five years now -- and that hasn't happened." 

The cemetery's located in Bakersfield, California, near Oildale, where Haggard grew up. Eliot adds Haggard also believed he'd be reunited in heaven with his beloved mother, Flossie Mae, and his father as well. 

You can check out the 400-plus-page The Hag now. 

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Blake Shelton hits are getting revamped as 'Rockabye Baby!' lullabies

Blake Shelton hits are getting revamped as 'Rockabye Baby!' lullabies

ABC

Fans of all ages will soon be getting a dreamy new perspective on Blake Shelton’s biggest hits: They’re being released as lullabies. Rockabye Baby! Lullaby Renditions of Blake Shelton will be out February 4.

Country radio favorites like “Ol’ Red,” “Boys ‘Round Here” and “Happy Anywhere” will be transformed into gentle, xylophone-laden lullabies for the littlest country fans -- and their parents -- to enjoy.

Ahead of release day, you can check out the first track off the project, which is a Rockabye Baby! spin on “God’s Country.”

The song comes with a colorful cartoon music video full of playful nods to Blake’s songs and their subject matter. The main character teddy bear drives along a backroad with his dog riding shotgun, Oklahoma plates on his truck in homage to Blake’s home state.

As the song progresses, a tornado passes by and drops a guitar and drums in the bed of the truck, and the bear and dog park by a field for an impromptu jam session.

In non-lullaby news, Blake dropped the deluxe version of his Body Language album last month.

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Kane Brown's plan to

Kane Brown's plan to "be the fittest guy in country music"

ABC

If you keep up with Kane Brown, you probably know the singer's on a path to "be the fittest guy in country music," as he recently told Men's Health

If you happen to be on a similar journey, you'll be interested to know the "One Mississippi" hitmaker's also giving us a glimpse at how he plans to do it. 

On the road, he likes to do high reps of simple exercises that use only his body weight for resistance, like pushups, squats, and planks that add a shoulder tap. If he can find a boxing gym, he'll head there, too.

If your gains aren't equal to Kane's, don't worry. He also revealed to Men's Health something he hasn't talked about a lot: In high school, he was the QB of the football team, the captain of the basketball squad and a baseball pitcher, while also running track.

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Chris Janson is going “All In” on new music: His next album's coming out this spring

Chris Janson is going “All In” on new music: His next album's coming out this spring

Mickey Bernal/Getty Images

Chris Janson’s next studio album is officially on the way. On Twitter, he shared that the project, called All In, is “coming this spring.” To kick off the song rollout, he released the title track.

All In” is a catchy, irrepressible declaration of love, and it’s firmly rooted in the singer’s real life. The music video for the song features snapshots of Chris and his wife Kelly Lynn, piecing together a collage of the early days of their relationship and their life together as a married couple.

It’s not the first time Kelly has inspired one of Chris’ songs: In 2020, he topped charts with the romantic “Done.”

Beyond saying it’ll arrive in the spring, Chris didn’t offer up too many details about when fans can expect his new album to arrive. In the meantime, though, you can catch him live on the road, since his Halfway to Crazy Tour launches next month.

Last year, Chris released his heartstring-tugging single, “Bye Mom.”

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Thomas Rhett will “Bring the Bar to You” with his sprawling 2022 tour

Thomas Rhett will “Bring the Bar to You” with his sprawling 2022 tour

ABC

Thomas Rhett has some big tour news to share this week: He’s hitting the road for his Bring the Bar to You headlining trek in June.

“Man, it feels good to share this tour news,” the singer says. “I’ll never take for granted being able to come see y’all and I’m so fired up to play some of these new ones that were made for these nights in mind. I have a feeling things are gonna get loud -- I’m counting down the days already!”

Joining Thomas on tour this year are “Pretty Heart” hitmaker Parker McCollum and up-and-comer Conner Smith. Tickets go on sale next Friday, January 28 at 10 a.m. local time, but there’s a special pre-sale available for members of the star’s fan club, HomeTeam.

The tour takes its name from a yet-to-be-released song off of Where We Started, a new album he’s planning to put out on April 1.

Fans will have plenty of opportunity to listen to that track and the rest of Where We Started before they catch Thomas on tour. He’s kicking things off with two back-to-back nights in Gilford, New Hampshire on June 17 and 18.

The party will wrap up in mid-October. For full dates and details, visit ThomasRhett.com.

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Luke Combs and wife Nicole are expecting a baby boy: “Couldn’t be more excited”

Luke Combs and wife Nicole are expecting a baby boy: “Couldn’t be more excited”

ABC

Luke Combs is a first time dad-to-be. The singer and his wife, Nicole, shared on social media this week that they’re expecting their first child, a baby boy.

“Here we go y’all!” wrote Luke, alongside a series of pictures showing off Nicole’s baby bump and a sonogram image. “Lil dude Combs is coming this spring! Couldn’t be more excited to start a family with this babe. It’s gonna be a hell of a ride.”

Nicole also shared the same snapshots on her socials, writing that “this may be the best year yet.”

The couple have been married since August 2020, and they got engaged in 2018. Some of Luke’s greatest hits were written as love dedications to his wife, and the music video for his “Forever After All” even features footage of their wedding.

Luke’s fellow country stars were quick to jump into the comments section with their congratulations. Maren Morris, Gabby Barrett and Carly Pearce were just a few of the singers offering their excitement, and Kane Brown -- another country superstar dad -- also expressed his congrats, along with a warning.

“Congrats my guy!” Kane wrote. “Gonna be a lot harder to jump on Call of Duty now though.”

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Walker Hayes can’t walk into Applebee’s anymore without fans coming up to him -- but that’s a good thing

Walker Hayes can’t walk into Applebee’s anymore without fans coming up to him -- but that’s a good thing

ABC

The full-length version of Walker HayesCountry Stuff arrives today, and the singer’s career is in a very different place now than it was when he first put out the project as an EP.

That’s because he skyrocketed into superstardom with the viral success of “Fancy Like,” one of the songs on the EP-turned-album. It all started with a TikTok post and a dance that the singer came up with with his teenage daughter Lela, which turned into his first-ever chart-topping hit at country radio.

Now, even Lela’s got fans, Walker reveals.

“I’ve honestly been hit up by so many artists saying, ‘Can your daughter choreograph a dance?’ So I’m trying to help her navigate that,” he explains. “You know, [teaching her how to] do business with people and work hard and use our gift to share that. And she has a lot to learn, but yeah, she’s on her way.”

“Fancy Like” changed everything for Walker, too: His hit song has earned him high-profile performance slots, awards show nominations and -- he’s hinted -- some big tour plans for 2022.

As he sings in the chorus, Walker still likes to take his wife Laney to “Applebee’s on a date night,” but their experience at the restaurant chain is quite a bit different nowadays.

“When we walk into Applebee’s it turns into a meet-and-greet,” he admits. “But man, people are sweet, and we appreciate it. I mean, honest to God, we’re just so glad that happens, you know? Because that means [the song] has worked.” 

Country Stuff also includes Walker’s current single, “AA.”

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“Who doesn’t love Betty White?”: Trisha Yearwood remembers a late legend, raises more than $38k for animals

“Who doesn’t love Betty White?”: Trisha Yearwood remembers a late legend, raises more than $38k for animals

ABC

Trisha Yearwood recently tried her hand at the #BettyWhiteChallenge, with big results: Her fundraising drive in honor of Betty White’s 100th birthday raised $38,000 in donations for her pet charity, Dottie’s Yard.

“Who doesn’t love Betty White?” Trisha said during her online fundraiser. “And I just think Betty right now is so happy that this is the way the world is choosing to celebrate her birthday -- by giving to animals, which was so near and dear to her heart.

The acting legend died on New Year’s Eve, less than a month shy of her 100th birthday, which fell on January 17.

“I remember watching her on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and then -- of course -- The Golden Girls. And then all the other things -- Password -- all the other things that she did,” Trisha continued. “Just beautiful and funny and smart and full of love. And so, the world has really lost a wonderful person, but this is how we keep people that we love alive.”

Trisha is an animal lover and advocate herself. She named her charity Dottie’s Yard after her favorite dog, and the charity distributes its funds to shelters and animal rights organizations.

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Luke Combs, Willie Nelson + Jimmy Buffett are headliners for the second week of New Orleans Jazz Fest 2022

Luke Combs, Willie Nelson + Jimmy Buffett are headliners for the second week of New Orleans Jazz Fest 2022

ABC

Luke Combs, Willie Nelson and Jimmy Buffett are among the long list of acts headed down to Louisiana for the multi-genre New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival this spring.

All three acts will perform during the second weekend of the event, which takes place May 5-8. The first half of the festival will take place April 29-May 1.

Also part of the lineup are acts like Lukas Nelson -- Willie's son -- as well as Grammy-winning bluegrass upstart Billy Strings, and Americana act The War and Treaty, who performed with Dierks Bentley at last year's ACM Awards show.

Non-country leaning acts on the bill include The Who, The Black Crowes, Lionel Richie and Foo Fighters.

The New Orleans Jazz Fest was canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For a full lineup and ticketing information, visit the event’s website.

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Maddie & Tae band mate Taylor Kerr’s baby girl arrives early: “She decided to be a Capricorn like her daddy”

Maddie & Tae band mate Taylor Kerr’s baby girl arrives early: “She decided to be a Capricorn like her daddy”

ABC

On Thursday, Maddie & Tae’s Taylor Kerr announced the birth of her daughter, Leighton Grace.

The baby girl is Taylor’s first child with her husband, Josh Kerr, and she arrived significantly early, but fortunately, Leighton is doing well. “She’s beautiful, strong and everything we have ever dreamed of,” Taylor wrote on Maddie & Tae’s socials. “She decided to be a Capricorn like her daddy. Already can’t wait for the day we get to finally take her home.”

The singer also shared a few pictures of the new arrival. Though her face doesn’t make an appearance, fans can see a closeup snapshot of Leighton’s tiny foot, plus her name on the side of her isolette, along with her weight at birth: two pounds, five ounces.

When she announced her pregnancy, Taylor said her due date was in spring 2022, but the universe had other plans. She was hospitalized in mid-December, 24 weeks into her pregnancy, and remained on bedrest until Leighton was born.

Taylor’s pregnancy complications caused Maddie & Tae to postpone their 2022 tour plans. However, there’s no shortage of new music from the duo. Their next EP, Through the Madness Vol. 1, arrives January 28.

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Ryan Hurd wonders “What Are You Drinking” in his moody new video

Ryan Hurd wonders “What Are You Drinking” in his moody new video

ABC

Ryan Hurd is following up his chart-topping Maren Morris duet, “Chasing After You,” with another new track off his Pelago album called “What Are You Drinking.”

The singer shared the music video for the song this week, setting its introspective lyrics against shadowy footage of himself playing piano in a dark basement. As the song plays out, the basement starts to flood, the light coming narrowly through windows as the song hits its emotional peak.

“Are you raisin’ up champagne? Is there a tear in your Tanqueray?” Ryan sings in the chorus of his new song. “Are you heartbroke? Are you doin’ fine? / I wanna know, what are you drinking tonight?”

You can hear “What Are You Drinking” live at a show near you: Ryan just kicked off his headlining Tour de Pelago. Earlier this month, the singer also stopped by ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live! to perform another track off the album, “Pass it On.”

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Kelsea Ballerini nabs a Gold certification for her self-titled third studio album

Kelsea Ballerini nabs a Gold certification for her self-titled third studio album

ABC

Kelsea Ballerini continues to find success with her third album, kelsea: The project has officially notched RIAA Gold certification, with over 500,000 units sold.

She put out that project, and its introspective, reimagined version, ballerini, in 2020. The track list includes her current single, a duet with Kenny Chesney called “half of my hometown,” which is currently approaching country radio’s Top 5.

Meanwhile, it’s been a year of new experiences and ventures for the singer. She put out her first-ever book of poetry, Feel Your Way Through, in late 2021.

Next up, she’s staying in the literary world for a while, as she co-stars in the audio book of Dolly Parton’s upcoming novel, Run Rose Run. She plays the role of protagonist AnnieLee Keyes. You can hear Kelsea’s voice when the audio book -- as well as its written component -- arrives on March 7.

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“Midnight Rider’s Prayer” is Brothers Osborne’s answer to a Willie Nelson classic

“Midnight Rider’s Prayer” is Brothers Osborne’s answer to a Willie Nelson classic

ABC

The deluxe version of Brothers Osborne’s Skeletons arrives on Friday, bumping up the original track list to 15 with three new songs.

Fans have already heard one of those, “Younger Me,” and the other two are called “Headstone” and “Midnight Rider’s Prayer.” The latter is a tip-of-the-hat to Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again,” which it even samples.

The idea came after band mate John Osborne was looking for a chorus with the same feel and style as "On the Road Again," and his brother TJ Osborne suggested simply using it.

“TJ just goes, ‘Well, why don’t we use that chorus?’ I’m like, ‘Because it’s already been written,’” John remembers. “He’s like, no, no, no...they do that a lot in pop songs and stuff.’ This has never really been done in country before.”

They sent the demo to the legend himself, and got a response that was even better than they could have dreamed.

“He liked it enough that he played it for Kris Kristofferson,” John continues.

But while the song pays homage -- literally -- to “On the Road Again,” “Midnight Rider’s Prayer” isn’t quite as carefree as the original. “At the time when we wrote that song, John and I were still in the phase of riding around in 12-passenger vans and getting beat up by the road,” TJ remembers.

“There’s a spot in the song John and I both really love,” he continues. “‘When your night is ending, ours is just beginning, on the road again.’ And that’s how it is.”

Look for Brothers Osborne on an upcoming episode of ABC’s Nightline. The show airs weeknights at 12:35AM ET.

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Dierks Bentley, Connie Smith + more are getting their own stars on the Music City Walk of Fame

Dierks Bentley, Connie Smith + more are getting their own stars on the Music City Walk of Fame

ABC

Dierks Bentley is one of four stars, all hailing from diverse corners of country music, to be inducted into the Music City Walk of Fame in 2022.

Also in the 2022 incoming class are outlaw singer-songwriter Bobby Bare, Grand Ole Opry mainstay Connie Smith and Grammy-winning blues act Keb’ Mo’. An induction ceremony will take place on April 5 at 2 p.m. CT in Nashville, at Music City Walk of Fame Park.

All four honorees will be on hand for the event. They’re claiming the 90th, 91st, 92nd and 93rd stars on the walk.

Meanwhile, Dierks has been hard at work on his next musical endeavor. After releasing his latest number-one hit, “Gone,” last year, he followed it up with “Beers on Me” -- a duet with Hardy and Breland, and, most recently, a fan club exclusive track called “Tell ‘Em Right Now.” Look out for new music from the singer in the months ahead, as he’s been teasing a new album.

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Maren Morris re-lives a favorite Dolly Parton memory on the country legend’s 76th birthday

Maren Morris re-lives a favorite Dolly Parton memory on the country legend’s 76th birthday

ABC

Maren Morris is wishing a happy birthday to Dolly Parton with a special memory the two country artists shared together.

The singer posted a video to her social media on Wednesday, showing a behind-the-scenes moment that happened backstage at the 2019 Newport Folk Festival. That day, Dolly took the stage with Maren and the rest of her band, The Highwomen, which also includes Brandi Carlile, Amanda Shires and Natalie Hemby.

The video shows the group of women backstage, singing Dolly’s 1991 single, “Eagle When She Flies.” In one particularly sweet moment, Dolly pulls Maren into the circle, inviting her to sing with the rest of the performers.

“Happy birthday [Dolly Parton],” Maren writes. “Thank you for forever pulling me into your unbroken circle.”

Other stars also lined up to post good wishes to Dolly on her birthday, including Tim McGraw and Alan Jackson.

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Kenny Chesney sells 80 percent of his recording royalties to Hipgnosis Song Management

Kenny Chesney sells 80 percent of his recording royalties to Hipgnosis Song Management

Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

Kenny Chesney is parting ways with 80 percent of his recorded music royalties, across albums that span a period of over two decades.

Hipgnosis Song Management acquired the rights to the catalog, following a $1 billion partnership the company made with investment firm Blackstone last October, Billboard reports. The purpose of the partnership was to invest in music assets.

The portion of Kenny’s catalog in question comes from his Sony Music days, beginning with his 1994 debut album, In My Wildest Dreams, through his 2017 live project, Live in No Shoes Nation.

Not included are the albums Kenny’s put out since switching to Warner Music Nashville in 2018: His 2018 release, Songs for the Saints, and 2020’s Here and Now.

In a statement, Kenny shared his thoughts, saying “To know that this music has a home that views the work as a collective body, something that builds on itself and captures the heart of No Shoes Nation, was important to me.”

Catalog sales have been something of a theme for artists of all genres over the past couple years; Rolling Stone’s recent report of highest-paid musicians in 2021 includes several artists who made a chunk of their money through such sales.

Among them was Blake Shelton. Blake earned $50 million last year from a previously unreported catalog sale. He was the only country star to hit the Top 10 musicians in terms of earnings, raking in $83 million overall.

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'Blue in the Sky': Dustin Lynch drops details on his next album

'Blue in the Sky': Dustin Lynch drops details on his next album

ABC/Randy Holmes

After a string of standalone song releases throughout 2021, Dustin Lynch is finally ready to share some details about his next album.

The singer announced that project, Blue in the Sky, in a conversation with Good Morning America’s Michael Strahan on Wednesday. During his stop at the show, Dustin also performed “Thinking ‘Bout You,” his six-week-long chart-topping duet with MacKenzie Porter.

“Thinking ‘Bout You” appears on the new album, along with 11 more songs, many of which are already familiar. Two other previously-released duets are on the track list: “Huntin’ Land” with Riley Green and “Tequila on a Boat” with Chris Lane.

Listeners may also recognize the titles “Pasadena” and “Not Every Cowboy,” which Dustin dropped as a two-pack last July.

During his GMA interview, the singer also hinted at some big concert news coming soon. “We’re gonna be announcing a big tour behind [the album] as well pretty soon,” he noted.

Blue in the Sky drops February 11. It’s available for pre-order now, and you can also check out the cover art -- a sun-kissed portrait of the singer set against a sky-blue backdrop -- on his socials.

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Take two: Garth Brooks re-books a Massachusetts show originally scrapped due to COVID-19

Take two: Garth Brooks re-books a Massachusetts show originally scrapped due to COVID-19

Terry Wyatt/Getty Images

Garth Brooks has a Stadium Tour show on the books for Foxborough, Massachusetts’ Gillette Stadium -- again.

The star announced his plans to hit Gillette Stadium on Wednesday. The show will take place Saturday, May 21, marking Garth’s only Stadium Tour stop in New England and the first time he’s played the venue.

Garth originally planned a show for Foxborough that was supposed to take place last October, but it was one of five dates he had to cancel when he halted the Stadium Tour in 2021 due to an uptick in COVID-19 cases.

Now that the tour is resuming, it’s no surprise that Foxborough is a stop that Garth wants to re-book: When he first announced the show, he shared that it was a special concert for him because it’s the home of the New England Patriots, a team owned by billionaire businessman Robert Kraft. Kraft -- who also owns Gillette Stadium -- was one of the earliest supporters of Garth’s move into bigger venues.

“The Krafts were the first stadium -- and the first family -- to come to us and say, ‘Hey, man -- you can play stadiums, and you should play stadiums.’ It was very sweet,” Garth previously explained. “They believed in us years and years ago. Now it’s neat that it’s finally coming to fruition and the circle is kind of being complete.”

Tickets go on sale Friday, January 28.

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Jordan Davis says singing with Luke Bryan on

Jordan Davis says singing with Luke Bryan on "Buy Dirt" is a "bucket list thing"

MCA Nashville

When Jordan Davis wrote "Buy Dirt," he originally had Luke Bryan in mind to pitch it to. But once the song was complete, Jordan knew he had to be a part of it, instead turning it into a collaboration with Luke. 

"I didn't know when we were going to release songs again, and I knew Luke was looking for songs. I was like, 'Guys, let's write something in that vein.' And then we finished it and I was like, 'Alright, I can't let this song go.' But I also couldn't get Luke singing on it out of my mind," Jordan explains of the process writing with his brother Jacob Davis, and Matt and Josh Jenkins. "So I sent him a text message a couple of days after we finished it, asked him if he wanted to be a part of it, and I'm grateful he said yes. It's just special." 

Luke has previously expressed that while he's honored to be a part of "Buy Dirt," he believes Jordan should get the praise for writing the humble song. Jordan says having Luke sing with him is a "bucket list" moment, praising the superstar for elevating the song that's so meaningful to him. 

"Let's be real, I do think 'Buy Dirt's' a special song, and I'm a little biased. But Luke brings that thing to it that like hammers it home, and it was just as much a bucket list thing for me to have a song out with Luke," he shares. "It's better with Luke on it, and I truly believe that."

"Buy Dirt" is nearing the #1 spot on country radio. It's featured on Jordan's 2021 EP of the same name. 

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Tiffany Haddish taking boyfriend applications; Shaquille O'Neal's Super Bowl Comedy Jam; and more

Tiffany Haddish taking boyfriend applications; Shaquille O'Neal's Super Bowl Comedy Jam; and more

Michael Tullberg/Getty Images

It's been a week of joy and pain for Tiffany Haddish. On Friday, she was arrested for DUI, and on Tuesday, she was nominated for the NAACP Image Awards Entertainer of the Year. This follows breaking up with her boyfriend Common in December. Now, the Emmy and Grammy winner jokes that she will formally assess potential boyfriends like they were applying for a job.

"I'm going to drop applications next week and I'm going to hold my interviews. I'm gonna go through the applications, right? Then I'm gonna hold interviews on Instagram Live," Haddish tells Entertainment Tonight.

"I'm gonna go live," she continues. "I'm gonna interview them in front of everybody, you know, let their girlfriends, ex-girlfriends, whatever, say what they gonna say."

In other news, Shaquille O’Neal is bringing his All Star Comedy Jam to LA to kick off Super Bowl weekend.

"From delivering numerous sold-out tours to being among the first to give a national stage to current comedy legends such as Mike Epps, DeRay Davis and Kevin Hart, All Star Comedy Jam has been a fixture on the comedy scene, dedicated to elevating the brightest up-and-coming comedic voices," Shaq said in a statement.
Davis will host the show on Thursday, February 10, at the Microsoft Theater in LA. The event also will feature Bill Bellamy, Mo'Nique, Earthquake and Michael Blackson. The next day, O'Neal will host his annual Shaq's Fun House Super Bowl Party at the Shrine in LA, featuring a performance by Lil Wayne.

Finally, Netflix announced Tuesday that Tyler Perry's A Madea Homecoming will premiere on February 25. The comedy revolves around Madea's great-grandson's college graduation, as hidden secrets and family drama threaten to destroy the happy homecoming.

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