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Hit With a Bullet | KATU

In 1989, chart director for Cash Box magazine, Kevin Hughes, was shot and killed in cold blood. Rising country music artist Sammy Sadler was also hit but survived. Now, 30 years later, Sammy is telling the story of how in a few seconds his dreams ended and a 13-year homicide investigation was launched. Hit with a Bullet is part mystery-thriller, part autobiography, detailing the corruption, chart-rigging, and payola that would rock the music industry for many years to come.For more information, visit Sammy's website.

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Murder on Music Row: The gunshots that changed Nashville’s music industry

For Sammy Sadler, a recording studio feels like home. He came to Nashville like so many, ready to make his mark on the music industry, but he left with a mark the music industry made on him.

“I still carry the bullet in my shoulder,” Sadler said.

It’s a bullet that changed his life forever on the night of March 9th, 1989.

“I can close my eyes and take you step by step that whole night,” Sadler said.

He and chart manager, Kevin Hughes, stopped by Evergreen Records to make a quick phone call after dinner. When they left the studio to call it a night, everything changed.

“I walked around Kevin’s car, and sat down at his car and started to reach for the door, and that’s when I caught something out of the corner of my eye, and I looked up and the guy was right there on me with a gun, and I just threw my arms up to cover my head, and said ‘Oh my God, this guy’s got a gun,’ and that’s when he shot me,” Sadler said.

As Sammy slumped over in his friend’s car, the shooter chased down Kevin Hughes and shot him to death in the street.

“There’s some things as a law enforcement officer that continue to play back in your head sometimes and when I walked up here [Music Row], I do remember Kevin and the blood that had ran down into the sidewalk and into the grate,” retired Metro officer David Williams said.

David Williams was just a rookie police officer when he pulled up to the scene alone, with no backup nearby. He remembers wanting to secure the scene, but having to change plans when he learned about another possible victim. He found Sadler crouched in an apartment, shell shocked, as a nurse tried to help him.

“I can remember the words he said. At that time, he said, ‘Don’t leave, he’s gonna come back and finish me off,’” Williams said.

Fourteen years later, they learned the "he" he's referring to was Richard D'Antonio. Prosecutors argued that a former promoter enlisted D'Antonio to kill Hughes, because they thought he'd expose a payola scheme where artists and promoters would pay to place their songs on the charts.

“Being the honorable person that he is, he was like, I’m not gonna do this, I’m not gonna play along with this. This is wrong and I’m gonna stand up for what’s right, and he lost his life because of it,” Williams said.

For Sadler, the 14 years it took to figure out who murdered his friend were excruciating.

“They made me feel like a suspect, and you know, here I am a victim,” Sadler said, “They made me go take a lie detector test, they made me go get hypnotized, and they still made me feel like they didn’t believe me or thought I was holding something back,” Sadler said.

He says at the time, he didn't realize what a big part payola played in the music industry, and it was the same for many in law enforcement..

“In 1989, if you had said ‘payola’ to me, I probably would have thought it was a drug or something,” Williams said.

It took Hughes's murder to spotlight how common this was.

“My understanding of it was it was pretty routine,” Williams said.

And even to this day, it's not over. In 2005, Sony BMG had to pay $10 million in fines for a similar payola scheme, and even more recently, Payola's taken a different shape in the age of music streaming. People are paying popular playlist creators for song placement on platforms like Spotify, forcing the service to crack down in 2015, banning users from accepting cash and other compensation to influence playlists.

“Well, it’s cheating,” Williams said.

It's that sort of cheating Kevin Hughes hoped to put an end to.

“To me, he’s a fallen hero. He died for doing the right thing, you know? He died for country music and I took a bullet for it,” Sadler said.

Now, Sadler honors his friend with his music and a new book explaining everything he knows about that night and the following trial, hoping his sacrifice will never be forgotten.

Sadler’s book comes out at the end of this month. It details payola, the shooting, and the court process, including how Sammy was treated as a suspect. For information on how to get a copy, you can visit his website here.


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Murder on Music Row survivor shares his side of the shocking story

The survivor of the infamous murder on Music Row is telling his side of the story.

The murder that 30 years ago on 16th Avenue uncovered corruption and greed in the music industry.

Country artist Sammy Sadler spent many years as a person of interest in the case.

"I came here to make my mark in Nashville, and Nashville left its mark on me," Sadler told News 2.

Like many aspiring musicians, Music Row is where Sadler came to live out his dream. He was just 21 years old and had several songs on the charts when seven seconds changed his life forever.

"Tragedy struck us that night of March 9th," Sadler began. The year was 1989.

"I've got 100 staples in my arm, I look at that and it takes me right back to that moment," he said. "I can close my eyes and take you step-by-step through it."

Sadler says he was leaving his label Evergreen Records on Music Row with his friend Kevin Hughes, who worked for Cash Box Magazine, when the two came face-to-face with a masked gunman.

"I threw my hands up just to cover my head," Sadler recalled. "I said, 'oh my god this guy's got a gun,' and that's when he shot, and it hit me in my arm. They said Kevin did a barrel roll and started running, and the guy went after him and shot him twice in the back of the head."

Detectives first pointed to Sadler as a person of interest.

"Here it is, I'm shot and bleeding out and dying, and next thing I know I'm being questioned -- and it just went on and on," he said.

Thirteen years later, a jury convicted former record promoter Richard D'Antonio for the murder, which revealed a darker side of Music City --the case pointing to a payola scheme for placement on the magazine's indie country chart as the motive.

"Kevin was an honest person, and he wouldn't take their money, and they shot and killed him over it," Salder said. "He died for country music, and I took a bullet for it."

Sadler began writing a book about his account of that night and the next chapters of his life in the 13-year investigation.

"A Hit with a Bullet" was released this week.

Salder says he is still pursuing his dream as a country artist and plans to release an album soon.


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The true story of corruption, greed and the real murder on music row

Country Music Singer Sammy Sadler is Blowing the Lid Off a Scandal that Brought Down an Important Industry Magazine and Shined a Light on the Darker Side of the Nashville Music Scene in His Much Anticipated Memoir.

In 1989, chart director for Cash Box magazine, Kevin Hughes, was shot and killed in cold blood. Rising Country music artist Sammy Sadler was also hit but survived. Now, 30 years later, Sadler is telling the story of how in a few seconds his dreams ended and a 13-year homicide investigation was launched. That investigation was led by detectives Bill Pridemore and Pat Postiglione (now the star of Investigation Discovery’s Deadly Recall). Their findings would reveal corruption, chart-rigging, and payola that would rock the music industry for many years to come.

The autobiographical mystery-thriller, which took over 10 years to complete, chronicles Sadler's remarkable journey from wide-eyed Country music newcomer whose latest single had been marked with a bullet (indicating its fast climb up the chart), to being placed "under suspicion" for a murder that would capture international headlines in the decade that followed.

Sadler recounts his struggle to overcome debilitating injuries (both physical and mental) as homicide detectives follow various leads, and the hardship of reconciling his passion for Country music and a desire to rebuild his career when their investigation reveals a darker side of Nashville's music industry.

30 Years After Infamous Murder on Music Row, Sole Survivor, Country Artist Sammy Sadler Ready to Tell His Story

Indigo River Publishing to Release Autobiographical Mystery-Thriller, "A Hit with a Bullet" on May 21

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (May 1, 2019) — Former top-40 Country artist and survivor of the infamous "Murder on Music Row," Sammy Sadler, is officially returning to the entertainment fold in the same way that he left--with a bullet.

On Tuesday, May 21, Indigo River Publishing will release "A HIT WITH A BULLET," Sadler's long-awaited, first-hand account of his nearly-fatal shooting in the March 9, 1989 assassination of Cash Box chart director, Kevin Hughes, and the career-throttling 13-year investigation that ensued.

A Hit With A Bullet by Sammy SadlerThe autobiographical mystery-thriller, which took over 10 years to complete, chronicles Sadler's remarkable journey from wide-eyed Country music newcomer whose latest single had been marked with a bullet (indicating its fast climb up the chart), to being placed "under suspicion" for a murder that would capture international headlines, including "Entertainment Tonight," "Nancy Grace, "Unsolved Mysteries," in the decade that followed.

Sadler recounts his struggle to overcome debilitating injuries (both physical and mental) as homicide detectives Pat Postiglione (now the star of Investigation Discovery's "Total Redemption") and Bill Pridemore follow various leads, and the hardship of reconciling his passion for Country music and a desire to rebuild his career when their investigation reveals a darker side of Nashville's music industry--one wrought with greed, corruption, payola and murder.

The book, which features a foreword by former Country Weekly editor, Larry Holden, will be available in paperback for $19.95 beginning May 21 via, Indigo River Publishing, and through Sammy Sadler's website at

"You've seen the movies they declare they're "based on a true story." And the television shows that are "ripped from the headlines." This is one of those stories. It is a true story of bribery, betrayal, murder, survival and of justice taking a ride on a slow train--a story written in the blood of a rising country music star and in the blood of his friend."
--Larry, Holden, former Editor of Country Weekly
read the Foreword in its entirety by clicking HERE


Sammy Sadler Secures Management and Booking Representation

Sammy Sadler Secures Management and Booking Representation

Resilient sole survivor of infamous murder on Music Row prepares for new projects

Photo L to R: Sammy Sadler, Cathy Nakos of CN Productions Inc.

Left to Right: Sammy Sadler, Whitney Crabtree of WBA Entertainment

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (April 11, 2019) — Former Country artist and survivor of the infamous "Murder on Music Row," Sammy Sadler, is returning to the entertainment fold the same way he left--with a bullet. Sadler, whose promising career was stopped short on March 9, 1989 when he was shot by former Cash Box magazine employee, Richard D'Antonio, has been working quietly behind the scenes to assemble a team to support a number of projects that will be announced in the coming months.

Sadler secured CN Productions for exclusive management by industry veteran Cathy Nakos, whose clients have included Andy Griggs, Dave Gibson, Hal Bynum, Elizabeth Eckert, Buddy Jewell, Beatlemania 64 Live, and The Ultimate Garth Brooks Tribute, just to name a few.

"Sammy is an amazingly gifted country singer whose career was literally stolen at gunpoint," Nakos explained. "Despite his horrendous ordeal, he has NEVER given up on himself, Nashville, the industry, or his dream. Most people would have walked away. That says a great deal about his character. This business requires not only talent, but resilience...he has both."

Nakos made it one of her first orders of business to secure a booking agency for Sadler, who, from 2012 - 2016, established two successful tours on his own under the title, "Taking the Country Back." These tours produced well over 200 dates and featured co-headliners, Jeff Carson, Ken Mellons, Buddy Jewell and others. Armed with this data, Nakos tapped WBA Entertainment (Larry Carlton, Paul Brown, Remembering Hee Haw, The Highwaymen Live Brothers Brown, Mark Newman, etc.) to represent him.

"Sammy brings a lot to the table," states his agent, Whitney Crabtree. "Not only were we extremely impressed by his talent and his story, but his sheer determination. Not everyone can put together a tour like he did, enlist the talent that he did, and manage all the pieces and parts that go into it," she explains. "With all he did on his own, it's exciting to think what he could do with a great agency behind him. He certainly deserves that chance."

Sadler's ongoing tenacity has allowed him to continue his career in the music industry despite his tragic past. He is currently putting the finishing touches on projects that he hopes will capture the country world's attention once again.

"I am so excited about these projects, one of which I have been working on for over a decade," states Sadler, "The business has changed a great deal since the late 80s and it's taken me some time to wrap my head around it, but, there's a lot of opportunity for guys like me to reach my audience more than ever before. It will be interesting to see how the country community reacts."

In America

On November 10 of last year, Sammy Sadler provided a free copy of his single, “In America” on his website to honor American veterans.

Sammy is reportedly continuing to work on his biography and is back in the studio working on a project. Details of this upcoming project will be announced soon, so be sure to stay tuned!