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Melissa Etheridge, winner of two Grammy Awards and a 17-time nominee, will headline this year's Riverbend Festival on Wednesday, June 10.

Etheridge, a singer/songwriter/guitarist/activist, will be making her first festival appearance, according to talent and production coordinator Joe "Dixie" Fuller.

"I saw her years ago in Nashville and she is such a strong performer," he says. "I saw her again years later at Vanderbilt and she was even better than the first time. She has such a rockin' show and she has such stage presence, it's a good fit for us."

Also announced are country newcomer Cole Swindell for Friday, June 12, on the Coca-Cola Stage, and Southern rockers Molly Hatchet the same night on the Bud Light Stage. Bluegrass trio Sleepy Man Banjo Boys are scheduled on the Unum Stage on opening night, June 5.

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Melissa Etheridge

Etheridge earned her first Grammy nomination for her debut single "Bring Me Some Water" in 1988. She got her first win for "Ain't It Heavy" from her third album "Never Enough." But it was her fourth release, "Yes I Am," that proved to be her real breakthrough with the singles "I'm the Only One" and "Come to My Window," which garnered her second Grammy.

Her 12th, and latest CD, is called "This is ME."

In October 2004, Etheridge was diagnosed with breast cancer and went through several rounds of chemotherapy and radiation. But in February 2005, she appeared at the Grammy Awards (her song "Breathe was nominated for Best Rock Vocal Performance). Totally bald from the cancer treatment, she performed Janis Joplin's "Piece of my Heart" and received an instantaneous standing ovation.

For the first time since the festival began in 1982, Riverbend will have two featured acts on the main Coca-Cola Stage on all nights except for Monday, June 8, when the Bessie Smith Strut takes place off site, and Tuesday, June 9, which is Faith & Family night. Amy Morrow, Friends of the Festival marketing director, says no acts have been announced yet for the Strut , and Matthew West will headline Faith & Family night.

The move allows the festival to have two bigger name acts on the larger stage, which for years has featured only the night's biggest name along with an occasional opening act.

The Coca-Cola Stage schedule, with the 6:30 p.m. act listed first, is St. Paul & the Broken Bones and 3 Doors Down on June 5, War and Martina McBride on June 7, Leon Russell and Merle Haggard on June 7, Doug E. Fresh & Slick Rick and Etheridge on June 10, Little River Band and Hunter Hayes on June 11, and Swindell and the Gregg Allman Band on June 12. The closing night acts have not been yet announced.

The festival is set for June 5-13. Wristbands can be ordered online for $39. They will go on sale at area Kangaroo stores on May 1 for the same price. They will increase to $55 after June 4.

Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6354.

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