Harassment charges made against Kirt Webster

The burgeoning cascade of sexual harassment charges being leveled against entertainment industry professionals looks to have enveloped someone prominent in the Nashville country and bluegrass scene.

Kirt Webster, whose Webster Public Relations agency represents a number of familiar bluegrass acts, has been accused by a young man named Austin Rick of drugging and sexually violating him over several months about nine years ago. He further alleges that Webster had been paying him to stay silent about this.

Webster admits to a relationship with Rick but insists it was completely consensual, and denies the more prurient allegations of abuse.

When we contacted the agency this evening, they shared this statement…

“As a single adult, Mr. Webster has had multiple relationships over the course of his professional life, all of which have been consensual. This includes a brief relationship with Mr. Rick. It saddens Mr. Webster that nine years later, after Mr. Rick’s music career has been stagnant, Mr. Rick has taken the opportunistic approach of mischaracterizing that relationship and posting untrue allegations.”

Austin has launched a GoFundMe page to raise money for what he expects will be a legal battle with Webster over these charges.

News4 TV in Nashville says that they have spoken to a former Webster employee who raises similar charges.

Webster PR represents a large number of clients, including country and pop superstars Dolly Parton and Charlie Daniels, and bluegrass artists like Rhonda Vincent, Carolina Road, Nu-Blu, and Bradley Walker. In the past, Webster had brought suit against The Grascals when they left the agency in 2012.

We have reached out to his bluegrass clients but have received no comment to date.

UPDATE 11:00 p.m. – We just heard from Nu-Blu, who offer support for Kirt.

“Kirt has not only been our publicist since 2013, but also our friend. He has opened many doors for us, providing not only countless firsts for Nu-Blu, but also many firsts for the bluegrass genre. We now support him as he has continually supported and believed in us. That’s what friends do.”    

 Daniel and Carolyn Routh, Nu-Blu

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.

  • Another Guy Named Mark

    …I’d always heard to stay away from Webster and not work with him, but I was never sure if that was because he’s a bad dude or because of the bluegrass community’s deeply entrenched homophobia. Or some combination of the two.

  • catsamtwo

    “bluegrass community’s deeply entrenched homophobia.” And you know this for certain because?? Please define “homophobia”

    • Another Guy Named Mark

      I’m not a dictionary — you know what it means. I’ve been involved with bluegrass in a number of different capacities for nearly twenty years and I have two good ears and a moral compass. The scene is more accepting than it’s ever been, but it still has some way to go…

      • catsamtwo

        A moral compass? I’m just asking.

        • Another Guy Named Mark

          Common expression. Maybe you should read something other than alt-right website comment sections.

      • Frank Holly

        My question would be, what exactly does a music community HAVE to do to prove itself as “non-homophobic”? In all of my years attending bluegrass events, I’ve never seen a “no gays allowed” sign posted anywhere. A person goes to a bluegrass show to enjoy the music, jam, clog, and have a good musical time. It doesn’t matter the skin color, gender, sexual orientation, as long as one is there to enjoy the music. Once an “activist” contingent forces itself on the community (i.e., you HAVE to go out of your way to allow a small contingent to be overly recognized among the community), then THAT is what creates the divisiveness.

    • CollapsedLung

      Maybe talk to @josemature:disqus …he’s made homophobic jokes on this very site!

      • Frank Holly

        OK, I’m new here, but it seems that the jokes by one participant does NOT make a whole community homophobic. Or is it ME that is being divisive and narrow-minded?

        • CollapsedLung

          Yeah, that’s exactly what I meant: One guy said something offensive on a bluegrass message board one time and that means the whole community is bigoted and closed minded. C’mon, Frank.

          • Frank Holly

            Uh, you inferred it, sir. So, “C’mon” to you.

      • Jose Mature

        You talking about this, C. Lung?:

        Parade float in San Francisco roils CBA membership

        Jose Mature

        7 months ago

        Might I suggest the theme from Deliverance (Dueling Banjos) for the
        attendant band to play on the float. Someone “squealing like a pig” in
        the background, for the added ambient touch.

        If you think that is “homophobic”, maybe you should crawl back into your safe space. I didn’t say a darn thing about the people or the lifestyle. Just a suggestion as a joke, which was apparently clever enough for you to remember. Perhaps the PC rules concerning gays have changed when it comes to cracking jokes–what is and isn’t homophobic–but I didn’t get the memo. Hypersensitivity about such things–YOU–is growing faster than I can keep up.

        • CollapsedLung

          Good point: It was a tasteless, unfunny, and poorly worded joke about anal rape, but calling it homophobic may be a bit of a stretch. Oh wait…you associated anal rape with the gay community, thus perpetuating a long-held stereotype that associates gay people with sexually predatory behaviour…

          • Jose Mature

            Sez you. Don’t go getting all butthurt over it.
            (Woops, Did I just do it again?)

  • Jose Mature

    Wish I could say I’m shocked, but in this day and age, nothing seems to shock me anymore. A sad commentary on the times in which we live–not on the bluegrass community acts and fans, or even the business side of the music. Just an observation of our overall cultural devolution.

  • Caroline Wright

    “One former employee who spent years working at Webster PR said Webster threatened to cut a part of her genitalia.”

    That ain’t no part of nothin’.


  • Dave Russell