Jeff Bottari, AP
The album, which features collaborations with Jason Aldean, Darius Rucker, Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles, Shania Twain and many more, is Lionel's first set to bow at No. 1 on the country chart, but, more significantly, 'Tuskegee' starts at No. 2 on the all-genre Billboard 200 chart, making it his highest debuting album in more than a quarter of a century. The last time he bowed so high was in 1986, when 'Dancing on the Ceiling' reached No. 1.
Standing between Lionel and the Billboard 200 top spot? Another artist who knows a thing or two about dominating the '80s: Madonna, whose 'MDNA' lands at No. 1.
An elated Lionel had a few choice words for Madonna, goodnaturedly of course, when The Boot talked to him at the the Academy of Country Music Awards: "Madonna? I'm going, 'Are you back again?' I mean, we were fighting it out in the '80s. But, you know what, it's a compliment to the whole thing, the fact that we're both doing this 20-some odd years later? C'mon, I'm the happiest guy in the world."
In fact, he tells the Boot that 'Tuskegee''s success "is probably one of the most amazing things that's ever happened" to him. And, as he told Hitfix last month, he's already committed to Vol. 2 of 'Tuskegee.'
If the April 2 taping of 'Lionel Richie and Friends,' which airs April 13 on CBS, is any indication, he already has a great head start on which artists to approach: Martina McBride performed a whisper soft 'Still,' Luke Bryan strutted on 'Running With the Night,' Lady Antebellum harmonized through 'Truly,' the Band Perry countrified 'Penny Lover' and Big & Rich closed the show with the Commodores' funk classic 'Brickhouse.' Add in Lionel's performance of 'Three Times a Lady,' and Vol. 2 is more than half completed if he decided to record with those artists.
"No. 2 is coming. And now that I know it takes that long to make it, I'm starting now to record it," Lionel says. "Whoever told me three weeks for a country album lied to me. Man, it was like, 'Can we fly here? Can we fly there?'," he laughs.
From start to finish, it took almost 10 months to record 'Tuskegee,' but as today's chart numbers show, it was well worth it.