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Buddy Jewell: country music's latest overnight sensation (sic)

By Jeffrey B. Remz, July 2003

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Indicative of how fast the recording process happened, "we got to an 11th hour kind of thing," says Jewell, referring to "One Step at a Time." "It was 5 o'clock Tuesday afternoon. Tammy Brown (of Sony) found that song. They rushed it over to the studio."

Bang. It was cut and on the album.

As a demo singer, Jewell recorded songs being considered by artists for their albums. He had sung three - "O'Reilly Luck," "I Can Get By," a song penned by Black, and "You Know How Women Are," which closes the album - as a demo singer.

Jewell says that having previously sung the songs enabled him to know what he wanted to do with them vocally.

Jewell also turns in a fine reading of Merle Haggard and Bonnie Owens' "Today I Started Loving You Again," a duet with Lambert.

Despite the big time pressures involved in recording the album, Jewell says, "it was actually not a difficult process. We knew we wanted to make a country record. There were a lot of things being pitched to us, but they weren't the traditional kind of country music, although they were great songs. They didn't fit with what I was trying to do."

Jewell says there was "kind of an unspoken agreement" with Gershon and Black that all three had to agree on a song or else it wouldn't be recorded.

"Tracy knows my love for traditional country music, and she's a big fan of traditional music as is Clint. That's the kind of singer I am. That's how I tried to portray myself on the show."

Jewell says, "Going another route, I would not have stayed true to my roots."

Those roots started in Arkansas with his mother and father both music lovers. "He was a big Marty Robbins and Johnny Horton fan, and my mother is from Dyess, Ark., where Johnny Cash is from. On the other hand, they loved Motown - The Spinners The Chi-Lites. I had a pretty diverse musical upbringing."

With neither parent a performer, Jewell's Uncle Clyde taught him how to play. He started with "What a Friend We Have in Jesus," singing in church "as an itty bitty kid in choirs."

With neither parent a performer, Jewell's Uncle Clyde taught him how to play. He started with "What a Friend We Have in Jesus," singing in church "as an itty bitty kid in choirs and college." Jewell attended Arkansas State, but left in the middle of his junior year.

He was married for 2 1/2 years with the marriage only producing a parrot and a couple of cats and debt. His ex- got the animals.

Jewell found himself in Little Rock where he worked for a heavy equipment company and sold cable television door to door. He also devoted more time to music, playing clubs and restaurants in Little Rock.

"By the time I was 21 or 22, I really wanted to be a recording artist," Jewell says. "I felt that God had blessed me with a talent. I didn't see any reason to sell real estate. I graduated fourth or fifth in high school. I had potential. I could have done other things."

He headed south to Camden, Ark. because he learned that a band by the name of White Oak needed a new singer. He got the gig and hit the road, playing traditional and current country and southern rock throughout the U.S. and Canada from 1985-89.

But the band was not getting a record deal, and the greenbacks weren't pouring in either. "We were bringing home about $200 a week," Jewell says. "We were doing this for about four years."

The band eventually folded after losing about its sixth bass player in four years.

Next stop was Dallas where he remarried, had a son and his most interesting job - playing in a comedic gunfight at Six Flags.

He continued pursuing music, winning a talent contest overseen by Alabama, which landed him a slot opening for the band. He also entered one of Ed McMahon's Star Search contests, getting through a few rounds.

After being told he ought to move to Nashville, Jewell and family did so in 1993.

After a couple of years, the strong voiced Jewell started singing on demos. By about 1995, he was making enough money to turn it into a full-time job.

"I've sung on about 5,000 demos," he says. "Averaged about 500 a year."

Jewell continued songwriting, though he didn't play out too much. He performed on a Broadway dinner train and at a Nashville restaurant.

"I wasn't playing in the bars every night,' he says. "I never even played down on Broadway or Second Avenue."

Just because you have experience as a demo singer, doesn't mean you know a hit when you hear one.

"A song that I thought was a hit when I recorded it, "'You're Beginning to Get to Me,'" says Jewell.

"I just fell in love with that song," he says. "When I walked out of the vocal box, I told the writer, 'that's a hit song,' and it was." Clay Walker took it to number two on Billboard in 1999.

"On the flip side, I thought 'Write This Down' was an okay song, but I didn't think it was a hit."

George Strait somehow managed to take the song to number one for four weeks.

"From that point, I'm not the expert I thought I was," says Jewell.

Jewell's self-titled debut is not the first time that his music has been released. He put out "One in a Row" in 2001 and "Far Enough Away" the end of 2002. Neither is available, though if you look at EBay, both are fetching pretty hefty prices.

Despite the buzz about him, Jewell is not hitting the concert scene too much just yet. "Because of the timeframe with the show ending like it did, a majority of the big tours are booked for the summer," he says. "There's a talk of maybe two or three big tours that are considering us (for this fall). We're just picking up dates when we (can). I'm playing the Opry a lot this summer. It's an honor."

Jewell's success has been a long time coming, and while he's at the cusp of bigger and better things, it obviously doesn't always work out that way in the record business.

"I'm cautiously optimistic," Jewell says. "I think that we made a great record. That's just my opinion. I've already told you I'm not necessarily the greatest judge of material. We'll see what happens. I'm anxious, a little nervous about it...I can't go change it now."

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