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john michael montgomery

 

JOHN MICHAEL MONTGOMERY

 

With a musical career that spans twelve albums and a greatest hits package, John Michael Montgomery's contribution to the country music format includes hits such as ''I Swear,'' ''Be My Baby Tonight,'' ''I Can Love You Like That,'' ''Sold (the Grundy County Auction Incident)'' and ''Life's A Dance,'' among many others. He's earned 15 number one singles, sold over 16 million albums and received numerous industry and fan-voted awards, including CMA Awards, ACM Awards and American Music Awards. His most recent single at radio, ''Letters from Home,'' (2004) reached #5 on Billboard's Country Singles chart.

Born Jan. 20, 1965, in Danville, Ky., John Michael Montgomery arrived on the country music scene in 1993 with a debut album, Life's a Dance, that became the only million-seller on the country charts by a new artist that year. Its title was a No. 4 hit single and was followed by his first country #1 single, ''I Love the Way You Love Me.'' The follow-up, Kickin' It Up, hit the top spot on both the country and adult contemporary charts and produced four more successful singles, the chart-topping ''I Swear,'' ''Be My Baby Tonight,'' ''If You Got Love'' and the No. 4 single ''Rope the Moon.'' At this point, Montgomery was one of the hottest artists in country music, appealing to lovers of both Garth Brooks and Lynyrd Skynyrd. He remained unchanged by his success, however, refusing to leave his Lexington, Ky., home to move to Nashville. Instead he continued to enjoy traditional pursuits such as fishing and golfing.

John Michael and his older brother, Eddie Montgomery of Montgomery Gentry, received musical encouragement from their father, who performed in a local country band and taught his son his first chords. He joined the family band as guitarist before taking the lead singing role when his parents divorced. Afterwards, he made a frugal living on the local honky-tonk scene as a solo artist playing what he referred to as ''working man's country.'' Eventually, Atlantic Records signed him, and he became part of the '90s wave of honky tonk hitmakers that brought country to new commercial heights.

John Michael made his name primarily as a romantic balladeer showing an undeniable knack for finding hit songs and giving them just the right emotion or energy they need. This strong track record has consistently kept him at the top of the radio charts.

''Someone told me that I'd had more career songs than any current artist,'' John Michael says. ''I don't know about that. All I can say is that I work very hard at finding songs. I know they're not going to just fall into my lap. I spend so much time listening and going through tapes, because I'm only as good as the songs I sing.''

So what's his secret? John Michael says it's all about the story. As a guitarist and former sound man, he loves musical arrangements and great instrumental parts. But listeners don't necessarily remember a good solo; they do remember how a song's lyrics touched them.

''I think country music is all about the lyrics,'' John Michael says. ''Doing something clever musically will make a good lyric better, no doubt about it. But no matter what you do to a bad lyric, it's not going to affect anyone no matter how good the music is. People respond to what a songs says, whether it's something that tugs at their heart or just makes them smile.''

With 15 No. 1 singles, 16 million albums sold and a line of awards crowding his mantle, John Michael long ago achieved his initial dreams of becoming a country music star. But early on, he decided to focus on longevity rather than becoming a skyrocketing star that burned out quickly.

''I've been singing since I was a kid, and I would've hated to see it come and go all at once,'' he says. ''I've been very fortunate to have a lot of peaks and valleys in my career. I've seen a lot of changes since 1992. The main thing I've learned is to just be myself, to treat people kindly, and if you give radio a good song, they'll play it. I know how lucky it is to be successful in this business, and I've always tried to let the fans, the deejays and the people I work with how much I appreciate them.''

Meanwhile, John Michael's outlasted a series of accidents that temporarily set him back. He suffered multiple fractures of his right leg while working on his farm on 2001, and since then also he's had surgery for tonsillitis and for a blood circulation problem in his hip. But those injuries and surgeries have a bright spot: He was able to spend a lot of time in the last few years at his Kentucky home with his wife Crystal and their two children, Madison and Walker.

The new year holds promise of more great music from John Michael Montgomery as he heads back into the recording studio to work on a new album. He continues to tour and will oversee the 2nd Annual Hunting & Fishing Show held in Bardstown, KY, from March 9-11, an event that he created. He will also be filming a hunting and fishing television program airing later this year.