Jimmy Lane: If at first you don’t succeed … good luck

Jimmy Lane

It’s hard to argue that Kenny Chesney is the biggest star today in country music. What’s hard to imagine is it took him seven singles to get his first top-five song.

Chesney’s first release peaked at No. 75, and his second single only made it to No. 59. Chesney is not the only artist in country music who failed to hit the ground running. Only one of Tim McGraw’s first three singles broke the top 50, and that one peaked at No. 47. Alan Jackson’s first release peaked at No. 45. Martina McBride also struggled with her first three songs, which charted at 23, 43 and 44.

Nowadays it’s very important that a new artist has a big hit with his first or second release. Very few singers will get more than two shots before their record label drops them. That’s why you may hear a song from a new artist on the radio and never hear from them again. Even when an artist has a hit record with his first single, he’d better follow it up with more hits and great record sales in order to keep his job.

Today’s country stars who have become successful in the past few years have been able to follow this formula. Carrie Underwood has taken each of her singles to No. 1. Josh Turner, Billy Currington, Jason Aldean and Sugarland are having good success with nearly all of their single releases.

It’s pretty fortunate Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw and Shania Twain came out at a time when record labels were a lot more patient with their stars, or there is a good chance they would not have hit records today.

Some stars have been very fortunate to have No. 1 songs with their very first single. Toby Keith did it with “Should Have Been a Cowboy.” It was also the case for Brooks and Dunn’s “Brand New Man,” Heartland’s “I Loved Her First,” Clay Walker’s “What’s It To You,” Clint Black’s “A Better Man” and Billy Ray Cyrus’s “Achy Breaky Heart.”

Soon we will look at country music’s biggest one-hit wonders.

Country tidbits: Mindy McCready was sentenced to one year in jail for violating her probation on a drug charge. The singer will receive a 75-day credit for time served but faces another two years of probation when she is released from the Williamson County jail in Franklin, Tenn. McCready also has to perform 200 hours of community service work. … Reba McEntire has been named the first Woman of the Year by Billboard in its current issue. … Alabama lead vocalist Randy Owen has enlisted Big & Rich's John Rich to produce his first solo album. … Hank Williams will be the subject of a nearly two-year exhibition at the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2008. “Family Tradition: The Hank Williams Legacy,” presented by SunTrust, opens March 28.

Norwich Bulletin

Jimmy Lane is the 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. disc jockey and program director at WCTY (97.7 FM) in Norwich. E-mail him at jimmy@wcty.com.