Country music star Billy Dean is slated to headline a country music concert at J.F. Gregory Park today.
The event runs from 5 to 10 p.m. and will also feature country singer-songwriter Hannah Dasher and The Rogues. Dasher is originally from Springfield. Promoter J.R. Gill said The Rogues are "quite a spectacle and bring with them a lot of instruments. They’re like the Swingin’ Medallions...but better."
Richmond Hill Idol winner Anna Hall and runner-ups Hannah Suddath and Sierra Clifton are also scheduled to get some stage time.
The event will be held under the covered pavilion. Seating is very limited, but lawn chairs are permitted.
Food vendors will be on hand for the event. $5 raffle tickets will be sold with the winner to receive a guitar autographed by Dean.
Attendees are permitted to bring their own beer or wine, but it must be carried in small personal coolers and must be poured into cups as exposed cans or bottles are prohibited.
“I’m really looking forward to the big show this weekend. I plan to play all my hits. In between, I usually share some fun and comical stories about celebrity and the whole entertainment industry,” Dean said. “It’s kind of a combination of the hits with some homespun humor and philosophy – mostly just to let people get to know me and make them laugh and have fun.”
Dean first experienced fame in the late eighties as a contestant on the televised talent show ‘Star Search’.
“I got a lot of exposure (from Star Search) and it kicked Nashville into gear,” Dean said. “We were lucky – in a business that depends on a lot of luck.”
Dean’s newfound fame curtailed his original plan to pursue sports. At the time, Dean was a collegiate basketball player at East Central Junior College in Decatur, Mississippi.
“It looked like I was going to transfer to Old Miss when the opportunity came up to go to Nashville,” he said. “I think I made the right choice.”
Dean said it was shortly afterward that his song “Only Here For a Little While” was chosen by a record label for inclusion on a promotional album. Almost immediately, it soared to top of the country and western charts.
“It’s kind of cliché, but like the saying goes – ‘it always begins with a song’,” Dean said. “It just happened to catch on and it went all the way to number two. My career really got rolling after that. My second hit, ‘Somewhere in My Broken Heart’, went straight to number one and got me a Song of the Year award. It’s been a blur ever since.”
The nineties were kind to Dean. It was during that decade that he sold over six million records and won numerous Grammy and Country Music Awards, including "Male Vocalist of the Year" and "Songwriter of the Year".
“It changed my life in a lot of ways,” Dean said of his sudden success. “I had a humble, Huckleberry Fin sort of childhood in a little town called Quincy, Florida. We didn’t have a whole lot. My dad was a mechanic and a singer on the weekends. Two of the things I’m really thankful for with my career are the boost that it gave my self confidence and the opportunity it gave me to see the world. Music has taken me on so many different paths.”
“My dad was really a great singer,” Dean continued. “He didn’t live long enough to see my success, but I’ve been able to kind of live a family dream that we all had when I was growing up. It’s been a pretty blessed life.”
Dean received critical acclaim in 1993 when he clashed two styles to turn Dave Mason’s seventies rock hit “We Just Disagree” into a country hit.
“My brother-in-law listened to a lot of old classic rock and he had this vision to fuse that sound with country music,” Dean said. “That song was a way to reach out and grab some rock fans and say hey, guess what, country music is not all about hey seed and losing everything and ‘my wife left me’ and ‘my dog left me’ (laughs). We wanted to show that it was cool to be country.”
Fast forward to 2008 to find Dean’s new album "I Pray", which was just released and will be available for purchase at the park.
“It (‘I Pray’) captures my thoughts and feelings about the whole spiritual experience,” Dean said. “I’m not a hardcore religious person, but music itself can be very spiritual. It can make you laugh, it can make you cry, it can make you introspective. My music now is not about trying to chase a hit song on the radio. It’s a lot deeper now.”
Dean said fatherhood is his main focus these days. His Richmond Hill appearance is actually a rare chance to see Dean in concert as he has stopped touring in order to concentrate on his family and a new business venture.
“I got off the road to focus on my family and building a music company,” he said. “We only get out and perform on special occasions. Having kids really turned my life around as far as my priorities and it reflects in my music. You can hear it in songs like ‘Let Them Be Little’ and ‘I Pray’.”
Dean said he prefers the simple life to stardom and has managed to avoid many of the pitfalls that laid before as his music was making him famous.
“I’ve had the great opportunity to work with many major stars and have seen careers where individuals became sort of a character of themselves,” he said. “My life has never been about being a country music star. For me, it was more about trying to have a successful family. That’s a message that I try to put out in my music. I had a choice to make: do you feed the machine or do you stay home and try to raise a family? I’m continuing to make music on a smaller scale because I do love doing that, even though I’m not selling out stadiums or traveling with 15 buses. I have a simple message and I’m trying to deliver it in a simple way, and maybe people can get something out of it. When I do that, I show my kids that one of the most important things you can do in life is find your path of service and your life’s work. For me, it wasn’t about putting another award on the wall - it was about trying to get a teenager to respect me.”
Last year, he started the Billy Dean Music Group, which he utilizes to record new material as well as nurture the careers of several aspiring artists.
“We’re about helping people get their music, their direction and their brand together and then we just hand them off to the industry,” Dean said. “We also are functioning as an independent record label.”
For more information on Saturday’s show, call 912-441-8156.