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In pursuit of fame, second chances are hard to come by

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Column by Ben Sheroan, editor

By Ben Sheroan

Talent often is not enough.

Coupled with hard work and determination, talent may take flight. But often in this complex, unfair world that combination still falls short.

You also need good fortune and opportunity. And if you get one chance at success or fame, you better make the most of it.

Second chances are even more rare.

Marty Brown is pursuing his second chance.

As a young man in 1990, Marty Brown gave up a $5 per hour job as a plumber’s helper and left his small-town Kentucky home with a guitar and a dream. Like untold others, he headed for Nashville.

His money ran out faster than his luck. Virtually penniless, he began to wonder why God would bless him with a classic country singing voice and songwriting skills only to deposit him in a heartless big-city alleyway.

Then a producer from the CBS program “48 Hours” stumbled upon Marty. Working on a story about shattered dreams in the Music City, Brown became the centerpiece of the news show’s episode.

That story of frustration, disappointment and failure was Brown’s big break.

The giant recording studio MCA took note of Brown’s voice, his homespun mannerisms and pure honesty.

Just like that Marty Brown from the Daviess County river town of Maceo went from homeless musician to big-time recording artist.

MCA promoted its new discovery. His first album was accompanied with multiple radio releases, music videos and an unprecedented small-town tour schedule that seemed to fit Brown’s personality and style.

It was called the Walmart Tour. Brown traveled to dozens of Walmarts across America staging mini-concerts on a riser in the store aisle near the music shelves.

Brown’s country banter and rags-to-riches story of a small-town boy making good played well on the talk-show circuit too. He was a particular favorite of Ralph Emery whose “Nashville Now” prime-time show was at the height of its cable popularity.

But somehow it seemed just a bit as if Nashville was laughing at the simple sounding singer, not laughing with him.

Although one of his songs reached the Billboard charts and his album received largely positive reviews, Marty Brown did not find long-term success. Two albums later, his contract was dropped by MCA.

Brown would record one more Nashville album on an independent label. But in less than five years, he generally had disappeared from the national stage.

Until he showed up on “America’s Got Talent.” Again a television show has thrust Marty Brown from nowhere to national notice.

It seems Marty has continued singing, even occasionally staging a community show. But mostly he’s been getting along with life.

Just before he made his initial performance in front of the show’s celebrity judges, Marty described why he selected to sing  “Make You Feel My Love.”

“It’s my wife’s favorite song,” he said. “I sing it for her in the kitchen all the time.”

Off-stage the cameras showed his wife, Shellie, in tears but beaming with pride as Marty’s performance earned a standing ovation. After the song, Heidi Klum encouraged her to come on stage.

As she walked on, her husband proclaimed “this is the real star right here.”

It turns out she tricked him into coming to the audition. After sneaking his guitar into the trunk, she got him into the car but would not tell him where they were going.

Two TV appearances later, Marty Brown’s second chance has him in New York City ready to perform live Tuesday night on the NBC summertime talent show. His talent — and an opportunity provided by his wife — have given him a second shot at the spotlight.

He still seems like the same honest country boy I met more than two decades ago. Asked what he would be doing if he wasn’t appearing on “America’s Got Talent,” Brown said, “I’d probably be laying a tile floor for my buddy. Yeah, that’s where I’d be. Down on my knees.”

Maybe missing opportunities is not so bad after all.

Success can rob you of some pure qualities such as humility, sincerity and love. Marty Brown still demonstrates those characteristics and in his honest, straight-forward way, he reveals that those qualities remain so much more important than success and fame.

Ben Sheroan is editor of The News-Enterprise. He can be reached at (270) 505-1764 or bsheroan@thenewsenterprise.com.

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