Shelton, Blake

views updated

Blake Shelton

Singer, songwriter

Blake Shelton burst on the country music scene in 2001 with the hit single "Austin" from his self-titled debut album. The song stayed at number one on the Billboard country singles chart for five straight weeks. The album itself remained for no fewer than 70 weeks on the Billboard top 40 country chart. He followed this remarkable debut with his second album, The Dreamer, in 2003.

Blake Tollison Shelton was born on June 18, 1976, in Ada, Oklahoma. His parents are Dick, a used car dealer, and Dorothy, a beauty salon owner; his sister is Endy. A brother, Richie, died from injuries sustained in an auto accident in the 1990s. Shelton's first public performance was at the age of eight, when he sang "Old Time Rock 'n' Roll" at a local talent show. He sang in local bars and theaters while growing up, honing his craft and developing a unique style. He was writing his own songs by the time he was 15 and a year later won the Denbo Diamond Award, Oklahoma's highest honor for young entertainers.

Even while he was still in high school Shelton knew he wanted a career in music. He got a big dose of confidence from Mae Boren Axton, a songwriter who cowrote Elvis's hit "Heartbreak Hotel" as well as songs for Steppenwolf, Three Dog Night, Willie Nelson, and others. When Axton heard Shelton at one of his performances in Ada, she saw his potential and told him he was good enough to get a record deal, if he worked hard. And so, two weeks after graduating from high school in 1994, at the age 17, Shelton moved to Nashville, Tennessee.

Shelton's first job there was working as a housepainter for Axton. She introduced him to the Nashville music industry, as Shelton later explained to Curtis Ross in the Tampa Tribune, "She made sure I met the right people and didn't fall in with the wrong ones." With Axton helping him make connections, Shelton began to write songs for Naomi Martin Music, Warner/Chappell Music, and Jerry Crutchfield Music.

Not long after moving to Nashville, Shelton landed his first recording contract. He was helped in this by song-writer Bobby Braddock, who'd written Tammy Wynette's hit "D-I-V-O-R-C-E" and George Jones's "He Stopped Loving Her Today." Braddock liked Shelton's work and agreed to produce his first album. Shelton later credited him with almost single-handedly launching his career. "He didn't just help me out," Shelton told Sarah Rodman in the Boston Herald. "I still believe to this day that he's the guy who metaphorically walked up to me and said, 'Hey, you want a career? Here it is.'"

Shelton released his first single, "Austin," in March of 2001 on the Giant label. It became a hit, climbing to the number-one position on the Billboard singles chart. A ballad about a man trying to reclaim a lost love, the song is a series of answering machine messages. Shelton, who attributes the song's success to its universal appeal, has also said that it's about remaining committed in the face of tough odds.

The Giant label went out of business shortly after the release of "Austin," but Warner Bros. acquired Shelton's contract. His next single was "All over Me," which he cowrote with one of major musical influences, Earl Thomas Conley. The song made the charts but didn't fare as well as "Austin" had. Shelton released one more single, "Ol' Red," before releasing his debut album, which featured all of his previous singles.

Blake Shelton, dedicated to Shelton's deceased brother Richie, debuted on July 31, 2001, the day after "Austin" began its five-week reign at the top of the Billboard country singles charts. The album hit number three on the Billboard country album charts soon afterward, staying on the Billboard top 40 country album charts for 70 weeks. It went gold within a year of its release. The album made Shelton the second-bestselling country artist of 2001, just behind Trick Pony.

After his album's release Shelton was invited to perform at country music's Carnegie Hall, the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. He was named R&R Breakthrough Artist of the Year for 2001, and was awarded Music Row magazine's Critics Pick Award.

In 2002 he was voted favorite new artist at the Country Weekly Fan Favorite Awards. More recognition followed, including a guest performance at the Country Music Awards show and a starring role in a Ford Motor Company advertising campaign. That same year Shelton was asked to be the opening act for George Jones at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, an opportunity that meant as much to the rising star as any previous honor.

Shelton's next hit single, "The Baby," was taken from his upcoming second album. The song is a ballad about a son returning home to say goodbye to his dying mother. Shelton released his second album, The Dreamer, in the first half of 2003.

For the Record . . .

Born Blake Tollison Shelton on June 18, 1976, in Ada, OK; son of Dick (a car salesman) and Dorothy (a beautician) Shelton.

Began performing as a singer at the age of eight, 1984; began writing his own songs at age 15, 1991; won Denbo Diamond Award for young Oklahoma entertainers, 1992; moved to Nashville, TN, from Oklahoma at age 17, 1994; found work writing songs for music publishers in Tennessee, including Naomi Martin Music, Warner/Chappell Music, and Jerry Crutchfield Music; landed recording contract with Warner Bros., released first single, "Austin," which remained number one on the Billboard country singles chart for five weeks, 2001; released first album, Blake Shelton, which stayed on the Billboard top 40 country chart for 70 weeks, 2001; released single "The Baby," 2003; released second album, The Dreamer, 2003.

Awards: Denbo Diamond Award, 1992; R&R Breakthrough Artist of the Year, 2001; Music Row magazine Critics Pick Award, 2001; Country Weekly Fan Favorite New Artist Award, 2002.

Addresses: Record company Warner Bros. Records Nashville, 24 Music Square E., Nashville, TN 37203. Website Blake Shelton Official Website: http://www.

Shelton remained in the Nashville area after his career took off, eventually moving to a farm 70 miles outside the city. He says that he finds life as a country music star little different than before, except that many more people come to his concerts and he hears himself on the radio. As he told John Goodspeed in the San Antonio ExpressNews, "I'm about as country and redneck as they get, and I might as well own up to it." His biggest reason for performing music, he has said, is to experience the joy of his fans and to connect with them in his concerts.

Selected discography


"Austin" (single), Giant, 2001.

"All over Me" (single), Warner Bros., 2001.

"Ol' Red" (single), Warner Bros., 2001.

"The Baby" (single), Warner Bros., 2001.


Blake Shelton, Warner Bros., 2001.

The Dreamer, Warner Bros., 2003.



Boston Herald, March 28, 2003, p. S21.

San Antonio ExpressNews, February 1, 2002, p. 14H; August 15, 2003, p. 13H.

Tampa Tribune, November 9, 2001, p. 23.


"Blake Shelton," All Music Guide, (September 15, 2003).

"Blake Shelton," Warner Bros. Records Nashville, (September 23, 2003).

Blake Shelton Official Website, (September 15, 2003).

Michael Belfiore