I found some sad news when I checked the news last Saturday morning: Grand Ole Opry member Mel McDaniel had passed away at age 68 following a battle with cancer.
You may have no idea who Mel McDaniel is, and I never knew the man personally, but he was a part of my childhood. There was a lot of country music played in our house growing up, and I remember a couple of Mel’s songs very well — including his first No. 1, “Baby’s Got Her Blue Jeans On,” which was nominated for a Grammy in 1984.
Anyway, as I read Mel’s profile in the Tennessean, I immediately began highlighting sentences for this week’s newsletter because I’m betting you’ll find some parallels with your own career — and maybe some inspiration (I know I did).
Look at some highlights from Mel’s life story:
At age 14, he decided he wanted to become a singer after watching Elvis perform on TV. (Do you remember what first made you want to become a _________?)
In pursuit of his dream, Mel started playing clubs in Oklahoma by night and pumping gas by day.
In 1969, he moved to Nashville, but left for Alaska a couple of years later. There, he played clubs for several years — often doing 6-hour shows. (If you think you’re grinding it out day after day, working your way up, just remember Mel!)
Mel eventually made his way back to Nashville and performed at a Holiday Inn most nights and worked as a demo singer during the day.
One night, he was finally “discovered” and one of his songs was taken to Hoyt Axton. Hoyt recorded it, and he later had other songs recorded by the likes of Conway Twitty and Kenny Rogers. Then Mel got his own recording contract in 1976… seven long years after he first moved to Nashville.
Is this where things really blew up for him? Nope. It was five more years before his first Top 10 hit… and three more still before his first #1.
In 1986, Mel was invited to join the Grand Ole Opry — the pinnacle of recognition for a country artist, many would say.
So did you follow this?
- 1956, age 14: Mel had a dream
- 1976, age 34: Mel got a record deal
- 1984: age 42: Mel has his first #1 hit
- 1986, age 44: Mel gets the big prize
It was also in 1986 that Mel told Jim Lewis of United Press International, “You have no idea what it’s going to take when you start out… All you can do is keep trying.”
Is there any better advice than that? Unfortunately, though, “Keep Trying” doesn’t make for a very sexy headline. “I made $2.4 million in 24 months!” makes for a sexy headline. And you know what? We need those headlines, too.
We need people to show us the way… to show us the formula. But even when they do, it’s still up to us — me and you — to keep trying… keep pushing… keep fighting.
You have no idea what it’s going to take when you start down this road. But if you’re committed to it, you’ll give whatever it takes.