5 Artists Who Made it Big After a Visit to the Cat Country 102.9 Studio in Billings
Being in the radio business for the past 30 some years or so, I've gotten to meet and see many artists as they were just starting out in the industry. I would like to think that a visit to the Cat Country studios helped launch them on their journey.
Here are five Country artists that we will take credit for helping propel their careers into stardom.
5: Chris LeDoux: I think Chris LeDoux was one of those under-appreciated talents in the industry.
LeDoux became a professional rodeo cowboy, competing on the national rodeo circuit.
He retired in 1980 to nurse injuries and to spend more time with his growing family.
With his rodeo career ended, LeDoux and his family settled on a ranch in Kaycee, Wyo.
Chris continued to write and record his songs and began playing concerts.
His concerts were very popular and often featured a mechanical bull, which he rode between songs, and fireworks.
Despite offers from various record labels, LeDoux had refused to sign a recording contract, instead choosing to retain his independence and total control over his work while enjoying his regional following.
Chris's album, Whatcha Gonna Do with a Cowboy, was certified gold and reached the top 10. The title track, a duet with Brooks, became LeDoux's first and only Top 10 country single, reaching No. 7 in 1992.
I remember getting to meet Chris in 1998 when he was here performing with Sawyer Brown. He put on one hell of a show. Chris passed in March of 2005 at the age of 57.
4: Hal Ketchum: My former Program Director Henry Keith Todd referred to Hal as my mental love puppy.
I was a huge fan of Hal Ketchum back then.
At the age of 15, he began performing in clubs as a drummer with a rhythm and blues trio.
This influenced him to try his at singing and songwriting. By1985, he was playing at small Texas clubs.
In 1986, Ketchum recorded 11 of his self-penned songs under his full name Hal Michael Ketchum. This album, Threadbare Alibis, was released in 1988 under the small Texas label Watermelon Records.
He moved to Nashville and signed a record deal with Curb Records. In 1991, he released his Curb debut album Past the Point of Rescue, with both his debut single "Small Town Saturday Night" and the title track "Past the Point of Rescue"
I got to meet and introduce Hal Ketchum in 1993 at MetraPark.
I remember it like it was yesterday. As he came out on stage, he kissed my hand and thanked me for the introduction.
3: Sawyer Brown: The group "Sawyer Brown" was named after Sawyer Brown Road, the street where they rehearsed. They played Billings so many times in the mid-90's that we often referred to them as the MetraPark houseband.
The guys of Sawyer Brown have released 20 studio albums, three of which have been certified gold in the United States for sales of 500,000 copies. More than 50 of their singles have entered the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts.
2: Martina McBride: Martina Mariea Schiff , professionally known as Martina McBride visited the Cat Studios in 1998 as she was the opening act for a guy by the name of Garth Brooks.
Martina began performing with a local rock band, The Penetrators, in Wichita. Then, in 1987, Martina gathered a group of musicians called Lotus and started looking for rehearsal space; she began renting space from a studio engineer named John McBride.
In 1988, the two married and the couple moved to Nashville in 1989 with the hope of beginning a career in country music.
John McBride joined Garth Brooks's sound crew and later became his concert production manager.
Martina occasionally joined her husband on the road and helped sell Garth Brooks souvenirs.
In 1990, impressed by Martina's enthusiastic spirit, Brooks offered her the position of his opening act provided she could obtain a recording contract.
During this time, while her husband was working with country artists Charlie Daniels and Ricky Van Shelton, he also helped produce her demo tape, which helped her gain a recording contract with RCA Nashville Records in 1991. Martina has received many awards in the music industry as well as released 12 studio albums.
1: Garth Brooks: What can I say about this guy?
I first had the pleasure of meeting a relatively unknown country singer by the name of Garth Brooks (born Troyal Garth Brooks) while he was the opening act for the Judds in 1991.
We had booked the Judds to perform at MetraPark for Cat Country's Third Anniversary.
My second encounter with Garth came in 1998 when Garth sold out four shows here in Billings at MetraPark.
I could go on all day about Garth and his career.
I will say that my hope is that I will get to see him for a third time as he is on a three-year worldwide tour.
On a side note, here's something I'll bet not to many people know about Garth Brooks.
In August 2000, when his friend Chris LeDoux was diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis, which required him to receive a liver transplant, Garth volunteered to donate part of his liver. It was not compatible. However, a donor match was located, and LeDoux received a transplant on October 7, 2000.
Of course, we all know these five artists were stars on their way to fame before they made a stop here at Cat Country, but you can't deny that we helped get the word out about them during their visit to the studios and by playing their music.
If you could meet one country star, who would it be?