Long ago, a small town man with big dreams used to tell people that he would make a living (a) singing country music or (b) picking up cans on the side of the road.
Blake Shelton picks up a lot of “metal” – if you count the gold and platinum records.
Country music star Ada is the subject of a new book (“Happy Anywhere: Blake Shelton”) written by someone who’s been a part of his life since the “Ol’ Red” singer was a puppy. Author Carol Cash Large will be attending a book signing from 2-4 p.m. Saturday, August 6 at Woodland Plaza Barnes & Noble Store, 8620 E. 71st St.
Does the book have Chilton’s blessing? He wrote the foreword, and when he set Large to sign a book in Ada, he tags the author and tweets, “Better there be people!”
The book tells the story of Chilton’s rise to fame. Kabeerah was scattered about what she described as the ridiculous stories that happened during the trip.
People also read…
Prior to fame, Shelton met Oklahoma songwriter Mae Buren Axton (“Heartbreak Hotel”) at the Ada Awards.
“I asked Blake to call her when he moved to Nashville,” Large said. “Well, he called her (after she moved to Nashville) to see what she wanted him to do, thinking she could make him into a show or something. I told him he could paint her gazebo, so he did.”
Axton helped tie Shelton to a manager, but there was another advantage. Music artist and songwriter Hoyt Axton, Mae’s son, happened to be on a bus on my mom’s driveway.
“Hoyt was watching Blake messing around outside and doing odds and ending up with May and painting the gazebo,” Large said. “He called Blake on his bus, and this was the first time Blake had heard ‘Ol’ Red. Hoyt sang it to him. He sang it an a cappella and he was hitting the table with his hand. Blake heard that song and thought, ‘Boy, if I had a chance… I’m going to record that song.” Of course, he did. It’s still his song. It’s what people know most about.
“Ol’ Red” was a single on Shelton’s 2001 debut album (Go ahead and its his signature song) and Ole Red was the name of the Shelton restaurant chain. There is an Ole Red in Tishomingo, Oklahoma. Shelton and his wife, Gwen Stefani, live near Tichomingo.
Big volunteer that “Happy Anywhere” is not a book about Shelton’s personal life.
“I stayed completely out of the National Enquirer lane,” she said. “It’s just a happy book.”
Large said she and her husband, Larry, have known Shelton since he was 12. Shelton’s mother led him to an audition. According to Large, it wasn’t unusual for kids to try out the show, but Shelton may have been the youngest.
“If their parents thought they had a little talent, they would bring it in,” Large said. “And most of them, unless they were terrible, would let them experiment and sing. But Blake just wanted to do it.”
Shelton auditioned as a singer.
“The only thing he sang about up until that point was his mom used to take him to beauty pageants and things like that,” Large said.
Blake’s audition went well (“He had a good stage presence for a 12-year-old”) and he began to appear on the Opry-type periodically.
“From that moment on, we knew him, and Larry supported him,” Large said. “Then they then moved to the McSwain Theater in Ada, and Paul Alford, who owned it, hired Blake as one of the performers because he had a large family which almost guaranteed him an audience.”
When Shelton was about 16 years old, he visited the Largs at their home and made a request: help me move to Nashville. Carol, a teacher, and Larry, a school principal, were both in education at the time.
“You have to finish high school first,” Larry said, but if you finish high school, I will do whatever I can to help. We knew Reba (McIntyre) quite a bit and had some little connections like that – we didn’t know much about work – and so Blake kept playing for McSwain, and when he graduated from high school we moved him to Nashville two weeks into high school. He’s 18 yet. We stayed there with him until he turned 18 and rented him an apartment and everything. His parents were all very supportive of him.”
The Largs settled in Shelton, then moved to Tennessee themselves. They left Ada because they believed in Shelton and wanted to support his dream.
When did Carol know that Shelton had the word “she” – whatever “she” was? She told a story about how people loved Shelton when he was 16 or 17. He had the best personality of anyone I’d ever met. He was blessed with an old soul and loved to listen to people. Treat people after shows in the early days, treat everyone the same.
“He loved them all,” she said. “He used to always sign his ‘I love you’ pictures, and it got to a point after he started getting popular, and I said ‘You have to stop doing that because someone is going to take you seriously.'”
Too many people aim to make it into the entertainment business and miss the mark. Carol, again referring to his unique personality, said Shelton was driven and tenacious.
“When he got to Nashville and all of the suits were very professionally represented, Blake would go up to them and give them a hug,” she said. “They didn’t know what to do with him and they eventually embraced it. He was completely different. But I think (he had success because of) a combination of things. He was talented. He had such a great personality. He could tell a story. TV screen late at night, they would love it, and they certainly would.”
Good luck was a factor too, or you might call it the right timing. Chilton’s first label, Giant Records, crashed after the release of his first single, “Austin”.
“He was lucky that Warner Bros. picked him because he only released one single, but it was a huge success,” Carroll said.
Carol heard “Austin” before radio listeners. His first album was basically complete before he even recognized the song. He did not like the demo of “Austin” that was given to him because he appeared in the background of the keyboard. He was urged to go home and learn to sing “Austin” with guitar to see if he liked the song better. Mission accomplished, he calls Carol at 3 AM to sing it to her over the phone.
“He just called to see what I thought of it,” she said. “I remember telling him it kind of reminded me of Glenn Campbell. He kind of reminded me of ‘By the time I got to Phoenix’ or something. But it was good. Everyone liked it for a different reason. It was about the answering machine when I Answering machines were a thing. They added it to the album. They put that on the album and then, on top of that, made it their first single.”
Happy Anywhere is Carol’s first book. She has been teaching reading for decades and has always had an itch writing a book.
“I retired from teaching and was thinking about that one day,” she said. “Actually, we went out with Blake one weekend. We usually go out on tour with him one weekend a year, at least. We’d sit on the bus one morning. … I said, ‘You know Blake, I asked I always have my students write about what they know and love. I think I will write about you. He said: Go.
Carroll said she spent about five years writing the book. She wanted to look up songs and dates and get the details right. She also made it a priority to give props to songwriters, who, in her opinion, don’t get enough credit.
Carroll said Shelton gave “the sweetest introduction I’ve ever read.” McIntyre and Bobby Braddock (who produced Chilton’s debut album) wrote glowing reviews of the book.
“I think it would be great if Carol kept a journal of all the events that happened in Blake Shelton’s life,” McIntyre said in a quote that appears on the back cover. “Getting Blake’s point of view is one thing, but hearing someone else’s point of view, who was with him every step of the way, is priceless. I wish I had someone to write down all those memories of my career! I learned so much about Blake and his early days in Country music. I know you will too.”
What more does Carol want people to know about Shelton?
“Just that’s what you think he is. He’s who he is on The Voice. He loves people. He’s generous. He’s loyal. I just want them to know that he’s what you expect him to be. It’s not just a facade. It’s not a facade. He really is.” That guy. He’s just a great guy – and he didn’t really change anything.”