OKLAHOMA CITY — Ask country music superstar Blake Shelton about his career and he’ll tell you that long before he starred on NBC’s hit show “The Voice,” he starved in Nashville for eight years before things started looking up.
We were with him when they did.
Twelve years ago, we followed Blake for two days on a road tour. He’d just had a couple of hits; crowds were starting to come to concerts but his future was far from certain.
It made for a great story, but we lost the tapes. Well, News Channel 4 found them last week.
This is video that’s never seen the light of day.
The video shows Blake on that road trip, but you may not recognize him at first.
The pictures show the less-than glamorous side of stardom and the one thing he requires concert promoters to have ready for him before he sings
“I love to have that rush of the people,” Blake says. “As the crowds become bigger and bigger, I become happier and happier.”
He was a country music newcomer.
“I sing because I love to entertain people. If I didn’t have the vocal ability to sing, I’d probably have gotten into maybe; anything, so I could be in front of a crowd,” Blake confesses.
But fame comes at a price.
“It’s not the glamorous lifestyle you’d think it is,” Shelton says.
Because when the stage lights go off; the headlights come on.
Home is a rolling box on wheels.
“I live on a piece of crap,” Blake said. “This is probably a $300,000 bus. Crap is breaking all the time. And it drives me crazy.”
It’s close quarters for nine people; 200 days a year.
This morning it’s Fort Sill; another concert.
Blake sets off in search of food.
“Food is always the most important thing,” Blake says.
Here’s my Dad. He also takes over as manager whenever he’s around,” Blake jokingly says. “I try to stay out of the way is what I do.”
Blake’s looking for something in particular.
“The single most important thing, when we’re doing these jobs, I have a thing in my contract that you’ve got to have this for me before I show up. Here’s part of the rider. It’s orange juice,” Blake explains.
But even contracts don’t control Oklahoma weather. A storm was moving in.
The crews begin a frenzied dance to protect equipment.
Blake says, “What’s bad is, boy, sometimes the wind gets up under that stuff. It’s just like a big old parachute. I think it’ll just push us back about an hour or so.”
By show time, excited crowds stand where puddles stood and spotlights fill in for the sun.
“I don’t’ think it’s going to really matter what I do out there,” Blake says. “It’s going to be a night of these guys chasing these women out here. They’re going to have a ball.”
Blake’s career is still in its infancy. He’s looking to be the big dog.
“As my career continues to grow, hopefully, I’ll get to headline more shows and more calls for somebody to open for me for a change.”
Now it’s from the stage; back to the bus.
“This is the time to pat the guys on the back and tell them good job,” Blake says.
And time for his high school buddy, Buck.
“Me and Buck sitting here; singing here; it’s kind of how it started,” Blake says.
Two guys who loved to sing.
“We’d sit out on the tailgate of my pick-up in the driveway,” Blake says. “We’d sit there and play for about five songs.”
And friends from Ada would gather to listen. Blake, with the help of his friend, had found his dream.
“Everybody said you’d make it big someday,” Blake says.
From high school dreamer to stage; his future on this July night twelve years ago is still uncertain.
He has no crystal ball to show him the enormous success the future will bring, but he knows one thing for certain.
“I really do hope I’m doing this ten years from now and I hope things are going as well as they’re going now,” Blake reveals.
So what happened to his buddy, Buck? We’d like to know more about the guy who helped launch Blake into his megastar career. So if you know him, send us an e-mail here.
Blake will tell you there was a time when he quit singing. His mom kept entering eight-year-old Blake in talent shows, where he was the only little boy, surrounded by dozens of little girls.
He says it was humiliating. So he quit. We bet he’s glad he started singing again.
Blake and his wife, country singer Miranda Lambert, make their home in Tishomingo.