Can A Black Lawyer Make A Black Singer A Country Music Star – In St. Louis?
By Rebecca S. Rivas Of The St. Louis American
December 10, 2009 4:59 AM CST
The Brain Trust: Attorney Daniel R. Brown, Wild Bill Young & Willie Woods
Willie Woods, music producer with Wristfactor Music, had only heard of one black country singer. It was that one famous guy, he said – “Charley something” (Charley Pride, that is).
His producing career has been devoted to R&B and hip-hop artists, such as Nelly, Nappy Roots and Pretty Willy. He was a co-producer on Nelly’s song “Ride with Me” and Nappy Roots’ “Po’ Folks.”
Then he met Wild Bill Young.
He remembers when a friend brought Young into the studio. Woods was working at the computer with his back turned. But when Young started to sing a few bars, Woods said he stopped and turned around.
“I was amazed at the voice coming out of this guy,” Woods said. “I thought, ‘This guy is the real deal.’”
In his 10 years in the business, Woods never thought he’d be producing country music. But now he finds himself excited to catch the next train to Nashville.
Video: Wild Bill Young~Next Train To Nashville
Although it’s not common to see an African-American country singer, Woods thinks the market is ready for Wild Bill Young. Already artists such as Darius Rucker, the former front man for Hootie & the Blowfish, and Rissi Palmer are getting black faces in the country music scene. Rucker won the 2009 Country Music Association’s “New Artist of the Year” award.
In the next few weeks, Young, Woods and Daniel R. Brown, an attorney with Bosley and Associates, will all travel to Nashville to test the market with their St. Louis product.
‘Next Train to Nashville’
About two years ago, after Woods and Young had recorded a few songs together, Woods moved to Los Angeles and the two friends lost touch.
In the meantime, former St. Louis Mayor Freeman Bosley Jr. heard Young’s music and became a big fan. Now in private practice, Bosley knew his new staff attorney, Danny Brown, had interest in combining his legal work with his passion for music.
Brown said Bosley told him, “If you don’t get with Bill, you’re going to miss out on the real deal.”
That was two years ago.
“In terms of business, I can’t think of anyone that I’ve spent more time with,” Brown said. “We’ve spent literally hundreds of hours down here in the office recording music.”
At Bosley and Associates, a tiny closet nestled in between lawyers’ offices has a drum set stacked up in the back and egg crate cushions pinned up on the walls.
Like Woods, Brown never thought he would get so involved in a country music project, but he can’t help it. He believes in Young.
“The first song that Bill and Willie recorded was ‘Next Train to Nashville,’ and now that Nashville has been calling, we’re literally looking to get on the next train to Nashville to make this thing what we all know it can be,” Brown said.
Prison country blues
As a kid, Young, now 45, grew up listening to classic country singers, like Johnny Cash, Hank Williams and George Jones. “I used to sing with my old man on the highway; he was a trucker,” Young said.
His mother influenced him to take guitar lessons. He wrote his first song, “Next Train to Nashville,” in 1995.
But he feels his confidence came from a six-month stint he spent in a Missouri prison.
“I sang every night,” Young said. “Eighteen songs a night, seven days week. The inmates would bang on stuff and create a disturbance until I sang.”
It’s hard to get people in a cheery mood when they are going through some tough times in their lives, Young said.
“We did that through country music,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of guys who are counting on me to continue on.”
Like Young, Brown came up playing music – in his case, jazz drums.
Brown said, “So I’m able to use my natural love for music and combine with my legal career and – with Bill – take this thing to the top.”
Brown tracked down Woods, who had since returned to St. Louis, and offered his law office as a modified studio space.
“Though he was not in the production business, he had such an interest in music that he just rolled up his sleeves and got involved and did what we needed to do to fill the gap,” Young said of Brown.
People don’t expect an African American to perform country music. Young said, “You can tell the comments made world-wide. It seems like foreign to nature.”
Yet in a country music encyclopedia, he read that one of the first stars of country music was a black man named DeFord Bailey. He helped name the Grand Ole Opera.
“So when I learned that, all those stereotypes and stigmas that go along with being colored and singing country music – it didn’t matter to me,” Young said.
Growing up, Young didn’t have a lot of black country singers to look up to. A lot of his favorite singers were white.
“To this day, it doesn’t matter to me what color they are,” Young said. “Music is a universal language.”
In the next couple weeks, Young, his producer and his lawyer will head to Nashville, taking a demo CD with them. Young will play in a few venues along the main strip in Nashville.
“We’ll play any opportunity we get,” Young said. “We’re going down there to do it like it used to be done.”
Growing up an ambitious African-American man in St. Louis, Brown found that people often have underestimated him. He said, “If I got upset every time someone underestimated me, I’d walk around angry all the time.”
But in the case of his new country music client, Brown sees that as an advantage.
Brown said, “People assume that because he’s a black man, they don’t expect much. Once they hear, they are convinced Will Young is the authentic thing.”
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