Discussion: Almost Famous

Sometimes an artist comes along that has a handful of hits, maybe even a gold record, but never quite makes it to stardom.  They seem to be on track for fame, but it doesn’t all come together.

Remember Lari White?  She scored three top ten hits off of her 1994 album Wishes, which went gold.  Two other solo singles and a duet with Travis Tritt cracked the lower half of the top twenty.  She’s since gone on to produce a top-selling album for Toby Keith, but hasn’t charted as a singer since 1999.

Early industry hype for Michael Peterson had him being compared to Garth Brooks.  His career took off quickly in 1997, with his first three singles going top ten.  “From Here to Eternity”, a title he cribbed from a video rental shelf, topped the charts.   His debut album went gold and he was nominated for the Horizon Award in 1998.    Alas, the hits dried up soon after, and he was dropped from his label when sophomore album failed to meet expectations.

And what to make of Chely Wright?  For a good decade, she bounced from label to label, with her most successful stint being a three-album run for MCA.  That produced her only top ten hit, “Single White Female”, which went #1 in 1999.   The album of the same name went gold.  But aside from two other top twenty hits for the label (“Shut Up and Drive” and “It Was”), Wright never broke through.   An unsuccessful push to make her a country-pop diva ala Twain and Hill was her undoing.  She’s yet to come close to the big time again, despite great singles like “The Back of the Bottom Drawer.”

Who are some other “Almost Famous” stars that you remember?  Could this be an interesting regular feature?


  1. Chely is a great pick for this. Such talent… and the image the industry craves.. but still not the right push. Sad really.

    The Warren Brothers had a brush with fame thanks to their mini reality show, and their duet with Sara Evans was great. They even had an album called Barely Famous (Hits). :)

    Sherrié Austin had two good singles in “Little Bird” and “Never Been Kissed” in 1999, but in the US.. she never really went anywhere.

    Rebecca Lynn Howard looks to be finally getting a push with some non-video exposure on CMT & GAC.

    Cases can maybe be made for Cyndi Thomson & Jamie O’Neal

  2. Yes, it could be an interesting regular feature. Roger (hi, Roger!) had suggested something similar on Dan’s “site advice” post.

    Chely’s my favorite of the above as well, and I look forward to her new album next year. Deana Carter is a great artistic pick. Although the Horizon Award has been usually rock solid, it’d be interesting to spotlight Bryan White, who won in ’96 but fell away shortly after.

  3. One “almost famous” artist I could name is Nicolette Larson. Though she attracted some attention in the country arena in the mid-1980s with songs like “That’s When You Know Love’s Right” (with Steve Wariner), she is best remembered for her big hit 1978 recording of Neil Young’s “Lotta Love” and her friendships with the Los Angeles rock mafia of that era, including fellow “road warrior” Linda Ronstadt.

    Nicky, as she was known by her pals, died a tragically early death at the end of 1997 from a cerebral edema; she was only 45. Hers may not have been a smashingly successful career, but her peers definitely remember her vividly.

  4. Isn’t the country highway just littered with these folks? Sad, but true. Paul Brandt, Andy Griggs, Jason Sellers, Julie Roberts, The Kinleys…the list goes on and on. One artist that I was really disappointed about not breaking through was Deric Ruttan. His debut CD was amazing, and he does well in his native Canada, but the promise of a career in the U.S. never materialized.

  5. We saw George Ducas supporting Dierks Bentley in concert. He had a hit with Lipstick Promises, and a few other Top 60 hits. He disappeared then, but has written several hits, including ‘Real Fine Place To Start’.

  6. it would be an interesting, though highly speculative feature that would suffer from the lack of real insider knowledge and facts. another drawback is, that it’d deal mostly with the past – yesterday’s wine. more fascinating would be, to get some feedback from fans, why, in their eyes, one or the other artist of today’s scene seems to struggle to get to the very top. Still highly subjective, but more up to date. gary allan or rebecca lynn howard among others, spring to mind.

  7. Michael Peterson’s problem was that his second album was basically rubbish.

    I’d say Jessica Andrews, about to get a relaunch via Carolwood Records fits this category well.

  8. Chely is my favorite of these by far. I once thought she could be as big as Faith was at the time (this was 1994-95)

    I love that lari white album “Wishes.” I also wonder why michael peterson never made it big, and what about BRC? He enver lived up to his promise either. And the kinleys?

    The only problem with including Cyndi thompson on this list is that (its my understanding anyway) that she willing left th music business, much as James Bonamy did. Othwise, I agree. I lived that sultry Voice.

    I’d also nominate Lila MCann for this category.

  9. In the mid-nineties I was a HUGE fan of Mila Mason- she charted 3 top 40 singles “That’s Enough of That”, “Dark Horse”, and “Closer to Heaven”. Then she completely vanished from the mainstream scene. I’m not at all sure why she didn’t catch on, she had the look, a gorgeous sultry voice, and a pretty decent push from Atlantic…but it just didn’t happen for her.

    Two others that come to mind are Carolyn Dawn Johnson and David Kersh. Both of which had some pretty high charting singles, but failed to maintain their momentum.

  10. I love most of the artist mentioned so far, and It seems for the most part Chely Wright is the one we all agree should’ve made it. Others that spring to mind are Rhett Akins who is really great, but I never felt like he was pushed all that much. And Also Tammy Cochran who had a hit with “Angels In Waiting” I thought that would be the song to break her into the big leauges.

  11. I was hesitant on adding Lila McCann as many felt she was a bit too much of a teeny popper. That said, I enjoyed her music. Nothing magical about it, just fun.

  12. Jeff Bates is an artist that springs to mind. He broke pretty well and with that voice, he should’ve had more than a couple Top 20 hits. His new self-titled album is pretty good as well.

  13. When I started to read, I thought about Chely, but came to my mind “She won’t be here…” I think she don’t care about it, but she’s great.

    About the topic, good names were mentioned… This is a very embracive question, there’s a lot of people who should do it, but sadly, didn’t.

  14. Looking back at “Country Weekly”, it is amazing to see how many artists that were poised for stardom that are nowhere to be found now…Speaking of “Country Weekly”, what the hell happened to the old “Country Music” magazine? Man, I miss that magazine – class act all the way. I heard the good folks who own the Enquirer bought “Country Music” and then shut it down – wish someone would start up a great magazine…

  15. Kevin Sharp — I liked him, thought his music was pretty good and on occasion I hear him on XM/Sirius.

    Bobbi Cryner — absolutely adore her voice –

  16. Shelly Fairchild – another one of those who had a couple of good songs released to radio, but radio never seems to grab on to her.

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