It’s been 30-years since Tim McGraw made his live debut in a tiny, smoky Philadelphia bar. The future country star took the stage after his famous father, the late baseball pitcher Tug McGraw asked his buddy Kenn Kweder whether Tug’s son could sing in front of a crowd.
“I’ll never forget it,” Kweder said while calling from Philadelphia. “Now I thought I was a good singer, but when I heard Tim, I was like, ‘Man, he sings like a hummingbird.’ He just blew me and everyone else away in the bar.”
McGraw, 52, has come a long way from his days as a fledgling recording artist a generation ago. Country star Faith Hill’s big-hatted husband has sold more than 75 million albums. He has a staggering 25 songs that have reached the top of the country charts.
There isn’t enough time in a set for McGraw to play all those smashes. While playing the Hard Rock in Atlantic City last month he delivered 19 familiar songs. He engaged a capacity crowd throughout the entire two-hour show.
McGraw, who will perform tomorrow night at the Great Jones County Fair, is charismatic and soaks up the limelight. It’s no surprise that the entertainer with the easy smile, has made his mark in such acclaimed films as “Blind Side,” “Friday Night Lights” and “Tomorrowland.”
“I’ve been very fortunate,” McGraw said. “I’ve worked hard, but I’ve had some luck go my way. I have a great family and an amazing career. I’ve had success and I’ve tried to do different things. I have no regrets.”
His country music has been at times infused with rock and pop.
”You want to try different things,” he said. “It’s about taking new steps and challenging yourself.”
The dynamic performer has been a crossover artist in music and seamlessly jumped over to film.
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“I’ve always enjoyed acting,” McGraw said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to have been in some great movies.”
“Blind Side” is arguably the finest flick featuring McGraw.
“It’s a great story,” McGraw said. “(Blind Side protagonist) Michael Oher came from a difficult place growing up and he made it.”
It wasn’t an easy start for McGraw, either, who was born to a single teenage mother. His aforementioned father became a baseball star but McGraw didn’t know the identity of his dad until he was 11 years old.
“Everyone has adversity in life,” he said. “You just have to do your best to deal with it and find your path by getting around obstacles.”
“Humble and Kind” isn’t just a McGraw song, it describes the father of three daughters, according to Kweder. “A lot of guys who become crazy famous and unbelievably successful change and have nothing to do with anyone who was part of their past but that’s not the way Tim is,” Kweder said. “Not that he has to remember me, but he’s never forgotten me. Tim has invited me to his shows over the years and when he talks about his start, he’s mentioned me and that’s incredibly cool. From what I saw, success hasn’t changed him and his voice still sounds the same. He still sings like a hummingbird and it’s clear he has a great time up there. I think back to when he performed for the first time in public on that little stage. It’s amazing watching someone’s career take off and fly into the stratosphere. What he has done in his career is staggering.”
Indeed. McGraw has released 15 albums and 10 of those have reached No. 1 on the Top Country Album charts.
“It’s been incredible,” McGraw said. “The great thing is that it continues. I have no complaints.”
WHAT: Tim McGraw with Trace Adkins opening
WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursday (7/18)
WHERE: Great Jones County Fair fairgrounds, 800 N. Maple St., Monticello
COST: $70 amphitheater and hillside bleachers, $75 track (standing room only); free hillside grass
ARTIST’S WEBSITE: timmcgraw.com/