Taking Matters Into His Own Hands
After problems with record companies, Neal McCoy returns to Honolulu for a concert with a hot new album on his own label
By Chad Pata
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McCoy’s concerts include a bit of rock, he says,
because modern country-western fans are also
fans of other kinds of music
While country music star Neal McCoy’s last live show in Hawaii three years ago was hailed for its humor and spontaneity, his albums have always been underappreciated and undermarketed by record executives - despite selling in the millions.
McCoy finally overcame that problem with his 10th studio album, That’s Life , by creating his own label, 903 Music, named after the area code for his north Texas home, and recording what he believes is his best record to date.
“I like this because I am the boss, and I could go anywhere and everywhere with it,” says McCoy, through his thick Texas drawl, “from Billy’s Got His Beer Goggles On, which is just a fun thing our audiences love, to western swing in Head South, to rap in Hillbilly Rap that I have been performing for 17 years (but never recorded) so now the fans can get their hands on it.”
McCoy brings his new repertoire of songs to the Islands this week with a Thursday show at the Waikiki Shell before playing Maui and the Big Island over the weekend. A tropical getaway should be just the thing between shows at the Clark County Fair and Rodeo and a trip to the Zellwood Sweet Corn Festival.
Gen. Tommy Franks introduces one of the songs
on McCoy’s new album
Regardless of the location, though, this two-time Entertainer of the Year knows what everyone is coming to the concert for and he plans to deliver.
“Our attitude is we are going to have fun and you are too, and we won’t settle for anything less,” says McCoy, who has had five No. 1 hit singles.
“We are not going to play Neal McCoy songs all night. I’m an old guy, so I grew up in the disco era. We’re gonna throw in a disco song, a rock ‘n’roll song. Country fans these days didn’t just grow up on country music, they listen to a little bit of everything. That’s why we try to put a little bit of everything in our shows.”
His appreciation of diversity goes back to his youth growing up in Texas. The son of an Irish father and a Filipino mother - he refers to himself as a Texapino - he looked different from his neighbors. But despite racial tensions the South is infamous for, he found his differences gave him a leg up.
“I always used it as an advantage. Because I looked a little different, people would always remember me,” says McCoy, who’s real last name is McGaughey, but had it changed with his first record deal.
“I grew up with a great group of friends and no one ever picked on me. I wish there was some great story I could tell about how I used to get beat up everyday, but there’s just not one.”
Instead he took his unique look and considerable skills to a vocal contest he read about in a Dallas newspaper. Naturally, he won, and parlayed it into a seven-year hitch opening shows for country legend Charley Pride.
Through the early years he learned a lot about live performance and how to make it special. He says it’s not just about keep-
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