PRESTONSBURG – Eastern Kentucky is home to many great country music singers – Loretta Lynn, Dwight Yoakam, Billy Ray Cyrus, Crystal Gayle, Tom T. Hall, Naomi and Wynonna Judd, Patty Loveless, John Michael Montgomery, Chris Stapleton, the duo of Halfway To Hazard (David Tolliver and Chad Warrix), and that is just to name a few. Sometimes it’s in their blood, a quality that is undeniably destined for stardom. Other times it’s a combination of passion, hard work, and determination. For one group of individuals, it was a combination of all things that led them to the Quality Inn Suites Thursday, April 14 to audition for the Country Music Highway Road to Fame competition.
Nine country music hopefuls auditioned in front of Cameron Blevins, a popular disc jockey based in Huntington, W.Va.; Tereshia Thacker, an account executive for East Kentucky Broadcasting; and David Carroll, a member of the popular group Hammertowne. Contestants were judged on the following criteria: marketability in country music, vocal ability, originality of performance, charisma and stage presence and overall talent.
“There are so many talented individuals in Eastern Kentucky,” said Blevins. “It is an honor to be a part of this contest that shines a light on Eastern Kentucky.”
One hopeful in the pool of contestants was Terry O’Brian of Prestonsburg. He began singing with his identical twin brother Jerry, also from Prestonsburg. The two brothers have grown up singing and praising the lord. Raised in the church, the brothers started singing gospel music at a young age.
“Gospel inspires and tells a story. I want the music I sing to touch people,” said O’Brian.
Married to his wife Courtney for four years, Terry was a member of the Big Sandy Singers and auditioned for America’s Got Talent in North Carolina. He is no stranger to the thrill of competition. In a wheelchair since he was 14 years old, he is a true testament of courage, determination and passion. O’Brian auditioned with Dolly Parton’s, Coat of Many Colors.
“It’s not what you lost, but it’s what you do with what you have left that matters,” said O’Brian.
Another young hopeful is Johnson Central Middle School’s Shawn Leslie. At just 15 years old, Leslie has the voice and soul of a country music legend. He joined the Kentucky Opera Junior Pros in 2016. He auditioned with Chris Stapleton’s Nobody to Blame.
With a golden ticket in hand, Laken Compton, Mandy Conn, Katie Hall, Jenny Beth Howard, Shawn Allen Leslie and Terry O’Brian will move on to the next round of competition. Congratulations to this talented group of performers.
Andrea Saddler is a reporter for The Floyd County Times. She can be reached at (606) 886-8506.