American country music singer Neal McCoy shares his story of how he became a successful country musician growing up in a small town. Born and raised in Jacksonville, Texas, Neal has always been a Texan and a small-town guy. Singing was always his passion growing up. He began singing in elementary school through junior college. When he graduated from junior college at Lon Morris College, he was “supposed to” go to Texas A&M University like his father, brother, and sister did; however, Neal wanted to branch out and begin a singing career.
Describe the moment you knew you wanted to become a singer.
I would watch Michael Jackson perform at 9 years old singing, “ABC is easy as 123.” I thought, “Wow, how cool would that be to do. Maybe I can do that for a living.” Then I realized that I was living in Jacksonville, Texas, and not a lot of record producers are coming through here. After college, I moved to Longview, Texas, because it’s a bigger city and a higher possibility someone will come through here and find me.
How did your career begin in Longview?
I got married in 1980 and began singing in a band in places around the area. One day, my old boss Randy was reading the Dallas Morning News and told me there was a singing competition in Dallas. I jokingly said, “I’m gonna go up there and win that thing. This isn’t going to be hard.” So, I enter this talent contest, and, believe it or not, I won the entire competition. One of the judges was country singer Janie Fricke who wanted to introduce me to Charley Pride. Janie said, “Charlie has helped a few artists get started. I don’t know if he’s still doing it, but I’ll find out and see if I can set you up a meeting.” For the next five years, I toured with Charlie and became his opening act and best friend.
In 1988, Charlie told me to go out and sing on my own and just see what I could do. One night, a record label flew out to come hear me perform in Phoenix and they really liked me. That’s when I signed my first record label with Atlantic Records in 1990. I recorded two albums, released about six singles and six videos, but none of them did any good on radio. Just about the time I thought they were going to cut me, they told me that we were going to produce another album and give me another opportunity. I recorded an album called No Doubt About It, which ended up being our first No. 1 record. Shortly after, we released Wink that also went to No. 1 within nine weeks.
What was your favorite song to write about and why?
My favorite song to write about was Jessie. Jessie is a song about adoption because I know there are a lot of great kids out there who need a home. This song was written about a dad who breaks down in his car who is really close to an orphanage. The dad goes into the orphanage and meets this little girl whom he falls in love with and adopts – Jessie.
Tell us about singing the Pledge of Allegiance 1,000 days in a row.
Today, it marks 1,478 days in a row. I have been singing the Pledge of Allegiance for over four years now. I sing it because I love this country. My mother is from the Philippines and she always tells me how grateful we should be that we live in this country with all of the rights we have. Unfortunately, my mom passed away a couple years ago, so I thought to myself, “What can I do to show my love for this country?” The answer was to sing the Pledge of Allegiance.
You’ve been touring this year. What do you wear on stage when you’re performing?
I am a cowboy boot guy – it’s all I wear on stage. It’s a Stetson or Resistol hat, with Wrangler jeans, and Lucchese boots. I’ve always loved Lucchese.
What are your favorite pair of Lucchese boots? Why?
I told your president, Doug Kindy, “I wear Lucchese boots on stage, but when I’m riding a horse, feeding cows, or whatever, it doesn’t make a good knockaround boot. I want to wear Luccheses all of the time, but unfortunately, I can’t because I don’t want to mess them up.” So, I was made a pair of boots that I could get a little dirty with. It was a tougher boot with more of a rubber sole. I wore them so much that I wore them out. About a year and half ago, I got my first pair of Barn Boots that I’m wearing right now! They’re so comfortable.
What do you feel every day when you put on your Lucchese boots?
I feel comfortable. Not every boot made out there is comfortable. Most Luccheses, or at least all of the ones I have worn, are going to feel the same. It’s a familiar thing. You’re comfortable because you know this is what I was hoping it would feel like and this is what it’s supposed to feel like. I feel like I’ve conquered the world today. Feet are a big deal – If you don’t have boots that are comfortable, you’re going to be miserable.
Doug Kindy told me, “At Lucchese, we don’t endorse names, we endorse people. We want our Lucchese boots on folks that are good people and who stand for the right things. We like to see people who wear our boots who we know will not only represent our brand well, but to represent themselves well.”