Now he’s done it. John Michael Montgomery up and got married last fall, not long after a throat ailment caused him to cancel his Sept. 16 show here, the aborted grand-opening concert of the new Spokane Arena.
A dimpled heartthrob since age 12, Montgomery broke a few thousand hearts when he tied the knot. But at least he held out until he was 30 - probably because of what his mother told him.
Snookie Montgomery told her son it was too hard to be married and try to make it singing country music. Better to do one or the other.
She knew firsthand. She and her husband, Harold, worked North Kentucky clubs for years with a band called Harold Montgomery and the Kentucky River Express. He sang and played guitar; she played the drums.
As big as they got - and they did score a regional radio hit at one point - Harold and Snookie Montgomery could never wrassle enough money together to make a decent living for them and their three children.
Snookie figures they moved 27 times in 20 years, often because they couldn’t pay the rent. The family was poor. John Michael, country mega-star-to-be, grew up in hand-me-downs. Even in those downt-rodden Kentucky towns, the other kids made fun of him for being poor.
The financial stress contributed to the demise of the Montgomery marriage, not all that many years before their second son became the hottest country singer in the land.
John Michael Montgomery doesn’t seem to harbor any regrets. His parents are his idols, he says, and especially his father.
“My dad was a loser and a dreamer,” he told one interviewer. “People would say he should get a real job and then we wouldn’t have to live in shacky houses. … But my dad was my hero. He knew that when he got a real job, you kiss your dream goodbye.”
You can dismiss John Michael Montgomery as country-music’s latest pretty face, as many have, but you have to give him credit for not giving up on his father’s dream.
For 12 years, he did all the usual knock-about stuff, playing Lynyrd Skynyrd-style southern rock in a series of bands anchored by his big brother Eddie on drums.
They lived in a house or apartment with bandmates. One friend remembers that after his parents split, Montgomery slept in his car when a friendly sofa wasn’t available.
Even after signing a deal with Atlantic Records in January 1991, he was too broke to buy his own ticket to a Restless Heart show. He went as the roadie for a local band.
Of course, all that changed when Montgomery’s first record was finally released in September 1992.
“Life’s A Dance” was the first debut LP in country music to sell a million copies, and “I Love the Way You Love Me,” its second single, went to No. 1 on the country charts.
Montgomery’s second LP, 1994’s “Kickin’ It Up,” sold 3 million copies and produced five hit singles, four of which went to No. 1, including the pivotal ballad “I Swear.” “Kickin’ It Up” went to the top of both the country and pop charts, a feat only Garth Brooks and Billy Ray Cyrus had previously accomplished.
“I Swear” won a Grammy and was covered by the soul group All-4-One. Montgomery won Best New Male Vocalist from the Academy of Country Music and the Horizon Award from the Country Music Association.
His third record, “John Michael Montgomery,” combines his trademark ballads and country rockers and, for the first time, adds a touch of swing to the mix: “Like A Rodeo” is a jazzy piece with horns and a good country-swing groove. It’s Montgomery’s favorite song on the record.
And that’s where the John Michael Montgomery story stands at the moment. With a new wife and, we can hope, a healthy throat, the young star will croon and rock - and swing just a little - Friday at the Arena.
His dad got a taste of his son’s success before succumbing to prostate cancer in ‘94, and his mom is president of his fan club. It’s been a rough ride for Montgomery, but it looks as if things have finally fallen into place.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: COUNTRY John Michael Montgomery will perform Friday at 8 p.m. at the Spokane Arena. Mark Chesnutt will open. Reserved-seat tickets are $22.50.
Tickets bought for the Sept. 16 concert will be honored Friday. Other tickets are available at the Arena and Opera House box offices and at all regional G&B Select-a-Seat outlets, or by calling 325-SEAT or (800) 325-SEAT (credit cards only).
Tickets bought for the Sept. 16 concert will be honored Friday. Other tickets are available at the Arena and Opera House box offices and at all regional G&B; Select-a-Seat outlets, or by calling 325-SEAT or (800) 325-SEAT (credit cards only).