The Other Lost Highways: Mindy McCready

Wednesday, 20 February 2013 06:00 PM Written by 

This series, "The Other Lost Highways," marking the 60th anniversary of Hank Williams, Sr.'s death,  was conceived to look at other artists done in by their demons, and the focus was to be mainly historical, not contemporary.  Well, Mindy McCready's death Sunday afternoon of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound at her Arkansas home, clearly, and unfortunately. fit the concept.

In fact. it took me back nearly 15 years, when the up-and-coming 21 year old was profiled in an episode of Bravo's short-lived cable series Naked Nashville, unusual since it eschewed the uaual  cheerleading of Nashville Network and CMT programming in favor of a more honest approach. 

The episode detailed the Florida-born former EMT and prize-winning local karaoke singer's rise from obscurity to Nashville stardom, catching an improbable break then having to confront the realities that come with it, 

What I saw beneath the surface, frankly, made my blood run cold.

I sensed even then McCready was headed for trouble of some sort. Beneath all the determination and toughness she projected, one could clearly  sense she was emotionally unprepared, lacking the experience and maturity derived from gradually working one's way up.   See for yourself. Here are all five parts.   

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Her lack of seasoning was apparent early on when while prepping for her first tour, she told USA Today with jarring candor, "I have no stage experience. I'm scared to death. I sing so good in the shower, and then I get out onstage and I'm, like, quivering and fixing to cry." 

You can read about McCready's turbulent, troubled life, the overdoses, arrests, violence, drugs and past suicide attempt in excruciating detail elsewhere. No need to rehash it here.   It is worth noting that she really had only two peak years, 1996-1998, that produced her three Top Ten singles including "Guys Do It All The Time," her sole # 1 single. and her Platinum album Ten Thousand Angels. Her subsequent releases charted far more modestly.

Country stars and personal demons have long gone hand in hand. Many successfully battle alcohol, drugs, domestic violence and so on while others Hank Williams Sr. and Keith Whitley come to mind--weren't so lucky.  Depression and alcoholism led honky tonk singer Mel Street, a protégé and friend of George Jones, to kill himself on his birthday in 1978.

There's ample blame to go around in McCready's case. Trusted, responsible advisers seemed few. Her unwillingness and inability to take control of her demons (despite a visit to Dr. Drew on VH1's Celebrity Rehab) and penchant for toxic relationships with men didn't help.  Her two young sons, now motherless, are the real victims here.

Nashville will always teem with musical hopefuls desperate for fame and fortune, aside from those auditioning around the country for American Idol  and other music reality shows.  Any aspiring artist had better have both feet on the ground, ready to learn their craft for the long haul.  For less than 24 hours after her tragic death, Malinda Gayle McCready provides yet another gut-wrenching, cautionary and sobering reminder of the price one can pay.

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