Erin asked if I could write about Jo Dee Messina. You bet and proud to do it. What a compelling career she had. There aren't many country singers from the Boston area, but she is. And one listen to her songs, you'll understand you're hearing someone very unique. I emceed a number of her shows, including a huge charity show here at WQMX and Country Fest, and she is terrific!
Great Debut Song - A Real Favorite!
The beginning was interesting as her amazing talent and Tim McGraw were instrumental in getting her a record deal, as he produced her first album. I proudly played all of her songs on great stations for years, she was a breath of fresh air with her redder than red hair, and her carefree spirit. There are times that in country we take our music too seriously. What I mean is, songs that are too deep, off point, trying to make some kind of statement, or songs that are better suited for another format. A little bit of all of that goes a very long way. That was NOT JDM. Her songs were on point, and her ability to confidently sail through a song with power, passion and endless energy is simply unmatched.
Hit Single Two - Great Song!
When JDM busted on the scene in 1996, country was riding a huge wave. Country women were really riding high as Shania, Pam Tillis, Suzy Bogguss, Terri Clark, Faith, Martina, Reba, LeAnn Rimes, Trisha Yearwood, Lorrie Morgan, Lee Ann Womack and others were having big success. JDM came out of the box hot with Heads Carolina, Tails California and she fit right in. JDM was a tornado of energy and you could feel it through her music. That was her absolute gift to us, an unapologetic burst of power that was a real separator from the pack.
This Broke Her Through - First Number One!
Her song choices were bold, and fearless. She was not concerned with soaring vocals, reaching and holding high notes for a ridiculous amount of time, or showing off some overdone vocal calisthenics. She never tried to out sing the song. She chose good songs that fit her perfectly and ran with them, as they were tidy and to the point, and you knew it was her. She knew the song was a fit, so she just poured her passion into the song's delivery and message and didn't try to dress it up with a bunch of vocal lipstick. Something that always jumped out at me with her was she made the song her very own. The songs also were constructed perfectly around her, and I'm not sure that has ever been done better for a single artist.
Big Song - Remake Of An Old Dottie West Classic - Big Favorite
She went on a real nice run starting in 1996 that essentially ran through 2005 for her commercial and charting success. She had six number one songs and a bunch more top tens, including three more number two hits as she was a consistent hit maker. JDM became the first woman in country to have three multiple week number one songs from the same album. She is another example of just how difficult it can be to have long term success in this or any format, because things change in the format and in culture. But for the time she was a force, I was a big fan.
This Was Her Crown Jewel - (#1 - Four Weeks)
Her debut album, Jo Dee Messina was great with two big songs, and another that should have been. Heads Carolina, and You're Not In Kansas Anymore were hits, and I always felt You Wanna Make Something Of It (the third single) should have been, as it fell short, but was a slick video and a great song. But that didn't slow her down as bigger things were just ahead. The I'm Alright album in 1998 was an absolute smash with five big hit songs on it and the next album, Burn was a gigantic success with more hits and airplay.
Her Final Number One
JDM's career had a bump or two with some well publicized financial issues early on that nearly derailed everything. Some health issues later as well. But as a survivor of life and the business her music reflected it. I always felt that you could feel the hard work in her music. It never sounded like someone handed her a song and said "Here, sing this." I could feel the work ethic, and the drive in her voice as she seemed to live inside the song. In short, she possessed that one rare thing that all great vocalists have, I believed her every word. I can't say that about every everyone. She had/has the gift of it.
BONUS - This Should Have Been A Big Hit!
Her successful chart run ended with her last big song, My Give A Damns Busted that went number one, written by the late Joe Diffie. And today, she still sings and tours I'm sure with a great passion. But JDM should be hailed as a singer that did something very difficult to do. In an era of absolute and unparalleled success by country men and women of the 1990's, with a menu of A-listers a mile long, she not only competed, she cut through and made you know you were hearing a Jo Dee Messina song.
Big, Big Song -
A truly unique and big time talent, the incredible Jo Dee Messina.