The 1990's were a great time for our format and mega star names like Shania, Garth, Alan, Clint, and Billy Ray were absolutely synonymous with it. But so were names like, Chesnutt, Stone, Byrd, McGraw, Hill and John Michael Montgomery. He was part of a class that came along a few years after the huge avalanche of 1989, and was a major factor and very popular. His gift to us was that he was a big new star in an era where we needed one to keep the momentum going that had been building since 1986. He was right on time.
His First Hit Song - Really Got Him Noticed! Should Have Been #1 (#4)
In the 1990's we had all those major stars mentioned above, and there was others too like George Strait, Alabama, Randy Travis, Brooks And Dunn, and Reba. Every era has its big, and mainline stars. BUT, I have always maintained what made that era the very best ever, were the acts just outside of the mega stars. In addition to the above mentioned JMM, Pam Tillis, Tracy Lawrence, Martina McBride, Joe Diffie, Patty Loveless, Terri Clark, JoDee Messina, Kathy Mattea and many others. We also had a young Kenny Chesney and Toby Keith, and new groups like Blackhawk, Lonestar, Diamond Rio, and Shenandoah.
His First #1 - A Staple At The Time!
We have never had such a robust and talented group of successful artists like this - in this regard. They were artists that had real popularity, sold a lot of albums, concert tickets, and had real appeal, that in any other era would have been the dominant stars. These are stars that gave us real depth and kept the radios on. These stars to me are the ones that really helped drive the format to incredible heights. We had GREAT songs on the radio all the time. Every era has it gigantic stars and you need them. But not many eras have this kind of talent. It was a remarkable time. And John Michael Montgomery was the leader of this new class.
Another Number One!
He really hit in 1992 with Life's A Dance, and the success of that first album really set the stage for his march through the 1990's which was very strong. During his run he released some 30 songs, and had 7 number ones. It seemed like there were more because of his incredible popularity, but many of the songs stopped near the top of the charts. In fact, between 1992 and 1999 only 4 of songs didn't make the top ten. He was a big time hit maker and fans loved him. The real key for him in my view was song selection. He really picked songs that not only he would do well, but would find a niche within the format and cut through. Especially his ballads, many became staples in pop-culture and not just on the radio.
His Ballads Were Loved
In addition to charting well, he was selling well. His first album, Life's A Dance sold over 3 million. His second, Kickin' It Up sold 4 million, and his third and his fourth sold 2 million each. Funny thing is, that in an era of so many dominant stars, we almost are numb to how many great stars we had at that time, and the record sales were simply staggering. JMM had an amazing run and recorded hugely popular ballads like, I Can Love You Like That, I Love The Way You Love Me and I Swear, and many others that became love themes and wedding songs.
Huge Song - Still Gets Requested
He also had some real fun songs, like Sold, Be My Baby Tonight and others that showed his amazing versatility. He was about the most versatile we had then. He is from a musical family as you may know as his brother is Eddie Montgomery from Montgomery Gentry. And his nephew is newcomer Dillon Carmichael who is on the charts now.
What a run, what great music and what a star. JMM still tours and plays - and this week he will be in town at the Dusty.