Last year, Jeff Bridges brought to life the character of Bad Blake.
The lead character of the hit movie Crazy Heart, Bad Blake is a down on his luck country singer. Blake had a few hits back in the ‘70s. He appears to be an outlaw from the country days of Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson. Today, Bad Blake is touring in his 30 year old Chevy Suburban. He’s playing 1 or 2 set shows at bowling alleys and hole-in-the-wall bars. Blake can still bring it on stage. He can capture the attention of the small, but dedicated audiences. However, Bad Blake struggles with alcoholism and self doubt.
Crazy Heart moves along as Bad falls in and out of love with a beautiful reporter and her young son. A scary situation leads Bad to get sober and find happiness with his life and career. He writes a song that is a hit for a young protégé. Bad’s career turns around as he collects royalty checks from the song as well as big checks from his upgraded touring schedule.
The story of Bad Blake plays out exactly as most expect. The performer is deep in despair. He’s living on a few bucks he can still pull in from his few remaining fans. Blake’s songs give fans a little memory and they’d continue paying a little money to see him play them live.
There are many country artists that the story of Crazy Heart could relate to in real life country music. Two come to my mind:
Doug Stone and Doug Supernaw
These two country outlaws had the highest of highs in country music, but the same emotions and circumstances that created their hits and success also created their demise and despair. Stone and Supernaw both reached the top of the country music world and both have since stumbled on their own mistakes.
Will they reach the success that character Bad Blake found during his later years?
Country music fans can only hope…
The Story of Doug Stone
In 1990, country music was just entering a period I cite as one of the best decades in country music history. The decade was full of traditional sounding male and female country performers. The songs were fun, emotional, catchy, sad, happy, and passionate. As a kid growing up I loved listening to the artists of the ‘90s as they sang with feeling and emotion. Steel guitars wailed in the background. The ‘90s yielded nearly too many country hits to count.
In the middle of the early ‘90s success in country music was country star Doug Stone.
Doug Stone rose to the top five with his debut single I’d Be Better Off (In a Pine Box). The song introduced country music fans to the smooth singing Georgia native. Doug Stone was a traditional country artist. He could sing an emotional ballad and kick things up with a boot tapping honky tonking jukebox song.
From 1990 to 1994, Doug Stone sold millions of albums and singles. He racked up 15 top ten hits on the country charts and he played to millions of adoring fans around the country. It was a career most country artists would kill for – the number one hits, the platinum albums, and the respect of traditional country fans.
More than a handful of Doug’s songs are stilled played in regular rotation on country stations today. His hit Why Didn’t I Think of That is catchy and emotional. It is one of the first songs I remember loving as a country music fan. Doug Stone’s hit In A Different Light is another that is played frequently on the radio today. The song is an ode to the numerous beautiful women that some take for granted.
Doug had a career that should have led to happiness, financial reward, and respect.
However, as things slowed in Doug’s career in the late ‘90s, things also turned negative in Doug’s personal life. The hard-living, boozing, and loose cannon personality that translates so well on record took its toll on Doug and he found himself in trouble with the law as he struggled with his family and friendships.
Doug Stone struggled with a waning career in the late ‘90s. The hits faded and Doug struggled to tour at the level he had during the height of his success. The paychecks likely grew smaller just as the bills for child support and other expenses grew larger.
In the past years, Doug has spent time in prison for child support related incidents. Most recently in 2009, Doug Stone was arrested for a physical altercation with his 22-year old son.
For Doug Stone, the story of Bad Blake had to hit a little too close to home. Doug is still recording – he releases music on independent labels these days. The recent success for minor labels gives hope to artists that can still find and record a quality song. Country music fans will always request a great song no matter what label name is on the record.
Doug Stone has struggled with his career since he dominated the charts in the early ‘90s. Booze, women, and hard-living have taken their toll on one of country’s greatest outlaws. An all too frequent story – the hard lives artists live often leads to their greatest success and ultimate failure.
Hopefully Doug Stone can find success as Bad Blake did in the movie Crazy Heart. Just as in the movie, a good song can change it all. And Doug Stone certainly has the voice and skill to deliver a great song. Recently there have been pictures of Doug performer, recording, and hanging out with friends. He seems happy. This is great news for the great singer.
The Story of Doug Supernaw
Doug Supernaw hasn’t had a hit since 1999. That year, Doug saw the video for his song 21-17 gain strong airplay on Great American Country TV. However, the song failed to make the country singles charts. The song was released on an independent label and the corresponding album turned out to be Doug’s last up to this point.
You have to go back all the way to 1995 to find the last time Doug made a big impact on the country singles charts. After parting ways with his record company BNA Records in 1994, reportedly over erratic behavior, Doug moved to Giant Records and released the single Not Enough Hours in the Night. The song was a #3 hit and is still a favorite on radio today. However, it was the last time most folks heard Doug on radio.
The story of Doug Supernaw – country star began in 1993. Signed to the then independent label BNA Records, Doug reached the top five on the country charts with his second single release Reno. The song is about the struggles a man deals with when it comes to women. The song compares the risk and reward of Reno and gambling to the love of a woman. Doug co-wrote the song with his bandmates, The Possum Eating Cowboys.
The next single off Doug’s gold certified album Red and Rio Grande was the #1 hit I Don’t Call Him Daddy. The song was the cover of Kenny Rogers. That version only reached the edges of the charts, but Doug’s version soared as many parents and kids could relate to the tale of divorce, step parents, and shared custody. I Don’t Call Him Daddy is still a staple on radio especially around Father’s Day.
Since releasing successful singles and albums in the mid-‘90s, Doug has been down on his luck with much of it the result of his own doing. Those that have spent time around Doug have stated that he’s lived hard and tends to have two personalities. He can be a caring, talented, and compassionate person one moment and an angry, despondent, rebel the next.
Since 1999, Doug Supernaw has been in trouble with the law for public intoxication, failure to pay child support, small drug charges, and he’s been sent to a mental hospital for erratic behavior in court. It’s a sad story for the once popular singing cowboy from Texas.
Perhaps the saddest part of Doug Supernaw’s situation is that he reportedly still has the talent that took him stardom. According to Doug’s acquaintance Yvette Tisdale in The Houston Press – Doug Supernaw, ““He’s got this fabulous new song about his no-good buddies called ‘The Company I Keep,’” she says. “It’s a slow ballad that will put chills on your arm. It’s classic Doug Supernaw. And that’s what sucks. That’s the talent that he’s got. I mean, people will record him all day long, but who is gonna put him on a label and take the chance on him?”
Bad Blake lived a hard life as a fictional country performer. In the real country world, Doug Stone and Doug Supernaw saw the very top of success and they’ve also seen the lowest of lows. The two performers have lived lives that parallel that of the character in Crazy Heart.
Unfortunately, sometimes country performers take the rebel outlaw label too far. Or sometimes the very lifestyle that seems to genuine is often just a bit too genuine and an artist will play with the devil one too many times.
The story of Bad Blake in Crazy Heart had a happy ending. Hopefully the story of Doug Stone and Doug Supernaw will as well.