NASHVILLE — Country singer Daryle Singletary’s sudden death at age 46, Monday, Feb. 12, from an apparent blood clot, had the music scene in shock. Reportedly, he played his final show in Dadeville, Ala., on Friday at the Rodeo Club, three days earlier, showing no sign of fatigue or illness, says management.
A Georgia boy, Singletary prided himself on singing songs similar to traditional country sounds he thrived on in his youth, making his major breakthrough in 1995, via a self-titled album, spinning off two Top Five singles: “I Let Her Lie” (#2) and the upbeat “Too Much Fun” (#4).
That introductory collection was co-produced by Randy Travis, James Stroud and David Malloy, a trio sharing his love of country’s roots. “There are still people out there who want to hear traditional country music,” quotes Daryle, on his website, “I’ve been fortunate to be able to always keep it real and not have to compromise.”
According to Travis, “I love Daryle Singletary’s heart and soul — for life, for others, and for true country music. Co-producing his first LP was a highlight in my career. He is one of the best and made me a better artist . . . Thanks for the memories, brother.”
Yet another near chart-topper for Daryle, “Amen Kind of Love,” was released in the fall of ’96. It was the lead single off his sophomore album “All Because of You.” A third Giant album, “Ain’t It The Truth,” produced another Singletary success “The Note,” though stalling at Top 20 on country’s singles chart, succeeded in garnering pop play, making Billboard’s Hot 100 pop chart. The Top 20 album soared to #7 on Billboard’s Heat seeker list in 1998. Nonetheless, the burly balladeer and Giant parted ways in ’99.
Daryle next signed onto Audium Records’ roster, where his first chartings proved less successful, “I Knew I Loved You” and his co-write “I’ve Thought Of Everything,” heard on his “Now And Again” (2000) album. Audium’s second Singletary set – “That’s Why I Sing This Way” – produced two near-Top 40 tracks, its title tune (sort of in homage to George Jones), supplied by Max T. Barnes; and Fred MacRae’s “I’d Love To Lay You Down,” remembering Conway Twitty’s #1 version two decades earlier.
In the Barnes’ ballad, Daryle sings “Well, things I never did/When I was just a little kid/Made me what I am today . . . See Momma used to whoop me/With a George Jones album/That’s why I sing this way . . .”
Upon learning of Singletary’s passing, a wistful Barnes proclaimed, “Daryle was everybody’s favorite singer. It’s not OK with me for there to be a world without him! There’s a Daryle-sized hole in country music, now and forever.”
Yes to many of us, Daryle was the real deal, a roots-fond artist who thrived on twang. Born March 10, 1971 in Cairo, Ga., to postal worker Roger and his beautician-wife Anita, he grew up in a music-loving family. His grandmother played fiddle and his parents were part of a weekend gospel group. Daryle and his brother joined their cousins singing in a band, while he also took voice lessons in high school. Forming his own band in the ninth grade, proved beneficial in attracting attention of the girls in his classes, he grinned.
During our interview, Daryle also confided, “I cut my teeth trying to sing like George Jones, Merle Haggard, Conway Twitty, Keith Whitley and Randy Travis. Even when I moved to Nashville (1990), I saw no reason not to try and sing like these heroes, because they’re so good. It’s inevitable that Keith and Randy stole licks from Jones and Haggard. I stole licks from Randy and Keith. When (Johnny) Paycheck was Donnie Young on Jones’ records, singing harmony and playing guitar, I’m sure ol’ George even borrowed some of Paycheck’s style.”
Singletary felt by combining different licks learned from his heroes, he soon developed his own style: “It’s something that happens all the time. I don’t even think about it, but I’m very thankful for that.”
It’s interesting to learn how Randy Travis first became aware of the unknown Singletary, who was putting food on his table by singing in local clubs, doing what session work he could muster, and making the occasional demo. A chap named Johnny Morris, who co-wrote “An Old Pair of Shoes,” owned the short-lived indie Evergreen label. He invited Daryle to sing the “Shoes” demo that got into the hands of Travis, who liked it, but also wondered who was singing. As Randy cut it for Warner’s, he pretty much stuck with the original arrangement, scoring himself another Top 20 charting in 1993, while inadvertently paying homage to Daryle in doing so.
Indeed, Travis became a champion of the newcomer. His then manager-wife Lib Hatcher took deep-voiced, dark-haired Daryle under her wing, putting him on the road with Randy, giving him a chance to perform and help in merchandise sales. Earlier, Daryle had worked as a “roadie” for Tanya Tucker. Fellow musician Greg Cole, who was a Jolly Greene Giant bandsmen, also became an early pal. As Singletary pointed out, “Greg and I started working together when we were (practicing) in a basement in Antioch (a Nashville neighborhood). He was playing for Jack Greene and I was still singing in a club, an unknown and he played for me on weekends or weekdays, when he wasn’t out with Jack.”
Eventually Greg would co-produce Daryle’s CDs “That’s Why I Sing This Way” and “Straight From the Heart” (2007). Cole added, “The first day I met him, I played on a session with him and I thought, ‘This boy can sing.’ So I had invited him out to this club where I played, The Broken Spoke. I talked the manager into letting us play there on the off nights. We were playing 1970s’ and early 1980s’ stuff that we wanted to play, and we just had a big time. Then they added Tuesday nights (packing the place) . . . I guess we did that for something like two years.”
In 2005, Cole co-produced Singletary’s “Rockin’ In the Country” for Shanachie Records. That effort remained unreleased, however, as Shanachie folded, but thankfully in 2009 finally became Singletary’s sixth album, when E-1 Music, a branch of Koch Entertainment, distributed it. Both Greg and Daryle were pleased by that CD, and in particular recalled a track titled “She Sure Looks Good In Black,” they thought should’ve been a hit. There’s also a rousing performance on the CD by guest artist Charlie Daniels.
“I’m passionate about what I do,” said Singletary. “I’m not just going out making a living or just to get a check. I’m doing what I like – and I’m having fun. Since 1995, I’ve consistently played an average 60-to-80 dates a year. If you ask me, that says a lot about the state of our industry. I’ve been very fortunate and I’m thankful. I’ve seen some of my friends come into this business, have a hit and now they’re not out there anymore. I’m still here and I ain’t goin’ anywhere.”
A no-nonsense sort, Daryle also joined sportsman Wayne Burns as co-host for Outdoor All-Stars, a 2008-’09 hunting show on cable beamed by DirecTV. More recently Daryle released the 2016 single “We’re Not Going To Hell (For Having a Hell Of a Time),” and joined good friend Rhonda Vincent on her 2017 Top 40 country CD “American Grandstand.” That duets album recreates covers of such successes as George Jones & Melba Montgomery’s “We Must Have Been Out Of Our Minds,” and Loretta Lynn & Conway Twitty’s “After the Fire Is Gone.”
It wasn’t his first duet collaboration with Rhonda. The couple sang the George & Tammy classic “We’re Gonna Hold On” for his “Straight From the Heart” CD. As Daryle shared with us, “There’s not many girl singers that just blows my skirt up per se, but I’m a huge fan of Rhonda’s. She’s definitely one of those singers who’s so unique, a real stylist. Rhonda sang with me on my first records, like the old Keith Whitley song I remade on my first Giant record ‘Would These Arms Be In Your Way.’ She sang harmony and we’ve kinda kept in touch since. I think she and her brother Darrin have done harmony on all the projects Greg and I have done together.”
No doubt the feeling is mutual, a saddened Rhonda just stated, “Daryle Singletary, one of the single greatest singers who ever sang a song. I loved singing with him. We shared a kindred spirit on and off the stage. I will miss him dearly. Rest in Peace my friend.” (Daryle and pal Greg Cole chat with Walt Trott at Union, right.)
Another singer-songwriter admirer, Paul Bogart, added his condolences, “Daryle Singletary was THE quintessential country music singer – country music the way it should be. He will be sorely missed, but his music will live on forever.”
Survivors include Daryle’s wife Holly and their four children: Jonah, Mercer, Nora and Charlotte Singletary. Following his passing, Platinum Records released a “posthumous single,” titled “She’s Been Cheatin’ On Us,” noting the disc’s proceeds would benefit Daryle’s family, the singer’s representative proclaimed no such fund was put in place, plus the recording was merely a demo that the singer didn’t mean to release. – By Walt Trott