Neal McCoy is at home at the track

May 13, 1994|By J. D. Considine | J. D. Considine,Sun Pop Music Critic

"I love horse racing," says country singer Neal McCoy. "I'm from Longview, Texas, which is only 60 miles from Shreveport/Bossier City, and that was the closest racetrack to me, over at Louisiana Downs. So I used to spend almost every weekend over at the horse track."

Consequently, McCoy is really looking forward to playing at this year's Preakness Celebration. "This is going to be terrific," he enthuses, over the phone from his record company's Nashville offices. "Just to get a chance to maybe get down to the paddocks and look around is going to be a big thrill. I'm a big horse race fan."

But has horse racing been as fond of him as he is of it?

"Not at all!" he laughs. "I've fed a lot of horses in my day, and I mean with my paychecks. No, I didn't do very good at all. I never could pick 'em.

"It's almost like the record business. You know this horse is going to win. You know it is. And then for some reason, that horse loses.

"Well, it's the same way. You know you have a hit record, and then for some reason you don't have a hit record. It never turns into a hit. There's a lot of luck involved."

Fortunately for McCoy, the luck has been going his way lately. "No Doubt About It," the title tune from his latest album, went straight to the top of the country charts, and the follow-up, "Wink," seems ready to follow in its footsteps.

What made the difference?

"You know, I don't know," answers McCoy. "Isn't that something? But that's an honest answer. I don't know that I was doing anything different, and I don't know that the Atlantic staff was doing anything different on the promotion end. I don't know that anybody did anything different.

"I know it was a terrific song," he adds. "Al Cooley, the head of Atlantic Records' A&R department, and Barry Beckett, my new producer, spent more time in looking for material that really fit. I'm not that great a traditional country singer. There are a lot of guys who sing traditional country music a lot better, like Tracy Lawrence or Mark Chestnutt. Those guys are real naturals at that, and I don't think I am.

"So we didn't go in and record that on me. We went in and cut things that had more of a blues groove to it, which is kind of what I'm from. It just seemed to work better"

At 35, McCoy grew up listening to a wide range of music. "Coming from the East Texas area, there was a lot of blues and a lot of pop music in that area," he says.

There was also a lot of country, and McCoy's early tastes went "more along the lines of Ronnie Milsap. I heard the Merles and Willies and all that, and of course I was fortunate enough to work with Charlie Pride for about six years, so I definitely knew all of that. But I grew up right through the disco era -- that was big through my high school years -- so I listened to that, too.

"So really, I grew up with a little bit of everything. If I've got a style, I don't know what it'd be, but I guess it was formed from listening to just about every kind of music."

hat About It?

To hear excerpts from Neal McCoy's album "No Doubt AbouIt," call Sundial, The Sun's telephone information service at (410) 783-1800. In Anne Arundel County, call 268-7736; in Harford County, 836-5028; in Carroll County, 848-0338. Using a touch-tone phone, punch in the four-digit code 6247 after you hear the greeting.

Neal McCoy and Bobbie Cryner

When: Saturday, May 14, 7 p.m. (doors open at 4)

Where: Oregon Ridge Park

Tickets: $10 in advance, $12 at the gate, children under 12 free

Call: (410) 550-9487

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