From what I understand, if you want to become a country music star, this is the formula. First, put all of your belongings in the back seat of your car or pickup truck and join the 500 hopefuls who journey to Nashville every day.

Second, kick around town for five or six years playing and singing for peanuts until you hopefully catch the ear of a radio label executive, whereupon you sell your songs, creative voice and whatever is left of your soul for the prospect of becoming an overnight success.

The generous labels will front you recording money, touring expenses and cover all of the promotional accessories. All you have to do is pay them back with the royalties from record sales.

But what if the record doesn't sell, you might ask? Well, you still have to pay them back.

Or you can be a rebel, go against the grain, basically do your own thing. That is what country singer Michael Stacey has done and it seems to be working.

Stacey, who hails from Hahira, makes his concert debut tonight following the fireworks show at Albany's U.S. 19 Dragway. The show is a milestone marking how far the talented singer has come since walking into Barry Best's recording studio a few short years ago.

According to Best, after producing his demo tape, Stacey made the trek to Nashville where the recording caught the ear of Curb Records vice president Harley Hatcher. Exciting times for sure. A major record label was interested.

But after spending some time being courted by the corporate music scene, Stacey decided that wasn't his thing. He returned to South Georgia to pursue his dream from home.

His first move was to go back to Best, whom he asked to produce his CD. That was nearly two years ago.

Since that time Stacey has had his hand in nearly every aspect of the project. To say he has worked hard would be an understatement.

For the past few months he has crisscrossed the south on a 54-radio station promotional tour. Following tonight's performance, he and his band have tentative dates set throughout Georgia and Florida. According to his assistant, sometime in the next couple of weeks, Stacey will do a live acoustic set at the On-Cue record store in the Tifton Mall.

The self-taught marketing course has begun to pay off as his CD is getting air play in stations as far away as Memphis. And according to the singer, his fan club numbers around 2,500.

I have listened to Michael Stacey's CD and it's good. I have listened to him and his band briefly during rehearsal and they sound like they are capable of putting on an exciting show.

I have only spent a short amount of time with Stacey and I'm impressed with his talent. I also share the sentiment of his band members who are even more impressed with his work towards getting his career off the ground.

"I heard an interview with another singer recently," said guitarist Bennett Barringer, "who said he was just waiting for that call to come in telling him he didn't have to work any more."

"He'll be waiting for a long time. This is more of a job than people realize."

Michael Stacey has shown that he isn't waiting for that break. He's going after it, starting tonight at the U.S. 19 Dragway.

Tom Mark is the sports editor of The Tifton Gazette. You can reach him at 382-4321, ext. 213 or online at

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