Born c. 1952 in Grit, Va.; kid of Jenks (a factory worker) and Eloise van Shelton; married Bettye Witt, 1986. Addresses: document company-- Columbia/CBS Records, 51 W. 52nd St., new York, NY 10019.

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Fans of timeless country music have found a new hero in Ricky van Shelton, a singer who took Nashville through storm in 1987. Since his debut album, Wild-Eyed Dream, went gold, van Shelton has ranked among the many popular--and most visible--entertainers in the country field. His reassuring voice and down-home great looks have won him numerous female admirers, helping to guarantee a broad audience for his repertoire of traditional country and honky tonk songs. Detroit cost-free Press columnist Gary Graff called Van Shelton "the hottest brand-new male singer in country music," a performer that was "a success indigenous the get-go."

It might surprise Ricky van Shelton come hear himself defined as an overnight success. In reality he struggled because that years to create himself in Nashville, back he never lost confidence in his talent. Valve Shelton is in his late 30s, and he has actually been a country singer since his teens--his stardom has actually been a matter of a happy break after years of anonymity. Having discovered a record label for his work and also a producer the respects, valve Shelton is reluctant to tamper v the formula the has carried him almost a dozen Number 1 nation hits. "I"m not one to gambling on success," he told the Detroit free Press. "I to be singing timeless country music, and I"ve had actually phenomenal success, i m sorry I"m not about to chaos with."

Van Shelton to be born in tiny Grit, Virginia, in the at an early stage 1950s. His parents were deeply spiritual people that forbade any music in your home. Van Shelton learned to sing at the area Pentecostal Holiness Church, where he and also his two brothers and also two sister were on the church choir. His parents" demands notwithstanding, valve Shelton found ways to hear to secular music. Friends at school introduced him to rock and roll and also rhythm and also blues, and he became a large fan that the Beatles and also the rolling Stones. Like many teens in the 1960s, van Shelton held nation music in contempt--that is, until he heard that performed live.

One night van Shelton was asked come sing through his brother"s bluegrass band for the evening. The experience energized the young man, and he started to hear to country, honky tonk, and also rockabilly v a brand-new respect. When he worked as a pipeline fitter and also a tobacco picker in countryside Virginia, he started to dream that a career as a country musician. Weekends would discover him on any kind of stage that he could find, playing guitar and singing because that the sheer pleasure of it.

Van Shelton found constant encouragement indigenous his then-fiancee, Bettye. In 1984 (the couple was married in 1986) she urged the to move to Nashville, wherein she sustained him while he peddled his talents. In fact, it to be Bettye who assured valve Shelton"s fame once she encouraged a co-worker to provide one of van Shelton"s tapes to her husband, an significant Nashville newspaper columnist. Within 2 weeks van Shelton had a contract through Columbia Records and also was in the studio cutting his very first album. Exit in 1987, Wild-Eyed Dream offered a phenomenal one million copies and also produced three Number 1 singles.

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Wild-Eyed Dream is composed mainly of standard numbers through Harlan Howard, Merle Haggard, and also Buck Owens. Valve Shelton is really comfortable mining the vein of classic country, although as soon as he write songs self he produces everything from absent to bluegrass numbers. Success has actually come v the timeless music, however, and also Van Shelton is only among several brand-new stars who recall country"s root with virtually every note. Together the singer placed it in People, "I think the audience was really hungry because that pure nation music."

"Pure country music" is the essence of Ricky valve Shelton"s style. His back-up band consists of wailing fiddles and also steel guitars, although the up-tempo number may have actually a rocker billy beat. Ed Morris, Billboard" s representative in Nashville, said the Detroit totally free Press that Van Shelton "sounds favor a latter-day Conway Twitty. So numerous of his songs are just simple, unadorned laments the some type or another. They"re no sophisticated. Lock just have actually an emotional tug the the large country audience yes, really goes for." van Shelton himself placed it another way in People. Anytime he"s roughly a microphone, that said, "I just start cryin" out loud."

Van Shelton has actually a well voice with superb range, yet it is his phase presence--his an excellent looks and easy but sincere charm--that have made the a star. Mrs fans have actually been known to riot around his tour bus, and also he is regularly pelted with lingerie at his live shows. Still, the singer credits his success to the depth that emotion that can lug to his material, quite than the means he looks once he sings. "I"m happy and alive once I walk increase on that stage," the told People.

By 1990 Ricky valve Shelton had actually earned a shelf full of awards indigenous the nation music industry and had watched three albums sell over a million copies. Asked come reflect top top his stardom, that told the Detroit cost-free Press: "I"m not surprised. If ns was surprised, it would mean I didn"t have belief in myself, wouldn"t it? I"ve always had faith in myself.... With these 3 albums, it"s been wonderful. If it end tomorrow, ns would just walk away through a laugh on mine face."