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Playing Around: Sammy Kershaw

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Sammy Kershaw's voice sounds like it comes from the hollow belly of an ancient cypress tree, stained with swamp water and thick with Spanish moss. It's a tree that's suffered much abuse; Kershaw's had one of the hardest runs in country music -- and that's saying a lot.

Born poor in the Louisiana backwoods, the Cajun singer got a start in the music business lugging equipment for a regional performer. He tried his hand singing around Oklahoma before returning home to make a name for himself, but it didn't happen that easily. Kershaw got tangled up in drugs, becoming an addict and an alcoholic.

In 1989, he threw up his hands and became a remodeling supervisor for Wal-Mart, never expecting to make it with his music. But an astute shopper remembered his face, and asked him for a demo tape. The tape soon made its way to Mercury Records, and in 1991 Don't Go Near the Water appeared on the country charts. "She Don't Know She's Beautiful" became a No. 1 hit in 1993, and Kershaw was finally established as a country star.

This spring Kershaw became engaged to singer Lorrie Morgan, after a very ugly divorce with his second wife, Kim. Despite the public struggle, Kershaw remains highly respected in the country music industry. Throughout his career, the singer has never really left his hard Cajun roots. He's used his fame and moderate fortune to help causes close to him, such as raising money to care for the elderly in his hometown of Abbeville. He also formed the Sammy Kershaw Foundation, which donates money to child-related causes such as the prevention of child abuse. The tireless advocate has made no secret of the way he feels about the subject, declaring that if he saw anyone mistreating a child he'd "bust 'em in the mouth."

Sammy Kershaw brings his small-town honesty and blue-collar voice to Cowboys Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 and are available at all Western Warehouse locations. Call 596-1212 for more.

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