Longtime friend of Blake Shelton tells country star’s story in new book | Books

A long time ago, a small town guy with big dreams told people he made a living by (A) singing country music or (B) picking up cans from the side of the road.

Blake Shelton records a lot of “metal” – if you count gold and platinum records.

The Ada country music superstar is the subject of a new book (“Happy Anywhere: Blake Shelton”) written by someone who’s been a part of his life since the “Ol’ Red” singer was a puppy. Author Carol Cash Large will be attending a book signing on Saturday, August 6 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Woodland Plaza Barnes & Noble Store, 8620 E. 71st St.

Does the book have Shelton’s blessing? He wrote the foreword, and when Large was planning a book signing in Ada, he tagged the author and tweeted, “You better be there guys!”

The book tells the story of Shelton’s rise to fame. Big sprinkles in what she described as silly stories that happened during the trip.

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Shelton met Oklahoma songwriter Mae Boren Axton (“Heartbreak Hotel”) at an awards ceremony in Ada.

“She told Blake to call her when he moves to Nashville,” Large said. “Well, he called her (after moving to Nashville) to see what she wanted from him, thinking she might get him for a show or something. She told him he could paint her gazebo, so he did.”

Axton helped put Shelton in touch with a manager, but there was another benefit. Music artist and songwriter Hoyt Axton, Mae’s son, happened to be on his bus in Mom’s driveway.

“Hoyt watched Blake out there tinkering and doing bits and pieces for Mae and painting the gazebo,” Large said. “He called Blake onto his bus and that was the first time Blake heard the song ‘Ol’ Red.’ Hoyt sang it for him. He sang it a cappella and banged his hand on the table. Blake heard this song and thought, ‘Boy, if I ever get a chance…I’m gonna record this song.’ Of course he did. It’s still his song. It’s the one that most people know.”

“Ol’ Red” was a single on Shelton’s 2001 debut album (just call it his signature song) and Ole Red is the name of Shelton’s restaurant chain. There’s an Ole Red in Tishomingo, Oklahoma. Shelton and his wife, Gwen Stefani, live near Tishomingo.

Large volunteered that Happy Anywhere was not a book about Shelton’s personal life.

“I stayed completely off the National Enquirer’s trail,” she said. “It’s just a happy book.”

Large said she and her husband have known Larry Shelton since he was about 12 years old. Larry was a drummer in a band that had a little “Opry-style show” in Ada. Shelton’s mom drove him to an audition. According to Large, it wasn’t uncommon for kids to try out for the show, but Shelton may have been the youngest.

“If her parents thought she had a little bit of talent, they would bring her,” Large said. “And most of them let them try it and sing it, unless they were just plain awful. But Blake just really wanted to do it.”

Shelton auditioned as the singer.

“The only thing he had sung up to that point was that his mother would take him to beauty pageants and things like that,” Large said.

Blake’s audition went well (“he had good stage presence for a 12-year-old”) and he began appearing regularly on the Opry-like show.

“From that point on we know him and Larry supported him,” Large said. “And then they moved into the McSwain Theater in Ada, and Paul Alford, who owned it, actually hired Blake as one of the cast because he had such a large family that it almost guaranteed him an audience.”

When Shelton was about 16, he visited the Larges at their home and presented a request: Help me move to Nashville. Carol, a teacher, and Larry, a principal, were in the education business at the time.

“Larry said, ‘You have to finish high school first, but if you make it through high school, I’ll do anything to help.’ We knew Reba (McEntire) a little bit and had a few little connections like that — we really didn’t know much about the business — so Blake just kept playing at McSwain and when he graduated from high school we moved him two weeks after high school to Nashville. He wasn’t quite 18 yet. We stayed with him until he turned 18 and rented him an apartment and all. His parents were all supportive.”

The Larges got Shelton to settle down and then moved to Tennessee themselves. They moved away from Ada because they believed in Shelton and wanted to support his dream.

When did Carol know Shelton had “it” — whatever “it” is? She told a story about how people liked Shelton when he was 16 or 17. He had the best personality of anyone she had ever met. He was blessed with an old soul and loved listening to people. When he interacted with people in the early days after shows, he treated everyone equally.

“He loved them all,” she said. “He used to sign his pictures ‘I love you,’ and when he started to get popular it got to a point where I was like, ‘You’ve got to stop that because someone’s going to take you seriously.'”

Many people want to make it in the entertainment business and fall short. Shelton was motivated and had stamina, said Carol, who again mentioned his unique personality.

“When he got to Nashville and all the suits looked so professional, Blake just walked up to them and gave them a hug,” she said. “They didn’t know what to make of him and they finally embraced it. He was just so different. But I think (he succeeds because of) a combination of things. He was talented. He had this great personality. He could tell a story. I knew if they ever saw him on late night TV they would love him and they really do.”

Luck was also a factor, or maybe you could call it good timing. Shelton’s first label, Giant Records, collapsed after the release of his debut single “Austin.”

“He was lucky that Warner Bros. picked him up as he only had that one song out, but it was a big hit,” Carol said.

Carol heard “Austin” in front of radio listeners. His first album was essentially finished before he was introduced to the song. He didn’t like a demo of “Austin” that he got because it contained a keyboard background. He was told to go home and learn to sing “Austin” with a guitar to see if he liked the song better. Mission accomplished, he called Carol at 3am to sing it to her over the phone.

“He called just to see what I think about it,” she said. “I remember telling him it kind of reminded me of Glen Campbell. It kind of reminded me of “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” or something like that. But it was good. Everyone liked it for a different reason. It was about an answering machine when answering machines were still a thing. You added it to the album. They put that on the album and on top of that they made the first single out of it.”

Happy Anywhere is Carol’s first book. She taught reading for decades and always wanted to write a book.

“I retired from teaching and thought about it one day,” she said. “We actually went out with Blake one weekend. We usually go on tour with him at least one weekend a year. One morning we were sitting on the bus. … I said, ‘You know, Blake, I’ve always told my students to write about what they know and love. I think I’ll write about you.” And he said, “Do it.”

Carol said she worked on the book for about five years. She wanted to research songs and dates and get details right. She’s also made it a priority to give props to songwriters that she feels don’t get enough credit.

Carol said Shelton “delivered the sweetest foreword you’ve ever read in your life”. McEntire and Bobby Braddock (who produced Shelton’s first album) wrote enthusiastic reviews of the book.

“I think it’s so cool that Carol kept a journal of all the events of Blake Shelton’s life,” McEntire said in a quote that appears on the back cover. “It’s one thing to get Blake’s point of view, but to hear another person’s perspective who has been with him every step of the way is priceless. I wish I had someone to write down all these memories for my career! I learned a lot about Blake and his beginnings in country music. I know you will too.”

What would Carol like to tell people most about Shelton?

“Only that he’s who you think he is. He is who he is on The Voice. He loves people. He is generous. he is faithful I just want you to know that he is what you expect him to be. It’s not just a front. It’s not a facade. He really is that person. He’s just a great guy – and he really hasn’t changed.”

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