Biography: Tim McGraw

When Tim McGraw debuted in the early '90s, few would have predicted that he would eventually take over Garth Brooks' position as the most popular male singer in country music. Yet that's exactly what he did, thanks to a string of multi-platinum albums, a high-profile marriage to fellow superstar Faith Hill, and Brooks' own inevitable decline. His sound epitomized the strain of commercial country that dominated his era: updated honky tonk and Southern-fried country-rock on the uptempo tunes, well-polished, adult contemporary-tinged pop on the ballads. Helped out early in his career by several novelty items, McGraw simply wound up cranking out hookier hits on a more consistent basis than any of his peers. By the late '90s, he was not only a superstar among country fans, but a mainstream celebrity with a large female following.

Early life

McGraw was born Samuel Timothy McGraw on May 1, 1967, in Delhi, Louisiana, a town in Richland Parish, to a waitress, Elizabeth "Betty" Ann (née D'Agostino), and Frank Edwin "Tug" McGraw Jr., who later became a relief pitcher for the New York Mets and the Philadelphia Phillies. McGraw is of Italian and Irish descent on his mother's side, and of Scots-Irish descent on his father's side. In 1966, Tug was a pitcher for the Jacksonville Suns, and he lived in an apartment above Betty D'Agostino, who attended Terry Parker High School. The pair had a relationship, and when Betty became pregnant, her parents sent her to Louisiana to live with relatives and to have the baby.

Raised by his mother in Start, Louisiana, east of Monroe, McGraw grew up believing his stepfather, Horace Smith, was his birth father. At age eleven, McGraw discovered his birth certificate while searching his mother's closet to find pictures for a school project. After his discovery, his mother revealed that his biological father was Tug McGraw, and took Tim to meet him for the first time. For seven years, Tug denied being Tim's father. Tim was 18 years old when Tug first realized how much Tim looked like him at that age, and he acknowledged paternity. They remained close until Tug's death in 2004.

As a child, Tim McGraw loved to play competitive sports, including baseball, even though he did not know his biological father was a professional athlete. He attended Northeast Louisiana University, now the University of Louisiana at Monroe, on a baseball scholarship, studying sports medicine and became a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity. During his college period, he learned to play guitar, and would frequently perform and sing for tips, although he claims that his roommates often hid the guitar because he was so bad.

His mother, Betty, returned to Jacksonville, Florida in 1987, and Tim followed. He attended Florida Community College at Jacksonville for one term, and occasionally sat in with local bands. In 1989, on the day his hero Keith Whitley died, McGraw dropped out of college to head to Nashville and pursue a musical career.

1990's

He sang in Nashville clubs for a couple of years and came to the attention of Curb Records in 1990. After cutting a demo single, McGraw gave a copy to his father, Tug McGraw. A man who was friends with Curb Records executives heard the demo while driving with Tug McGraw one day and recommended that Curb contact the young singer. Several weeks later, he was able to play his tape for Curb executives, after which they signed him to a recording contract. Two years later, in 1992, he had his first minor hit with "Welcome to the Club" off his self-titled debut album. Although the album failed to make much of a dent on the charts, McGraw did have two other minor hits from it in 1993: "Memory Lane" and "Two Steppin Mind".

McGraw's fortunes changed with the lead single from his 1994 sophomore effort, Not a Moment Too Soon, which became the best-selling country album in 1994. The first single, "Indian Outlaw", was embraced as a light-hearted, old-fashioned novelty song by fans but was heavily criticized for what some regarded as patronizing caricatures of Native Americans. Despite some radio stations' refusal to air the song, it reached the country Top Ten and even crossed over to the pop Top 20. All the publicity helped send McGraw's next single, the ballad "Don't Take the Girl," all the way to the top of the country charts; it too made the pop Top 20. The album kept spinning off hits: "Down on the Farm" hit number two, the title track went to number one in 1995, and the novelty tune "Refried Dreams" also reached the Top Five. Not a Moment Too Soon was a genuine blockbuster hit, eventually selling over five million copies and topping both the country and pop album charts. On the strength of this success, McGraw won Academy of Country Music awards for Album of the Year and Top New Male Vocalist in 1994.

McGraw's follow-up, 1995's All I Want, immediately consolidated his stardom with the number one smash "I Like It, I Love It." The album topped the country charts, reached the pop Top Five, and sold over two million copies. Once again, it functioned as a hit factory thanks to the number two "Can't Be Really Gone," the number one "She Never Lets It Go to Her Heart," and the Top Five "All I Want Is a Life" and "Maybe We Should Just Sleep on It." In 1996, McGraw headlined the most successful country tour of the year, The Spontaneous Combustion Tour, with Faith Hill as his supporting act. Faith Hill broke off her engagement to her former producer Scott Hendricks so that she and Tim could start dating each other; they then married on October 6, 1996, in a union of country star power that drew plenty of attention from mainstream media. The couple have since had three daughters: Gracie Katherine (born May 1997), Maggie Elizabeth (born August 1998), and Audrey Caroline (born December 2001).

McGraw's next album, 1997's Everywhere, become another crossover smash; it topped the country charts, fell one spot short of doing the same on the pop side, and sold four million copies. The lead single was a McGraw-Hill duet called "It's Your Love," which not only hit number one country, but made the pop Top Ten. Three more singles from the album -- "Everywhere," "Where the Green Grass Grows," and "Just to See You Smile" -- hit number one, and two others -- "One of These Days" and "For a Little While" -- reached number two. Meanwhile, "Just to Hear You Say That You Love Me," another husband-and-wife duet from Hill's 1998 album Faith, climbed into the Top Five. The Country Music Association awarded Everywhere its Album of the Year award for 1997.

With the multi-platinum success of Everywhere, McGraw was poised to take over Brooks' throne as the king of contemporary country, a transition that only accelerated when Brooks confounded his fans with the Chris Gaines project. McGraw, meanwhile, just kept topping the charts.

A Place in the Sun in 1999 continued McGraw's streak, debuting atop both the US pop and country album charts and selling 3 million albums. It featured another four chart-topping singles on the country charts including "Please Remember Me", "Something Like That", "My Best Friend", and "My Next Thirty Years". "Some Things Never Change" reached No. 7 on the country chart. He also contributed a song for the Grammy-winning tribute album to Bob Wills: Ride With Bob. His song, a cover of "Milk Cow Blues", was recorded as a duet with Asleep at the Wheel, whom he had met while performing together at the George Strait Country Music Festival.

McGraw recorded two more duets with his wife in the late 1990s, both of which appeared on her albums. "Just to Hear You Say That You Love Me", off of her multi-platinum 1998 album Faith, reached the top five of the US country charts, while her follow-up and 1999 album Breathe featured "Let's Make Love", which would win a Grammy Award in 2000 for Best Country Vocal Collaboration.

2000's

In 2000, McGraw released his Greatest Hits album, which topped the charts for nine weeks and sold almost 6 million copies, making it one of the biggest-selling albums in the modern country market. In the latter half of the year, he and Hill went out on the Soul2Soul Tour, playing to sellout crowds in 64 venues, including Madison Square Garden. It was one of the top tours of any genre in the US, and the leading country tour during 2000.

While in Buffalo, NY, McGraw and Kenny Chesney became involved in a scuffle with police officers after Chesney attempted to ride a police horse. McGraw came to Chesney's aid after police officers nearby believed the horse was being stolen and tried to arrest him. The two were arrested and charged with assault, but were later cleared. During a concert with the George Strait Country Music Festival several weeks later, Hill, dressed as a police officer, made an unscheduled appearance at the end of McGraw's set and led him off the stage.

McGraw's next album, Set This Circus Down, was released in April 2001, and spawned four number-one country hits: "Grown Men Don't Cry", "Angry All the Time" (with Faith Hill), "The Cowboy in Me", and "Unbroken". In 2002, his duet with protégée Jo Dee Messina, "Bring on the Rain," also went to number one.

Hungry for more of his music, fans downloaded a version of his performance of the song "Things Change" from his appearance at the Country Music Association Awards Show. The song was played extensively on radio, becoming the first country song to appear on the charts from a fully downloaded version.

In 2002, Tim McGraw bucked country music traditions by recording his album Tim McGraw and the Dancehall Doctors with his tour band The Dancehall Doctors. Unlike rock music, where it is commonplace for touring bands to provide the music on albums recorded by the artist they support, country albums are typically recorded with session musicians. McGraw chose to use his own touring band, in order to recognize their part in his success, and to capture some of the feel of a real band.

All of the Dancehall Doctors have worked with McGraw since at least 1996. They include:
* Darran Smith - Lead Guitar, Acoustic guitar
* Bob Minner - Rhythm Guitar, Acoustic guitar, Banjo, Mandolin
* Denny Hemingson - Steel Guitar, Electric, Baritone, and Slide Guitars, Dobro
* John Marcus - Bass guitar
* Dean Brown - Fiddle, Mandolin
* Jeff McMahon - Piano, Organ, Synthesizer, Keyboards
* Billy Mason - Drums
* David Dunkley - Percussion

The album debuted at No. 2 on the country albums charts, with the single "Real Good Man" reaching No. 1 on the Hot Country Songs chart. "She's My Kind of Rain" reached No. 2 in 2003, and "Red Ragtop" reached the top 5. The album also featured a cover version of Elton John's early 1970s classic "Tiny Dancer", as well as appearances by Kim Carnes on "Comfort Me" (a response to the September 11, 2001 attacks) and Don Henley and Timothy B. Schmit of the Eagles on "Illegal".

2004's Live Like You Were Dying continued McGraw's record of commercial success. The title track, dedicated to his father Tug McGraw, who died of a brain tumor earlier in the year, was a soaring ode to living life fully and in the moment, while the second single "Back When" was a paean to an easy nostalgia. Live Like You Were Dying spent seven non-consecutive weeks at No. 1 on Billboard (10 weeks on Radio & Records), and went on to become the biggest hit single of the year. It also became one the most awarded songs/records by winning ACM Single and Song of the Year, CMA Single and Song of the Year, and a Grammy. The Tim Nichols/Craig Wiseman-penned smash is, among other things, testament to Tim's long-proven ability to tap Nashville's best writers for their most profound and touching work.

"It's just a great song," he says. "Probably anybody could have recorded it and had a big hit, but it helps that we're in a great place in our career--things just seem to keep getting better. Five years ago I figured we were at the top of our game and that was the best it was going to get, but with every album it seems to keep on building on itself."

In late 2004, his unlikely duet with hip-hop artist Nelly on "Over and Over", a soft ballad of lost love, became a crossover hit, spending 10 weeks atop the Top 40 chart. "Over and Over" brought McGraw a success he had never previously experienced on contemporary hit radio or rap radio, and brought both artists success neither had previously experienced in the hot adult contemporary market. The song also spent a week at the top of the UK single charts, and was McGraw's first visit to the UK hit countdown.

Throughout the 2005 NFL season, McGraw sang an alternate version of "I Like It, I Love It" every week during the season. The alternate lyrics, which changed each week, would make reference to plays during Sunday's games, and the song would be played alongside video highlights during halftime on Monday Night Football. Later in the year, McGraw became a minority owner of the Arena Football League's Nashville Kats when majority owner Bud Adams (owner of the NFL's Tennessee Titans) was awarded the expansion franchise.

In April 2006, McGraw and Hill began their 73-concert 55-city Soul2Soul II Tour, again to strong commercial acceptance. The tour grossed nearly $89 million and sold almost 1.1 million tickets, making it the top grossing tour in the history of country music. It was named "Major Tour of the Year" by the prestigious Pollstar Magazine, beating out such heavyweights as Madonna and the Rolling Stones. In a special gesture, the couple donated all of the profits from their performance in New Orleans to Hurricane Katrina relief.

Tim, along with Kenny Chesney, contributed to a version of Tracy Lawrence's song "Find Out Who Your Friends Are", which can be found on Lawrence's album For the Love. Although the official single version features only Lawrence's vocals, many stations have opted to play the version with McGraw and Chesney instead.

McGraw released his eleventh album, Let It Go, on March 27, 2007. The album's debut single, "Last Dollar (Fly Away)", reached No. 1 on the Hot Country Songs chart, marking Tim's first No. 1 single since "Back When" in late 2004. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200 Album Chart and No. 1 on the Billboard Country Album chart, marking his fourth No. 1 top 200 album and ninth No. 1 country album. His daughters can be heard singing the chorus during the last few seconds of the song on the video.

During the Academy of Country Music awards show on May 21, 2007, McGraw performed a song titled "If You're Reading This", which he co-wrote with The Warren Brothers. Several radio stations began to play the live recording of the song; as a result, it entered the Hot Country Songs chart at No. 35.

McGraw also produced the debut album of country music duo Halfway to Hazard. The duo's first single, "Daisy", peaked at No. 39 on the country charts in the summer of 2007.

In the summer of 2007, McGraw and Hill toured together once again in the Soul2Soul 2007 tour.

In the January 18, 2008 edition of the USA Today newspaper, McGraw was stated to be featured on the Def Leppard album Songs from the Sparkle Lounge, having also co-written the first single, "Nine Lives", with Def Leppard band members Joe Elliott, Phil Collen, and Rick Savage. The unusual pairing goes back to 2006 when McGraw joined Def Leppard onstage for the song "Pour Some Sugar On Me", and then collaborated on the song "Nine Lives" afterward. The album was released on April 25, 2008.

In May 2008, he hit the road with the Live Your Voice tour. The mainly-outdoor arena concert tour was his first solo outing in nearly three years. Also in May 2008, he debuted a new song off of his follow-up to Let It Go at the Stagecoach Music Festival in Indio, California.

In July 2008, Tim McGraw's sixth single, and the title track of his album, "Let It Go", was released to country radio. Following that, a seventh single, "Nothin' to Die For", entered the Country charts at No. 57 in late December. Tim McGraw released his third greatest-hits package, Greatest Hits 3 on October 7, 2008. The album features 12 tracks. Tim was set to debut a new song on the 2009 ACM Awards, but then cancelled his performance; he was replaced by Blake Shelton, who sang "She Wouldn't Be Gone".

Tim's twelfth studio album, Southern Voice, was released October 20, 2009, and lead by the single "It's A Business Doing Pleasure With You", which was shipped to radio outlets in late June 2009. Southern Voice could be Tim's last album for Curb Records, following the dispute over releasing his third Greatest Hits collection back in October 2008 without his permission.

Acting

McGraw's first acting appearance came in a 1995 episode of The Jeff Foxworthy Show, where he played Foxworthy's rival.

In 2004, McGraw played a sheriff in Rick Schroder's independent release Black Cloud. Later in the same year, McGraw received critical acclaim as the overbearing father of a running back in the major studio Texas high school football drama Friday Night Lights. The Dallas Observer said the role was "played with unexpected ferocity by country singer Tim McGraw". The movie went on to gross over $60 million dollars worldwide at the box office, and sold millions in the DVD market. Most recently, it was named one of the Top 50 High School Movies of All Time (No. 37) by Entertainment Weekly.

McGraw's first lead role was in the 2006 film Flicka, which was released in theatres October 20, 2006. In the remake of the classic book "My Friend Flicka", McGraw played the father, Rob, costarring with Alison Lohman and Maria Bello. The family-friendly movie debuted in the top 10 list and has grossed over $25 million at the box office. McGraw again achieved critical acclaim for his acting.

Shortly before Flicka opened, McGraw received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. His star is located at 6901 Hollywood Blvd. near stars in the sidewalk honoring Julie Andrews, William Shatner, and the late Greta Garbo. One of his Flicka co-stars, Alison Lohman, attended the ceremony that included comments from Billy Bob Thornton, McGraw's co-star in the film Friday Night Lights.

In addition to acting in Flicka, McGraw served as executive producer of the soundtrack album, which was released by his record label, StyleSonic Records, in association with Curb Records and Fox 2000 films. It featured the closing credit song "My Little Girl", one of the first two songs that McGraw recorded that he also co-wrote (the other being "I've Got Friends That Do", both of which were included on Greatest Hits Vol. 2). The song was nominated by the Broadcast Film Critics for "Best Song" in a film, and the movie was nominated in the category "Best Family Film (Live Action)". The movie proved to be another huge success in the DVD market, and has sold over a million copies, debuting at No. 3 on the DVD sales chart.

McGraw also had a small part in the Michael Mann-produced 2007 film The Kingdom. McGraw played a bitter, angered widower whose wife was killed in the terrorist attack that is the centerpiece of the movie.

On November 22, 2008, McGraw made his first appearance on Saturday Night Live. He also played "Dallas McVie" in Four Christmases.

His house appeared in an episode of CSI with special guest Taylor Swift.

McGraw appeared in the 2009 film The Blind Side as Sean Tuohy, husband of Sandra Bullock's character, Leigh Anne Tuohy. The Blind Side is based on the true story of Michael Oher, a homeless African-American youngster from a broken home, taken in and adopted by the Tuohys, a well-to-do white family who help him fulfill his potential. In addition to his appearance in the film, Tim's hit song "Southern Voice" was played during the closing credits of the film.

Charitable efforts

As his success has grown, McGraw has become increasingly interested in giving back to the community. When McGraw first reached fame in 1994, he established his annual Swampstock event. It began as a charity softball game to raise money for hometown little league programs; the event now includes a celebrity softball game and a multi-artist concert that attracts over 11,000 fans per year. The combined events have funded new Little League parks and equipment, and have established college scholarship funds for students in the northeast Louisiana area.

From 1996 to 1999, McGraw hosted an annual New Year's Eve concert in Nashville with special guests including Jeff Foxworthy, the Dixie Chicks, and Martina McBride. The 1997 show raised over $100,000 for the Country Music Foundation Hall of Fame and Museum. Beginning in 1999, McGraw would pick select cities on each tour, and the night before he was scheduled to perform, would choose a local club and host a quickly-organized show. This tour-within-a-tour became known as "The Bread and Water Tour", and all proceeds from the show would go to a charity from that community.

In the days immediately following Hurricane Katrina, McGraw and his wife, who was raised in Mississippi, joined groups taking supplies to Gulfport, Mississippi. The two also hosted several charity concerts to benefit those who were displaced by the storm. Later in the year, the couple established the Neighbor's Keeper Foundation, which provides funding for community charities to assist with basic humanitarian services, in the event of a natural disaster, or for desperate personal circumstances.

McGraw is also a member of the American Red Cross National Celebrity Cabinet, to which various celebrities donate their time, skills, and fame, to help the Red Cross highlight important initiatives and response efforts.

McGraw has helped out with charity events held by Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre. The Brett Favre Fourward Foundation has featured McGraw (and at other times Faith Hill) performing concerts during dinners and auctions that benefit children with disabilities in Wisconsin and Mississippi. One instance is recorded on Favre's official website.

On July 12, 2007, it was made public that McGraw and his wife Faith Hill, while in Grand Rapids, Michigan for a performance, donated $5000 to Kailey Kozminski, 3-year-old daughter of Officer Robert Kozminski, a Grand Rapids police officer who was killed on July 8, 2007 while responding to a domestic disturbance.

In June 2010, Tim McGraw, along with his wife Faith Hill organized Nashville Rising, a benefit concert aimed to raise $2 million for The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee in response to the flood in early May that killed 22 people and caused $2 billion in damage.


"For me, making a record isn't just going in and having fun," says Tim McGraw. "It's going in and digging and digging and trying to get what's inside of me out, and never quite getting there. And that's what keeps you going back and trying again."

This dedication to honesty and integrity has helped make McGraw not just a country music superstar, but one of the biggest names in all of music today. In his record-shattering career, McGraw has sold over 40 million albums, and dominated the charts with 30 Number One singles. Since the release of his debut album in 1993, he has won three Grammys, 14 Academy of Country Music Awards, 11 Country Music Association Awards, and 10 American Music Awards, while simultaneously maintaining a parallel career as a successful actor.