JEFF PEARLMAN

Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

Daron Norwood

For some reason, earlier tonight I was thinking about one of my first story assignments as a professional reporter.

I was about two weeks out of the University of Delaware, a Yankee relocated to Nashville to write features for The Tennessean, the city’s morning daily newspaper. My starting salary was $26,000. I had a desk, a computer and an apartment off the Cumberland River. Life was sweet.

My editor, Catherine Mayhew, sent me out to an annual event called Fan Fair—a massive gathering of country singers at a fairground. I’d never seen anything like it: Hundreds of singers, positioned at their own little booths, and fans had the chance to approach for an autograph or a handshake or whatever. All the biggies were there—Garth Brooks, Vince Gill, Allan Jackson, Brooks and Dunn, etc … etc.

I was told to profile the event’s hottest young star; the man who we’d be hearing about for years to come.

I landed at the booth of Daron Norwood.

The year was 1994, and Daron was a 29-year-old hunk (I have no problem saying that. He was a truly dashing guy) whose self-titled debut album was all over the country charts. I approached, asked if he’d mind me shadowing him for a few hours. The guy was cool about it, and—clearly—flattered. I liked him immediately. Very flamboyant, very interactive. If I recall correctly, he had recently broken a leg, and was on crutches, hopping left, hopping right. The women absolutely loved him—kisses on the cheeks, pinches, hugs. It was something to behold, and my story raved of this young dude with a hot song (“Cowboys Don’t Cry” and a world of talent. I was psyched at the idea of, decades later, telling people, “I wrote the first in-depth Daron Norwood profile.”

It’s 2013. I wrote the first in-depth Daron Norwood profile.

And, perhaps, the last.

Like so many phenoms in sports and music and politics, Daron vanished. His music was sorta meh. He supposedly had drinking problems. Blah, blah, blah. Whatever the case, a kid who seemed to possess all the virtues of a star failed to last. I actually called him several months ago about doing a Quaz. We exchanged messages, then it all faded away. Tonight I found the above video. Something about it struck me as painfully sad. He looks old, and his wardrobe is schlubby. The room seems empty. The club seems shitty. He’s playing a keyboard, with digital music apparently piped in. On the bright side, he’s still at it. That’s cool.

But it’s not what I expected.

Not what he expected, either.