Earlier today I was informed of the death of Daron Norwood, a country singer who, in the early 1990s, sat on the verge of stardom. He was good looking, energetic and talented, and two of his songs (Cowboys Don’t Cry and If It Wasn’t for Her, I Wouldn’t Have You) reached the Top 40. I posted news of his passing on Twitter and, to my dismay, nobody seemed to care. Or remember.
But I do.
Back in June 1994, I was a brand new, out-of-college features writer for The Tennessean, and my editor assigned me to profile someone we deemed to be a hot new star in the genre. Hence, I was sent out to Fan Fair, the annual Nashville country music festival, and told to spend a few hours with Norwood, who would be signing autographs and posing for pictures in his designated booth.
I did as I was instructed—and loved it. I immediately understood what the fuss was about. Despite having one leg in a large cast (he’d suffered a bone contusion while leaping from a stage in Wichita Falls, Texas), Norwood was a bundle of energy. Kissing. Hugging. Poking. Prodding. “I’m 40 and in absolute love with him,” a woman named Delaine Jones told me. “I would go out on a date with him in a second. He’s incredible.” Upon returning to my empty apartment, I took the small Daron Norwood photo someone had handed me and stuck it to the wall. He was, in a sense, the first celebrity I’d known, and I decided to keep a watch on his destined-to-be-marvelous career …
Alas, destiny is funny. Daron Norwood never became a true star. He quit chasing the dream in 1995, explaining to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal that alcoholism had ruined him, and that he was downing between 20 and 25 shots of Jack Daniels per night. My promise to keep a watch on Norwood was forgotten, though every so often I’d do a Google search to see if anything new popped up. The news—if there were any—rarely read well. In 2008 he was arrested for allegedly beating his wife. A year later, Norwood agreed to speak to students at Panhandle High (in Panhandle, Texas) on the dangers of drug addiction. Instead, according to a news report, he, “spent nearly two hours shouting at students and faculty, running around the gym, using inappropriate language, playing music and that he barely spoke on the subject of drug abuse. A teacher finally pulled a fire alarm to get students out of the gym, and police were called to ask him to leave the school.”
I did a YouTube search for Daron, and the stuff I found was, well, heartbreaking. The man once deemed a future star was, in 2012, performing outside of a Texas bar called Garcia’s, playing keyboard, dressed sloppily. You can hear people chattering in the background. My guess is there are, oh, 20 folks in attendance. Maybe less.
Last year, I actually tracked Daron down and asked, via Facebook, if he’d like to do a Quaz Q&A. I reminded him of my Tennessean profile, which he said he remembered. He told me in a long voice message that he felt God had put us back together, and we should definitely do the interview. Alas, I got busy, kind of forget, then definitely forgot. About four months ago, I left Daron a message, apologizing for the lengthy delay, but telling him I was ready and excited.
I never heard back; never heard another word about Daron Norwood. Until today, when a friend of his told me he had died.
Daron Norwood was 49.
To me, he’s never been the faded has-been with the dreams gone bust.
Nope, he’s that kid with the leg cast and the big smile.
To me, he’s a star.