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Six years ago, Deryl Dodd saw life strictly from the down side. Shortly after cracking the charts with "That's How I Got to Memphis" and "A Bitter End," Deryl battled with his record label, went through a divorce and suffered a rare, near-fatal disease.
But these days things are looking up.
Deryl moved from Nashville back to his native Texas two years ago and has just released a new CD, Stronger Proof. "Yeah, it's starting to happen again!" Deryl says with enthusiasm. "I've been doing a lot of interviews and radio station visits, and got a lot of great response and feedback. I've been outside the radar screen for quite a while. People didn't really know what had happened to me."
What happened was a string of unlikely, and certainly catastrophic, events, although it all seemed to start so perfectly. After coming to Nashville in 1991, Deryl landed a gig as lead guitarist for Martina McBride. A song publishing deal followed before he nailed the ultimate prize in 1996 - a major-label contract.
But the string unraveled just as quickly. Despite his radio hits and tours with Tim McGraw and Brooks & Dunn, Deryl never quite broke through to country stardom.
Then in 1999, he was diagnosed with viral encephalitis, a disease that attacks the central nervous system. "The doctors believed I'd recover," notes Deryl, "but I had to be confined to bed."
For six months Deryl could not move. "I tried to pick up a guitar once and my left hand just started shaking," he recalls. In all, Deryl spent almost two years in rehabilitation before regaining his motor skills.
Deryl got back to the Nashville club scene, but eventually split with his record label over his hard-driving, honky-tonk style. "I skirted on the edge," Deryl admits. "I became sort of a Music City maverick, and my dreams turned into a nightmare."
But the dream is returning. And he feels that Texas is the right territory for his brand of country.
"People there are really into live music," Deryl explains. "And that's what I do best. So, I have all the right reasons to be back here in Texas, musically and therapeutically."
With a smile, he adds, "This is home for me."
- LEON BECK