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I had 25 shots of Jack Daniel's a night on my last three drinkin' days - third, fourth and fifth of November in 1995," recalls Daron Norwood with the passion of someone who knows he's lucky to be alive. "And on my knees I cried out, 'God, I gotta do something - or die.' "
So he did something.
The Texas preacher's boy who came to Nashville in 1988 and slept in his truck for three years before scoring his mid-'90s hit, "If It Wasn't For Her, I Wouldn't Have You," called it quits.
"I didn't quit on life," declares Daron. "But I quit the bus, I quit the band, I quit the record deal, quit the shows, the alcohol, the drugs. I quit it all with a phone call to my then-manager saying, 'I'm done. And I do mean done - with it all.'
"I hung up the phone. And with that, I looked at my fiancee, Kim, and with tears streaming down my face, I said, 'I feel so empty. I'll probably never sing again.' I felt as low as you could go. At that moment right there, she said, 'You will.' "
And Kim, now Daron's wife, was right.
Sober since that night in 1995, he is singing again - better than ever. He's written a batch of new tunes, some with Kim, has a new management team and is talking with producers and labels about his next recording project. And while he'd like to have more hits and play big shows again like his buddies Kenny Chesney and Tracy Lawrence, he's got additional motivation.
In 1997, Daron founded Keep It Straight, a drug, alcohol and violence program designed to help children and young adults make the right decisions in life. (The program's website is keepitstraight.org.)
Daron still performs at clubs and corporate events throughout the country but also takes time to visit dozens of schools a year, speaking to 400,000 kids since 1999. He sings for them and tells the story of how his dreams were derailed by alcohol and drugs, and how, with the help of God, his wife and his family, he's turned his life around.
"Everything's different now," he smiles.
"Our whole motto with the program is 'Change One Heart, Change One Moment,' " declares Daron. "That's why I'm praying that God gives me this career back. Because I have hopes and dreams of getting some sponsors and doing the program with the big school systems. I've been doing it door to door - me and my wife - in every West Texas school from La Mesa to Nazareth, without a song on the radio. And we're ready to bust it open!
"Through my music, I can let people know there is a country singer out here who cares about them. There's a guy who's trying to do it different. And trying to be ... not perfect, but the best he can be.
"And I'm trying to keep it straight. That's it, brother."
-- David Scarlett