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He heals his past publicity with the hit "If Heaven" - and embraces his future privately with a hush-hush wedding.

Andy Griggs' mama, Barbara Knight, calls it "The Song." It's the song she wants to hear more than any of her son's other hits. The one she always makes him sing sitting directly in front of her, beginning with Andy softly strumming the guitar-and ending with both of them in tears. "If Heaven" is the song Andy was ready to defend to the end had his record label told him he couldn't record it.

The mere mention of the song title makes Andy shift uncomfortably in his chair, his throat becoming tight. Even though he's fighting it, this manly man-who, like his hero Waylon Jennings, calls every guy "Hoss"-feels his eyes well up with tears. "This song changed my life," states Andy. "You know, when you record a song and you say, 'I hope it touches somebody out there'? . . . Man, it already had. It touched me. The song screamed through my soul."

Written by Gretchen Peters-best known for penning the Martina McBride rafter-raiser "Independence Day"-"If Heaven," from Andy's This I Gotta See CD, attempts to define the afterlife with those little moments of everyday life that are often taken for granted. The opening verse paints a Norman Rockwell portrait of domestic bliss:

If heaven was an hour, it would be twilight
When the fireflies start dancing on the lawn
And supper's on the stove and mama's laughing
And everybody's working day is done

Andy's early years were marked with tragedy. When he was 10, his father, Darrell Griggs-who schooled his sons on the genius of Merle Haggard-died from heart failure. Andy's 14-year-old musician brother Mason became the family's father figure, and Andy's personal hero. Eight years later, Mason had a fatal heart attack in his college classroom. "Everybody deals with [death] differently," reasons Andy. Andy dealt with the double blow the only way he knew how.

"God. My mama. Music. That's when music really took a hold of my life. I started leaning on my brother's music and my daddy's record collection. Then, obviously, starting to learn how to play guitar myself. I'd stay up all night long playing."

Not long after making his way to Nashville, Andy scored a monster smash with his debut single, "You Won't Ever Be Lonely." Other hits followed, including "I'll Go Crazy," "She's More" and "Tonight I Wanna Be Your Man."

Andy was moved the first time he heard "If Heaven." The demo was a simple performance without bells and whistles, just a voice and an acoustic guitar. But it evoked powerful memories and sparked an instant connection.

- Wendy Newcomer

To read more about Andy Griggs' new CD and secret wedding, pick up the new Country Weekly on newsstands now!