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Trace Adkins and Darryl Worley are livin' large on their Big Men Of Country tour

Story by David Scarlett - Photo by Tim Campbell

As Darryl climbs aboard his bus near Nashville's Grand Ole Opry House, he's got mixed feelings about the night's trip to Pennsylvania. He'll enjoy working again with Trace Adkins, his Big Men Of Country Music-Size Does Matter tourmate. But Darryl hates leaving town this evening before the Opry's second show, on which he's unable to perform because of his tour timetable.

"I don't want to be one of those artists who performs on the televised segment, then doesn't stay to play the untelevised late show," declares Darryl, a country traditionalist through and through. "But it just couldn't be helped tonight if we're going to get to the Pennsylvania show in time."

The folks at the Opry have assured Darryl they understand, so as the bus pulls out and he changes clothes, he concentrates on making the 800-mile ride pass as pleasantly as possible. Fortunately, that's something he and his band know how to do!

"We party on the bus a little bit and try to lighten the load," he smiles as the miles speed by outside the window. "I tell you, as much as we travel, if I just sat there and watched the road go by, they'd have to commit me. So we lighten it up. There's a lot of craziness that comes out of it."

Indeed, there is. Some of it's planned, like the George Carlin comedy tapes that keep everyone onboard in stitches. And there are the spontaneous moments.

"Whooooahhhhh!!" cries Darryl in his best Jackie Chan, martial-arts voice. Without warning, the 6-foot-6-inch singer - that's 1.3 Little Jimmy Dickenses in Opry terms - springs up on the sofas on either side of the aisle and strikes a towering, dramatic pose. His longtime buddy and new road manager, John Michael Davis, makes a similar move, facing Darryl in a hilarious East-meets-country showdown. It only lasts 20 seconds and ends as quickly as it begins, leaving onlookers roaring with laughter.

"Damn, it's cold in here!" laughs a first-time passenger who's reaching for a hooded sweatshirt. "You could hang meat in this bus!"

Darryl admits it's a little chilly, but says there's a good reason for it. "It's healthier having it cool. When we warmed it up for a few weeks, people started gettin' sick. Since we've kept it cool, everybody's been healthy."

While there's no meat hanging on the bus this night, Darryl recalls a night there could've been. "Our bus hit a deer last year," declares Darryl. "And when I finally realized what was goin' on, my drummer, Dana, was already out there startin' to dress it. I had a brand-new Gerber knife, so I went out to help him.

"A state trooper came along and asked what was goin' on. We told him we'd hit this buck and were gonna take the meat with us. And he said, 'Let me turn my spotlight over here where you can see.' So we got the meat and put it in a big garbage bag filled with ice.

"The trooper asked us where we were from. When we answered 'Tennessee,' he said, 'I should've guessed that. You don't see this every night!'"

Darryl still laughs when he tells the story. It's just one more reason he's in a good mood. The others? His I Miss My Friend album hit the country charts at No. 1 and the title cut also went to the top of the charts - a first for Darryl. His current single, "Family Tree," is taking off like a rocket and he's nominated for a CMA Horizon Award.

Plus, the Big Men Of Country shows with Trace are going great.

"The first time I met Trace, I felt like he was somebody I could relate to," proclaims Darryl. "You can tell he grew up country. With him, what you see is what you get.

"I'd like to think I'm like that too."