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Local country musician's star rising

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 By BOB LEICHNER

Special to the Citizen

While award-winning, chart-topping, Mercury Records recording artist Easton Corbin may have grown up and attended schools in Gilchrist County, his travels on the road to stardom actually started across the Suwannee River in Dixie County. 

Corbin will be performing a homecoming-of-sorts show at Florida Gateway College (formerly Lake City Community College) in Lake City on Aug. 17 as part of FGC Entertainment’s inaugural season.

The story Corbin tells on his website (eastoncorbin.com) is that his first musical “instrument” was the gearshift on his daddy’s truck – used as a microphone. He thoroughly enjoyed listening to music growing up, but that interest turned towards performing, when at the age of 15, he began formal guitar instruction with PeeWee Melton at Dixie Music Center in Old Town. Before retiring to Steinhatchee, Melton was an accomplished songwriter, producer and session player having worked with “Hee Haw” star Vickie Bird, Toy Caldwell of the Marshall Tucker Band and is credited with being hugely instrumental in helping launch the career of Aaron Tippin. Melton taught guitar at Dixie Music Center until his tragic passing in March of 2000. Dixie Music Center is owned and operated by Old Town residents, Bob and Dotti Leichner.

About the same time Corbin was studying guitar under Melton, he was introduced to another student who was looking for a lead guitar player. Jamey King, lead singer and bassist of the Steel Bridge Band from Cross City, was also taking guitar from Melton. Although they were relatively young and new to the music business, they put a band together and even won a contest or two.

Corbin holds the distinction of being the first male solo country recording artist since 1993 to have his first two releases go to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. In 2010, he was also winner of the “New/Breakthrough Artist of the Year” by the American Country Awards. He was named the "Top New Solo Vocalist" by the Academy of Country Music Awards in 2011.

Opening the Aug. 17 show will be Corbin’s former band mate, Jamey King and his group, Steel Bridge. Show starts at 7 p.m., with Easton taking the stage at 8:15. More information is available by calling 386-754-4340.