Like singing sisters Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer (who witnessed their alcoholic father kill their mother), singer-songwriter Jimmy Wayne is a walking country song -- the messed-up Merle Haggard kind, that is. He saw his stepfather shoot his stepsister three times, leaving her paralyzed. His mother was imprisoned (for what, no one wants to say publicly).Wayne spent his youth in and out of foster homes and was, albeit briefly, homeless.
Born in Kings Mountain, North Carolina, Wayne joined his mother in the church choir, something that would later inspire him. When his mom was sent to prison when he was 12, he began writing songs as therapy. He eventually fell into lawlessness himself, collecting marijuana seeds from local dealers, mixing them with vegetable leaves and selling them as "joints." A year after that, Wayne survived an attempt by his stepfather to kill him. (He pushed his father's arm just before the gun went off.) Despite his hard-knock life, he found a job on the right side of the law as a prison guard after high school. At one point, he had to escort one of his foster brothers, as described in the song "Blue and Brown," from his self-titled debut for DreamWorks.
His fledgling country career landed him the hit "Stay Gone," a painful story of his sister trying to leave an abusive relationship. It doesn't appear that Wayne is going anywhere unlawful or harrowing anytime soon. He's gone from wayward child to a different kind of hell -- opening for the Charlie Daniels Band in front of 7,000 fans at the Grand Ole Opry.
Celebrity Theatre, 440 North 32nd Street
Scheduled to perform with Sara Evans on Sunday, September 7. Doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets are $25 to $45. Call 602-267-1600 for more information.