Hollywood/Nashville/New York - Thanks to Grand Ole Opry management, and TNN'S Prime Time Country, Houston, Texas' teenage singing sensation, Jennifer LeClere has made her mark on country music during Fan Fair this past week. By standing alongside the great acts of the Grand Ole Opry, in a performance that brought tears to the eyes of hundreds of Fan Fair participants that crushed the stage to get up close to her as she sang, Jennifer LeClere sang her way into the hearts of millions via WSM radio this week.
The teenager, who does volunteer work with handicapped children and sings country music on the weekends, has risen from the midway of Houston's Livestock and Rodeo circuit to take the Grand Ole Opry stage with the most famous stars of the country music world. Her Fan Fair schedule looked like the kind you'd expect from a major label superstar. TNN's Country Music News did a feature documentary on her on Thursday, her first Grand Ole Opry, appearance was on Friday and Saturday night, headlined American Country Showcases television show on Sunday night, autographs all day long at the Country Music Association's Fan Fair on Monday, country radio interviews all day on Tuesday and capped the week with an appearance on TNN's Prime Time Country on Wednesday night with her pals from Diamond Rio and Mark Chesnutt.
TNN's Country Music News documentary highlighted the teenager's desire to sing. When she was only sixteen years old, she took a microphone and a little speaker...waded through cow manure up to her ankles to sing the country sounds she loved more than anything else in the world. Unnoticed for two years...the horses, bulls, and cowboys went by her at a gallop, with manure flying in all directions. "A lot of cow manure wound up on my shoes, stockings, and my dress," Jennifer said. Her complete devotion to country music did not go unnoticed forever. Tracy Lawrence and Doug Stone brought her from the midway to open for them at the Astrodome in Houston in front of 48,000 people. She caught the eye of country music producer, Robert Metzgar, whose first project on the crystal blue-eyed beautiful Texan got her voted the Cashbox Magazine Female Vocalist of the Year for two years in a row and two Top-40 Hot Country Single record releases in a row.
When asked this week on TNN's Prime Time Country by guest host, Katie Haas, about the lonely little stage she began on in Houston, she replied to the millions of network fans who were watching, that she simply had to "watch her step while she was singing." Billed between Diamond Rio and Mark Chesnutt, on the network's most prestigious show, the live audience went absolutely wild over her. It was the single greatest show of affection that I've ever seen an audience give a newcomer in my 30 years as a music critic. The moment Jack Green introduced her on the Grand Ole Opry stage, there was a stampede of people to the front of the stage.
The applause was thunderous from the crowd and it swelled to a frenzy by the time she was finished. Backstage, Jennifer saluted Jean Shepard and Jeanie Pruett as her favorite Opry performers. She took special time to thank Carol Lee and Nora Lee Allen for their "angelic harmonies," on her first song ever performed on the Grand Ole Opry stage. In the dressing room backstage, Jennifer kissed Jeanie Seely's dog right on the face like a long, lost friend. Jennifer loves animals and spent a lot of time talking to Jeanie Seely about her special pet.
When Jack Green asked who had helped her get to Nashville, Jennifer replied that legendary talent agent, Billy Deaton, Bob Whittaker, and Debra Brawner had been instrumental in her getting a chance to sing on the Grand Ole Opry. "This opportunity for me would have never been possible without a lot of very precious people. I'm humbled and thankful to them and to the Lord for each door that has opened for me in Nashville and trust that more will open for me in the future," Jennifer said as she left the stage.
The autograph lines stretched all the way back to the Cumberland river for her this week as she patiently stayed and signed autographs for every hungry country fan at Fan Fair. Garth Brooks taught me one great lesson, the Texas teenager said. "If you never forget to give all you've got to your fans, then they'll never forget to give all they've got in return." I stayed until the last fan got their autograph. If I have to, I'll be back tomorrow morning and continue to sign the autographs for the people who have supported me here and at country radio. As a singer, I owe my success to the wonderful people who spend a lot of hours behind those consoles playing those records. I am the product of country radio loyalty and I feel fortunate that radio's involved with my single release. I don't ever want to stop thanking each and every country radio station that has taken the time to get acquainted with my music.
Dene Hallam, the program director of 93Q in Houston has been one of the greatest encouragements to me as a performer and singer. He and Leon Beck, the editor and publisher of the 93Q Magazine in Houston, have helped me to gain the recognition in country music's number one radio market. As a publisher, I got to see a lot of people this week at Fan Fair. No one impressed me as much as Jennifer LeClere. There's something pure, strong, and yet innocent about her. She's dedicated to country music. With more of these type role models in the business, the sales of country music in the teenage demographic will skyrocket. Jennifer, you have made Houston, Texas and country music really proud of you this week here in Nashville. My hat's off to you and your wonderful parents, Gary and Claudette LeClere. You've raised a pure-bred country girl and she's the greatest!
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