After our show “In the Heat of the Night” went off the air, I was looking for an opportunity to move on to another show.
There were not many opportunities for Southern actors at that time, “Walker, Texas Ranger” was on the air, comedian Brett Butler had a Southern base sit-com called “Grace Under Fire.” My friend and co-star Alan Autry eventually found opportunities with both. I was hopeful that I might find an opening with another talented Southerner who was seeing his sit-com revamped for ABC – Jeff Foxworthy.
As timing would have it, Jeff and I were both appearing for the CMA and the Grand Ole Opry at Country Music Fan Fair in 1996 and I had the opportunity to talk with Jeff about his new series and he suggested I contact his casting director in Los Angeles and audition. He was even kind enough to write down her contact info for me.
While I was in Los Angeles, I was doing some Appalachian and American music tutoring for the youth on “Grace Under Fire” and was invited to do the same for the young actors starring on “The Jeff Foxworthy Show.”
Jeff took the time to meet with me while I was there, and though there wasn’t a regular role that I fit in the show, he still made me feel like I was at home. Jeff shared me his hope would be to film a show in Georgia like we did.
Flash-forward 19 years, I am sitting up front a couple of tables over from Jeff Foxworthy and his family at the Georgia Music Hall of Fame Awards in Atlanta, Ga.
I listened to his childhood friend, who made the presentation, describe the Jeff he knew – a man concerned more with helping others and being there for his family than someone chasing a bigger star. As I listened, that was the Jeff that I came to know in those two visits nearly 20 years ago.
As I saw him walk to the microphone to accept the induction, I once again saw beyond the lovable Southern comedian and star we all have come to know throughout his amazing career, to see that kind, considerate man, who volunteers at the Atlanta Mission, a fellow Georgian who took the time to be interested in my life and that of my folks years before.
He has become the largest-selling comedy-recording artist in history. He hosted, produced and written numerous TV shows including “Blue Collar TV,” and the “Blue Collar Comedy Tour” films. He also voices characters for film such as “The Fox and Hound 2,” “Racing Stripes,” and ”The Smurfs.”
While all these are great accomplishments, his greatest ones were sitting around him at the awards, his beautiful family that he chose to make the center of his world forsaking opportunities so they could all be together in Georgia.
I encourage you; if you do not already know about my old friend, check out these websites to learn more about his entertainment career and his other interests – http://www.jefffoxworthy.com/ and http://www.foxworthyoutdoors.com/.
Jeff joins Lady Antebellum, Ed Roland, Wet Willie, Francine Reed, Wally Fowler, Danny Beard, Bobby Byrd, Sean Costello, Frank Fenter, and Eddie Horst as this year’s inductees.