Idol winner pursues a dream

 Messenger photo by Jeff Pfeil

John Crabtree of Plain City says he is "as country as cornbread."

He felt comfortable singing "The Ride" by David Allen Coe and "Don’t Take It Away" by Conway Twitty, but he was forced to step out of his element to sing Stevie Ray Vaughn’s "Pride and Joy" and Billie Joel’s "Piano Man" to compete in the 2008 West Jefferson Ox Roast Idol contest. It was a step that changed his life.

After winning the contest that required performances in different genres, "doors began to open" he said. 

Crabtree started getting telephone calls to book performances; making plans for recording a CD; posing in costume with his guitar for a photo shoot; and dreaming of a tour bus big enough to accommodate his family and his wife’s golden retriever, Jake, and chocolate lab, Brutus.

"It’s a thousand emotions all wrapped into one," he said of the excitement and fear of the unknown. It feels strange to be thinking of himself when he has spent the last four years focused on his wife, Patty, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2004.

They had recently moved to West Virginia, where Patty’s parents live, when they learned of her illness.  She required so much care that Crabtree quit work to stay home with her for about two years before moving back to Ohio.

"We lost everything," he said, "our vehicles, our possessions, anything we could sell."  

They lived in a house owned by Patty’s father and survived on $384 a month in government aid, "the grace of God, and good people."

Outside of family, "everybody disappears but your true, true friends," he said of the hard times. Crabtree was determined that he would not allow Patty to be put in a nursing home.  

"She’s my best friend," he said.  "I took my vows seriously when I said ‘in sickness and in health.’"

He credits his wife with inspiring his musical career.


"My dad had a band, the ‘Gospel Melody Boys,’ that traveled around, but I never got into it," he said.  

It wasn’t until he met Patty, 19 years ago, that he thought about music.  

They were riding in a car and he started singing along with the Alabama song "Lady Down On Love" playing on

the radio.

"Patty looked at me and said,  ‘You ought to be singing,’" he said.

Crabtree put up ads in a Meijer store and started pulling together a band.

Country Comfort was their name. But the band was short-lived because children Christopher, 18 and Courtney, 16, came along and life with a family leaves not enough time for a career in country music. Now times have changed.  

"It seems overnight, but it’s been 19 years coming," he said.  

Winning the Idol contest gave him $1,000 cash and recording time with Paul Pollard Productions.

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