Ocean City native Jimmy Charles is pursuing his dream of topping the charts as a country music singer in Nashville and making an impact in the fight against prostate cancer
Born James Krabbe, Jimmy Charles is an Eastern Shore boy whose star is definitely on the rise. In addition
to being named Top 50 on USA Network’s Nashville Star, he made it to Hollywood and garnered praise from none other than Simon Cowell himself on season nine of American Idol. Heavily involved with charity work, Jimmy recently sat down with CSM to discuss subjects that ranged from football, music and Nashville to the fight against prostate cancer, his dad and how much he misses home.
Where were you raised?
In the Ocean City-Berlin area. I graduated from Stephen Decatur High School.
We read that you attended Towson University and played football there. What position did you play?
I played linebacker and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications.
Who’s your favorite NFL linebacker of all time?
It’s gotta be Ray Lewis. First, I’m a huge Ravens fan. Second, he played with so much heart and passion. Third, he loved to hit, which I did, too. My nickname on the team was “Crash” because I loved to hit so much.
I also am a fan of Zach Thomas because, like me, he’s 5’11”, which is short for a linebacker, yet he was an All-Pro.
Is there anything you took from football that has helped you in your music career?
I’d say toughness. People who aren’t in the industry can’t possibly imagine how tough it is if you don’t have lots of money or know someone. I went down to Nashville with nothing and knowing no one. Making it in this industry is the toughest thing I’ve ever had to do — including football.
That toughness has really come especially handy now, because I lost my dad and grandfather last year, and I really miss home. I miss my family and my friends, and I really hate having to be away so much.
How old was your dad when he passed?
He was young. He was 67. He died of congestive heart failure.
Was he responsible in any way for your love of music?
Absolutely. He bought me my first guitar and taught me the rudiments of country music and three chords I needed to get started. We’d sit around in the living room and play songs together. Those were good times.
When did your first realize you might be pretty good at this?
I’d have to say the first indication was when I was in middle school. I was in chorus, and my teacher, Ms. Thomas, pulled me aside one day and said, “You’re gonna be a star someday.” I’d dismissed it at the time because it seemed too outrageous, but I think maybe that stayed with me on some level.
When did you realize that you wanted to make music your life’s work?
A long time ago, I was in my friend Ernie Listman’s wedding party, and I’d written a song for the mother-son dance titled “Mom, I love you.” Well, Ernie’s mom had been struggling with MS, so it was a particularly poignant situation. The response to the song — all the tears and heartfelt gratitude — made me realize that I could touch people with my music, and that’s a feeling nothing else in my life has ever matched.
Who are your music heroes?
Hmm… I’d say Tom Petty, Willie Nelson, George Strait, Vince Gill and early Tim McGraw.
Who would you most like to sing a duet with?
Dolly Parton. Stay classic, I say.
Who’s your secret country-music crush?
[Laughs] I guess Carrie Underwood — before she got married.
Your dad must have been proud to see you make it to Hollywood on ‘American Idol.’
Oh, hell yeah. He started calling me “Hollywood” after that. That was important to both him and me. But this journey I’m on now just isn’t the same without him here to share it. I wish I could just hug him one more time and maybe give him a high-five.
What’s is your favorite city or venue to perform in — or do we even need to ask?
[Laughing] You don’t. It’s Ocean City, of course! But I really mean that. The crowds are pretty cool everywhere, but there is nothing like the love and support you feel from your own hometown crowd. They’re your strength and your reality. You know that whatever else may happen in life, they love you and are there for you. You can’t put a price on that. When I played before Merle Haggard at Sunfest in 2013, the autograph line was two-hours long. What an incredible feeling.
You definitely seem to miss home.
Every single day. There’s no place I’ve ever been — and I’ve been so many places in the country at this point — that’s like the Eastern Shore. It’s got a completely unique atmosphere; there’s really no place else like it. I love the ocean, and I love the people.
I still daydream about those summer days when my friends and I would go out on my rickety 18-foot pontoon boat — which I named She Floats, because that’s just about all she was able to do. I remember it had a red-carpet floor that had been bleached pink by the sun, and we used to go out on the water and talk and laugh, and I’d play the guitar sometimes.
How’d you get involved with the fight against prostate cancer?
Actually, it turns out that some of the people at one of the premier urological clinics in the state — Chesapeake Urology in Baltimore — followed my work and invited me to join the campaign and write a song. Funny thing is, they basically asked if I’d be willing to write a song encouraging men to get their prostates checked, and I’m like, [laughing] “What? How do you write a song about that?” But it resulted in the song “Superman,” which I co-wrote with Goose Gossett and Phil Shulka, who is a stage 3, Gleason 10 survivor of prostate cancer. He actually beat it and is in remission now.
What else do you think is important to know about prostate cancer?
Men need to get checked, even if they feel like Superman, — which is what the song is about — because prostate cancer really has no warning signs. But just as important, even though prostate cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death among men in the United States, the survival rate is at least 98 percent if it’s detected early.
The real underlying tragedy is that way too many men in the United States avoid going to the doctor because they’ve been led to believe it’s somehow unmanly or something. But the truth is, every man owes it to his loved ones to take the responsibility to make sure he’s in good health. I want every man to know that, because if they all did, then maybe I’d still have my father today.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men, except for skin cancer. This year, an estimated 220,800 men in the United States will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Currently there are nearly 2.8 million American men living with the disease – roughly equal to the population of Chicago. Most prostate cancers (93%) are found when the disease is confined to the prostate and nearby organs.
Prostate cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in men in the United States. It is estimated that 27,540 deaths from this disease will occur this year. Although the number of deaths from prostate cancer continues to decline among all men, the death rate remains more than twice as high in black men than any other group.
Overall, most men who develop prostate cancer (99%) are expected to live at least five years after diagnosis. Ninety-eight percent (98%) are alive after 10 years, and 94% live for at least 15 years.
However, for men diagnosed with prostate cancer that has spread to other parts of the body, the five-year survival rate drops to 28%. A man’s individual survival depends on the type of prostate cancer and the stage of the disease.
Education about prostate cancer risk and testing is part of a routine annual exam with a man’s physician. A general practitioner or an urologist can perform a full prostate cancer exam.
Gentlemen: Schedule your next prostate exam today because “You ain’t Superman.”
Editor’s Note: Jimmy Charles’ “Superman” video debuted worldwide Sept. 1, 2015 on CMT.com. It is the official anthem of ZERO CANCER, which is dedicated to the eradication of prostate cancer. Jimmy encourages people to learn more by visiting ZeroCancer.org and JimmyCharlesMusic.com.
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