Also Credited As:Sam Smith, Samuel Timothy Smith
|Samuel Timothy Smith on May 1, 1967 in Delhi, Louisiana, USA|
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He was born Samuel Timothy McGraw in Delhi, LA on May 1, 1967, to Betty Ann D'Agostino, an 18-year-old high school student who had become pregnant out of wedlock while living in Jacksonville, FL. Fearful of the scandal, D'Agostino's parents sent her to Louisiana to be with relatives for the birth. Resettling in Start, LA, she married truck driver Horace Smith seven months after Tim's arrival, and they raised the child to believe Smith was his biological father. McGraw developed an appreciation of country music while riding with Smith on his delivery routes through the region's rustic, impoverished countryside, so reflective of his family's own meager means. He also showed an early affinity for athletics - particularly baseball - and at age 11, discovered an unusual connection to the sport. Looking through his mother's closet to find pictures for a school project, he found his birth certificate, which listed his surname as McGraw. He approached his mother, who finally came clean: his father was Frank Edwin "Tug" McGraw, Jr., whom she had met when he was a pitcher for the minor league Jacksonville Suns baseball team in 1966, and with whom she had a brief affair, resulting in her hidden pregnancy. Notorious for his libertine lifestyle, McGraw had since become a successful relief pitcher, first for the New York Mets, then the Philadelphia Phillies. Betty took her son to meet his birth father, but Tug McGraw denied paternity. The youngster sent his father letters throughout his adolescence, but they went unanswered. He won a baseball scholarship to Northeast Louisiana University in nearby Monroe and wrote his father again, asking for help with other college costs and sharing his intent to eventually earn a law degree. By one account, the elder McGraw agreed, but, presumably thinking the entire affair a grift, did so on the condition that neither Tim nor Betty contact him again. Upon meeting his now-grown son, however, Tug admitted the obvious resemblance, and acceded to a continuing relationship.
In college, McGraw would supplement sports with a growing interest in music, buying a guitar and starting to sing with a local band. He also joined a fraternity, developed an affinity for beer, and as a result, admitted years later that he had let his studies go. He followed his mother back to Jacksonville, briefly attending community college there, but in 1989, he decided to give music a shot and moved to Nashville. McGraw did his time in starter clubs and made a demo, which he sent to his father, who had connections with a friend at Curb Records. Curb signed McGraw in 1991, but his eponymous first album - which presented him done up in the Nashville-groomed faux-"outlaw" style of the time, with broad-brimmed cowboy hat, thin western mustache and mullet - fared poorly. The look would match his early music: largely tepid, overwrought ballads, and mild-mannered honky tonk, all written by other songwriters and produced and instrumented by professional musicians in glossy Nashville fashion. In 1994, he scored five hits off his second record Not a Moment Too Soon, one of them, "Indian Outlaw," stirring the ire of Native American groups for its clumsy stereotyping. The album nevertheless proved to be McGraw's breakthrough, charting for 26 weeks on Billboard's country music chart and topping the genre in sales for the year. It also earned McGraw the Academy of Country Music's Album of the Year award. His follow-up record, All I Want, went multi-platinum the following year, highlighted by the commercial-friendly chart-topping hit "I Like It, I Love It." Also in 1995, he met beautiful country songstress, Faith Hill. Hitting it off like a house on fire, the photogenic couple toured together throughout the next year in the appropriately titled Spontaneous Combustion Tour. By the time the tour wound down, the relationship had evolved into more than just a professional one. They wed in the fall, becoming major magazine fodder in the process.
Under fashion-plate Hill's influence, McGraw would become even more of a cover boy. He modernized his image, trimmed his hair and opted for a goatee, his clothes darker-hued, designer-labeled and tighter to show off his increasingly buff build - affecting the look that would later prompt haute couture magazine W to dub him the first country music "metrosexual." He and Hill had the first of three daughters the next year, and they cemented the nuptials in the public eye on McGraw's 1997 album, Everywhere, the first hit single of which was a duet by the couple, "It's Your Love," which again topped the country charts, crossed over to the pop charts, and was nominated for Best Country Vocal Collaboration and Best Country Song at the 1998 Grammy Awards. The next year, their follow-up duet off Hill's album Faith, "Just to Hear You Say That You Love Me," won them the Academy of Country Music Award for vocal collaboration. McGraw's roll continued with the triple-platinum 1999 album A Place In the Sun, which netted him CMA awards for Top Male Vocalist and Album. On a definite critical and popular roll, his smash Hill duet "Let's Make Love," off her Breathe album would win them the Grammy for Best Country Vocal Collaboration in early 2000, even as they embarked upon the tandem Soul2Soul Tour of 64 arenas across the U.S. - the stop in Buffalo proving eventful when McGraw and fellow crooner Kenny Chesney ran afoul of the law when Chesney tried to mount a police horse and McGraw tried to intercede when cops tried to arrest him. The next year, his winning record continued with Set This Circus Down, four singles from which would top the Billboard country chart. Emboldened, he broke with Nashville orthodoxy to make his next record, eschewing studio hands in favor of his road band, the Dancehall Doctors, on the aptly named album Tim McGraw and the Dancehall Doctor, with its top single "Real Good Man" once again topping country charts.
In 2003, Tug McGraw was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. He defied doctors' prognoses, living another nine months, spending his final days in a guest-cabin on Tim and Faith's Tennessee estate, dying in early 2004. The younger McGraw dedicated his next record, Live Like You Were Dying, to his father; the title track in particular -the story of a dying middle-aged man who takes on adventures he always wanted to do and treats people better - framed as an homage to Tug's carpe diem lifestyle, though written by songwriters Tim Nichols and Craig Wiseman. An accompanying music video showed footage of the elder McGraw pitching the final strike of the Phillies' 1980 World Series win, and the song would go on to win the CMA's accolade for top single of 2004. It also proved a multimedia breakout year, with McGraw teaming up with rap artist Nelly on the solemn ballad "Over and Over," which would vault them to the top of pop, rap and adult contemporary radio formats; and making his first appearance in features films. He played a rural sheriff in the indie drama "Black Cloud" (2004) and, in the high school football opus "Friday Night Lights" (2004), raised critical eyebrows as an emotionally abusive redneck father attempting to relive his glory days through his son. McGraw's affiliation with football would continue as the next year he would be asked to adapt "I Like It, I Love It" to "Monday Night Football" (ABC/ESPN, 1970- ) with different iterations of the song with lyrics specific to the top highlights of each week's NFL games, and he also took a minority ownership position in the Nashville franchise of the NFL's developmental minor league, the Arena Football League.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina's destruction of the U.S. Gulf Coast in August 2005, McGraw and Hill became two of the more outspoken stars in the entertainment community's response to the disaster. Though the couple had largely maintained non-specific political beliefs in the public eye, the federal government's calamitous mismanagement of the relief of New Orleans prompted Hill and McGraw to break with Nashville tradition and risk alienation of their Red State fandom as they publicly derided the sitting Republican president, George W. Bush, only a few years after the industry and country radio declared The Dixie Chicks persona non grata for their dissent against the Iraq war. In the spring of 2006, the couple embarked on their Soul2Soul II Tour, a 55-city circuit that would take in revenues of $89 million and become the top-grossing country music tour ever; they would donate the profits from the New Orleans stop to Katrina relief funds. The year 2006 also saw McGraw score his first feature film lead with "Flicka," based on the Mary O'Hara children's book My Friend Flicka, in which he played a headstrong rancher forced to accommodate his differences with his adolescent daughter as she comes of age by way of domesticating a wild mustang. McGraw, who executive produced the film's soundtrack and contributed the track "My Little Girl," again won generally positive reviews. He returned to movies the next year with a small part in the political actioner, "The Kingdom" (2007), in between releasing his 11th album Let It Go and supporting it with another tour with Hill, followed by his first solo tour in years, starting in May 2008.
It was on that latter trip, when during a July show in Auburn, WA, that McGraw made headlines by personally intervening in a scuffle in his audience after witnessing a man hit a woman. McGraw then assisted security in yanking the instigator up onto the stage and seeing him forcibly ejected before continuing the song. Also in 2008, he inked a deal with fragrance-maker Coty to market cologne, dubbed "McGraw by Tim McGraw." In October, he made an appearance at game 3 of the 2008 World Series in the Philadelphia Phillies' new home, Citizen's Bank Park, where he spread some of his father's ashes on the pitcher's mound. Off the Red State fence since Hurricane Katrina, the famous couple publicly supported Barack Obama in the 2008 U.S. presidential election. A year later, McGraw netted his most prominent movie role to date in "The Blind Side," the true story of Michael Oher, a homeless African-American teenager adopted by a wealthy white family in Memphis, TN, headed by an amicable Christian couple (McGraw and Sandra Bullock) - both of whom help turn around his scholastic career and realize his potential to play football. Bullock went on to win the Best Actress Academy Award, which brought even more attention to the feel-good film. Continuing an unrelenting stream of successful projects in every genre, McGraw released his next album, Southern Comfort, in October 2009.