By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer
Country singer George Ducas was sitting pretty in the mid-90s.
He cowrote Radney Foster's breakout hit "Don't Call Me Lonesome," then his self-titled first album, released in 1994, spawned four singles — the first of which, "Teardrops," hit No. 38 on the charts, and the second, "Lipstick Promises," cracked the Top 10. He was poised for a breakout, riding along the wave caused by the Garth Brooks tsunami that took the genre to new heights.
But here's the thing about big waves: They leave a lot of folks drowned. Like Ducas.
Brooks signed to Capitol Records in 1989 and quickly became their biggest seller. So it's only natural that he and his team had a lot of sway inside the label's halls. But any time the "800 pound gorilla" got into a squabble with the label or even just wanted to reschedule something, that could leave smaller artists, like Ducas or Deana Carter, begging for attention.
"I started off with a bang under my initial regime, and sometime during that process of promoting the first record and finishing the second record, while touring all the while, there was a lot of upheval there," said Ducas, a Houston-area native. "I dont' think there's any secret that a lot of that was to do with Garth and disagreements that Garth had or Garth's camp had with Capitol. ... There was one replacement and then another replacement, all in an effort to appease Garth."
(Carter recently spoke about that era too in a candid interview with Rolling Stone about the 20th anniversary of her hit album Did I Shave My Legs for This?)
"It is what it was," Ducas said. "By the time the second record came out ... it had no power behind it."
Capitol, or one of its subsidiaries by that point, dropped him.
"That was the end of the run."
Only, it wasn't.
Ducas turned his focus back to songwriting, even getting a credit on "Beer Run," Brooks' 2001 duet with George Jones. He and Foster also co-wrote "Never Say Die," cut by the Dixie Chicks on their Wide Open Spaces album, and "A Real Fine Place to Start," a No. 1 hit for Sara Evans in 2005. More recently, he wrote "Kiss Me in the Dark" for the Randy Rogers Band and, with David Lee Murphy, co-wrote "Always the Love Songs" for Eli Young Band.
"I just kept writing songs, which is what everything I do is based on," Ducas said. "I didn't try to beat the street (for a new recording contract). In retrospect, maybe I regret that a little. Maybe I should have let it out there a little more that I wanted to record, but I was having success as a songwriter with hits on other people's records. I had two kids, and it seemed like that was where I should be — home with them, writing songs."
Eventually, though, Ducas got the itch to perform again, and in 2008, he signed with WhiteStar Entertainment — which then folded before he could release anything properly.
"They went belly up right in the middle of promoting my one and only single," Ducas said. "There was a lot of drama. A lot of people really got screwed over — not me, per se."
Then, in 2010, he signed with Loud Ranch, releasing 4340, his first album in 16 years, in 2013. He also began hitting the road again more frequently, including a return stop in Amarillo for a 10 p.m. Friday show at Hoots Pub, 2424 Hobbs Road. Cover is $10.
Part of his renewed drive for a performing career means traveling often from his Nashville home to his home state as an adjunct member of the Texas country scene.
"CowTown" and "Breakin' Stuff" from 4340 found chart success in Texas, and cities like Amarillo are still welcoming.
"Amarillo always has been really supportive of everything I've done," he said. "They play my music there, so I love to get to Amarillo when I can."
The ups and downs have left Ducas pretty sanguine — and more realistic.
"I'm more comfortable in my own skin," Ducas said. "I do exactly what it is I want to do — not that I didn't do that before. I was always allowed to before, whatever the reason — the dysfunctionality ofthe record label or how I portrayed myself or the confidence they had in me, I suppose. They were really pretty hands off. Really, that doesn't happen anymore.
"That being said, I have a smaller, leaner, meaner team. Of course, you do miss the million-dollar promotional budget ... that you need to get on major radio," he said. "Outside that, I don't miss any of that. I can call every shot.
"It feels more, I guess, what's the word?, genuine than it ever did. ... To me, artists that I really love are the genuine ones."
Chip Chandler is a digital content producer for Panhandle PBS. He can be contacted at Chip.Chandler@actx.edu, at @chipchandler1 on Twitter and at www.facebook.com/chipchandlerwriter on Facebook.