McGraw Jets to Chicago for Album Release

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More than 1,500 amped-up Tim McGraw fans braved 29-degree temperatures and a driving snow in Chicago Tuesday (Nov. 26) to be among the first to pick up his new album, Tim McGraw and the Dancehall Doctors, and to snag an autograph from the star.

Fresh from a Monday performance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, McGraw and his band arrived from Los Angeles Tuesday morning by private jet to sign copies of the new CD and accompanying book, Tim McGraw and the Dancehall Doctors: This Is Ours, at an in-store appearance at the Borders store on Michigan Avenue. All eight members of the Dancehall Doctors sat at the table and autographed copies of the book right along with McGraw.

“Any time I take the Dancehall Doctors with me, they always draw this kind of crowd,” a jovial McGraw told CMT News. “We’ve wanted people to hear it [the album] for a long time. I can’t believe all the people here. We thought there’d be a few people here, but we didn’t expect this many.

Fans began lining up as early as 3 a.m. Tuesday to get a prime spot in line. By the time McGraw and crew walked in the door at noon, the crowd filled two floors. Many fans clutched cameras, camcorders and multiple copies of both the book and CD.

“I’ve got it all, twice,” said Plainfield, Ill., resident Kelli McDonald, holding up her newly purchased copies. “I’ve already started reading the book because I’ve been here since 8 a.m. I just don’t get this kind of opportunity that often. This is like a once in a lifetime thing.”

After signing for two hours, McGraw made a quick wardrobe change and moved over a few blocks to Isaac Hayes’ Music, Food & Passion restaurant for an album release party sponsored by Chicago radio station WUSN (US99). The venue was packed with radio contest winners who were treated to a live performance of cuts from the new album. McGraw kicked off the set with “Sing Me Home,” a Southern-rock sing-along that is also the title and theme song of his first prime time network TV special airing Wednesday night (Nov. 27) on NBC. He also offered up the mellow summertime anthem, “Watch the Wind Blow By” and “Illegal,” a tune McGraw and the Dancehall Doctors have played onstage and in sound check for years. Noting that “Illegal” put him in “a ‘70s frame of mind,” McGraw also sang a cover of “How Long,” a 1975 hit sung by Paul Carrack in the British band, Ace.

McGraw’s Chicago stop was just one in a fast-paced week of promotional appearances. Right after his US99 performance, the singer and his band were back on the private jet to fly to New York for an early-morning performance on the Today show and another in-store book signing. He’s also busy planning his 2003 tour, set to kick off in March. It’s a crazy schedule, but McGraw says he’s been eager to get back out there in the public eye with his new music

“It’s just fun,” McGraw said. “I’m having a good time, and I get to hang out with my best friends who just happen to be my band. We’re going to spend the month of February rehearsing and getting our show together and getting it like we want it and maybe shoot a video, and then we’ll be heading out.”

Although both McGraw and wife Faith Hill both will be seen this holiday week in separate network TV specials, he says the family will spend a quiet Thanksgiving at home outside Nashville.

“Faith will be doing the cooking,” McGraw explained. “My job is to stay out of the way and watch football.”