Jo Dee Messina

Part of country music's late-'90s crop of female crossover stars, Jo Dee Messina's appeal nonetheless remained more with country fans than pop audiences. Messina was born August 25, 1970, in Framingham, MA, and grew up in nearby Holliston. She sang in musical plays starting at age eight but discovered country music at age 12 and got hooked on the likes of the Judds, Reba McEntire, and Dolly Parton. She soon started performing live, and by 16 she was playing local clubs with a rhythm section made up of her brother and sister. At age 19, she moved to Nashville in search of greater exposure and sang regularly for prize money in local talent competitions. One win led to a regular gig on the radio show Live at Libby's, which in turn caught the interest of producer Byron Gallimore, who helped her assemble a demo tape. Gallimore was also working with the young Tim McGraw around the same time, and Messina befriended him. Backstage at one of his concerts, Messina met an executive from his label, Curb, and jokingly suggested that they needed a redhead. Producer James Stroud, who had just heard Messina's demo, stepped up to vouch for her, and she soon wound up on Curb, with Gallimore and McGraw serving as her producers.