Originally created 04/24/98

Singer has a driving ambition



Georgia-born country star Rhett Akins hopes his luck with trucks continues with the release Tuesday of the soundtrack for the movie Black Dog.

The second song on the soundtrack is Mr. Akins' remake of Drivin' My Life Away, a hit in 1980 for Eddie Rabbitt. Decca has released Drivin' My Life Away as Mr. Akins' latest single, and a music video of the song is now airing.

Other cuts on the soundtrack include Lee Ann Womack's (I Love) A Man With 18 Wheels and Patty Loveless' On Down the Line.

The movie, co-starring Patrick Swayze and Randy Travis, is about a professional trucker (Mr. Swayze) who breaks parole when he is tricked into hauling illegal weapons.

Mr. Akins knows about truck driving.

"I used to work for my daddy, driving the back roads delivering diesel fuel and stuff (for Akins Petroleum Co.)," Mr. Akins recalled in a recent visit to Augusta. "I grew up on the back roads. That's still my favorite thing to do; just get away and drive the back roads."

Mr. Akins had a hit with That Ain't My Truck, about a man who finds another guy's pickup parked at his girlfriend's house.

Mr. Akins has been burning up the roads lately promoting his third Decca album, What Livin's All About, and serving as a spokesman for Boys and Girls Clubs of America. He was a member of the Valdosta Boys Club as a child.

The athletic vocalist has come a long way. Seven years ago he was playing his guitar and singing solo at Holiday Inn lounges in Valdosta, Ga. But the jump to opening shows for Reba McEntire four years later wasn't as bad as he sometimes likes to make out.

"In between the Holiday Inn and my first concert with Reba, I didn't have any gigs really," Mr. Akins said. "I didn't have any stage experience between the Holiday Inn and Reba. I went from sitting on a bar stool playing to whoever would listen to singing for 15,000 people in the civic center of Pensacola, Fla., opening for Reba McEntire."

The truth, however, as his record company confirms, is that Mr. Akins was an entertainer at the Fiesta Land amusement park in San Antonio and at the now-defunct Opryland park in Nashville before the release of his first album in 1995.

In spite of his success, Mr. Akins is trying to stay down to earth with his family, business associates and old friends.

"It's easy in this business -- and I see it every day -- to be with people who don't even know you but who treat you better than they do their mamma and daddy and don't know you from Adam," Mr. Akins said.

"This business can put you on a pedestal to where everybody thinks you're the greatest, and you start thinking that, too. ... You've got to keep your true friends and family around you to keep you down on the ground because if you don't, man, you'll just walk around thinking you're the greatest thing since sliced bread."

Like many people in show business, Mr. Akins may come across half-baked when he's tired or upset, but with his attitude there's probably no danger of his turning into sliced bread.

Sound bite

To Here Rhett Akins, call Infoline at 442-4444 and press 8100. You'll hear part of the song Drivin' My Life Away, from the Black Dog soundtrack. Callers outside Augusta must first dial area code 803.