Music in the Park
Madison Main Street kicks off
2019 summer concert series
J.D. Shelburne returns to Madison for season opener
Music in the Park
• June 14: J.D. Shelburne
• July 12: Rusty Bladen
• Aug. 9: The Doctors Band
• Sept. 13: Motherfolk
(June 2019) – J.D. Shelburne is a high energy performer who was originally more interested in playing sports than playing music. His childhood singing was limited to church. “Mom made us sing in church,” said Shelburne, 36.
But when he got to college, he was no longer playing sports. About that time, his grandmother died unexpectedly in 2002. He had been very close to her.
Back at her home, he found a guitar in a closet. He took that guitar back to college for something to do. He enjoyed singing along with his favorite hits, so he tried playing along on the guitar. He thought playing the guitar was so easy that he even tried teaching his friends. It wasn’t long before his friends told him he should start playing “out.”
He found that he loved performing. He would play and sing anywhere he could find someone to listen. When he was back home in Taylorsville, Ky., he started getting calls from nursing homes asking him to perform. Another time, he rented equipment to set up and perform in the parking lot of a grocery store.
This former “small-town” performer from Taylorsville will be the star performer at “Music in the Park,” set for 5-9 p.m. Friday, June 14, at the Broadway Fountain in Madison, Ind. Jordan Wilson, the opening act, will start at 6 p.m. The event is presented by the Madison Main Street Program as the kickoff to its summer-long monthly concert series.
J.D. Shelburne has risen from small town performer to one of the area’s hottest acts. He returns to Madison in June.
“Music in the Park has been a summer favorite in Madison since the 1990s,” said Main Street Program Executive Director Victoria Perry. “Attendance has grown from about 600 the first year to as many as 1,000 fans per concert last year.”
“It is interesting, and it has all been fun for me,” he said. Every year he is getting closer to his goals of playing at the Grand Ole Opry and having a national tour of his own.
Shelburne will perform from 7-9 p.m., with an intermission at 8 p.m. The food truck, “House of Brisket,” plus “Kona Ice” and “Amazing Face,” a face painting group, will round out the attractions for the evening. Perry said the event will run as scheduled, rain or shine.
While his new album is titled, “Two Lane Town,” Shelburne is now a Nashville, Tenn., favorite. He has performed with more than 50 national acts such as Montgomery Gentry, Kellie Pickler and Johnny Lee in venues including Nashville’s Historic Ryman Auditorium, Lexington, Ky.,’s Rupp Arena, Louisville, Ky.’s KFC Yum Center and Churchill Downs.
On July 23, he is scheduled to perform at the Trackside Live Stage at the Quaker State 400 NASCAR race weekend at the Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, Ky. His latest music video of his new song, “She Keeps Me Up Nights,” was No. 6 on CMT Music 12 Pack Countdown as of May 18.
“It is an amazing ride when you do something you love to do,” he said. He also enjoys the platform music provides to help people and support charities.
It has been more than 10 years since his move to Nashville. He credits his move to his parents’ encouragement. He had graduated from the University of Kentucky in 2007 and moved back home. He worked various jobs and continued to perform. He still remembers a Thursday night after he finished playing in New Albany, Ind.
“When I came home that night, my parents asked me to sit down,” he recalled. “They said they wanted to talk. I’m thinking, ‘Oh no, now what?’ Instead, they asked if I would like to move to Nashville. When I answered with ‘yes,’ they said, ‘Let’s go next weekend.’ So we packed a U-Haul and they helped me move. They have been so supportive.”
Shelburne has an associate’s degree in web design and a bachelor’s degree in telecommunications. He keeps his diplomas on his office wall to keep him humble. “I never knew I could make money playing music. My whole career has been such a blessing to me.”
It’s tough to start out as an unknown in Nashville. When asked how he got his start there, Shelburne said, “I’m a go-getter, and I’m persistent. I do a good job. I show up. I get it done. If I wasn’t an artist myself, I would be a great music manager.”
He keeps up with Facebook and emails. He said it’s important to keep fans updated and to be available. His second cousin, musician Guy Shannon, once told him, “Take every gig. You will never get discovered in your basement.”
As a result, Shelburne usually performs close to 250 days per year. “I never take a day off.”
In the beginning, Shelburne would make the long drive back to Louisville to play as often as needed. He always looks for band members who can make him better. “To be successful and keep climbing the ladder, you have to stay away from the wrong people, away from drugs and away from alcohol.”
He said he always looks forward to coming to Madison, his wife’s hometown. He first met Amy Whitham in 2010 after a Madison festival performance. One of the festival coordinators played undercover matchmaker to introduce them to each other. He dated Whitham for six years.
He made television headline news when he dropped to one knee on the Red Carpet at the 142nd Kentucky Derby in 2016 to propose to the love of his life. He had worked secretly with WAVE 3 news anchor Dawn Gee to plan the televised event.
In 2017, the couple were married in the same Taylorsville church where his parents and grandparents were married. He sang his original song, “Better Man,” to Amy as part of the wedding service. Currently, Amy is able to work remotely in her Nashville job, so they are able to travel together when he is on the road.
Shelburne said he is so grateful for his many opportunities. He saves every article written about his performances and every bit of fan mail. By now, he said, he has boxes of stuff. Someday he is going to put it all together in a book, featuring some of the crazy road stories.
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