Salina Journal
Jun 16, 2016

A broken relationship turned Milton Patton’s blues into country gold.

Patton grew up in a small town in Arkansas near the Mississippi Delta, where he listened to blues music and rhythm and blues tunes.

An aspiring singer, Patton decided to pursue a different musical path after hearing a song on the radio by country superstar Brad Paisley. As Patton was driving to work one day, emotionally distraught after a recent painful breakup with a girlfriend, he listened to Paisley’s hit song “Whiskey Lullaby.”

Lyrics such as, “She put him out like the burnin’ end of a midnight cigarette” were an epiphany for the 21-year-old. Country music was all about storytelling; that’s what Patton wanted to be as a singer.

“Country music is about telling personal stories that people can relate to,” Patton said.

Patton used “Whiskey Lullaby” as an audition song in 2013 for the television reality show “America’s Got Talent.” After making it through initial auditions in Austin and New Orleans, he was given the opportunity to sing on national television before judges Howard Stern, Heidi Klum, Mel B (a former member of the Spice Girls) and Howie Mandel.

“You are a diamond in the rough,” Mandel told Patton as the judges put him through to the next round.

Patton will be in concert Saturday at The Blind Pig sports lounge, 2501 Market Place. Opening act will be Courtney Irwin, a country singer from Salina.

An anniversary concert

The concert is part of the 11th anniversary of The Blind Pig and will be in the parking lot of the south Salina business. Admission is free, but those attending must be 21 or older.

“It’s not a moneymaker for us, it’s just a thank-you to our customers and the community for supporting us,” said Denise Ward, co-owner of The Blind Pig.

Ward said her son Bryan, general manager of the business, discovered Patton online and thought he would be ideal for the anniversary concert.

“He’s got quite a bit of buzz about him,” Ward said. “It’s exciting to bring someone of his talent here.”

Doing it right

Patton made it through the first television round of “America’s Got Talent” but was eliminated from the competition in the Las Vegas round. Yet he had made such an impression on the show that music agents from New York City offered him a record deal.

Patton respectfully declined.

Yes, it was more money than Patton had ever been offered in his life, but he didn’t like what was being offered to him. As a black man, Patton felt they wanted to stereotype him as a rapper or rhythm and blues singer, and he felt that wasn’t him.

“It was hard to turn down because I needed the money, but they were trying to mold me into something I wasn’t,” he said. “I like the classic country sound of Merle Haggard, George Jones and Alan Jackson. I want to build a career in country music, and I want to do it right.”

Patton, now 25, said he spends nearly every week on the road with a band that includes a bass player who once performed with Waylon Jennings. His concert is a mixture of cover songs of country classics and originals he plans to include on a CD scheduled for release this fall. His first single release is “Get Us in Trouble,” which he wrote himself.

Patton said building an enthusiastic fan base through live performances will help build his reputation as a legitimate future force in country music.

“You hit them hard with back-to-back good songs and get them on their feet,” he said. “I’m going to give them good songs with great feelings and leave them feeling good about themselves.”

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