Murder, Music, and Love for America: The Sammy Sadler Story
by Kara Martinez Bachman
It seems country artist Sammy Sadler loved music before he could even walk. Before he chose country over baseball. Before he was fired upon while on Nashville’s Music Row, taking a bullet that almost ended him.
“My parents told me that at a young age, I would pull myself up at the stereo and try to sing,” Sadler reminisced. “I loved Elvis, and as I got older, in middle school and high school, I fell in love with country.”
He also played baseball, and eventually came to the point where he had to choose a career path, deciding between his love for the ball game and his love for country music.
“I chose music,” Sadler said.
It wasn’t too long before he was getting noticed.
Sadler — who would eventually record three #1 independent singles, have four “Top 15” records on the Texas Music Chart, and log three Billboard country singles (recorded with John Anderson and Steve Wariner) — came to a career turning point in 1989 when he suffered a near-life-threatening gunshot wound.
It happened after he’d already released several charting singles and was about to drop his first full album on Evergreen Records. It seems nobody was after him; they were after the person he walked with on Music Row. The target of the assassination was Kevin Hughes, Cash Box magazine chart manager. The notable killing would become known as the “Murder on Music Row,” and the details surrounding it were all about corruption and a payola scandal that would bring down the music industry magazine.
There is so much intrigue about that day that Sadler even authored a book about it, titled “Hit with a Bullet: A True Story of Corruption, Greed, and the Real Murder on Music Row.”
“It took them 14 years to catch the man that actually pulled the trigger,” Sadler said.
It was an ordeal. A little too close to the assassin’s target, he’d been hit as well, and the bullet severed the main artery in his arm.
“I was bleeding to death, and I didn’t know it.”
Repairing the injury was extensive. Before it was all done, some of the finest doctors had to get involved, including a surgeon Sadler described as “the second-best neurosurgeon in the United States.”
The first operation took 18 hours. The second took 13. The rehabilitation — getting back to full functionality again — took two full years.
“I was very blessed,” he said. “God was watching over me. I’m thankful to still be here.”
It was a real blow, temporarily sidelining a blossoming career that at the time of the shooting, had been truly taking off. Sadler is quick to make clear, however, that he never really “went away.” He saw it as a career setback that could be overcome. Just as that bullet was a setback for his body and not a fatal blow, it wasn’t fatal to his career, either. He kept on going as a professional musician. He kept on going.
“Once we got those two years behind us, I went back on the road,” he said. It was an unwavering commitment to his passion for country.
On that very same topic…country…his latest single is about OUR country. Released just over a month ago, “In America” is the first single from an upcoming 10-track CD that’s expected to contain a mix of up-tempo numbers and ballads that are pure classic country.
“This song, ‘In America’, it’s a timeless song,” he said. “It’s something everybody needs to listen to.” He said the patriotic number was written by some friends of his and he connected to it.
“This song was written many, many years ago,” Sadler said. “When I first heard this song, I knew it was a special piece of material.”
It’s still early, but Sadler hopes the release of this song will make waves on the charts. He said the video has been getting some views, a sure sign his fans are pleased and the song is connecting to listeners during these times that are both stressful and uncertain for both our country and for the world beyond.
“It’s been out four or five weeks,” Sadler said. “We’re excited about the record being out there, and hope it’ll be hitting the charts soon.”
“We’re planning to release my [full] album in October, and probably shooting a video in September for the next single,” Sadler said, of upcoming plans.
Just as all musicians have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, Sadler has not been able to tour as he’d like. He hopes things get back to normal soon.
“It’s a shame that we’re in the situation that we’re in,” he said, of Covid-19 and the politics and policies stemming from it. “There’s a lot of lives that it’s changed.”
Sadler said it’s even more important now that people unite as Americans. In a brief written comment that accompanies one of his YouTube videos, he gave his thoughts on the song in a nutshell.
“We may argue and bicker,” he wrote, “but there are things we all have in common; the freedoms we share and American traditions that we hold dear are what make our country the beacon of hope throughout the world.”