One year ago Sunday, 11-23, Outlaw country artist and songwriter Wayne Mills was killed—shot in the back of the head at the Pit & Barrel Bar in Nashville, TN. Now almost a year to the day of Wayne Mills’ death, one of the many artists that Wayne Mills mentored on their way up the ranks paid a touching tribute to the fallen star on Monday night’s (11-24) episode of NBC’s reality singing competition The Voice, arguably the most recognition the fiercely-independent Mills received his entire career.
Country rocker Craig Wayne Boyd from Mesquite, TX had previously shared the stage with Wayne Mills, as well as with mutual friend Jamey Johnson many times, but has been given the opportunity of his life by finding himself in the Top 10 of this year’s The Voice competition. Originally chosen by Blake Shelton and then stolen by judge Gwen Stefani, Craig Wayne Boyd was later stolen back by Blake Shelton. This was only appropriate, because Blake Shelton too was mentored by Wayne Mills early on in his career. While a struggling performer just trying to gain attention, Wayne Mills let Blake Shelton open for him and showed him the ropes of how to make it in country music. Though Wayne Mills is not considered a household name, many of the young artists he helped shepherd, like Blake Shelton, Craig Wayne Boyd, and Taylor Hicks, have gone on to great things. Wayne Mills was the prototype.
On Monday night’s episode, before Craig Wayne Boyd’s performance of Johnny Cash’s “I Walk The Line,” Craig Wayne took a replica of the now famous “WM” necklace that Wayne Mills wore at all times (see above picture) from Wayne’s widow Carol, and presented it to Wayne’s former pupil, Blake Shelton. The circle was now completed, and then Craig Wayne Boyd sang “I Walk The Line” in a ballad style in tribute to Wayne Mills as eyes watered on the live set and in homes across the country.
“I’m not a country girl but I could see right away with you that you were a star,” his former coach Gwen Stefani said. Pharrell said, “I remember when you first came across the stage. I thought to myself that man is super sure of himself. There is nothing like coming across an artist who knows who they are.” Blake Shelton simply called the performance “magic.”
Craig Wayne Boyd has been doing very well on the competition, hitting #1 on the iTunes Country Chart last week. On Tuesday, the results of Monday’s voting will be revealed to see if the country singer will continue in the competition. Meanwhile the elevation the legacy of Wayne Mills received through The Voice presentation is something that cannot be overvalued. Even a year after his passing, the Wayne Mills influence lingers in some of the highest echelons of popular music.
The video below shows the Wayne Mills moment. The video below that is a better quality performance of Craig Wayne Boyd’s performance.