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Grammy Award opens doors

March 04, 2002|BY SARAH MULLIN

Martinsburg, W.Va. - A country music singer and songwriter who grew up in Martinsburg, W.Va., walked away from the 44th annual Grammy Awards with the Country Song of the Year award.

It was "way over the top," Robert Lee Castleman said. "You do this all of your life and this is one of the things you aspire to but never expect."

The 49-year-old artist wrote the honored song, "The Lucky One," years ago.

He said a friend of his gave him an old tape they had recorded years earlier and "The Lucky One" was on it.

"I had forgot about it," Castleman said.

Castleman performed the song while on tour with Alison Krauss, the artist who made the song famous.

He said Krauss heard the song, fell in love with it and recorded it on her album "New Favorite."

The next thing Castleman knew, the song had been nominated for best country song of the year along with songs from mainstream country stars including Diamond Rio and Lonestar.

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Castleman and his wife, Melanie, flew to Los Angeles, where the Grammy Awards were held Tuesday.

Castleman said he wasn't nervous.

"I was tense. I went out there to win but I kept thinking something bad was going to happen and I would lose," he said. "I didn't want to deal with the disappointment."

"When he won, I about had a heart attack," said his cousin, Danny Castleman of Martinsburg.

The cousins used to live three blocks apart in Martinsburg where they both played in bands - one on drums and the other on guitar.

"I quit playing the drums and went to work. He struggled for 20 years, and it is starting to pay off," Danny Castleman said.

Robert Lee Castleman, who lives in Nashville, Tenn., with his wife, 6-year-old son, John, and 1-year-old daughter, Cecilia, said he misses his family and friends who still live in his hometown.

Castleman has played and written music since he was in the third grade.

He said he never wrote with a genre in mind.

"I just write songs," he said.

The inspirations for his songs stem from life and love, he said.

"Love is an endless source of inspiration. A great love song always comes through," he said.

After graduating from Martinsburg High School in 1971, he headed to Los Angeles to make a go at it in the music business, but he said it was a losing battle.

When he moved home he played guitar in a local band named Comin' On Country for about eight years.

In 1979, he decided to head for Nashville.

"They told me I was 10 years ahead of my time," he said.

He tried the New York circuit, where he played in a band call LA Kass and the Checkered Past Band.

Nashville called again in 1989.

Again, "they told me I was 10 years ahead of my time," he said.

Ten years later, Castleman has his first Grammy.

His career has led him to the production of his own album, "Crazy As Me," which came out in 2000, and he has been the opening performer for country singers Travis Tritt and Loretta Lynn.

"They tell me I am part of an elite group now," he said.

Castleman has a new album in the pre-production stages and continues to write songs.

"I have more clout now. I am in the door, and that is the hard part," he said.

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