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T. Graham Brown rose to country stardom through the uniquely Southern phenomenon of beach music, a party-ready mix of old-time rock & roll, R&B, country, and blues. Born in Arabi, Georgia (his real first name is Anthony), he got his start performing while attending the University of Georgia, as part of the beach music duo Dirk & Tony. He then joined the outlaw country band Reo Diamond, and retooled his image as a hairy, tattooed wildman in a ten-gallon hat. Moving on in 1979, Brown formed his own R&B band, Rack of Spam, and officially settled on T. Graham Brown as his stage name. He moved to Nashville three years later, where, with the help of Harlan Howard, he found work singing demos and commercial jingles. In 1983, he signed with CBS as a staff songwriter, and went on to join the Tree International publishing firm in the same capacity.
Meanwhile, he also landed a deal as a recording artist with Capitol, and released his debut album, I Tell It Like It Used to Be, in 1986. Partly recorded at Alabama's legendary Muscle Shoals studios, the record spawned a number one country single in "Hell or High Water," and both the title track and "I Wish That I Could Hurt That Way Again" went Top Ten.