By Nick Russo

Huntsville, Texas is the hometown of Cody Johnson and the people of Huntsville have been listening to him sing for nearly a decade. They’ve known his name, they’ve believed in his talent and they’ve offered never ending support for his dreams. Huntsville may be best known for it’s prison and death row but if you believe in balance then you can see Cody Johnson being the bright spot in an otherwise dark depiction.

Over the years, Cody Johnson has tirelessly and humbly worked at his craft without listening to doubters and naysayers. He played his guitar, he practiced with his band, he wrote music, he performed, he recorded album after album and he traveled the great state of Texas and beyond without tiring out. Cody is a testament to what happens when you mix hard work, consistency and Faith.

It was 2014 in the Bull’s BBQ Shack at the World Championship BBQ Cookoff that Cody played for a couple hundred people. By all accounts, it was a small to medium sized show that half filled a tent with some of his most loyal fans and some people who were seeing him for the first time. One thing is certain, if it was their first time it wasn’t their last time because nobody can only go to one CoJo show. If you’ve seen him once then you have seen him multiple times because there’s an addictive quality to the vibe and atmosphere he and his music creates at a venue.

As the days and weeks went by he continued trudging his way across Texas to play festivals like Ziegenbock Music Festival at Sam Houston Racepark or Spring Break on the Coast in Corpus Christi at Concrete Street Amphitheater. Cody was staying true to his craft and his dream. Laser focused and diligently he kept accumulating more and more fans.  Cody Johnson became a household name across Texas.

It was at the Humble Rodeo in 2015 when I first met Cody Johnson. I’d heard his name, I’d heard his music but it was the first time I’d had the chance to meet him and introduce him on stage. He was opening up for Frankie Ballard. ┬áThe whispers throughout the crowd questioned why Cody wasn’t the headliner because Frankie was relatively new to many of the country music fans in Humble and Cody was, as I mentioned, a household name.

In true Cody Johnson fashion, he played his heart out, his fans went wild and everyone at the Humble Rodeo was treated to an incredible night of country music. After this night, I was hooked onto CoJo’s path. Whether he and I liked it or not we were now riding side by side on a trip that we knew was coming but could not have predicted. It was close to 365 days later when he returned to the Humble Rodeo for maybe the last time. He was now the headliner and for the first time in recent history the Humble Rodeo SOLD OUT of tickets. There were hundreds of people stuck outside of the arena because the fire marshal was not letting anyone else in because of regulation standards.

While they were outside listening to the show begin, I was inside, on stage preparing to bring him on stage. Looking out into the crowd, I was chatting with some of the Humble Rodeo organizers and they told me they’d never seen a crowd that size before and that they couldn’t remember the last time they’d seen so many people in attendance. We agreed, Cody Johnson was really something special.

As you can see, the fans were hyped and stretched as far as the eye could see but that was nothing compared to what was yet to come for the ginger from Huntsville, Texas.

He didn’t let the sold out Humble Rodeo satisfy his desire to grow and evolve. He got right back to the grindstone making music, traveling the country and performing for his fan base as it grew exponentially.

Old Dominion, a new country group of extremely talented singer-songwriters out of Nashville were slated to play Armed Forces Appreciation Day at RodeoHouston 2017. Days before the performance, tragedy struck in Old Dominion’s immediate family and they were unable to attend RodeoHouston. Rodeo organizers scrambled for a replacement but every single Cody Johnson supporter somehow knew what was coming and it’s safe to say that Cody knew, as well.

Cody out polled King George.

Cody went to his fan base and with their support it was official. Cody Johnson would be performing at RodeoHouston as Old Dominion’s replacement and the CoJo dream went to another level. His fans rushed to the website to buy tickets to be a part of this epic event in the making.

His performance was his anointing of super stardom. That stage, that moment, that dream come true event was making all the hard work and dedication pay off. All the ups and downs and miles on the road and hours in the studio and countless venues and fan building across the nation culminated into one of the most emotionally packed performances RodeoHouston may have ever seen.

Cody, a former roper walked on to the stage, shed a tear on the stage, played his ass off in front of 60,000+ fans in NRG Arena.

This would be a wonderful story if it ended there but it didn’t, not even close. It was after this thought-to-be pinnacle of his career that country Radio began playing his music in full rotation. His longest running fans had been waiting and wishing this to be a reality for years and now it was coming true. Radio was embracing the man they’d all been following and loving and it was a marriage made in Heaven.

Some of his fans would be hard pressed to believe that anyone hadn’t heard of Cody Johnson up until this moment but Radio introduced him to millions of more people that truly had never heard his music even if they’d heard his name. Likely, these people had heard their friends rant about the good time they’d had at his shows in the past but had never been fully introduced to CoJo but now they were all-in.

This takes us to this past Saturday night at Sam Houston Racepark. In the infield of the track, behind the openers of Jesse Raub Jr, Mike Ryan and Tracy Byrd, Cody Johnson was set to make history in Houston. Right off of Beltway 8 and 249, where hundreds had performed before, Cody Johnson sold out Sam Houston Racepark for the first time in SHRP History.

Where does Cody Johnson go from here? That remains to be seen but he is on the fast track to wherever he’s headed. I sometimes wonder what Cody thinks when he looks back on the past 3 years and the escalation of his incredible musical career. I can say that I feel blessed to have been a first-hand witness to this incredible meteoric rise to super stardom. Like the saying goes, shoot for the moon and if you miss you’ll land among the stars. Cody Johnson has made one thing certain:

He is a star.

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