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Luke Bryan's shooting stardom has him set to play Heinz Field

| Wednesday, June 18, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Country star Luke Bryan
Joseph Llanes
Country star Luke Bryan

During the past seven years, Luke Bryan has risen from a one-hit performer at Saddle Ridge for a crowd of a few hundred to headlining a show for more than 50,000 on June 21 at Heinz Field — a feat that only Kenny Chesney and Taylor Swift have pulled off among country singers visiting Pittsburgh.

Bryan's rise to superstardom and Heinz Field status didn't happen gradually in equal steps, country industry observers say. Bryan had a few hits during the first few years of his career, but his fame really boomed in the past two years, starting with his opening for Jason Aldean in 2012.

Almost overnight, Bryan became one of the top-selling country artists and began headlining big shows last year. And Heinz Field is bigger than big: Most larger concerts in the Pittsburgh area are at Burgettstown's First Niagara Pavilion, which has a maximum capacity of about 23,000 fans.

“The fact that he's graduated up to stadiums at that level just shows how big a star he's become,” says Michael McCall, an editor and writer for publications at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville.

“There's a momentum you get when you get several big songs,” McCall says. “You put on a show that has people standing on their feet, singing along, clapping and dancing.”

Jeremy Mulder, a disc jockey with the regional Froggy country radio stations, recalls Bryan's Saddle Ridge show at Station Square. Bryan, a newcomer at the time, had one hit — his debut single, “All My Friends Say,” which reached No. 5 on the Billboard country chart.

Mulder and McCall acknowledge that Bryan's big boom that made him a major-concert headliner came with his platinum third album, “Tailgates & Tanlines,” and his signature song “Country Girl (Shake It For Me).”

That song is “such an anthem and country song,” McCall says.

For the past few years, Mulder says, Bryan has produced “great song after great song.”

Bryan has been working for this success for a long time, Mulder says, and enjoyed paying his dues rather than seeking instant fame.

Contributing to Bryan's fame and success surely are his looks, which earned him People Country's Sexiest Man 2014 designation. At least, that's part of his appeal to many female fans, along with his musical talents, says Mulder, whose on-air moniker is Danger Frog. “Lets face it: He started wearing his jeans tighter,” Mulder says.

McCall says that despite Bryan's attractiveness, he comes across as down-to-earth and humble, with an “Aw, shucks” way about him.

“He has fun with it in a nonthreatening way,” McCall says. “Luke doesn't have a bad-boy edge.”

Kellie B. Gormly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at or 412-320-7824.

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