Len Snow had this huge grin plastered across his face. Tuesday, March 21, 2006 - a day he's waited for since he was a little kid - was finally here.
"I've been thinking about this for 20 years. Man, I just want to rock hard and play hard," he said from his bus in the parking lot of Nashville's Saloon on Alexis Road, an hour before he made his "national debut" as a country artist.
The bus was leased, but it looked like all the others that Nashville stars ride around in. It had the leather seats and the bunk beds with drop-down satellite TVs for the band members.
"I sat in all the seats on the bus, just to see what it was like," Snow gushed. "I'm just jazzed. This is just the start for me."
Minutes later, Snow took the stage following a "pump-the-house-up" introduction from Cliff Smithers of K-100. More than 200 people were in the club, most of them paying $20 for a ticket to see the hometown kid and for a copy of his debut CD, "Country's What I Choose." For almost two hours, he rocked the house, bringing the crowd to their feet at points and bringing tears to their eyes at other times.
There are absolutely no guarantees in Nashville. Perhaps the closest thing to a guarantee is that aspiring artists are going to run into lots of people assuring them that they are "the next big thing." More often than not, they are not.
I hope Len Snow makes it. He's the hometown boy. He's got movie star looks, a great stage presence, a solid voice. He's easy to like. He wrote all 12 songs on his album, most of those written after getting "kicked in the stomach" by the love of his life. He's got a tear-stained legal pad filled with lyrics that poured out of him.
Sitting on his bus after the show, Snow was "just humming right now. I could play for two more hours," he said. "I think it was wonderful, but I'd give myself a B minus. I'm my toughest critic. We're gonna come back to Toledo with an A plus. I had to really work out there because I wanted to do such a great job."
Nashville's Saloon is the start. Who knows where the end will be, but the next step is to secure a distribution deal for the CD and to push radio stations to play the first single, "Country's What I Choose." For now, the CD can be found on his Web site, www.lensnowmusic.com. An announcement on a major distribution deal is expected soon.
Back inside Nashville's, Mike Bell - yep, the Toledo fire chief - was confident that success will come quickly but frets that success could lead to an estrangement from Snow's hometown.
"I worry that when he becomes famous, and he will, that he may not come back here. Don't forget about Toledo," he said.
Snow's lived in Toledo, northern California, and Nashville, but there's little doubt where home is in his heart.
"I could have done this debut in Nashville or California, but I picked Toledo," he said. "Everyone wants to see this happen. They want to see the Toledo guy make it, and I'm not going to let them down."