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Winning top honors on ``Star Search' didn't make the guys in Sawyer Brown stars - at first.


When Sawyer Brown first sauntered into Nashville, local folks didn't take too kindly to the five-man razzle-dazzle country band once known for energetic dancing, pastel sportcoats and high-top sneakers.After all, the guys who cleared the way for Garth Brooks to smash guitars and Billy Ray Cyrus to shake his booty got their start on ``Star Search,' the syndicated TV talent show that features everything from stand-up comics to scantily clad supermodels. Hardly the Grand Ole Opry.

But after playing at honky-tonks five sets a night, six nights a week, nearly every night for two years, winning $100,000 cash and national exposure on ``Star Search' seemed pretty darn good.

``It all happened by accident,' keyboardist Gregg ``Hobie' Hubbard says. ``We didn't put any pressure on ourselves. We just got up on stage and played. And we won. Then we thought, 'We can't stop here.' '

Nearly 11 years later, they've earned 12 top-selling albums, five No. 1 singles, a mantle full of country music awards and a 1993 ranking as one of the 10 top grossing acts in the business. They've even taken to wearing cowboy boots and flannel shirts.

``People find that this music fits them,' Hubbard says. ``Pop is alienating people who want to find a melody and something to identify with. This music hits home.'

Hubbard, 33, grew up outside of Orlando, Fla., with an older brother who went to Harvard and a mom and a dad who taught English. He and Miller, who have been friends since they were teenagers, went to the University of Central Florida, where they later dropped out of school and moved to Nashville.

The two buddies met three other young musicians and together became the back-up band for a singer named Don King. When King retired, the back-up band kept going.

``We thought it worked well, and we needed to eat,' Hubbard says. ``So we took our name from a street in Nashville and started touring as Sawyer Brown.'

Aside from the second-hand smoke, playing in nightclubs night after night had its rewards.

``We worked a lot,' he says. ``That was and is the key. Looking back, I wouldn't trade it for anything. The more work you do for other people, the better off you'll be.'

____________________________________________________________________________\ WANT TO GO?

What: Sawyer Brown with Clay Walker and Diamond Rio

When: 8 p.m. Saturday

Where: Greensboro Coliseum

Tickets: $19.50. Tickets are available at the coliseum box office, at Ticketmaster outlets or by calling 852-1100.



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