Sunday, July 22, 2012

Big Dierks Bentley Fans Sometimes Come In Small Packages

Young Matthew Pinkham has been a big Dierks Bentley fan for more than half his life! He’s even a member of the DB Congress, representing Kentucky! But Matthew might never have known about Dierks and his music if he hadn’t gotten very sick when he was young. Turns out, Dierks (and CMT) is the reason Matthew picked up a guitar, learned how to play/sing, and now the fifth-grader has performed over 150 dates in the last few years—all at the age of eleven!

We asked his mom Becky, and Matthew to tell their story:

Becky, can you tell us the story of when Matthew first got sick and how you went to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee for a second opinion?

“Well, he was 4. He had been complaining of his legs hurting. As a mother of 4 kids born in a 6 1/2 year span, I kept telling him he probably pulled a muscle. A few weeks later, I passed it off as "growing pains" that his sisters had experienced. Weeks later, his gait became real pronounced and started falling a lot. My husband and I both became very scared. I took him to the doctor the following day. I just remember the look of fear my normally composed pediatrician had on her face. I think she thought maybe it was cancer. She sent us to the ER to have X-rays done. The following day, she called and said, "Becky...I have good news and bad news." You never know how to take that! She continued, "The good news is, he doesn't have what we feared. The bad news looks like he has a rare bone disease called Perthes. And strangely, it's in both of his legs.

From there, she sent us to a specialist in Louisville (about an hour north of us). She confirmed Matthew’s prognosis of having bilateral "Leggs Calve Perthes." Usually, 95% of the cases it is in only one leg/hip. Matthew was part of the 5% to have it in both. His case had become so severe that both of his femoral heads had totally degenerated. This meaning that he was to bear NO weight on his legs indefinitely. She put Matthew in a wheelchair at all times unless he was squirmy and then he could use this tiny little walker. We continued seeing the original doctor for several months, going every 6 weeks.

One day, I came home from work and a woman had left a message to call her if I wanted to talk. This lady's son also had Perthes, only his was trauma induced where Matthew's was genetic. I'm usually a very private person and my husband and I both were keeping all of this to ourselves and our parents. By this time, a few people had heard so I decided to call her. She told me about her son's doctor in Nashville at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital.

I didn't know what I wanted to do. I know that every time we went to Louisville to see his doctor, he was scared and cried. After talking about it, my husband and I decided to get a second opinion with Dr. Greene at Vanderbilt. Matthew fell in love with him the second we walked in! Dr. Greene actually did some funny trick to him like pinching his nose and poking his stomach and made some funny sound. Our first doctor was super smart but didn't have the greatest bedside manner. She spoke above or to us. Dr. Greene spoke "WITH" us and just got on mine and Matthew's level.

During that visit, after MONTHS of being in a wheelchair and being pulled in a wagon at school, Dr. Greene told Matthew he didn't have to stay in the wheelchair, to use it only when he hurt or if he was limping/falling. From that point on, we made the 2 hour drive south every 6 weeks. In time, our appointments spread to every 8 weeks, then to every 3 months. Years later, they became every 6 months, every year, and now, on Matthew's 10th birthday (April 18th) Dr. Greene told Matthew that his legs had healed the best they would EVER be. We will come back for a check-up when Matthew is 13.”

Matthew, tell us about watching Dierks on CMT and how you learned to imitate his famous half grin?

“Well, I think I was just 5 years old and we didn't listen to country music. We always listened to top 40, R&B, and hip hop. After finding out about my legs and my bone disease, my mom quit teaching school to stay home with me for while. I think I was supposed to start kindergarten that year but she kept me out.

Anyway, I couldn't do a lot. I remember watching my sisters and the kids on my street play outside and I couldn't--I had to stay in. At recess, I had to sit and watch all of the kids play on the playground. So when I was at home, my mom bought things like coloring books, stickers, and some toys for me to sit and play with.  I never really liked a lot of toys but my Hot Wheels. My dad manages his fathers and uncles Lincoln car dealership here in town so I kind of had an obsession with cars and motorcycles. I knew all of the makes and models of my HUGE collection.
I would sit and play with my cars and one day, I saw Dierks Bentley on TV. I thought he was THE coolest guy! I started dressing like him. I would wear jeans, black Harley Davidson boots and the same black T-Shirt over and over. One year, I remember, the ONLY thing I asked for for Christmas was a necklace like Dierks'. And...I got it! I even carried a black wallet with a chain on it. I still wear it a lot when I perform.
Anyway, I would go to Sally’s Beauty Supply and ask the ladies there to find something to make my hair curly. One day, the lady sold me a bottle of "Curly Burly" shampoo! It didn't work! From then on, I would sit and play with my Hot Wheels on the floor and watch CMT. I couldn't wait for a Dierks video to come on because I would stand up and imitate him. I would play an air guitar jumping on the couch (which....I wasn't supposed to do according to mom and my doctor). I would imitate his facial expressions and just the way he moved. I think I was pretty good at it. 
I also remember being in the car a lot and my mom and I would listen to DB over and over and I would ask her things like, Mom, why does he want her to come a little closer? I would also ask her questions about his videos. Now that I'm older, I think I get the songs a little better!"

The local TV station - WHAS11's Great Day Live, interviewed Matthew recently and asked him to demonstrate “Dierks’ grin,” which you can see at around the 2:30 mark.


Matthew, do you have any videos of you performing a Dierks song?

“Well, honestly I have a bunch of videos on You Tube but NONE of me playing Dierks. I have a whole binder of songs I used to play of his but when I started performing more and learning more about my voice, his songs are REALLY hard for me. I would HATE to disrespect him and do his songs an injustice. I hope as I get older, I will be able to find a key that sounds half decent to sing some of his music."

Which Dierks concerts have you been to? 

"I have seen him at EVERY Miles and Music For Kids event in Nashville but one since his first one. My aunt and mom actually snuck me back stage at the first Miles and Music to meet him. I got to meet Dierks, Eric Church, Montgomery Gentry, Jeff Foxworthy, and Ray Scott. Yep...jumping brick walls and sneaking past security at the age of 5!

I have seen Dierks open for Kenny Chesney in Chicago and Nashville. I got to meet him in Evansville at a meet and greet. I had him sign my "binder" that I kept my music in for guitar. He totally missed the whole HUGE section of HIS songs and just saw a few others. He was like wow??? No Dierks? I was too shy to show him the REAL music in there!

Then there was the time I got to see him at the Murat in Indianapolis. He was singing "So So Long" and pulled me up on the stage with him. He was asking me if he should leave or stay with the girl? And how I felt about girls. Little did he know I lived in a house full of them! So, I told him to say so so long! I got a picture with him on that stage and then at the first Miles and Music. A bunch of Harley Davidson riders put me up on the stage with him.

He has met me so many times and he doesn't even know I'm the same kid. Most of all, he doesn't know that I'm just a kid who picked up the guitar because of him. Now, my music is who I am. I want to tell him this and tell him thanks!" 

When most little boys wanted games and toys, Matthew only wanted a chain likes Dierks' for Christmas, which he is wearing in this photo

How many performances have you done? Where is your favorite place to perform?

"Oh gosh, I've performed close to 150 times in the last few years, I would say my VERY favorite memory was performing in Freedom Hall in Louisville with Keith Urban. What a memory!

Otherwise, I really like playing in some bars in Nashville. I played several times in a place called Roosters; also the Nashville Palace which is right across the street from Opryland Hotel. I LOVE performing on TV! Another thing I like doing is nursing homes and soon I get to go perform for kids at the Children's Hospital in Louisville. The bigger the crowd, the better I do!"

Tell us about your brothers and sisters. Do they sing as well? How do they support your singing?

"Well, I have 3 sisters. They are really good to me. They help me when I perform. They carry my equipment. They help set up my speakers, mic, the stool that I take everywhere, and whatever guitars I bring and all of that. I tell them thank you? Probably not enough. I really do appreciate them but I have to keep my little brother image of "oh my sisters drive me crazy" up! Shhh... don't tell them, they aren't so bad. And...they bring lots of pretty girls to the house!

They all sing. My oldest sister Halle has sang with me. My middle sister Marisa...well, we tease her all the time because she has the WORST voice in the world! And Sydney probably has the best voice of all of us but she is real shy and won't ever sing in front of anyone! Our music teacher at school always tells my mom how good she sings. The girls usually come watch me. 

Sometimes they are busy though. It's ok. I don't always want to go watch them play soccer or cheer. So, it's even! My mom hopes if I ever sing for a living we will all always be together! Halle will be my production and tour manager, Marisa will totally be my hair stylist and designer, and Sydney will be the brains behind the operation. Mom...well she will drive the tour bus while my dad and I play Xbox!"

Do you write songs as well? If so, can you give us a few lines from your favorite song? 

"I know I should probably start writing here in the next year or so but I haven't written any yet. My dad's friend wrote a song for me and he wanted me to have a part in it so I helped him write one verse. It's not all together yet but I will say it's about my parents. Everyone who gives me advice says I need some original music. Well...I've heard it probably from 3 different people this week. This is on the top of my list. I know I'm not ready to write my own but I will be hunting for some.

We aren't sure how to go about getting our hands on music for demos and so forth that is copy written but we have started a search. I have had SO many people tell me, Hey I'll write a song for you. Or... work with a great bunch of publishers, let me get you to Nashville and we will sit down and write YOUR SONG. Well... I'm ready. I want these people to follow through! It would be great if I could get one of my HEROS like DB,Keith or Kenny to write one for me! Ha! That would sure show all the people who stood me up, huh?"

We know you perform other genres of music other than country. What other non-country artists do you like to perform? (Really enjoyed your Greenday song!)

"Since I'm a normal 11-year-old kid, I really like to perform Bieber and One Direction. A few people call me Half-a-Bieber! The girls at school like when I perform both of their songs. I like older rock a little. My guitar teacher, Cuni, introduces me to a lot of different music. I've played Zepplin, Skynard, Greenday, Howie Day, even a Taylor Swift song. I even learned two of her songs from her Christmas CD for my second grade teacher as a Christmas present a few years ago."

What is on the calendar for you in 2012? We see you've done some acting and modeling as well!

"Who knows? I never know. My mom never tells me until right before a show. I tease her all the time about that. I will do a few things for our mall in the next few months. I am performing at two restaurants in Louisville soon. I am going to perform at a Grand Opening at a Sports Pub here in Etown [Elizabeth] soon. I get asked to do benefits often. I am really excited to get to sing for the kids in the hospital. I know a few producers or management people have been talking to my mom as far as acting goes. I just show up for auditions whenever they call. So, my life is like spur of the moment!"

What are your plans for the next few years? When you grow up? What's your dream career?
Since I'm only in the 2% on the growth chart, NBA basketball isn't looking too good for me! I make really good grades and am in the advanced classes at school. I even made this program called the Duke Tip which means I scored in the top 5% of the nation on my standardized test. But honestly, I want to play music and travel. I want to be the headlining act. Of course I will have to be the opening act for a while. I want to take country music by storm like Taylor Swift!

What's the reaction from your friends at school to your singing, performing, playing guitar, acting, and modeling? 

"It's funny. I'd say I'm kind of one of the cool kids at school. Everyone knows I play music. Not so sure they know HOW much I play and where all I play. I say sometimes that I'm like Hannah Montana. I'm just Matthew Pinkham at school, but I'm this different person on the weekends.

I'm the little guy at school, too. So I kind of have to prove myself with sports. I think I've got the music thing covered, though! I think they always look forward to our talent show at the end of the year to see what I'm going to do! My mom works at my school so the teachers and adults there keep up with me and are real excited for me when things are going on!

I don't think they know, but there is this manager for Disney that will send me auditions for different jobs. I've auditioned for two roles for Disney but didn't get either. It's kind of hard/awkward auditioning all the way here in Kentucky to them all the way there in Los Angeles. I think I need to just go out there and audition. My friends at school would flip if I ended up getting one of those parts!"

Who's your biggest inspiration and why?   

"Hmm… well, I don't think it's just one person. My dad is a big inspiration. He is so strong and works SO hard. 110% is the minimum he gives in everything he does. Dierks would have to be my first musical inspiration because he is the reason I ever picked up my first guitar and got me connected and interested in country music. Keith Urban and my guitar teacher Cuni would have to be huge inspirations, too. Both of them make me want to be a better guitar player/musician."

We hear you've got your sights set on performing on the Miles and Music For Kids stage with Dierks, since that event every year benefits the very hospital that helped you get better. Tell us about that aspiration.

"Well, from the first Miles and Music I went to, I felt like I was already a part of it. A lady saw me walk in with my "Dierks" gear on and my bandana on my head with my first guitar strapped on my back. She worked for DB and asked me if I wanted him to sign my guitar. That's when my aunt decided she was getting me back to see Dierks. We paid a bunch of money for these tickets and found out we bought tickets to ride our motorcycles in the "ride." mom is only 5 foot tall, doesn't own a bike, and isn't your typical Harley Davidson kind of girl, but the concert was just so cool. I was right next to the stage and that's where I always want to be if I'm watching a show.

Now...the only other BETTER place to be is ON the stage! But, since my whole story started, Dierks and Vandy and actually Harley Davidson has been a part of my life. Dierks and my doctor at Vandy Children's are part of my story. Part of my song! I honestly wish I could connect with Dierks and help him raise money for his benefit each year. I might only be able to raise a little bit of money, but I also might be able to raise a lot! Who knows? He has to believe in me. I would love to go on just before him and sing for 30 minutes or an hour. He just has to trust me!"

(The 2012 Miles and Music For Kids Event is October 14 this year, but no details yet.)

One more feather in his cap is that Matthew made it to the second round of America's Got Talent this past year! If he had made it farther, the next round was with the judges. Maybe next year!
Becky, how is his health now?

"At Matthew's last appointment, his doctor told us that his legs were as good as they will get. One has regenerated 95% while the other is in the 80% I believe. After a few years of not being allowed to play sports (which is a whole other issue because Matthew comes from a huge line of athletes and loves sports and recess/PE at school, he played a few seasons of baseball but has chosen to continue playing basketball. He has a goal on our main floor, one in the basement, one out front in the driveway, one in the pool and a goal on the back patio. He even has one built on the door of a little trailer for his music equipment that someone in our community donated. So, if you walk in our home, you will either hear the sound of lots of children's voices, basketballs dribbling on the hardwood or the sound of the goal being dunked on, or best of all, the sound of Matthew Jordan [yes his middle name is the same as Dierks’ youngest daughter] singing and playing his guitar!"

Matthew says, "I didn't have cancer, thank God, but what I went through wasn't fun. My bone disease and not being able to play like a normal kid led me to loving Dierks, country music, and my guitar! I NEVER would've known I had a talent or love for music like I do had it not been for my illness!"

Matthew’s dream is to play on stage at Dierks’ Miles And Music For Kids, the charity event that helps the very hospital that helped him.

"C'mon Dierks...I will rock your socks off and everyone else watching! BIG THINGS COME IN SMALL PACKAGES! YOU are the reason I am who I am today!"  

You can catch Matthew performing a one hour set at Wicks Pizza, 9700 Bluegrass Parkway in Louisville, KY on July 29, 2012.  Be sure to become a fan on his facebook page, too!


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  2. This is very touching and very inspiring. Though he struggled over his condition, he still managed to play the guitar! Good job kid! More power to you.

  3. Great story. Keep up the hard work Matthew!
    Saturday night (10-13) before M&M4K at Joe's Crab Shack in Nashville the DBC will gather and sign "get well" cards for the children at Vanderbilt Childrens Hospital. We signed over 100 cards last year, all with a DB guitar pic as well. Hope to see you there!

  4. An awesome story. Hope to meet you one day at a Dierks' concert.