Country artists enjoying ride on "Pontoon" as one of year's hottest groups

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Members of Little Big Town, from left, Jimi Westbrook, Kimberly Schlapman, Karen Fairchild and Phillip Sweet, get the crowd involved during a concert Nov. 14 at the Cherry Point base theater. The quartet was part of the WRNS Guitar Pull concert that drew 1,701 fans and included donations for Toys for Tots.

Ken Buday/Havelock News
Published: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 at 02:20 PM.

Kimberly Schlapman and Karen Fairchild were trying to make it in the competitive world of country music in Nashville, Tenn., when they suddenly had a revelation.

"Wouldn’t it be more fun if we had good-lookin’ boys in the band with us?" Fairchild said.

Jimi Westbrook and Phillip Sweet joined the two college friends, and in 1999, Little Big Town came to life.

"We got the cutest two in Nashville, and they can sing," Schlapman said.

Known for their harmonies, the band has had arguably the best 2012 of any in country music, with its single "Pontoon" rocketing to No. 1 on the country charts and numerous accolades following. They drew thunderous ovations while performing with Kelleigh Bannen, Josh Thompson and Dustin Lynch at the WRNS Guitar Pull last week at the Cherry Point base theater.

But the trip from fledgling band to country superstars was long. Their first record deal didn’t produce, and their best single, "Don’t Waste My Time," on their first album peaked at No. 33 in 2002.

Then, their record company folded, and the band members endured personal tragedies, including the deaths of family members and divorces.

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