Walk to Beautiful: The Power of Love and a Homeless Kid Who Found the Way

Walk to Beautiful: The Power of Love and a Homeless Kid Who Found the Way


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Imagine yourself a thirteen-year-old hundreds of miles away from home, in a strange city, and your mom leaves you at a bus station parking lot and drives off into the night with her lover.

That’s the real life story of country music star Jimmy Wayne. It’s a miracle that Jimmy survived being hungry and homeless, bouncing in and out of the foster care system, and sleeping in the streets. But he didn’t just overcome great adversity in his life; he now uses his country music platform to help children everywhere, especially teenagers in foster care who are about to age out of the system.

Walk to Beautiful is the powerfully emotive account of Jimmy’s horrendous childhood and the love shown him by Russell and Bea Costner, the elderly couple who gave him a stable home and provided the chance to complete his education. Jimmy says of Bea, “She changed every cell in my body.”

It also chronicles Jimmy’s rise to fame in the music industry and his Meet Me Halfway campaign: his walk halfway across America, 1,700 miles from Nashville to Phoenix, to raise awareness for foster kids.

Join Jimmy on his walk to beautiful and see how one person really can make a difference.


“If your story could use a better chapter, take inspiration from Jimmy’s.” —Max Lucado, New York Times Best-Selling Author

“It reads like a movie to me, and if so, I’ll be the first one in a seat to see it.” —Dolly Parton

“Walk to Beautiful will open your eyes to the hurting people around you.” —Frank Harrison, Chairman and CEO, Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated; Chairman and Cofounder, With Open Eyes

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780594677017
Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date: 10/14/2014
Pages: 380
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Jimmy Wayne is a former foster kid turned country music singer/songwriter whose songs, story, and walk halfway across America in 2010 continue to help bring awareness to kids who age out of the foster system and become homeless. He earned the prestigious “Million-Air Award” for receiving one million radio spins of his song "Do You Believe Me Now." He is the author of Walk to Beautiful, his New York Times best-selling memoir, and the author of the novel and made-for-TV movie Paper Angels. Jimmy lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

Ken Abraham is a New York Times best-selling author known around the world for his collaborations with high-profile public figures. A former professional musician and pastor, he is a popular guest with both secular and religious media. His books include One Soldier's Story with Bob Dole, Payne Stewart with Tracey Stewart, Falling in Love for All the Right Reasons with Dr. Neil Clark Warren, and Let's Roll! with Lisa Beamer.

Read an Excerpt

Walk To Beautiful

The Power of Love and a Homeless Kid Who Found the Way

By Jimmy Wayne, Ken Abraham

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2014 Jimmy Wayne
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8499-2210-7



I ran to the edge of the stage and scanned the crowd of eighteen thousand screaming fans and flashing cameras. The pinpricks of light reminded me of the stars back in North Carolina. My childhood friend Rob Daniels and I had spent our breaks at the Osage textile mill, standing on the edge of the concrete loading dock, staring at the starlit sky. We were kids sharing our dreams about becoming famous musicians someday. I looked over at Rob and nodded at our images on the Jumbotron behind us. Rob grinned from ear to ear. We both knew what the other was thinking: We did it, man!

It was October 21, 2009, and we were playing Madison Square Garden along with Dierks Bentley as part of the closing leg of Brad Paisley's American Saturday Night Tour. Brad had already taken the tour to more than half a million people that year, but even he was excited to play "The Garden" for the first time.

"This place sure would hold a lot of hay," Brad had quipped as he gazed around the arena, as genuinely in awe as the rest of us.

Brad's crew had loaded into the arena, starting at eight in the morning for a seven thirty evening show, so the stage was already set when the artists and bands arrived midafternoon. After about a half-hour sound check for each artist, it was time for dinner. I went backstage to the dressing room area, where I could keep my voice warmed up in private. Shortly before seven thirty, my road manager knocked on the door. "Ten minutes, Jimmy," he called. I walked from the dressing rooms toward the main stage.

Even being backstage at Madison Square Garden was intimidating. Photos of entertainment legends Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, U2, Paul McCartney, Billy Joel, Elton John—Elton played the Garden more than sixty times—the Rolling Stones, and more stars than I can name lined the hallway leading to the stage, a silent reminder of you better be good. They had all graced the stage on which I was about to perform for the first time.

My musicians—Radio Band, as I had named them—fidgeted anxiously. I adjusted my ear monitors and noticed I could hear the excited crowd through the ambient microphones located around the stage. The tour manager sent the band onstage to get set.

I'd been on tour with Brad since June—Brad had been out for twice as long—and I was still just as excited every night when the stage lights came up. But tonight was special. I was about to step out onto one of the world's most famous performance venues.

I waited offstage for my cue. The drummer hit the intro to our first song, one I had written called "Cowboys & Engines." Playing lead guitar, Rob struck a hot, quick riff and then the whole band joined him. The crowd was pumped and on their feet, instantly catching the rhythm.

It was showtime—my time!

My heart was pounding as I ran out on the stage, and the crowd greeted me with an enormous roar. Cameras flashed, lighting up the arena like a million fireworks.

Rob and I had dreamed about performing on this stage since our early days, when we'd played together in our first heavy metal band. Rob knew me as Jimmy Wayne Barber, long before the music world had ever heard of me and years before I dropped my last name. And now we were here, on the stage at Madison Square Garden. We had made it. This was not a dress rehearsal; this was the big time! The dreams of a couple country kids from North Carolina had come true.

I ran to the right side of the stage and out on the ramp. The flock of fans on the right side of the arena screamed loudly. I bolted back across center stage and onto the left ramp. That side of the arena erupted in a huge roar. The crowd was going wild, and my adrenaline was pumping too. We rocked all the way to the end of the song, and when we hit the big ending, the response from the crowd was nearly deafening.

"Thank you!" I called out, knowing it was impossible for anyone to hear me. Without another word we lit into our second song. We performed "Stay Gone," my first big hit, then "Kerosene Kid," a song I wrote about a kid whose life was a lot like my childhood, living in a trailer park, going to school with the smell of kerosene all over my clothes, and being laughed at by the other students. The upbeat tempo of the song masked the message, but the crowd got it. Following "Kerosene Kid" came "Trespassin'," and then the band members cleared the stage, leaving only me as the lights went down.

All I could see were the runway lights, an exit sign on the far right corner, and the thousands of small camera lights. With my black Takamine guitar still in my hands, I walked out to the edge of the catwalk that extended into the audience and gazed into the crowd. It was a heady moment, to say the least.

A single spotlight came on, shining down from far up in the rafters, as brightly as a lighthouse beam. I blinked, allowing my eyes to adjust to the blinding light, and the pivotal events of my life flashed through my mind in a millisecond.

I thought of that day in the Gaston Mall, when I'd rummaged through a bargain box of old CDs and found a Daryl Hall and John Oates Greatest Hits album. I purchased it for one dollar, and when I listened to it, I was mesmerized. The song "Sara Smile," a megahit for Hall and Oates, caught my attention, and I fell in love. That's where this night all began for me.

I thought about Ellen Britton, the guitar teacher who taught me how to play the chords to "Sara Smile." My performance of the song got me my record deal. It opened every door for me, and in return I sang it nearly every time I opened a show or picked up a guitar and stepped onstage.

But for me, this moment wasn't simply about music. A movie was running in my mind. This moment is for the hungry boy who asked the neighbor for food; the homeless teenager who carried around his belongings in a plastic trash bag; the young man who lost the greatest girlfriend because he chased his dream and prayed that God would bring her someone she deserved so she wouldn't have to wait on her dreams. This was for the man who believed in himself and wouldn't accept no for an answer.

I performed "Sara Smile" acoustically, just my guitar and my voice. A few years earlier I couldn't even play guitar; now I was accompanying myself on a hit song in Madison Square Garden.

As soon as I struck the first few notes, the crowd recognized the Daryl Hall and John Oates hit and began singing along. More cameras flashed. I eased into the vocals and shivered when the crowd roared in approval.

The musicians were already back onstage when I finished the song to thunderous applause and cheers. The audience erupted again as Radio Band began playing "Do You Believe Me Now?" which had been number one on the charts for three straight weeks and had been instrumental in getting me on Brad's tour.

This was our last song of the evening, so I tried to soak up every sensation. I wanted these moments indelibly impressed in my memory. The crowd knew the lyrics and sang along as we finished our set. Young girls waved, looking up adoringly; others were still screaming on the front rows.

The band members looked at one another in ecstatic amazement. The crowd wanted more, and we wanted to give it to them, but we were out of time. I didn't want to leave the stage. I wanted to live in the light; I wanted to stay right there forever! I wanted to bask in the love that swelled up from the audience toward me; pseudo-love or not, I didn't care. It felt like love to me.

But the headliner, Brad Paisley, was backstage, gearing up, getting ready to come on and drive the crowd over the edge. My time in the spotlight was done.

I took one more bow and pointed to the screaming women in the front row, as well as the people in the balconies and side wings. I was living the dream—and it was real.

With a final wave, I exited the stage. The guys in the band were rowdy and slapping each other on the back, wiping sweat from their faces. I headed back down the long hallway toward the dressing room.

I had just played Madison Square Garden.

A special birthday cake, made for me by Buddy Valastro, the "Cake Boss" on whom the TLC reality show was based, was sitting on a table as I arrived in my dressing room. Who gets treated like this? I thought when I saw the cake. I was a huge fan of Cake Boss and watched the show regularly while I was on the road. The room was already filled with people ready to celebrate my birthday a few days early.

This was totally different than my fifteenth birthday, when I had spent the night in a jail cell. Life sure had gotten better for me. I hardly remembered that boy who had been locked up in the detention center. That was all behind me now.

After the surprise birthday party, I freshened up and got ready to go back onstage. As we had done every night of the tour, Dierks and I joined Brad for his final, over-the-top number, "Alcohol."

The entire crowd was euphorically swaying with the music as Dierks and I burst out from backstage, entering the performance area through a door under the drum riser, which sat high above the stage. The scene was electrified with strobe lights as an enormous sign dropped down, flashing "Free Beer." The huge video screens were ablaze with images of brews from around the world, exploding like fireworks. Other images featured imaginary beers, such as "Bradweiser."

Dierks and I sang the chorus a couple of times with Brad, but more than anything we worked the crowd, the two of us striding back and forth from one end of the stage to the other while Brad continued to play and sing center stage behind his microphone stand. Near the end of the song, Brad launched into a phenomenal display of his guitar-playing ability, ripping a nearly two-minute-long guitar solo that whipped the crowd into even more of a frenzy. Meanwhile, Dierks and I continued to interact with members of the audience, racing now from side to side onstage, always careful to point the attention back to Brad but still having a blast improvising our own responses. We slapped hands with audience members and reached down and hugged women in the crowd; we even served as amateur photographers, accepting fans' cameras and taking quick pictures of Brad, still ripping on his guitar solo, then handing the cameras back to the ecstatic Paisley fans.

Two minutes on a live stage is a long time not to be singing, so as the standing crowd below the stage reached up toward me, I stretched out backward and fell into the waiting bed of fans. Dozens of hands held me high above the floor, moving my body along several feet away from the stage and then back again, catapulting me back onto the stage floor just in time to join Brad and Dierks for our final stage jump, the three of us huddling together in front of the drummer, then leaping into the air and landing simultaneously just as the band hit the ending note. To say the crowd went wild would be both redundant and an understatement. But they did.

Dierks and I quickly exited, heading backstage and allowing Brad to enjoy the adoration of his fans. Soaking wet from perspiration, I was glad when the stagehands handed us fresh towels as we made our way back to the dressing room area, the roar of the crowd still so loud it prevented any real conversation without yelling.

It was at least a half hour before my heart stopped pounding. Our road manager was pushing us to get out of the building, but my four band members and I stopped long enough at the exit door to pose for a photo in front of a Madison Square Garden sign. Then we rushed onto the tour bus waiting for us on a side street. Once aboard, I headed to the back lounge, slumped on the couch, and stared out the window.

Outside, I could see the busy, bustling New York City streets. The concert was over, so I could see the taxis and people flooding the streets, people streaming past each other, oblivious to everyone around them—including the homeless people, some of whom were lying in doorways on cardboard boxes to break the October chill of the cold cement below them.

Oh, yeah. The homeless people.

That used to be me, I thought.

Another thought flitted through my mind—this one of a beautiful, grandmotherly woman named Bea. I wished Bea could see me now.

I quickly closed the window blinds.



After being on tour since June, I finally got back to Nashville the first week in December 2009. I was so glad to be home. Sleeping in my own bed in my own comfortable Nashville townhome felt fantastic. Although I had traveled the country in a first-class, million-dollar tour bus, stayed in some fabulous hotels, eaten at fine restaurants, and enjoyed plenty of backstage food, there was no better feeling than to snuggle with my pillow and sleep in my own home.

Despite my road fatigue, I awakened early, as I usually do, the morning of December 3. Wearing only flannel pj's and a T-shirt, I rolled out of my toasty warm bed and instantly felt a chill in the air. It was unusually cold in Tennessee that year, so I reached for my Ugg slippers and threw on a heavy robe before ambling to the kitchen.

I yawned, stretched, and reached for the coffeepot. While on the road, traveling musicians learn to graciously accept almost anything that resembles coffee, but now that I was home, I brewed some of my favorite blend of GoodBean coffee that I had special-ordered from Jacksonville, Oregon. As the delicious brew slowly dripped into my coffeepot and the tantalizing aroma wafted through my townhome, I reached for one of the many specialty mugs I had collected. Today's choice was a large yellow cup with the words Rise Up imprinted on the side.

I'm trying; I'm trying to rise up, I thought, alternately gazing at the cup and the coffeepot, wishing I could hurry the brewing process. But good things take time.

When the coffee was finally ready, I filled my cup, careful to allow room for Coffee-Mate hazelnut-flavored gourmet creamer—another personal favorite. Man, I have a great life! I thought as I stirred the rich creamer into my GoodBean. It doesn't get much better than this. I took a sip of coffee and savored the taste while I reminisced about the sensational tour I had just completed, everything I had accomplished, and the many dreams that had come true for me in 2009, the memories of performing at Madison Square Garden still fresh in my mind. I moved about the kitchen then eased into the foyer to look out the front window, warming my hands with the coffee.

Brr, it looks cold outside, I thought. Despite the arctic blast that had gripped the southern part of the country, I saw people happily moving about the neighborhood. It was still relatively early in the Christmas season, but many Nashvillians had already decorated their homes; some had started holiday preparations more than a month ago. Others were out stringing Christmas lights in the frigid air. They appeared to be enjoying the cold weather. Brr, not me. A shiver shook through me as I looked at the frost-covered grass. Without even thinking about it, I reached over and pressed the button on the thermostat, nudging the temperature control higher by a few degrees. I raised the cup of hot coffee to my lips and allowed a sip of GoodBean to slip down my throat, warming me as it went, it seemed, all the way to my toes.

As I heard the furnace kick on, a sense of guilt suddenly overwhelmed me. I felt convicted by my oh-so-comfortable lifestyle. I wasn't rich, but I had some money in my bank account. I wasn't blowing money like a rock star, but I certainly wasn't hurting either. The amount mattered little. It wasn't that I had so much, but so many kids I had personally encountered had so little.


Excerpted from Walk To Beautiful by Jimmy Wayne, Ken Abraham. Copyright © 2014 Jimmy Wayne. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Prologue: FTW: Twenty-Seven Years Earlier xvii

Part 1 A Wake-Up Call 1

1 Big Time! 3

2 Back Home 11

Part 2 The Crazy Years 19

3 Life with Carroll 21

4 Vance Street Vice, Mayhem, and Murder 27

5 Matinee Madness 39

6 Hangover Street 43

7 Ghost Tales 49

8 I Think I Know How Jesus Felt 55

9 Foster Kid 65

10 Hungry 77

11 Baptized 83

12 Grandpa's Place 87

13 A Light in the Darkness 93

14 Money for Mama 101

15 Sparkles 107

16 The Nightmare Begins 113

17 Sante Shoot-Out 125

18 On the Run 131

19 Facing the Bullies 143

20 Faith Farm 149

21 Doctor Death 159

22 Didn't She Always Come Back? 169

23 My Worst Birthday Ever 179

24 Bumping into Angels 189

25 Family Affairs 197

Part 3 Saved By Love 205

26 The Most Beautiful Woman in the World 207

27 My First Band 217

28 It's Not Where You've Been; It's Where You're Goin' 225

29 Working Inside 235

30 Country Bust 243

31 Nashville Novice 253

32 Good-bye, Jimmy; Good-bye, Bea 259

33 Some Dreams Really Do Come True 265

34 You Never Know 275

35 Who Me? A Country Star? 283

36 House of Cards 293

37 Exposure 303

38 Second Chance 313

Part 4 The Walk 319

39 Walking Away or Walking Toward? 321

40 Walk On! 329

41 New Friends, Snakes, and a Dog 337

42 Pie Town 345

43 Not Complaining', Just Explainin' 355

44 First Steps to a New Journey 363

Epilogue: Be Somebody! 371

Acknowledgments 377

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