Ed McMahon Calls Again

This appeared in The Tennessean - January 12, 2001

Marcus Tribble was on cloud nine when Ed McMahon called.

The television personality didn't call the Brentwood resident to deliver a $1 million check to the easy life, although Tribble said he felt just as happy as if he received an American Family Publishers prize.

Instead, McMahon wanted to tap Tribble for another project. He invited the daytime real estate agent/part-time piano player and singer to his next televised Star Search program to be taped tomorrow at Universal Studios in Orlando, Fla.

"It was amazing," Tribble said, right after McMahon called his Brentwood home, "I knew his voice instantly. He wanted to congratulate me on my talent and he said he looked forward to meeting me.

"I think it's just a hoot that I'm getting to do this."

Be assured, Tribble is practicing on a piano somewhere at this very moment. Competition is sure to be fierce as the studio audience rates his performance against other musicians.

He is hoping that sections from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera and music from the Broadway musical Jekyll and Hyde, will lead him to the No. 1 spot on the show in the theatrical music category.

Strangely, he seems calm and relaxed about his prospects.

"Whatever happens, at least I got to travel and have a little fun. To have a happy memory about it all," he said.

But that doesn't mean that Tribble has not spent hours preparing for his two minutes of fame. He's been sitting at his black concert piano for hours each day with a watch perched by the sheet music. He plays "All I Ask of You" and "Jeckyll and Hyde," as he keeps an eye on the watch ticking out exactly two minutes.

"If you go over two minutes, you're disqualified. But I want to get as close to those two minutes as I can," he explained.

Tribble's road to fame through Star Search began when another Brentwood resident, Kristen Rambo, a high school singing sensation, was on the program last fall. Bolstered by her success, Tribble sent his own tape into the Internet version, Nextbigstar.com. He received a high vote count on the Web site and was invited to perform before the television camera.

No matter how he places, McMahon and Tribble won't go their separate ways after the show. Tribble so impressed the television personality that McMahon scheduled him to perform at a black-tie fund-raising dinner for the Todd Thomas Foundation in Arizona. The organization hopes to raise awareness for individuals with mental illnesses.

And then during the telephone call, McMahon surprised Tribble again by asking if he wouldn't mind tickling the ivories for another fund-raiser tentatively scheduled in Nashville in the near future.

"I've been performing for quite a while but 2001 looks like a good year for me so far," the pianist said, "It's always good when the phone rings."

Tribble is as comfortable performing in a tux as he is in cowboy boots and blue jeans. His repertoire runs the gamut from weepy blues and rocking country to Top-40 pop tunes.

His mother saw his talents early on when she sent her 9-year-old to piano lessons in their home state of West Virginia. And like many hopeful musicians, a grown-up Tribble ended up in Nashville eight years ago looking for his big break.

One day Tribble, who had set up outside a Music Row record company to sing for tourists and collect some rent money, was approached by a desperate young woman who worked in the music business. Marty Stuart was scheduled to sing the Star-Spangled Banner at that night's Nashville Sounds game but something had come up and the well-known country singer was not able to make his commitment.

She had heard his deep baritone voice on the sidewalk before heading on into work and wanted to know if he wanted to sing.

That night, Tribble stepped up to home plate and gazed out on the crowd gathered to watch the baseball game. Waiting for the music to swell, the announcer came on the loud speaker:

"And now here to sing the national anthem is Marty Stuart."

"I paused and I'm sure I looked a little embarrassed but there was nothing I could do. I just started singing," Tribble said laughing, "Obviously, they had forgotten to tell the announcer that Marty Stuart wouldn't be there that night.

The two-steps-forward, one-step-back way of life for musicians is just something you have to be prepared for. So if Tribble ends up a real estate agent, that's all right, he said.

"One of my favorite quotes is from the book, Who Moved The Cheese. It says something like 'What would you do if you weren't afraid.' So the trick is to take those chances. To have no fear."

By Bonnie Burch

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