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September 08, 2003

MORELAND - I have a dream for my life, says the petite blond woman in not so many words. Her vivid blue eyes speak of determination and confidence as she crosses her ankles and softly tells her story.

She doesn't have to explain much, her songs can speak for her.

"I've always wanted to sing, since I was a teen-ager," says Beverly Pannell from behind wispy blond curls. "But I started young, having a family, and I put everything on hold."

Now she takes to the local stages under the name of Beverly the Hillbilly Lady and sings the songs she and her brother have written about her life. About prejudices against mountain and "holler" people, about the honor of our flag, and the sons who don't come back from war.

After years of singing at local venues, the wheels to Nashville are beginning to turn for Pannell. Saturday, Beverly the Hillbilly Lady took in the lights of Music City from behind the mic.


Pannell competed in the Fowler all-night sing-along in Nashville after being chosen from an audition in Danville and aceing the Branson, Mo., semi-finals. She sings of God's and a mother's love with a lilting, honest voice.

A mother of four daughters, now grown, and a deceased son, Pannell has consistently put the lives of her children above her own dreams.

When her son died in 1993, Pannell couldn't keep the stirrings of her music dreams down. Three years later, she began singing her self-titled "reality songs."

"All this stirred in me to get songs out there to be heard," she says.

Beverly the Hillbilly Lady looks the part of the country singer she is striving to be. Though she might be getting started at her career later in life than some, she said it couldn't have happened without her husband's help and God.

"Without Him, I'd be nothing," she says as she leans forward slightly, intently. "I don't think we'd get anywhere without God behind us."

Her husband is her biggest supporter. "My husband, he's hanging in there for me, 'cause money is a little tight right now. He goes with me to these events. He just wants to be there for me."

In Branson, Pannell paid $500 for 50 video tapes of her performance as well as 50 cassette recordings, in addition to travel and lodging costs.

The Danville chapter of American Legion helped sponsor her Branson trip, but Pannell supported herself completely in Nashville.

She says her children are questioning the extra expenses and hoping their mother is not being strung along on a rip-off scam.

"They say, 'Mom, how good do you think you are?' You know, it finally got down to it, I said, 'I raised you girls and you all have your own life, and now I can have my own life. Let me try to have my dream now,'" says Pannell. "Let me taste of what I can succeed in life."

"When you're a singer, you don't mind to pay a little bit to invest in yourself," she explains.

As a self-proclaimed spokeswoman for hillbillies, Pannell writes songs that hit home with mountain people, such as her first title track, "Beverly the Hillbilly Lady."

"Hillbilly don't mean poor or stupid, only that you're free," she sings ala the Ballad of Jed Clampett.

"I was thinking on speaking out for the hillbillies, so I came up with the name Beverly the Hillbilly," says Pannell. "If you look up hillbilly, ... it doesn't say anything about being poor, impoverished or unlearned, and I thought somebody should tell people about it. We are all what God made us, and we can't help it if we were born in a mountainous area."

Now Pannell's message of equality is reaching a national audience as she competes for Internet and telephone votes this month in Nashville.

A $100,000 recording contract will be awarded to the artist with the most votes.

Pannell, who sang "A mother's Plea to God," can be voted for online or over the telephone.

"(It's difficult) getting people to recognize your love of music, and getting people to recognize you and what your music means to you," says Pannell.

Singing with faith and self-confidence, Beverly the Hillbilly is finally working on a life-long dream, with a shove from God to get her started.

"I don't think anything happens to us without a reason," she says.

"Now down in the country ain't a bad place to be," she sings. "All the stars come from down here, just like Beverly, hey that's me!"

Pannell's voting number is 104 and votes may be made at or 1-900-946-2323 for $1.99 a call. Voting will be open Sept. 22 through Oct. 19. To order a $10 music video or $5 cassette, call Pannell at (606) 346-9757.|9/8/03***

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