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Singing Seabee Says Life Fuels His Lyrics : Kevin Michael Dougherty wrote his most popular ballad in 1990 during his tour of Saudi Arabia.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

It’s hard to be a father 10,000 miles away. And it hurts me not to be with you each and every day. But I’ve got to serve my country, and hold my head up high. And keep within my family true love and pride.

--"He’s My Little Man” by Kevin Michael Dougherty

These lyrics may sound like a cross between the songs of Lee Greenwood and Doug Supernaw. But this tune, which has touched country music fans around Ventura County, was written by local aspiring singer/songwriter, Kevin Michael Dougherty.

The “Country-Western Christmas” theme for Ventura Harbor Village’s annual Parade of Lights on Saturday probably accounted for the sea of cowboy hats. And if you were among the thousands of visitors, chances are you spotted Dougherty performing with the Rhythm Rangers that afternoon.

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But the 34-year-old singing Seabee was the only guy dressed in military duds, complete with Desert Storm medals.

That’s because Builder 2nd Class Petty Officer Dougherty was invited to sing a few numbers in honor of military personnel who can’t go home for Christmas. And his most popular song is “He’s My Little Man,” a ballad he wrote in 1990 during his tour in Saudi Arabia, right before Desert Storm.

“I had received a care package with a picture of my 2-year-old looking at me first thing when I opened the box. And I had an old beat-up guitar there and started strumming chords. And it came to me within an hour,” said Dougherty.

It was so well-received by his fellow Seabees that Dougherty was invited to perform for President Bush and 5,000 fellow troops at a Thanksgiving dinner. And that’s how a fella from Branson, Mo.,--a veritable theme town of old-fashion country entertainment--got to meet the President, Tom Brokaw and was featured on CNN and the Armed Forces radio.

But Dougherty, who describes himself as a singer/songwriter, said he’s got a dozen more songs, and some life experience to fuel them.

He joined the service eight years ago and served on an aircraft carrier as a fleet sailor before converting to the Seabees in 1990. He was stationed in Texas between 1990 and 1992, where he performed at Seabee balls and a well-known family country show called D.W’s.

Dougherty has been stationed at the Construction Battalion Center in Port Hueneme since April, where he’s slated to sing the national anthem at the Seabee Ball on March 15.

His lilting traditional tenor country voice is well suited for the ballads he prefers to sing, which range from tunes by Merle Haggard and John Michael Montgomery to the heart-felt Garth Brooks hit, “If Tomorrow Never Comes.”

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Even with such a voice, performing didn’t come easy.

“Jimmy Dale at the Ban-Dar gave me the first crack at the mike back in 1990,” recalled Dougherty. “I had just wrote a love song for a young lady and got up and sang it. He kind of coached me along saying, ‘You’re singin’ from your throat--sing from your diaphragm.’ And he gave me the confidence to continue. Now the two groups I like hanging with are Jimmy Dale and the Desperados, and the Rhythm Rangers.”

Dougherty has become a familiar sight on the local country scene since July when he shyly asked if he could get up and sing a number with the Rhythm Rangers, who were performing at Alexander’s country nights.

“We don’t normally let people just come up and sing with us,” said Michael J. Smith, singer-guitarist. “But we see this guy wearing a jacket covered with military patches and supported by his Navy buddies. And we figure--how bad could he be? And even if he was bad, he’d get the sympathy vote.

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“But Kevin sang the George Jones classic, ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today,’ and wowed us--and the audience.”

Then Dougherty asked if he could sing his original composition. “We backed him and were touched by it,” Smith said.

So were a lot of folks.

Now you can expect the singing Seabee to pop up at a club here and there. If he does, grab your partner for a lovely cheek-to-cheek moment on the dance floor, because he won’t be around forever.

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“When my tour’s up in 13 months, I’ll be leaving the Navy,” he said. “And I’m gonna head back home to Branson and later take a shot at Nashville to chase my music dream.”


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