Last updated: 08/18/2012 12:14:39 PM
Talk about the ultimate "How I Spent My Summer Vacation" back-to-school composition: For 12-year-old Sammie, "school's out" celebrations in June 1998 meant it was time for him and his mom to pack up and leave their Miami home for a six week stay in Atlanta. There in Atlanta Sammie completed recording his debut album with super hit making producer Dallas Austin and his team. "We've found a lot of singing kids," Austin says, "but the difference between a singing kid and a star is charisma, the nerve to do certain things that other people won't. It's a gift from God."
In fact, six weeks turned into ten weeks. Sammie's appeal lies as much in his disarming sense of humor - "He is hilarious," Austin says - as it does in his insatiable curiosity and drive, "His workmanship inside the studio is incredible," Austin adds.
Sammie's easy going personality is a quality that won Dallas Austin over. Anyone familiar with Austin's track record with young performers like Monica and Another Bad Creation, appreciates how songs like "Can't Let Go," "Crazy Things I Do," and the first single, "I Like It" all contribute to presenting Sammie as a 12-year-old with a 12-year-old's desires and confusions, joy and yearnings, and budding feelings of romance and heartbreak.
But amidst these titles - "Fell For Her," "Do It For You," "Catching Feelings," "Friend Like You" - there is a song dedicated to the city where Sammie grew up, "The Bottom." As Austin explains, "That's Miami of course, from the bottom to the top. Sammie was real adamant that Miami was supported on the record. So I wrote that song inspired by his connection in Miami."
"Sammie has a street appeal to him,'" Austin continues, "but at the same time his mom raised him well so he also has a very intelligent appeal linked to a supportive spiritual background. So, 'From the Bottom to the Top' was a very important theme for his album."
Although 'Sammie From Miami' was a headline that made its way into the Miami Herald and other newspapers during 1999, Sammie Bush was actually born in Boynton Beach, located in Palm Bach County, on March 1, 1987. His mom, former singer Angila Baxter, believes that "when I was singing in church, everything that went through my womb also went through him. He doesn't have any limits on the music he listens to - rap, R&B, gospel, jazz, he just loves music."
Sammie was raised in Boynton and Delray where his grandmother lives, and it was at the Church of Christ in Delray where, at age four, he experienced his first standing ovation for his delivery of "Troubles Don't Last Always" as a soloist.
He attended Pine Grove Elementary School in Delray for a year or so before Angila took him and his sister Krystal Tiara (four years younger) to live in the Brownsville section of Miami in 1993 (Sammie also has a three-year-old younger brother, Anthony Jordan.)
His talent caught the attention of a music teacher at Charles Drew Elementary in Liberty City, a magnet school with a performing arts program that Sammie transferred into at the start of third grade. His music training accelerated as he eagerly performed at almost every school program.
Along with Phillip? And Terrel? - two older boys from a Dade County junior high school - Sammie formed the Wonder3. The music teacher taped a rough-cut home video of them and submitted it to producers of the amateur and children's segment at "It's Showtime At the Apollo." The producer was struck by the group's performance and flew the boys in to New York for an audition in December 1997. Within weeks the producer decided to have Sammie return to New York for a solo performance on the kids of segment that aired in February 1998.
"I got a standing ovation and everything." Sammie says of his broadcast premiere. Not yet 11 years old, he won the semi-final competition singing "My Cherie Amour" by his favorite artist, Stevie Wonder.
Returning to the Finals in April, Sammi reprised "My Cherie Amour." This time, the winning notice came by way of a 2:00am phone call to Angila from Atlanta-based Joyce Irby. After two meetings with Angila and Sammie, Irby filmed new video footage. She showed it to her friend Dallas Austin. "I saw his appeal just from the tape," Austin said. Sammie received additional exposure when he performed (with a high school choir as the background) at the nationally televised "Teacher of the Year" awards held at Universal Studios in Orlando.
While Austin was working on a project in Nashville, he brought Sammie there to try out some tracks. "By the time he left," Austin said, "I had done three songs, because we worked so fast." By April-May 1999, Angila had been asked by Dallas Austin recording Projects (DARP) to plan a six-week leave of absence from her job as a Marketing Coordinator to start recording in Atlanta. The sessions continued for ten weeks. By the end of the summer with the album still not complete, Sammie and his mom returned to Florida for the new school year. Eager to finish the album, session time was booked at a local Miami studio in early fall of 1999, to finish the final vocal tracks for the album.
Meanwhile, "I'm learning a lot about the business and how it works and how people work. I consider myself blessed and very excited that I have this opportunity to share my music with the world."