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Kellie Pickler: Grand-raised and proud of it

The country music star pays tribute to the “angels” who gave her wings

When asked how she found the courage to audition for American Idol, Kellie Pickler has a ready answer: her paternal grandparents, Faye and Clyde Pickler. The bubbly country singer says her grandparents’ love and devotion gave her the confidence to forge ahead with a singing career.

Kellie Pickler’s parents had a tumultuous relationship, separating when she was just 2 years old. Her father struggled with addictions to drugs and alcohol and couldn’t care for her properly. Consequently, Kellie’s grandparents became her primary caregivers when she was very young.
Kellie’s grandmother Faye piqued her interest in music. “[Grandma] had a collection of children’s books, and one of those was a songbook. We would sit on the swing on the front porch, and I would just sing my heart out,” Kellie recalls.

But it was her grandfather Clyde who took Kellie Pickler to her American Idol audition and calmed her down before her performance. “He said, ‘Sit down, Kellie. We’re here now; what do you have to lose?’” The rest is now country-music history.


Music saved Kellie Pickler when her grandmother passed away while Kellie was still in high school. Her first album closes with the song “My Angel,” a heartfelt tribute to her beloved grandmother.

Kellie sang “My Angel” and spoke words of encouragement to nearly 1,000 grandparents raising grandchildren and their supporters at a national GrandRally (sponsored by Generations United) in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., in 2008.

This story was excerpted from Grand Successes: Stories of Lives Well-Raised, by permission of Generations United.


A new report on grandfamilies

In the United States, about 7.8 million children live in grandfamilies (homes headed by grandparents), and another 2.7 million grandparents are responsible for most of their grandchildren’s basic needs. These and other facts are reported in Grand Successes: Stories of Lives Well-Raised, a recent publication of Generations United — a national membership organization devoted to improving the lives of children, youth, and older people through intergenerational strategies, programs, and public policies. Grand Successes also features 11 profiles of successful people who were raised by their grandparents as well as numerous recommendations for ensuring and improving the welfare of grandfamilies.



“Talking in purely financial terms, grandparents who are raising their grandchildren are saving the U.S. more than $6.5 billion each year by keeping their kids out of foster care. That’s an extraordinary accomplishment, and we owe those grandparents a tremendous debt of thanks. But saving money isn’t the only way grandparents are contributing to society in a big way: They also provide the love, stability, and support young people need to thrive. Every pundit and policy maker should read and reflect on Grand Successes. Then, they should do everything they can to support these families.”

Donna Butts, Executive Director, Generations United

Click to read or download GU’s free 25-page booklet, Grand Successes: Stores of Lives Well-Raised.


Christine Crosby

About the author

Christine is the co-founder and editorial director for GRAND Magazine. She is the grandmother of five and great-grandmom (aka Grandmere) to one. She makes her home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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