Universal South Records, the joint venture between Universal Records and highly respected music executives Tony Brown and Tim DuBois, has inked a recording contract with new duo McHayes, with a debut album planned for Summer of 2003. McHayes is award-winning singer/songwriter Wade Hayes and his longtime friend Mark McClurg, best known for his 12 years as the fiddle/mandolin player and back-up vocalist in Alan Jackson’s band, The Strayhorns. Both native Oklahomans, McClurg and Hayes became fast friends eight years ago, when both were touring with Alan Jackson--McClurg as a Strayhorn, Hayes as an opening act. With endless hours to kill on the road between gigs, it wasn’t long before McClurg and Hayes began writing songs together. McClurg and Hayes often talked about recording something, even half-joking about forming a duo, but over the years both men pursued individual career paths. Hayes had two gold-certified solo albums, two #1 and seven Top-10 singles on Columbia Records; McClurg continued to develop his songwriting and stayed on the road with Jackson. Fast forward to 2003, the close friendship had endured; McClurg had even named his now seven-month old son, Tucker Wade, after Hayes. Hayes had left Columbia and McClurg had left the Strayhorns. Both had individual record deal offers from labels when the two friends found themselves at a professional crossroads. When McClurg heard that Brown and DuBois were looking for a duo to round out the developing roster of their new company, and his first call was to Hayes. What had once been conceived in humor became a serious seed of possibility when McClurg mentioned the potential duo to Universal South A&R Manager Mike Owens, who, in turn, brought the idea up to DuBois. DuBois, intrigued by the pairing, encouraged McClurg and Hayes to go into the studio with Grammy-nominated producer Brent Rowan (Joe Nichols). The result was a three-song demo that became the foundation of McHayes. The music was coming together, now the duo needed a name. Once again, humor inspired reality. McClurg and Hayes had joked around with using the combination of their two names, and one night Wade mentioned using “McHayes” to his father. Unbelievably, his father told him that when his ancestors emigrated from Scotland, McHayes had been the family’s original last name. That solidified it, McHayes it was. McHayes’s debut single “It Doesn’t Mean That I Don’t Love You” is shipping to radio this week, and McClurg and Hayes are currently putting finishing touches on an album to be released this summer. Morris Management Group’s Clint Higham, who also manages Kenny Chesney, will represent McHayes.