updated 12/19/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 12/19/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST
Like many a country and Western singer, Danny Cooksey started his career behind bars—only his were attached to a crib. Born in the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore, he sang along with the radio at 2 and memorized the lyrics to several songs before he was 3. "I listened," says Danny, now 8, "liked what heard and started singing." The strawberry blond second-grader recorded his first tape when he was 5 and hit the road shortly thereafter. He has opened for Merle Haggard and Johnny Lee at such hallowed halls as Gilley's in Pasadena, Texas and Billy Bob's in Fort Worth. His dream is to play the Grand Ole Opry. The youngster has won an armful of awards (including the Oklahoma Country Music Association's "Entertainer of the Year"), been on Good Morning America, The Dukes of Hazzard and taped That's Incredible! When not strummin' his guitar, Danny races his Hot Wheels car collection around his jam-packed bedroom, which features posters of C&W stars, hockey sticks and a waterbed. His fan club (Grandma Joy Wagner is its president) numbers more than 200, many of whom turn out for his weekend gigs. Cooksey pulls in roughly $500 (which his parents bank for him) an appearance but insists that he sings for pleasure. "I like to make people happy," Danny says. "When I see them smile, clap and yell, it makes me feel good."