Born March 26, 1968, in Lutrelle, TN. Education: Eastern Tennessee State University, B.S. in marketing, 1991. Addresses: Record company--BNA Entertainment, 1 Music Circle North, Nashville, TN 37203-4310. Management--Dale Morris Agency, 818 19th Ave. South, Nashville, TN.
Blessed with a voice that sounds older than his years, Kenny Chesney is a hard-core country vocalist. Heavily influenced by such classical stylists such as Merle Haggard and George "the Possum" Jones, he appreciates the country rock of Charlie Daniels and his band as well. Through Chesney's talent and his dogged persistence in the face of a first recording contract that didn't pan out, the singles off his more recent albums for BNA Records have consistently charted in the Top Ten. In 2005, Chesney won, among other awards, the Country Music Television Award for Male Video of the Year for "I Go Back." "I want a 20-year career, not just a few records that go gold and then are gone," Chesney told Michael A. Capozzoli Jr. in Country Weekly.
Chesney was born March 26, 1968, in Lutrelle, a small town near Knoxville, Tennessee, that is famous as the birthplace of guitar virtuoso Chet Atkins. As a boy, he listened to country and bluegrass music along with his friends, but his own dreams were of becoming a star athlete, possibly in baseball, rather than a country singer. By the time he reached high school, his family had moved to Knoxville, and Chesney became serious about football. He also had his first flirtation with music: He and a friend joined the local choir, and were inspired by the choir's director with enthusiasm for melody and vocal harmony.
In 1986, after graduating from high school, Chesney enrolled at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, where he decided to pursue a degree in business. Then, on Christmas Day of his sophomore year, he received a guitar as a gift. With his earlier enthusiasm for music renewed, Chesney learned enough chords to work out the Eagles' "Tequilla Sunrise." "I wasn't sure what I wanted to do," the singer told Linda Burchfield in Country Song Roundup. "Until I got my first guitar, and then I was hooked." Pretty soon he was entertaining his friends with his singing and was writing his own songs as well. Encouraged by his roommates, he got a gig at a small restaurant near campus, but was disappointed by the lack of response from the restaurant's rowdy Saturday Night student crowd. Chesney, however, didn't give up; he continued to play at small restaurants and clubs near campus. Eventually he rented some studio time at Classic Recording in Bristol, Virginia, and laid down an album's worth of self-penned tracks. Sales of his tapes at his shows were so successful that Chesney was soon able to buy himself a brand new Martin guitar with the profits.
Chesney's fan following expanded as he moved further from his base on campus and began playing venues in Virginia and the Carolinas. Even though the music bug had bit hard, he fought the urge to quit school and move to Nashville. Graduating from East Tennessee State with a degree in advertising and marketing in December of 1991, he wasted no time in pulling up stakes and moving to Music City to become a songwriter. Playing clubs at night and parking cars by day, Chesney kept the bills paid while doing his homework on the country music industry. "I read every book about the music business that I could get my hands on," he told Burchfield. "Then I just picked up the phone and called [BMI publishing executive] Clay Bradley." Bradley helped the young newcomer get a songwriter's contract with Acuff/Rose publishing in 1992.
After an appearance at a local songwriter's showcase in 1993, Chesney landed a recording contract with Capricorn Records
by Pamela Shelton
Kenny Chesney's Career
Began performing in small clubs, Johnson City, TN, 1987; moved to Nashville, 1991; signed with Acuff/Rose, 1992; signed with Capricorn, 1993; released debut album, In My Wildest Dreams, 1994; signed with BNA, 1995.
- Selective Works
- In My Wildest Dreams, Capricorn, 1994.
- All I Need to Know, BNA, 1995.
- Me and You (includes "Back in My Arms Again"), BNA, 1996.
- I Will Stand, BNA, 1997.
- Everywhere We Go, BNA, 1999.
- Greatest Hits, BNA, 2000.
- No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems, BNA, 2002.
- All I Want for Christmas Is a Real Good Tan, BNA, 2003.
- When the Sun Goes Down, BNA, 2004.
- Be as You Are, BNA, 2005.
- The Road and the Radio, BNA, 2005.
- Billboard, April 12, 1997; June 14, 1997.
- Close Up, March 1997.
- CNN.com, http://edition.cnn.com/2005/SHOWBIZ/Movies/05/09/zellweger.married/index.html, May 10, 2005; CNN.com, www.cnn.com/2005/SHOWBIZ/Music/05/18/music.countryawards.list.ap/index.html, May 19, 2005.
- Country Song Roundup, December 1995; October 1996; December 1996.
- Country Weekly, April 29, 1997.
- Additional information for this profile was provided by BNA Entertainment.
- 38th Annual CMA Awards, www.cmaawards.com, November 9, 2004.
- ABC.com, abc.go.com/primetime/ama/nominees.html, November 15, 2004.
- Billboard.com, www.billboard.com/bb/releases/week_1/index.jsp, February 5, 2005; www.billboard.com/bb/riaa/platinum.jsp, April 11, 2005.
- CMT.com, www.cmt.com/shows/events/flameworthy/2004/winners.jhtml, April 27, 2004.
- Country Music Television, www.cmt.com/shows/events/cmt_music_awards/2005/, April 15, 2005.
- USA Today, www.usatoday.com/life/digest.htm, January 16, 2005; www.usatoday.com/life/people/2005-09-15-zellweger-chesney_x.htm, September 16, 2005.