Kenny Chesney Biography
Kenny Chesney's rise to the very top in country music is the study of a man who kept his nose to the grindstone and never lost sight of his dream of making it in the music business. Unlike many of today's superstars, he didn't become an instant star after the release of his debut album. But industry insiders took note of this kid from east Tennessee, and they knew they were looking at a diamond in the rough. With years of hard work and dedication, Kenny Chesney eventually became one of the biggest stars in country music and one of the most successful touring acts in any genre of popular music.
Origins and Early Musical Successes
Born Kenneth Arnold Chesney on March 26, 1968 in Knoxville, TN, Kenny Chesney was raised in the small town of Luttrell, which was also the hometown of legendary guitarist and producer, Chet Atkins. Chesney's mother, Karen, worked as a hairdresser, while his father, David, was an elementary school teacher. Chesney and his sister, Jennifer, attended Gibbs High School, where he was a wide receiver on the school's football team. He grew up listening to both country and rock music, but he wouldn't begin taking music seriously until he was in college. After graduating from high school in 1986, he enrolled in East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, where he eventually earned his degree in advertising.
While in college, Chesney taught himself to play the guitar, and he eventually began performing in the school's Bluegrass program. He also played music at various clubs and restaurants around town, including a small Mexican restaurant called Chucky's Trading Post. He recorded a self-financed CD in Bristol, TN, the city many consider the birthplace of country music due to the famous Bristol Sessions of 1927. Chesney printed up 1,000 copies of the CD, which he sold at his gigs. He earned is degree in 1990 and set his sights on Nashville.
Chesney's First Recording Deal
Shortly after arriving in Music City, Chesney began performing wherever he could. He found gigs at some local clubs, including becoming a mainstay at a honky tonk called the Turf in Nashville's historic district. In 1992 he signed a publishing deal with Acuff-Rose Publishing. Soon after, Chesney signed his first recording contract with the little-known Capricorn label, which led to the release of his debut album, In My Wildest Dreams. Despite the label doing very little to promote his album, it went on to sell over 100,000 copies and spawn two low-level charting hits. The label, however, closed down its country division, leaving him without a home.
Chesney's stint with Capricorn wasn't a total bust because the exposure led to a number of major labels expressing interest, and he eventually signed with the RCA subsidiary BNA. In 1995, he released his major-label debut album, All I Need to Know, which gave him his first three big hits, "Fall in Love" (No. 6), "All I Need to Know" (No. 8) and "Grandpa Told Me So" (No. 23).
Chesney released his follow-up album on BNA, Me and You, in the summer of 1996, and though its first single failed to make waves, the next two singles, "Me and You" and "When I Close My Eyes" shot all the way to No. 2. The album became the first of nine platinum albums Chesney would have through the winter of 2010.
An Avalanche of No. 1 Hits
In 1997, Chesney took home his first major award by winning the Top New Male Vocalist trophy from the Academy of Country Music. That same year he released his third album for BNA, I Will Stand. The album's first single, "She's Got It All," became the first of 17 No. 1 hits he would enjoy over the next ten years. Three additional singles charted well from the album, including "A Chance," "That's Why I'm Here" and "I Will Stand."
In March of 1999, Chesney released what would become his first multi-platinum album, Everywhere We Go. He also earned his first two consecutive No. 1 hits with "How Forever Feels" and "You Had Me from Hello," a song inspired by a line from the movie, Jerry Maguire, co-starring his future ex-wife, Renee Zellweger, whom he married in 2005 (the marriage lasted only four months). Two other singles from Everywhere We Go charted well, including "She Things My Tractor's Sexy" and "What I Need to Do."
No Shoes, No Shirts, No Problems
Following the 2000 release of his first Greatest Hits compilation, which contained three hit singles, including the No. 1 "Don't Happen Twice," Chesney blew the roof off of his career with 2002's quadruple-platinum No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems. Five major singles followed, including "Young" (No. 2), "The Good Stuff" (No. 1), "A Lot of Things Different" (No. 6), "Big Star" (No. 2) and "No Shoes, No Shirts, No Service" (No. 2).
In 2004, Chesney released his second consecutive quadruple-platinum album, When the Sun Goes Down. The album's first single, There's Goes My Life, spent seven weeks atop Billboard's Country Songs chart, while it's follow-up, "When the Sun Goes Down," a duet with Uncle Kracker, also shot to No. 1. Of the album's six singles, five climbed to No. 2 or better, and its success eventually earned Chesney the first of four consecutive Entertainer of the Year awards from the Country Music Association. He is also a three-time winner of the Academy of Country Music's Entertainer of the Year award.
Most Popular Kenny Chesney Songs:
- "When the Sun Goes Down" (with Uncle Kracker)
- "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem"
- "Anything but Mine"
- "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy"
- "The Good Stuff"
Selected Kenny Chesney Discography: