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John Rich

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Also Known As: John D. Rich Died:
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Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

One half of the rowdy country duo Big & Rich, John Rich was a wildly successful singer and songwriter who blended honky tonk songwriting with rock-n-roll volume and hip-hop attitude for a string of hits that included "Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)," "Holy Water" and "Lost in the Moment." He and partner "Big Kenny" Alphin brought a much-needed dose of levity and party-hearty exuberance to the Nashville scene, which quickly embraced them and partners in crime like Gretchen Wilson and Cowboy Troy. Rich's solo efforts were also warmly received, as were TV projects like "Gone Country" (CMT, 2008- ) and "The Celebrity Apprentice" (NBC, 2004- ). Rich's apparent golden touch in multiple mediums elevated him beyond the country music borders into the vaunted status of media personality.Born Jan. 7, 1974 in Amarillo, TX, John Rich was raised in a church-going home by a minister father and a mother who played piano at their local house of worship. His early years were marked by dire poverty, with Rich sharing a trailer with his parents and three siblings, and meals culled from the local food bank. After relocating with his family to Tennessee, Rich graduated from high school and relocated to Nashville, where he...

One half of the rowdy country duo Big & Rich, John Rich was a wildly successful singer and songwriter who blended honky tonk songwriting with rock-n-roll volume and hip-hop attitude for a string of hits that included "Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)," "Holy Water" and "Lost in the Moment." He and partner "Big Kenny" Alphin brought a much-needed dose of levity and party-hearty exuberance to the Nashville scene, which quickly embraced them and partners in crime like Gretchen Wilson and Cowboy Troy. Rich's solo efforts were also warmly received, as were TV projects like "Gone Country" (CMT, 2008- ) and "The Celebrity Apprentice" (NBC, 2004- ). Rich's apparent golden touch in multiple mediums elevated him beyond the country music borders into the vaunted status of media personality.

Born Jan. 7, 1974 in Amarillo, TX, John Rich was raised in a church-going home by a minister father and a mother who played piano at their local house of worship. His early years were marked by dire poverty, with Rich sharing a trailer with his parents and three siblings, and meals culled from the local food bank. After relocating with his family to Tennessee, Rich graduated from high school and relocated to Nashville, where he worked at the Opryland USA theme park while training to pursue his first love, professional bull riding, as a career. While working at the park, he met and befriended four other employees and Texas natives, and decided to form a band with them. Initially billing themselves as Texasee, the quintet, with Rich on bass and co-lead vocals, redubbed themselves Lonestar and enjoyed a string of Top 10 and Top 40 hits between 1996 and 1998, including "Say When," which reached the top of the country charts. Following the release of the 1998 single, "Everything's Changed," from their 1997 album Crazy Nights, Rich was fired from Lonestar during a period in which the band sought to shift its focus to more mainstream, adult-contemporary music. Rich decided to strike out on his own, and while recording material for a solo release, a mutual friend introduced him to singer William Kenneth Alphin, a.k.a. Big Kenny.

Kenny had recorded a solo album, Live a Little, for Hollywood Records, which contained a single that made it onto the soundtrack of the Sandra Bullock comedy "Gun Shy" (2000). But the album itself was never released, and Kenny tried his hand as a member of the band luvjOi. It also failed to attract much interest, so Kenny returned to working as a songwriter for hire while mounting the occasional live performance. At one of these shows, he met Rich and they began collaborating on material for Rich's solo album. The first shared credit was the track "I Pray For You," which had also been featured on Kenny's ill-fated solo album. Sadly, Rich's release, Underneath the Same Moon (1999), followed the same downward path as Kenny's album, and remained shelved until 2006 when both men had struck gold as Big and Rich.

Deciding to take the direction of their careers into their own hands, Kenny and Rich launched a weekly roundtable of fellow singer-songwriters performing their own material. The group - dubbed the MuzikMafia - included such future hitmakers as Gretchen Wilson, Shannon Lawson and Cowboy Troy. They also began submitting material to other artists, including Martina McBride, who scored a hit with their track "She's a Butterfly." The success of the song prompted Kenny and Rich to try their hand at recording their own songs. On the strength of a demo for the 2004 song "Holy Water," which detailed the domestic abuse suffered by Kenny's sister, Big & Rich were signed to Warner Bros. Nashville, and released their debut single, "Wild West Show," which broke the Top 25 on the Billboard country singles chart. A subsequent album, Horse of a Different Color (2004) yielded three more hits, including "Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)," "Holy Water," and "Big Time." The group's signature sound - a mix of traditional country harmonies, rock riffs and hip-hop lyrics and beats the press dubbed "hick-hop" - found a fervent audience among younger country fans who had grown up listening to both Johnny Cash and Snoop Dogg.

Big & Rich continued to mine their hard-partying songs on two subsequent albums: 2005's Comin' To Your City produced four hit singles, including the title track and "8th of November," which detailed the life of Niles Harris, a member of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, whose unit was ambushed by Viet Cong, and was rescued by Lawrence Joel, the first living African American to receive the Medal of Honor since the Spanish-American war. The song was nominated for a CMA Award, as was its music video, which also netted nods from the Grammy Awards. During this period, Big & Rich also began contributing an astonishing number of songs to many of their fellow MuzikMafia members, while Rich himself wrote or co-wrote such massive hits as Gretchen Wilson's "Redneck Woman" and Faith Hill's "Mississippi Girl."

The popularity of Big & Rich's output spurred their previous label, BNA Records, to finally release their solo albums in 2006. The following year, they scored their first No. 1 single with "Lost in This Moment," from their third album, Between Raising Hell and Amazing Grace (2007). The duo then released several collaborative tracks with various artists, including Bon Jovi, before taking a hiatus in 2008 to allow Kenny to recover from a pre-existing injury. During this period, Rich also hosted the reality series "Gone Country" (CMT, 2008- ), a reality series in which celebrities outside the world of country music - from Bobby Brown and George Clinton to Dee Snider and Maureen McCormick of "Brady Bunch" (NBC, 1969-1974) fame - competed to remake themselves as country singers, with the winners getting a single produced by Rich. Initially viewed as an oddity, the show quickly became one of the network's most popular programs. Rich also served as a judge on the long-running competition series "Nashville Star" (USA Network/NBC, 2003-08).

In 2008, Big & Rich announced that they would take a hiatus to allow Kenny to recover from a pre-existing neck injury. With Kenny's blessing, Rich released his second solo album, Son of a Preacher Man (2009), which yielded his first Top 40 solo hit, "Shuttin' Detroit Down," which targeted the government bailout of the auto industry, and its follow-up, "The Good Lord and the Man," which served as a tribute to his grandfather, who served in World War II. Both songs reflected a conservative bent that Rich had previously displayed in the political arena by campaigning for Fred Thompson and John McCain's presidential bids. The duo's popularity made Rich a frequent and vocal guest on right-leaning news programs like "Glenn Beck" (HLN/Fox News Channel, 2006- ). In October 2010, Rich was announced as a celebrity contestant on "The Celebrity Apprentice," the eleventh season of the reality series "The Apprentice."

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Milestones close milestones

:
Moved to Nashville, TN and began training to become a professional bull rider
1992:
Formed the band Lonestar (originally called Tennessee) along with his Opryland USA theme park co-workers and fellow Texans Richie McDonald, Michael Britt, Keech Rainwater, and Dean Sams
1995:
Lonestar released its self-titled debut album; the single "No News" reaches No. 1 on the <i>Billboard</i> country chart
1997:
Rich fired from Lonestar after the group released its second album <i>Crazy Nights</i>
1999:
Recorded his debut album <i>Underneath the Same</i>; album was shelved by the record company and eventually released in 2006
2002:
Along with William Kenneth Alpin ('Big Kenny'), formed the country duo Big & Rich
2004:
Released Big & Rich's debut album <i>Horse of a Different Color</i>; album topped the <i>Billboard</i> Top Country Albums chart and peaked at No. 6 on the <i>Billboard 200</i>
2005:
Released second Big & Rich album, <i>Comin' to Your City</i>
2006:
Big & Rich were named Honorary Members of the 503d Regiment of the 173d Airborne Brigade at a benefit concert for the construction of the 173d Airborne Memorial in Atlanta, GA
2008:
Hosted the CMT reality series "Gone Country" (CMT, 2008- )
2008:
Served as a judge and mentor on USA Network's "Nashville Star"
2009:
Released second solo album <i>Son of a Preacher Man</i>
2011:
Joined the cast of NBC reality competition show "The Apprentice"
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