Chesnutt: traditional honky-tonk

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No current artist comes close to keeping alive the sound of traditional country music more than Mark Chesnutt. But if the straight-talking Texan had continued with his first music gig, he might have ended up as a rock drummer instead.

“I played drums in a rock and roll band when I was 13 to 15 years old,” said the multi-platinum recording artist during a phone interview. “While I was born and raised into country music, my brother who was five years older got me the rock and roll influence. I listened to ZZ Top and Aerosmith, and I loved it all.”

But true country music is where his heart beats strongest, and his fans will get to hear that live when Chesnutt headlines the Stonewall Peach JAMboree on Saturday, June 17.

The Beaumont native grew up in a musical family. His dad, Bob Chesnutt, was a country music singer who started taking Mark along on trips to Nashville when he was 17. Once that town recognized the young singer’s talent, he was off on a career that led to 14 No. 1 hits, 23 top ten singles, four platinum albums, and five gold records throughout the 1990s.

Looking back on his now 27-year career, what’s most obvious is that Mark Chesnutt paid tribute to those who came before him.

He performed covers of songs by Kris Kristofferson (“Sunday Morning Coming Down”), Marshall Tucker Band (“Heard it in a Love Song”), Charlie Rich (“Rollin’ with the Flow”), and even some Aerosmith that his brother introduced him to. He has collaborated with all the greats of country music, including Vince Gill, George Jones, and Hank Williams, Jr.

Chesnutt credits those last two the most for making him who he is today.

“The first ones that really influenced my style were George Jones and Hank Williams, Jr.,” the 53-year-old singer said. “When I was a teenager, Hank Jr. was just busting out, shedding all his daddy’s stuff he was being forced to do and coming into his own style. I liked that a lot. He created his own rock and roll honky-tonk style, still bluesy, still country, but still honky-tonk. He took us in a different direction that’s still going to this day. Yeah, I stole a lot of stuff from old Bocephus.”

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