BIG & RICH
They are America’s Technicolor cowboys, brothers-in-arms in service to the creed that great music has no boundaries. Individually, John Rich and Big Kenny Alphin are first-rate musicians, songwriters, producers and entertainers. Together, they are one of the most truly original musical forces ever unleashed on a welcoming world.
Their partnership got off to an unpromising start when Rich was hit in the face by a piece of bubble gum that Alphin threw from the stage as he scattered goodies among the small crowd at the end of one of his luvjOi concerts. A mutual friend suggested that they try writing songs together, they each broke set appointments with each other several times. “Finally, we said, ‘This is ridiculous, let’s do it one time and get it over with,’ “Rich recalled “So we wrote, it went really good, and decided ‘Let’s try another one.'” Their friend Cory Gierman, (a MuzikMafia Godfather figure) said that Alphin and Rich at first “were like two bulldogs meeting each other.”
At the time, the duo still nurtured hopes of individual solo careers. Alphin was released from Hollywood Records. His pop release Big Kenny’s Live a Little in 1999 did not take off. The new band he formed called Luvjoi made a strong Nashville impact, but not the national attention he hoped for. Rich 1992-98 was a member of Lonestar was fired in ’98. He signed to RCA as a solo artist but was dropped, by fax, before his debut album, I Pray for You (whose title track was an early Big & Rich songwriting product), was even released. Neither artist fit the clean-cut, hearth-and-home image that was favored in mainstream country music around the century’s turn.
Finally, Big Kenny and John Rich decided to embrace their outsider status rather than try to find a way around it. Rich stated: “Really, what happened was we decided to ignore the music industry and have some fun, because nothing was happening for us anyway,” “Maybe it proves that the best way to succeed is to do what you love and forget everything else everyone tells you.” Their decision took the form of the Muzik Mafia, a Tuesday-night concert series held in a questionable Nashville bar called The Pub of Love, October 23, 2001. They hit on the Mafia moniker because it described what they wanted to do: assemble a group of similarly minded musicians who would pool their interests and look out for one another.
Manager Marc Oswald suggested that Rich and Big Kenny begin recording as a duo. Rich was apprehensive at first, as he had been told by BNA staff that Kenny was “too rock for country” and was unsure of what major labels would think of Big Kenny’s rock influences. The two began recording their demo’s together, after they finished ” Holy Water“, Rich was convinced that the duo would be successful.
One Nashvillian who frequented the Muzik Mafia shows was the daughter of Warner Brothers’ Nashville executive Paul Worley; she told her father about the creativity of the Muzik Mafia artists. After Worley attended a Tuesday night show, he brought Big & Rich into his office. The duo thought that they were being summoned merely to pitch songs to country star Martina McBride, who sometimes graced Muzik Mafia stages, but they left with a Warner Brothers contract of their own.
Their debut album Horse of a Different Color (2004) showcased a duo who were strikingly amazing together and they created something so unique, so different than traditional Nashville artists that they were either going to break out in a massive way or they were going to be misunderstood and never heard from again. Paul Worley and his team at Warner Brothers bet on the former and were rewarded when the band became the biggest buzzworthy act in country music in 15 years before.
Big & Rich has a talent for reshaping bits of songs from various genres into country compositions; Stephen Thomas Erlewine of the All Music Guide noted the strong resemblance between their debut single, the downbeat “Wild West Show,” and rock band Nirvana‘s “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle.” It was a fresh sound in a country scene dominated by romantic formulas, with Big & Rich quickly gaining new fans, inside and outside the country market.
Billboard Magazine identified their first studio album “ Horse of a Different Color” as Number One on the Country Album chart in the issue released on 4 September 2004. This album produced four straight Top 40 country hits, including the number 11 “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)“. The album was named to the top 50 albums of 2004 by Rolling Stone Magazine issue 964/965 Dec 2004, siting “arena rock hits..” Big and Rich created a totally unique brand of country music with their debut Multi-platinum-selling project.
Their first tour was a coveted opening spot for country superstar Tim McGraw’s 2004“ Outloud Summer tour” Tim extended the duo an invitation after listening to 3 songs from their debut project, before it released. At this point, Tim never saw Big & Rich perform. His ear for talent, and his gut knew they would be a hit, in addition to bringing new fans to the shows. The nation wide 33-city sell-out stadium summer Tour was such a major success, the tour added more dates extending well into 2005. It also solidified the beginning of the duo’s energetic critical acclaimed live shows. From 2004-present, Big and Rich garner a reputation as major stadium and arena performers. Entertaining talented musicians and artist’s who deliver a “music without prejudice” country/rock show every time.
Their second project Comin’ to Your City, released in November 2005, and added another top-20 single, the Vietnam War-inspired “8th of November” and two more top 40 hits. Joining the duo on this album were Cowboy Troy, Gretchen Wilson and Kris Kristofferson. 2007’s Between Raising Hell and Amazing Grace produced the duo’s first Number One single, “Lost in This Moment“.
After selling over 5 million albums from 2004-2009 (spread over three releases, two special “Fan Packs” and a Greatest Hits album), Big & Rich took a hiatus to work on successful solo projects charting singles in the country top 40. They reunited in May 2011 to release “Fake ID“, a cut from the soundtrack to the 2011 film Footloose. Then, 1 year later, May 2012 released a striking and well-crafted single “That’s Why I Pray” from their forthcoming fourth album.   The single soon produced a Top 20 hit and debuted at number 24 on the country charts, the highest debut ever achieved by a duo since Nielsen BDS first tabulated the charts in 1990. September 19, 2012 the Big & Rich released their much anticipated fourth album Hillbilly Jedi, produced by Dann Huff. On Hillbilly Jedi, Big & Rich received a welcome return to country music with strong reviews. Returning to form with a refreshed sound as they brought their creative A-game to this project.
Of the album title, Alphin said that it “came out in a writing session we were doing with Richie Sambora and Jon Bon Jovi the other week. They are going to record the song on our new album and a line in the song was “hillbilly jedis with attitude.” All of a sudden, Bon Jovi stops and says, “Hillbilly Jedis? That’s it. I’d buy that shirt.” We were like, “Hey, that’s about a descriptive as you can get of what we are.” Subsequently, Jon Bon Jovi helped Big & Rich obtain permission from his friend George Lucas/Lucas Films, to secure legal use the word “Jedi” in their album title. 
Big Kenny and John Rich in addition to everything musical, writing or co-writing most all songs on their 4 albums, noted philanthropists and good-will ambassadors. Both remain committed and enthusiastic livers of life and givers of time, talent and fortune to great causes.
Kenny has become a world traveler, fighting poverty and supporting education through agencies including the United Nations Foundation and the Red Cross from North America to Africa. John takes part in any number of charitable outreaches, and his win on The Celebrity Apprentice brought well over a million dollars to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Those things go to the core of two men whose music and worldviews intersect seamlessly.
“We continue to try to inspire,” says Kenny. “We just try to be ourselves in a world that sometimes insinuates you shouldn’t go outside the boundaries. And now the fact that we’ve got the family thing going on has made a tremendous difference for both of us, but we’re still the same guys. I think life in general moves you forward in a positive way if you let it. Our relationship has grown more positively here than you could ever imagine. I think we just continue to grow, to respect each other more and more and respect the kind of ability we have when we’re singing together.” “We both have a lot of things that we do creatively,” adds John, “but there’s been something magical about this since the beginning. As good as we are at what we do separately; neither of us is as good as Big & Rich are together. The Big & Rich thing is like a new color in the crayon box.”