John Rich and Big Kenny Alphin, collectively known as Big & Rich, are far from stereotypical country singers. In fact, if you saw the pair walking down the street, it might even be hard for you to believe that they’re acquaintances let alone business partners. Big Kenny, with his top hats and “love everybody” attitude, may be an unlikely pairing with cowboy John, but the match that was made in the early 2000s has made a lasting impression on the course of country music. From their promotion of fellow artists to their own eclectic sound, Big & Rich have definitely made a mark.
1. Gretchen Wilson
In 2004, Gretchen Wilson became an “overnight success” with her debut single and signature tune that became an anthem for country girls everywhere. The tune that propelled her into stardom, “Redneck Woman,” was penned by the Illinois native and her friend John Rich. Rich co-wrote six songs on Wilson’s first album, while Big Kenny joined them for the title track “Here for the Party.” The duo is also featured on the album’s “The Bed” and appears prominently in the video for “Redneck Woman.” That isn’t to say that Big & Rich is solely responsible for the rise of the grittier girl next door, but it’s fair to say the career of one of the most successful female singers of the early 2000s would’ve gone a different direction without their involvement.
2. (They Got The) Write Stuff
Speaking of songwriting, John Rich and Kenny Alphin have made significant contributions to the charts over the past two decades. As co-writers, they penned “Amarillo Sky,” which took Jason Aldean to the top 5 on the charts as well as his debut single “Hicktown” and “She’s a Butterfly” for Martina McBride. In addition, John has writing credit on Jason Aldean’s “Johnny Cash” as well as Faith Hill’s “Like We Never Loved at All” and “Mississippi Girl.” Not to mention the fact that they’ve co-written nearly every song on all of their albums.
In the early 2000s, John and Kenny were among the founding members of the Musically Artistic Friends In Alliance, which came to be known as the MuzikMafia. In addition to Gretchen Wilson, mentioned above, the group became a launching pad for a new form of country music. There was the country rapper Cowboy Troy, country singer James Otto, comedian Two-Foot Fred and painter Rachel Kice, to name a few. The MuzikMafia promoted different artists in their own unique ways and embraced positive opportunities for artists and eventually bore its own record label, Raybaw.
4. What Is Country Music?
Big & Rich are able to perform diverse sounding songs that have a common thread. Their debut album, Horse of a Different Color, included songs that favored traditional country themes while also featuring rap and rock moments. Big & Rich was the first duo to boldly approach country radio and challenge stereotypes to embrace their own acreage in country music.
The duo is continuing to embrace change and buck trends as they launched their own record label, Big & Rich Records, in 2014 to truly gain creative control of their musical legacy. Big & Rich’s debut album from the new label, Gravity, debuted at No. 8 on the Billboard Country Albums chart and its debut single, “Look At You,” was a success both critically and with the fans, peaking at No. 7 on Billboard‘s Country Airplay chart.