1998 Distinguished Alumnus in the Arts
Kenny Chesney built his career the old-fashioned way: one step, one hit, and one gold record at a time. With his fifth album just released, he has proven that hard work and dedication are the keys to success.
Born in a small town outside of Knoxville, Chesney did not begin having musical aspirations until attending East Tennessee State University. He received a guitar for Christmas one year and began practicing several hours a day. He then joined the bluegrass band at ETSU where he learned to write songs. While writing music and playing in the ETSU Bluegrass Band, Chesney landed a regular job at a Mexican restaurant, as well as playing for other local bars and fraternity parties. It was after a recording session at the Classical Recording Studio in Bristol, Va., that he realized his goal. From that session, he sold a thousand copies of an album filled with songs he had written.
After graduating in December 1990 with a degree in advertising, Chesney decided to try to make it in the music industry. He moved to Nashville and acquired a job singing at a club on Lower Broadway. After several months of garnering experience at the club, Chesney quit to concentrate on songwriting. His songwriting skills have helped open many doors for him, and in 1992 it finally paid off when he signed a publishing deal with Acuff-Rose Music. This songwriter's showcase led to him signing a recording deal with Capricorn Records.
While his 1993 Capricorn debut had little success, he gained the attention of Music Row Executives. When Capricorn closed its country music division, Chesney signed with BNA Records. His first album under the BNA label charted three hit singles and his next two albums gained even more success, producing the No. 1 hit "When I Close My Eyes." Then in 1997, Chesney was awarded top new male vocalist of the year by the Academy of Country Music. Currently, he has recorded a new album, Everywhere We Go, which was released March 2, 1999.
Chesney received the Distinguished Alumnus in Arts award on August 29, 1998, during a concert for ETSU PRIDE Day at the Appalachian Fair in Gray, Tenn.