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Big and Rich

Posted in MusicWorld on December 1, 2004 by

This just in: Nashville is not — repeat, not — the epicenter of the Big & Rich explosion.

Sure, Music City is the home base for the duo of Big Kenny and John Rich, and pretty much the only city in America where an avowed rocker dude (Big) and a hardcore country singer (Rich) could come together and make “country music without prejudice,” a hybrid of just about everything a music fan could ever love.

And the Tennessee capital is the locale for the pair’s MuzikMafia, a collective of friends, musicians, raconteurs and renegades who get together once a week and where “everybody’s welcome no matter what they play, no matter what kind of music they make, as long as it’s great,” says Big Kenny.

Big Kenny (last name: Alphin) was fronting his former band luvJoi when he met and started writing music with Rich, who had recently left Lonestar to pursue a solo career. The pair, along with singer/songwriter Jon Nicholson and music publisher Cory Gierman, started the MuzikMafia nights, which has spun off not only Big & Rich’s career, but also Mercury’s James Otto and Sony Nashville’s Gretchen Wilson.

But Nashville is not where the new Warner Bros. duo, who co-produced (with Paul Worley) and co-wrote all the songs on their debut Horse of a Different Color , is feeling the shockwaves beginning to roll. It’s a little further south — and east.

“We were down in Florida playing for a station that’s been playing cuts off the record without anybody telling them what they could play, and we’ve got three songs in heavy rotation,” Big Kenny says. “So we go in [to a club] and the house band played three of our songs; they’d recorded them off the radio and learned them.”

And if you think they’d be irked that some bar band was stealin’ their gig, then you just don’t know Big & Rich. “We thought it was incredible. John and I walked up, got on stage and started high fivin’ all of ’em. They were trying to give us the microphones and we were like, ‘No way! You guys keep playin’!”