Imagine being 21 years old and signing your first record deal.
You’re part of one of the most exciting country bands in years. Your first two records are certified gold each featuring hit singles including a couple you had co-written.
All this success comes early in life and then you find yourself out on your own as the band continues to go on without you having their biggest success after you leave.
This is what happened to John Rich.
The Lonestar Days
It’s still amazing to most people to learn that John Rich, one half of the duo Big & Rich, was the bassist and occasional lead vocalist for the band Lonestar.
I was listening to the first two albums from Lonestar today and I had to write a full prospective on John Rich’s time with the band. It is just so interesting to me to see how John Rich was able to find the biggest successes early on in life. I mean, Lonestar was a big band in the mid ’90s. They had yet to reach their full potential, but they were a big band. They were selling tons of records and having hit after hit.
John Rich was very much a part of the early success. The band reached the top ten with their very first single in late 1995. They followed the success with more hits the following year and in 1997 their sophomore album was released and that featured more hits.
In just a few short years the band had gone from unknown to one of the biggest acts in country music. Most of the lead vocals were done by Richie McDonald, the singer most well known with the band.
But there was a song, Heartbroke Every Day, that reached the top 20 on the charts in 1996. This track featured the young John Rich on lead vocals. John had a few turns as the lead vocalist in the band, but only this single was released. The rest were album cuts.
The band was on a roll and in 1998 John Rich was relieved of his duties of bassist in the band. I’m not sure of the exact circumstances, but success can do some crazy things to people. I’m sure they each had their own ideas and things just didn’t work out for all parties.
John Rich went out on his own. He was a kid in his mid 20s and looking to find success on his own.
The remaining four members of the band, however, released Lonely Grill in 1999 and that summer they become something really special in the music world. The song Amazed became one of the biggest hits of all time in country history. It crossed over and even went number one on the pop charts.
The band continued rolling into the next decade. I remember seeing them live around this time and people went crazy when the band came on stage. They were the biggest of the big. This was pre-Rascal Flatts and post-Alabama. There was no bigger band in the country world than Lonestar. They were selling millions of records and having the biggest hits.
And it was all happening without John Rich.
Now, don’t feel too bad for John Rich. He went on to have one of the most successful runs in music history. He wrote a ton of hits for other artists in the 2000s and of course was one half of Big & Rich. The duo is still one of the top touring acts out there right now.
But it had to be crazy. Rich was part of this huge band in the mid ’90s. Then things didn’t work out. He left and they went on to become this huge crossover success.
Still, I look back and listen to the early stuff the band released and it’s my favorite of anything they every put out. There was real talent in that group and when John Rich was part of it they made some great country music.
Heartbroke Every Day is a great country song. Come Cryin’ To Me is still a radio hit today and it’s been 15 years since it was on the charts. These are songs that are killer. They were pure ’90s country and I love it.
John Rich was a big part of that success. It should be recognized that he was able to accomplish some great things at a very young age during his time with Lonestar. He doesn’t talk about it much today because he has much more to discuss, but the time John Rich spent with Lonestar was great for country music. The band produced hits and it was a great time for a band to turn out the hits when country was looking for a new band to take over the role Alabama had occupied for more than a decade.