Big & Rich is an American country music duo composed of Big Kenny and John Rich. Both members alternate as lead vocalists and play rhythm guitar. Rich was a founding member of the country music band Lonestar and later a solo artist for BNA Records, while Kenny was formerly a solo artist on Hollywood Records.
Big & Rich’s first studio album, Horse of a Different Color, was released in 2004. This album produced four straight Top 40 country hits, including the number 11 “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)“, as well as collaborations with Cowboy Troy, Gretchen Wilson and Martina McBride. Comin’ to Your City, released in November 2005, added another top-20 single, the Vietnam War-inspired “8th of November,” as well as two other songs that reached the top 40. Joining the duo on this album were Cowboy Troy, Wilson, and Kris Kristofferson. Big & Rich’s third studio album, Between Raising Hell and Amazing Grace, produced the duo’s first Number One single, “Lost in This Moment.” After this album, both members went on hiatus and released solo albums, also charting solo singles in the country top 40: Rich with “Shuttin’ Detroit Down” and Kenny with “Long After I’m Gone.”
Prior to Big & Rich’s foundation, John Rich was a founding member of the band Texassee, which later became Lonestar. Rich played bass guitar in the band and alternated with Richie McDonald on lead vocals, in addition to co-writing the band’s 1997 release “Come Cryin’ to Me.” After Lonestar released its second album, Rich was fired from the band in 1998. Big Kenny was signed to Hollywood Records in 1998, where he recorded a rock album called Live a Little a year later. Although one of its songs was featured in the soundtrack to the film Gun Shy, Live a Little was not released, and Hollywood Records held the rights to the songs for five years. Big Kenny then befriended John Rich after meeting him at a club, and the two began writing songs together. Big Kenny and John Rich’s songwriting collaboration was “I Pray for You,” which they wrote in October 1998.
Following his departure from Hollywood Records, Big Kenny also recorded in a short-lived band called luvjOi, whose lead guitarist Adam Shoenfeld and drummer Larry Babb would later become part of Big & Rich’s road band. In 2000, Rich began recording as a solo artist as well. He charted two singles of his own — “I Pray for You” and “Forever Loving You,” which respectively reached number 53 and number 46 on the U.S. country singles charts — but his debut album, Underneath the Same Moon, was also shelved. The two then founded the MuzikMafia (an abbreviation for Musically Artistic Friends in Alliance), a roundtable aggregation of singer-songwriters including Cowboy Troy, James Otto, Gretchen Wilson and Shannon Lawson. This group held its first official show at a Nashville, Tennessee nightclub in 2001.
One of Big & Rich’s first outside cuts was “She’s a Butterfly,” which was recorded by Martina McBride on her album Martina and featured backing vocals from the duo. After McBride cut this song, 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 he was “too rock for country” and was unsure of what major labels would think of Big Kenny’s rock influences. After attending a songwriting seminar, the two began recording songs together. After the two recorded a demo of “Holy Water,” Rich was convinced that the duo would be successful. They then met with Paul Worley, a record producer who was then the head of creative affairs at Warner Bros. Records Nashville, and Worley helped sign Big & Rich to a recording contract in late 2003.