Even among the new traditionalists of the early nineties, Mark Chesnutt stood out as a traditionalist, bringing pure country to the radio dial for more than a decade.
Chesnutt was born into a musical family, as the son of singer Bob Chesnutt. Born and raised in Beaumont, Texas, he quickly became a fixture on the local country music scene. His dad encouraged the music bug, and while still in his early twenties, he was already recording for local independent labels. His debut album, Doing My Country Thing, was released in 1988 on Axbar Records.
Chesnutt headlined at the Beaumont club Cutter’s, a joint that would also launch the career of Tracy Byrd. His growing popularity garnered buzz in Nashville, and he landed a recording contract with MCA. He was a big hit right out of the gate, scoring a top five hit with the now-classic weeper, “Too Cold at Home.”
Chesnutt’s album of the same title went platinum, and featured an additional four top ten hits. His next two releases extended his streak to twelve consecutive top ten hits, including several #1 singles. One of those chart-toppers was a cover of the fairly obscure Hank Wililams Jr. single, “I’ll Think of Something.” Chesnutt’s musical knowledge helped him flesh out many of his studio albums with lesser-known tracks from classic country artists.
The industry recognized Chesnutt’s talent with the CMA Horizon Award in 1993, and radio remained firmly on board throughout the next few years. As the genre moved toward a more crossover sound, Chesnutt remained firmly planted in traditional country music, releasing classic singles like “Almost Goodbye”, “Thank God For Believers”, and “Goin’ Through the Big D.”
His last big hit was a surprising one: a cover of the Aerosmith pop hit, “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.” Even with strings, however, the end result was more classic Nashville sound than anything close to pop.
After departing MCA, Chesnutt had a brief stint on Columbia. Since the mid-2000’s, he’s scored a handful of radio hits on independent labels, the most recent being a top thirty cover of Charlie Rich’s “Rollin’ With the Flow.” He received astonishing critical acclaim for his 2004 set, Savin’ the Honky Tonk, and has earned good notices for his 2010 cover album, Outlaw.
Chesnutt is still touring actively, and his most recent release is Live From the Big “D”, a concert set recorded in Dallas.
- T00 Cold at Home, 1990
- I’ll Think of Something, 1992
- Bubba Shot the Jukebox, 1992
- Almost Goodbye, 1993
- Thank God for Believers, 1997
- Too Cold at Home, 1990
- Longnecks and Short Stories, 1992
- Almost Goodbye, 1993
- Wings, 1995
- Savin’ the Honky Tonk, 2004
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