Born: July 18, 1951 in Kansas City, Missouri
Died: July 28, 2018
Mark Chesnutt began singing as a member of the junior high school choir. While in high school, he formed a country band with the help and encouragement of his father, also a country music singer. Chesnutt made his first record in 1981 at seventeen, recording six releases for the AXBAR label in San Antonio. He also recorded two more for the Cherry label in Houston. However, none of these achieved widespread success.
For ten years, Chesnutt honed his talents in Beaumont honky-tonks like Cutter's, Doc Holliday's, and Get Down Brown's. Finally, in 1990, he recorded a song he had found in Nashville called "Too Cold at Home" for the Cherry label. As a testament to Chesnutt's talent, fellow East Texan and future duet partner, George Jones, wrote the liner notes for the critically heralded, platinum-certified debut album. "This boy from Beaumont is the real deal," Jones declared proudly. On July 20, 1990, "Too Cold at Home" reached number 2 on the country music charts, leading to a contract with MCA Records.
Subsequent releases such as "Brother Jukebox," "Blame it on Texas," "Your Love is a Miracle," "Broken Promise Land," and "Old Flames Have New Names" were all top ten recordings, and "I'll Think of Something" reached number 1 during the summer of 1992. In 1993, Chesnutt received the "Horizon" Award from the Country Music Association. Since his debut, the country baritone has racked up ten Number One singles and three platinum album awards.
Chestnutt has stated that during his latter years at Decca and MCA, he was constantly pressured by label heads to record more mainstream-friendly country pop instead of the traditional sounds featured in his earlier albums, due to the genre's shift away from neotraditional country for which Chestnutt is known. He also said that some of the tracks on Savin' the Honky Tonk were songs that the major labels had rejected, and that he would "rather sell 100,000 albums [of traditional country] than 6 million of something I wasn't happy with."
He currently resides in Jasper with his wife and children and frequently lends his name and talent to promoting development in the southeast Texas region. A die-hard southeast Texan, Chesnutt has never lived outside of the area.