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Formed: 1992, Nashville, Tennessee

Members: Michael Britt, guitar (born Fort Worth, Texas, 15 June 1966); Richie McDonald, vocals (born Lubbock, Texas, 6 February 1962); Keech Rainwater, drums (born Plano, Texas, 24 January 1963); Dean Sams, keyboards (born Garland, Texas, 3 August 1966). Former member: John Rich (born Amarillo, Texas, 7 January 1974).

Genre: Country, Pop

Best-selling album since 1990: Lonely Grill (1999)

Hit songs since 1990: "No News," "Amazed," "I'm Already There"

Lonestar emerged in the mid-1990s as a traditional-sounding country band with pop leanings, achieving renown through adept musicianship and a strong pair of lead vocalists. As the decade progressed, the group gradually incorporated a harder rock edge into its work, an approach resulting in the 1999 smash crossover hit, "Amazed." By 2001 Lonestar's country sound had largely vanished, although classic country instruments such as pedal steel guitar still appeared on a few songs. Never known for grittiness in sound or message, Lonestar's later work is largely notable for its unabashed sentimentality.

Although all five original band members hailed from Texas, Lonestar formed in the country music capital of Nashville, Tennessee, in 1992. Most of the members carried years of experience performing with previous bands; however, lead singer John Rich, an eighteen-year-old blue-grass enthusiast who had forsaken college to pursue a career in music, was a novice. Lonestar became known for its unyielding professionalism as it toured the country in a Jeep Cherokee, promoting a self-produced live CD and performing more than 500 shows from 1993 to 1994. In 1995 the hard work paid off when the band secured a recording contract with BNA Records, a division of music conglomerate BMG. Lonestar's self-titled debut album appeared that year and featured the gentle hit, "Tequila Talkin'," a charming, midtempo song that mines time-proven themes of love and regret while featuring a lyrical hook built upon tequila's reputation for promoting verbal indiscretion. The album's most enduring hit, however, is the sharp, danceable, "No News," a guitar-driven shuffle recalling the work of modern blues artist Robert Cray.

Crazy Nights (1997), Lonestar's second album, largely sanded down the few rough edges the first album had possessed. The result is a pleasant release that relies on easy melodies with little instrumental or lyrical surprise. After Crazy Nights the band lost Rich, who departed to pursue a solo career. Beginning with Lonely Grill (1999), member Richie McDonald assumed lead duties on all vocals, ushering the band into its most commercially successful phase. By now Lonestar's sound resembled that of 1980s "arena-rock" bands such as Journey or REO Speedwagon, complete with blaring electric guitars and heavy, thudding drums. The group's giant hit single, "Amazed," which climbed to the number one position on both the country and pop charts, recalls the loud power ballads of the 1980s, with devotional lyrics and a dramatic modulation before the final choral repetition. The fleeting presence of a pedal steel guitar sounds like an afterthought, added in acknowledgment of the group's country origins. In 2001 Lonestar released I'm Already There, similar in spirit to the rock sound of "Amazed." Picking up on a salient trend in country of the early 2000s, the hit title track radiates feel-good sentiment. After a little boy, speaking on long-distance telephone, asks his father when he will come home from a business trip, the father replies, "I'm already there / Take a look around / I'm the sunshine in your hair."

Beginning as a raucous, if clean-cut, country outfit in the 1990s, Lonestar slowly achieved stardom by adopting a blunter-edged rock sound. In the process the group became a polished example of country's late 1990s assimilation into the pop mainstream, bringing country music a new level of recognition.


Lonestar (BNA, 1995); Crazy Nights (BNA, 1997); Lonely Grill (BNA, 1999); This Christmas Time (BNA, 2000); I'm Already There (BNA, 2001).

david freeland

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Country group

For the Record

Selected discography


Lonestar, a band whose members all boasted Texas origins and all shared songwriting responsibilities, created music that naturally contained hints of traditional country and dance-hall swing. However, the band also explored folk-rock music and incorporated easy ballads into their overall sound. Since the release of the bands 1995 self-titled debut that earned the group an Academy of Country Music award for best new vocal group or duo,Lonestar attained respect within the country music industry built upon strengths such as solid group harmonies,danceable up-tempo tunes, and expressive lyrics. The groups subsequent albums, Crazy MgWsrelesed in 1997,and Lonely Grill released in 1999, produced a string of country hits, many of which peaked at number one.

The members of Lonestar include Richie McDonald,Dean Sams, Keech Rainwater, and Michael Britt; vocalist John Rich, born and raised in Amarillo, Texas, left the group in 1997. McDonald, Lonestars lead singer and rhythm guitarist, was born on February 6, 1962, in Lubbock, Texas. After graduating from high school in Lubbock, where he first started singing and writing songs, he moved to Dallas to pursue a career in music. There, he joined an award-winning local band called Showdown and also sang in national commercials.Eventually, his advertising work earned him enough money to relocate to Nashville, Tennessee, a city known as the heart and soul of country music and home to the Grand OleOpry. In addition to writing songs for Lonestar,such as When Cowboys Didnt Dance, and Everythings Changed, McDonald also wrote successful tunes for other country singers, including Shes Always Right for Clay Walker and I Couldnt Dream a Love (Better Than This) for John Michael Montgomery.

Sams, who played keyboards and harmonica and provided background vocals for the group, was born on August 3,1966, in Garland, Texas, where he lived until the late 1980s. Then, while in his early twenties, he migrated to Nashville, also hoping to find work in the music industry. When he arrived, Sams secured a position at Opryland USA theme park singing in shows. In addition, Sams, also a recording engineer and producer, set up a studio where he created demos for himself and other musicians. Like McDonald, Sams wrote songs for other well known country singers; Joe Diffie, for one, recorded Samss song Willing to Try for his 1995 album Lifes So Funny.

Britt, born June 15, 1966, in Fort Worth, Texas, and raised in his place of birth, played lead guitar and sang background vocals for the band. A self-taught guitarist who played by ear and never took music lessons, Britt performed with numerous groups throughout high school and college. After a few years of college, though, he decided to leave in order to devote his attention to music. In 1990, he started playing professionally in Texas forvarious groups such as Santa Fe and Canyon, a band nominated for an Academy of Country Music award in the early 1990s, before moving to Nashville in 1992. Britts song credits for Lonestar include Runnin Away With My Heart for the bands debut album. Lonestars drummer and percussionist, Rainwater, was born on January 24, 1963, in Piano, Texas, and grew up in the small town located just outside of Dallas. Before joining Lonestar, Rainwater played with numerous other country groups,including Canyon with Britt.

Lonestars origins date back to 1992 when Sams and McDonald met in Dallas at an audition for the Opryland USA theme park. After moving to Nashville, the two men continued to discuss forming a band and soon invited Rich and Britt to join them. Still needing a drummer, they later enlisted Rainwater, at Britts recommendation, to fill the opening. And by late 1992, they were ready to start playing before an audience.

Determined to spread word about the band, Lonestar hit the road, performing more than 500 shows between 1993 and 1994. Traveling in a Jeep Cherokee that pulled their equipment trailer, the group played an amazing four to five sets every night in towns across the southern United States and promoted Lonestar with a six-song live compact disc.

For the Record

Members include Michael Britt (born June 15,1966, in Fort Worth, TX), guitar, vocals; Richie McDonald (born February 6, 1962, in Lubbock, TX; wife: Lorie; children: son Rhett; daughter Mollie Ann, born 1999), songwriter, vocals, rhythm guitar; Keech Rainwater (born January 24, 1963, in Piano, TX; children: daughter Dakota, born 1992), songwriter, drums, percussion; John Rich (born January 7, 1974,in Amarillo, TX; left band 1997), vocals; Dean Sams (born Augusts, 1966, in Garland, TX; wife: Kim; children: daughter Britney Deann), songwriter, producer, keyboards,harmonica, background vocals.

Sams and McDonald formed Lonestar, recruiting Rich,Britt, and Rainwater, 1992; signed with BNA Records,released debut album, Lonestar, 1995; released Crazy Nights, (includes number-one hit Come Cryin To Me,)1997; released, Lonely Grill, 1999.

Awards: Academy of Country Music award for 1995s best new vocal group or duo, 1996.

Addresses: HomeNashville, TN. Record companyBNA Records, 1 Music Circle N., Nashville, TN 37203; phone: (615)780-4400; fax: (615)780-4464. Fan clubP.O. Box 128467, Nashville, TN 37212. WebsiteLonestar (official website),

Before long, Lonestar accepted an offer to record for BNA Records and released their self-titled debut, Lonestar,in 1995. Featuring four original compositions written by various member of the band, the album also yielded Lonestars debut single,Tequila Talkin, a song that reached numberfour on the country charts. The groups follow-up single, the infectious No News, proved even more successful, holding the number one spot for three consecutive weeks in 1996, and Runnin Away With My Heart, cowritten by Britt, entered the Top Ten. As a result of the popular success of Lonestar, which also included the single Heartbroke Every Day, the album achieved gold status just one year after its release. The accomplishment also helped Lonestar earn their first major award. In 1996, the Academy of Country Music named Lonestar as 1995s best new vocal group or duo. Likewise, publications including Billboard, Music Row, and Country Weekly gave year-end awards to the group. After trading in their Jeep for a van and eventually a tour bus, Lonestar continued to travel and promote their music. By June of 1997, they released their sophomore effort, for BNA entitled Crazy Nights. The album rendered yet another number one hit with Come Cryin To Me and You Walked In, a single composed by songwriters Bryan Adams and Mutt Lange, appeared on country charts as well. While the record contained standard romantic ballads, Lonestars second release took on country rockers like a cover of Pure Prairie Leagues 1975 song Amie and questioned the shifting direction of American culture in EverythingsChanged, another number one hit cowritten by McDonald. In this song, noted Brian Mansfield in USA Today, the band shows its maturation by surveying middle Americas changing economic geography without letting things lapse into political posturing or mawkish nostalgia. The songs resigned, bittersweet tone makes it sound like something [country singer] Dan Seals once might have done. Eventually, Crazy Nights earned the band a second gold album to their name.

Although the record fared well with both critics and country music fans, Rich left the group shortly after the release of Crazy Nights to pursue other interests. Nevertheless, the four remaining members lost no time in writing and selecting new material for Lonestars next album, Lonely Grill, released in June of 1999. In preparation for the groups third collection of songs, Lonestar spent approximately eight hours each day, five days a week listening to potential songs at BNA Records. Once the band reached the studio, they spent long hours working together to arrange guitar sounds, percussion touches, keyboards, and vocal harmonies for each recording. Previously, for the groups first two albums, record producers opted to use other Nashville session musicians to arrange music. But when Lonestar found Dan Huff to produce Lonely Grill, they were allowed more creative freedom. And while Lonestar had always shared writing and developing responsibilities for their prior work, they nonetheless believed the band collaborated even more closely during these sessions by arranging songs together.

Like Lonestars earlier albums, Lonely Grillyielded major hits. One song, a straightforward ballad entitled Amazed, topped the Billboard and Radio and Records country music charts in the summer of 1999. Setting a new record, the single sat at the number one spot on both charts for nine consecutive weeks. The last record was set back in 1966 with a Jack Greene hit entitled There Goes My Everything that occupied the number one spot for seven consecutive weeks. Furthermore, the single later that summer debuted on the B/7/boarc/adult contemporary chart at number twenty-six as the Hot Shot Debut. With such mainstream acceptance, the group hoped to gain more country listeners and Lonestarfans. Regarding the success of Amazed, McDonald humbly told Leanne Carter of the Ottawa Sun, What separates the good acts from the really successful ones is finding the right song.

Another heartfelt ballad, Smile, climbed country music charts, while Tell Her proved that Lonestar could take a love song in a different direction through moody, unusual lyrics detailing the simpler facts of life. Despite the groups talent for writing, singing, and performing standard romantic songs, Lonely Grill maintained Lonestars focus on other styles of music. For example, Saturday Night combined an electronic rumble with country-infused rap and Dont Talk About Lisa, co-written by Benmont Tench of rock star from Tom Pettys Heartbreaker band, sounded reminiscent of a Jimmy Buffett rock tune. Another album highlight included an acoustic version of a previous hit,Everythings Changed.

In less than one month, Lonely Grill shipped over 500,000 copies, earning the group still another gold record; during the first week after Lonely Grill hit record stores, the release sold over 47,000 copies. Overall, the album debuted at number four on the Billboard country album chart and reached number three, behind Shania Twain and the Dixie Chicks, retaining this position for two months.

On August 3, 1999, the Country Music Association nominated Lonestar in two categories for their annual awards show. The group received one nomination, along with Alabama, Diamond Rio, the Dixie Chicks, and the Wilkinsons, for group of the year, in addition to a nomination for single of the year for Amazed.The other artist nominated in this category included George Jones for Choices, Mark Wills for Dont Laugh At Me, Tim McGraw for Please Remember Me, and the Dixie Chicks for Wide Open Spaces. Although the Dixie Chicks won awards in both categories during the awards ceremony at the Grand Ole Opry that aired on television on September 22, 1999, Lonestar still felt honored just to have received nominations. As of 1999, Lonestar, whose members love making and learning more about music, performing, and staying busy, held no plans for slowing down. Even with their tremendous success, the band continued to maintain an extensive touring schedule, booking about 150 concert dates each year.

Selected discography

Lonestar, BNA Records, 1995.

Crazy Nights, BNA Records, 1997.

Lonely Grill, BNA Records, 1999.



Kingsbury, Paul, editor, The Encyclopedia of Country Music, Oxford University Press, 1998.


Arizona Republic, June 24, 1999, p. 36.

Dallas Morning News, June 11, 1999, p. 4.

Ottawa Sun, August 22, 1999, p. S5.

Reuters, April 24, 1996; August 3, 1999.

Tampa Tribune, July 23, 1999, p. 15.

Toronto Star, August 4, 1999.

USA Today, April 25, 1996, p. 01D: July 7, 1997, p. 05D; June 1, 1999, p. 12D; August 4, 1999, p. 01D; August 20, 1999,. 01E.


Lonestar, Lonely Grill Great American Country Lonestar Home Page,, (September 15, 1999).

Lonestar,, (September 15, 1999).

Lonestar (official website),, (September 15, 1999).

Laura Hightower

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