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SMALL TOWN AMERICA…BIG TOWN DREAMS…Raised in Kennett, MO…now starring in Nashville!

      Country music lyrics often describe small town life in America and what it’s like growing up in all those nothin’ towns. Looking at the location and population of Kennett, Missouri, it would be easy to dismiss it as irrelevant. Not so fast! Call it The Mouse That Roared. That novel was originally a six-part series published in the Saturday Evening Post under the name The Day New York Was Invaded. Taking a page from that book, we might call Kennett, Missouri The Little Town That Invaded Nashville.

***I have been informed that it’s not what’s in the water but what’s in the BBQ and the Bakery that had an influence on the musical talent in Kennett!

           Kennett lies in the southeast corner of Missouri, the “bootheel,” as it’s called by those of us who grew up in the state. You could literally walk into Arkansas from there and still be home in time for dinner. The latest  population census shows nearly 11,000 people living there. All in all, a pretty small town. Yet for a town its size, it has exported some impressive musicians. Nashville artists Sheryl Crow, David Nail, and Trent Tomlinson all grew up in tiny Kennett, Missouri, and have made a name for themselves in country music.

     Sheryl Crow is a fairly recent newcomer to the music scene in Nashville, but it hasn’t taken her long to feel at home there. Last September, she released her first country album, appropriately called Feels Like Home. Sheryl’s voice is comfortable in multiple genres of music and country seems to suit her just fine. She had a hand in writing almost every song on the album and the result is a little rock, a little blues, and a whole lotta country. The theme of the album draws on everyday living and what happens to people who go about their lives in small towns where everybody knows your name and your business! (Cheers!) This is an album that makes staying home listening to music feel like a great way to spend the day. You might even want to “put out the lawn chairs and turn on the hose.” Feels Like Home is available through iTunes: HERE SHERYL CROW FEELS LIKE HOMEYou can catch Sheryl on the Rewind Tour with Rascal Flatts this summer. Visit her website for dates, cities, and ticketing information: http://www.sherylcrow.com/tour

You can vote Sheryl’s “Easy” video CMT Female Video of the Year here: http://www.cmt.com/cmt-music-awards/nominees/female-video-of-the-year.jhtml

     David Nail released his third album earlier this year called I’m A Fire. He was born and raised in Kennett but moved to Nashville after high school to chase his musical dreams. He experienced some success with his first two releases and some of the frustration that life in Music City can bring. Lucky for us, he stuck with it, and his latest album is a crowning achievement. I’m A Fire is packed with raw emotion. It draws that emotion from experiences everyone can relate to. The passion that can exist between two people, leading to good or bad results, is the theme of the album, and David has masterfully conveyed that passion through the songs and his powerful vocals. You can read my complete album review here: http://waynorthofnashville.com/david-nail-im-a-fire-yes-he-is/ I’m A Fire is available through iTunes: HERE David-Nail-2014-300-01Just this week David was part of Keith Urban and Vince Gill’s All 4 The Hall benefit concert in Nashville. It is quite an honor to be invited to perform at this annual event, and further proof that David Nail is as the title of his album proclaims. To see him on tour this summer, visit his website for all the details: http://www.davidnail.com/tour/

You can vote David’s “Whatever She’s Got” video CMT Breakthrough Video of the Year here: http://www.cmt.com/cmt-music-awards/nominees/breakthrough-video-of-the-year.jhtml

     Trent Tomlinson wasn’t born in Kennett, Missouri, but he was raised there, and if you listen to his music, it’s obvious that small town had a big influence on him. “Country Is My Rock” is the title track of his debut album and it doubles as his musical biography. I imagine if Kennett, Missouri had a voice, it would express pride in that song and perhaps demand recognition for having helped him write it. His music is honky-tonk fun and a big dose of small town reality. His voice is at times pure country, sometimes 80s rockstar, but always pitch perfect powerful. When he goes softer for a ballad, there’s still a soulful power to it. His new single is called “Come Back To Bed” and good luck refusing that request! It sounds a little like an 80s rock song, which Trent can absolutely pull off, with a hint of country in it. But whether he was wearing spandex or boots and jeans singing this one, it’s hot enough to burn up The Highway. Call him the country version of Bret Michaels. “Come Back To Bed” is available through iTunes: HERE Trent_Tomlinson_-_Come_Back_To_Bed_cover_170x170-75He is also an incredibly talented songwriter. One of his recent songwriting credits is Parmalee’s “Close Your Eyes” off their debut album, Feels Like Carolina. It’s a great song that’s currently climbing the charts. You can download it now through iTunes: HERE Visit Trent’s website for show dates: http://trenttomlinson.net/tourdates.html

Watch Trent perform his HOT new single “Come Back To Bed”!

     I’ve never been to Kennett, Missouri, despite having been born and raised near St. Louis, but I’m curious about the water supply there. Or maybe it’s something in the air. Something in that small town seems to bring out the musical talent in its residents. Maybe it’s the limited entertainment opportunities available there that force the population to look inside themselves for inspiration. Perhaps because there is no place to hide in a small town like Kennett, music provides a way to kind of disappear down a rabbit hole for awhile. You can write a song and hide yourself in the lyrics. You can learn to play guitar and pretend to be a rockstar in front of your bedroom mirror. Look east from Kennett, Missouri and you might set your sights on Nashville. Sheryl’s dream took her all over the world before settling in Nashville. David and Trent focused their attentions on making it in Music City. All three of them took the state’s nickname to heart and have done exactly that. When crossing the state line moving in the direction of their dreams, if the state of Missouri had a voice, it would call out “don’t forget to come back and SHOW ME what you’ve done!” These three talented  Missouri natives are very different artists, but they do have at least two things in common besides their hometown….excellent taste in baseball teams and knowing the answer to this…MIZ

MIZ-ZOU

Missouri born & raised…MIZZOU educated…and it’s no secret that I’m a die hard Cardinals fan!! From WAY North of Nashville…Bev Miskus

STL WORLD SERIES CHAMPS 2011

David Nail sang “God Bless America” at Game 7 of the 2011 World Series, which took place at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. For those of you who might have forgotten, the Cardinals won that game 6-2 and completed the most improbable run to a World Series title EVER!! For Cardinal fans, this is David Nail’s coolest video!

If you’re planning a trip to Kennett, Bill’s BBQ and Causbie’s Bakery are essential stops on your itinerary! Bill’s BBQ is located at 700 St. Francis Street. Here’s the link to their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bills-Bar-BQ/149453728411241 Causbie’s Bakery is located at 212 Kennett Street. The link to their information on Facebook is here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Causbie-Bakery/113490305350694

********************************PARDON MY OMISSION**************************

     Through the outpouring of comments I’ve received in response to this article, I now know that I left someone out who should have been included in my accounting of Kennett’s country music stars! Noll Billings of the country rock group, Blackjack Billy, was also born and raised in Kennett. Sadly, I was unaware of Blackjack Billy’s music, but now that I have done my homework, let me just tell you that Blackjack Billy ROCKS! The group is made up of Kennett-born Noll Billings, Rob Blackledge (Madison, Mississippi), Jeff Coplan (Montreal), Patrick Cornell (Dayton, Ohio), and Brad Cummings (Hendersonville, Tennessee). The group came together in Nashville and combined their many talents, which include songwriting and producing. They released their debut single, “Booze Cruise,” independently in March of 2013. It received some airplay on country radio and broke sales records for independent releases that year. They followed it up in November with an EP called Get Some, released by Bigger Picture Group. The songs on here are all fun! Serious rockin’ fun!! Just two weeks ago they released a new single called “Got A Feeling,” and it sounds like the start of something really good! You can download “Got A Feeling” through iTunes: HERE BLACKJACK BILLY GOT A FEELING

Watch the video for “Born To Ride” off their EP, Get Some! I will assume that the guy wearing the STL Cardinals hat in the truck in this video is Noll. Someone please correct me if I’m wrong!

Get Some is available through iTunes: HERE BLACKJACK BILLY GET SOME

©2014 Bev Miskus

24 thoughts on “SMALL TOWN AMERICA…BIG TOWN DREAMS…Raised in Kennett, MO…now starring in Nashville!

  1. Don’t forget Doug Howard, Former VP A&R at Lyric Street Records, who signed Rascall Flatts, SHeDAISY, and Trent Tomlinson is from Kennett!

      1. Gene McDonald doesn’t sing country but can be found sharing his beautiful bass voice with The Gaither’s gospel family.

        1. I knew of Gene when he was an “unchanged” voice, singing in a quartet with his mom and dad, and his sister.

  2. While one might like to take a look at the water supply, or even blame the defoliant that gets sprayed on all the cotton ’round there, I can tell you TONS about why Kennett is like this.

    It’s a Midwestern town with Southern people in it — or *something* like that. The education system there has been rock-solid for years, and the town culture has as many people (esp. older ones) dedicated to music and the arts as it does dedicated to sports (you don’t find that many places!). The women are beautiful and I’m surprised they still don’t have old Southern “Finishing Schools” … Kennett has lots to do with “culture” inherited from Southern traditions, but has a Missouri work ethic.

    I’ll betcha dollars to donuts that everyone of the KHS grads mentioned was not only in HS choir and band under great people like Jim Finch, Dennis Nail (David’s dad), or Loretta Sexton, but also were members of a “Music Club” that met weekly or every other week and had several of the town’s piano or vocal teachers in it, where they talked about everything from Gigues to gigs, Beethoven to the Beatles, and Mozart to Madonna. The ladies who run those clubs have decades of teaching experience and are recognized nationwide by community music organizations.

    I’ll bet that everyone of them dreamed about, and then did, play in the awesome talent shows known as the “MOD assembly” as many years as they were in HS and for as many groups as they could get together to practice with. So did some of the teachers! And let’s don’t even get started on the drama department … absolutely some of the best HS productions of the top Broadway shows you’ll see … a play in the fall and a musical each spring, complete with photos and feature articles in the highly professional local newspaper (see dddnews.com) and on the local origin “free” TV station.

    It’s possible that one or two of them even played in a summer band there, on the bandstand at the 4th of July, playing patriotic tunes and old marches. And that they had a rock band or country band they helped put together around their sophomore or junior year that actually got playing gigs at some BBQ festival, local fair, or Eagles Club.

    And, as someone noted, the roots in records go deep, too. Someone mentioned Felts, what about Joe Keene and Kennett Sound Studios? What DOES a person say about a town that gets together and records its own version of “We are the World” just because it can? The Wilcoxson brothers and their production of “The Trend” — who are still invited to go up to NYC and play CBGB’s once in a while?

    And Gospel singing …Jack Campbell and the Ambassadors (where Gene McDonald got his start … “I knew Gene when he was still a tenor…”)? The MacGruders?

    What about Kennett’s “Friends of Music”? Hardly a month goes by that they don’t have someone in for a recital or concert … jazz, show tunes, classical, “modern art music” …

    Kennett’s just got class. :-)

    1. Thank you for taking the time to write this! I figured the education system there had to be top-notch and it’s nice to hear that music education programs are still alive and well somewhere! I would love to do a more in-depth article about Kennett and the many talented musicians it has, including the teachers who inspired them. The music community there sounds fantastic and should be emulated across the country. Couldn’t agree more – Kennett definitely has class!

    2. Correction: It’s not Loretta Sexton–she is Viretta Sexton. We were in “The Music Man” together in high school. She played Marian; I played the mayor’s wife.

  3. I lived in Kennett for almost 8 years, and was a part of the music world there. I was in the Wednesday Music Club, frequently as a performer. I was a part of the Schola Cantorum, a smaller group led by Jules Mercier, and enjoyed performing the earliest music with a core group consisting of Pam Mercier, local piano teacher and wife of the group’s director; the local veterinarian, Everett Mobley, and his wife, Libby…and various others who would join the group from time to time. I also taught a number of voice students in my home. Kennett is truly a musical oasis, and, yes…you should visit there. I could go on, but, enough for now.

  4. Something in the water? Nope, they were raised on Bill Horton’s BBQ and all things sweet from Causbie’s Bakery.

    1. I sent a message to Bill’s BBQ about their part in the success of Sheryl, David, Trent, and Noll and I got a response from them. It read “We did have the privilege of feeding all these amazing young people as they were growing up in Kennett. And still occasionally when they’re home on visits.” That being the case, I think Bill’s BBQ is due a royalty check from someone!!

  5. Just wanted to say that the response to this article has been overwhelming! I can’t say enough good things about the people of Kennett, MO. So proud of my home state!! Kennett exemplifies the best of small town America and shows us why it’s important not to forget where we came from! For those of you outside the state of Missouri who may not know this, our nickname is the Show Me State. When I asked what it was about Kennett that made it such a musical influence in the lives of Sheryl, David, Trent, and Noll, they showed me! We earned our nickname honestly! Just this morning I heard that a list of the top 10 states for BBQ was released by Trip Advisor and they have Missouri ranked at #4 behind Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas. Sounds like Trip Advisor needs to be shown a few things about BBQ in Missouri!! Perhaps Bill Horton has something to say about this??!!

  6. I had the good fortune to live and teach in Kennett for eight years from 1965-1974. Dennis Nail, David’s father was the “new” young band director who started about the time I was leaving. Don Tomlonson, Trent’s dad, was a senior in high school and star basketball player the first year I was there. I still can hear Viretta Sexton singing “If I Loved You” at the Kiwanis Club meeting and Sheryl Crow’s older sister, Kathy, being a student in my class. Sheryl’s parents were and still are good musicians.
    Kennett was a special place in those days filled with progressive, involved and supportive people. After all these years I still hear from many of my former students and friends from there and feel a special connection with all of them and the community as a whole. I doubt that it is the idyllic place I remember but I do believe it is still a community that fosters the best for its young people and hope that they appreciate the treasure of that place I once called home.

  7. Love the article!! We are proud to serve Kennett and surrounding area Bill’s BarBQ for 66 years. It’s a blessing for us that all these young talented singers and musician grew up eating at Bill’s. We always look forward to seeing them come in when they are home for a visit. Kennett has produced and been the home of a lot of amazing talent . Gospel singers ” The McGruders”, Chris Brown/ One Less Reason, Chris Watson drummer for Oklahoma Thunder, Limmie Pulliam, The Usual Suspects and so many local singers and musicians!! Hate to call names in fear of forgetting someone . So if your coming through Kennett or want to take a road trip come by Bill’s and have a BarBQ with us then go on over to Causbies Bakery for dessert, who knows you may leave town singing!!!

    1. Well now that’s an offer I can’t refuse! You guys certainly have shown me (pun intended) why Kennett is such a special place. It’s a great excuse for a trip back home this summer! From the amazing response I’ve had to this article, I feel like I know half the town already!

  8. Bev, we would be honored for you to make a trip to Kennett!
    Viretta Sexton retired from teaching music at KHS, but years later, felt she had more to give and is teaching again. So many of her former students now have children that are her students and couldn’t be happier. We have talented piano, voice, art and drama teachers broadening these students’ horizons. Even those of us who did not pursue this as a career, have the benefit of having experienced these teachers. And, though it might not be like it was “back in the day,” it is still a thriving community with many of the most talented and generous people you could hope to meet. I know firsthand, because I left Kennett after high school, coming back once or twice a year to visit. Forty years later, I returned to care for my mother and made the decision to stay after she passed. We want what is best for Kennett and are proud of all those who have called it home.

  9. MY DAD, JACKIE ADKINS PLAYED MUSIC WITH JOE KEENE AND NORVELL FELTS MANY YEARS AGO, LATE FIFTYS TOO MID SIXTIES B/4 WE MOVED TO ILLINOIS. JOE KEENE WAS MY CHILDHOOD HERO AND I CALLED HIM A COUPLE YEARS AGO JUST TO GO BACK TO MY CHILDHOOD DAYS GROWING UP IN KENNETT. I REMEMBER PLAYING IN THE PARK EVERY DAY WHILE WAITING FOR MOM TO GET OFF WORK AT THE SHIRT FACTORY TO PICK ME AND MY BROTHERS, LARRY, MIKE AND KEITH UP AT THE PARK FOR OUR RIDE HOME. EVEN THOUGH I WAS IN 4TH GRADE ATTENDING SCHOOL AT CARUTH GRADE SCHOOL WHEN WE MOVED TO ILLINOIS, KENNETT IS STILL HOME. ME AND MY BROTHERS WENT BACK TO KENNETT IN THE SUMMER OF 2012 TO VISIT ALL THE PLACES WHERE WE LIVED AND PLAYED AND JUST TO FEEL LIKE A KID AGAIN, THAT TRIP WILL ALWAYS BE REMEMBERED. I HOPE TO GET BACK TO KENNETT SOON TO SHOW MY GRAND DAUGHTER WHERE I GREW UP AND TELL HER ABOUT THE GOOD OLE DAYS, SEE YOU SOON KENNETT.

  10. I returned to an older post to read this article about my little brother, Shery, Trent and Noll.
    I still think it’s great and especially enjoyed reading everyone’s comments. Kennett has more talent in the fine arts than can be listed in a single article. Thanks to the folks who mentioned my dad, Dennis Nail in their comments!

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