Lee Kernaghan was born on April 15, 1964, in Corryong, Victoria on the foothills of the Snowy Mountains high country. The son of a truck driver and later multi platinum recording artist Ray Kernaghan, Lee spent his formative years growing up in the Riverina country of Southern NSW. Lee’s Grandfather was a third generation drover of sheep and cattle and his experiences on the road with his Pop ran deep, producing a string of hits that began with the release of his first album, the ARIA award winning The Outback Club in 1992. His first number one hit ‘Boys from the Bush’ became an anthem, a celebration of a way of life that connected with the hearts and minds of a younger generation of rural Australians. His music was country but it rocked and was the harbinger of a new era for Australian Country Music. “When Garth (Porter) and I first wrote Boys from the Bush I had no idea it would ever be a hit. It was just a song about me and my mates, working on the land, going to the pub and tearing around in utes. I didn’t think anyone would be that interested in us...we were just kids from the bush but Garth said “this record (The Outback Club) has to be about your life and where you come from” so we wrote that song and several others and before long I had a band and we were out on the road performing them live.”
NEW STAR RISING
In January 1993 Kernaghan was awarded his first Golden Guitar for Song of the Year (Boys from the Bush) along with more Golden Guitars for Album of the Year (The Outback Club) and Male Vocalist of the Year. Kernaghan and Porter collaborated again in 1993 to produce the highly acclaimed Three Chain Road album which featured the smash hits She’s my Ute, The Outback Club and the award winning duet Leave him in the Longyard with Slim Dusty. Three Chain Road won Kernaghan a record five Golden Guitars at the Australian Country Music Awards, the 1994 ARIA Award for Country Album of the Year and Double Platinum Certification from the Australian Record Industry Association. Throughout his career Lee Kernaghan has dominated the charts with successive hit albums including Three Chain Road, 1959, Hat Town, Electric Rodeo, The New Bush, The Big Ones and #1 album Spirit of The Bush. Awarded Hit Maker of the Decade in recognition of unprecedented chart success throughout the 90’s Lee was recently named the biggest hit-maker of the last twenty years on the Australian Country Tracks Chart 2009 edging out musical greats from Australia and America for the number one position.
LOST IN THE WILDERNESS
It hadn’t always been smooth sailing for Kernaghan who after winning the 1982 Starmaker award soon found himself in the musical wilderness. “I remember being on a real high after Starmaker but my first single didn’t have any impact at radio, there was a failed record and management deal somewhere in there and before long I was back in Albury, NSW trying to get gigs anywhere for me and my band. Nobody wanted to hear much country back then so I was mainly singing pop/rock covers and some rock ‘n roll. I remember working in a piano bar playing cocktail music for a couple of years and even called bingo at the SS&A club between sets. Probably the darkest day was playing at the Carriers Arms Hotel in early 1990. I loaded in my PA and started playing at 8pm but a couple of hours went by and nobody turned up. At 11pm the bar manager said I could knock off and I loaded all my gear back into this little modified horse float I was towing, knowing that not a soul had turned up to my show, not even my Mum!”
PASS THE HAT AROUND
Kernaghan has always been passionate about the bush, children, families and the people of rural, remote and regional Australia. “The boys and I rolled into Charleville QLD one Saturday morning back in 1997. We’d been touring hard through the bush for the previous few years and had seen first hand the effects of drought and economic rationalisation on smaller towns and communities. We’d also experienced first hand the mighty spirit of country people that binds so many towns together and helps keep people going through good times and bad. As I looked up and down the main street of Charleville that morning I turned to the boys and said this is a Hat Town. As soon as I had said the words I knew it would be the title of my next album.” ‘Hat Town’ became the first number one hit from the album which also produced the number one songs and music videos ‘Gettin’ Gone’ and ‘Goondiwindi Moon’, which featured the stellar guest vocals from Grammy Award winning Trisha Yearwood. Wanting to give something back to the country Lee announced the “Toyota Pass the Hat Around Australia Tour” that went on to raise over one million dollars for country communities doing it tough. Funds were raised to air-condition country schools, for bushfire rebuilding projects, for the purchase of medical equipment for remote hospitals, emergency services, drought and flood relief.
A NEW MILLENNIUM
By the end of the 90’s Kernaghan had spent the last eight years of his life recording and touring at a heavy pace. He entered the new millennium with his retrospective Rules of the Road album that featured his reworking of the Coster/Dusty classic Cunnamulla Fella and posthumous duets with the legendary Tex Morton and Buddy Williams. By 2002 Kernaghan was ready to rock and released Electric Rodeo, which topped the Australian Country Chart and debuted #4 on the ARIA Top 50 Album Sales Chart. Electric Rodeo was released in tandem with Kernaghan’s performance as The Balladeer in the hit stage production “The Man from Snowy River Arena Spectacular” which won him his third ARIA Award for Best Musical Soundtrack. 2006 saw the release of his Album of the Year The New Bush, which was certified Platinum by ARIA and in 2007 the companion album Spirit of the Bush featured the Vocal Collaboration of the Year with Adam Brand and Steve Forde.
TAKING IT ON THE ROAD
Kernaghan’s dynamic live performances have been a trademark to his stellar career which has enabled him to take country music “out of the box” and serve it up, pyrotechnics and all to a mainstream audience. Lee Kernaghan has become a leading figure in Australian music and a fine ambassador for his craft. Kernaghan has an undisputable passion for his music and his country and was named 2008 Australian of the Year by the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd. To many people he represents the spirit and values of contemporary rural Australia but for Lee it’s everyday Australians that inspire him the most. He has sold over one million albums in Australia, won 27 Golden Guitars, 3 ARIA awards, had 26 number one hits and 10 hit albums – all of which have achieved Platinum or better sales.
THE PLANETS ALIGN
On November 6, 2009 Kernaghan releases his latest collection of songs, Planet Country. Two years in the writing and producing, Planet Country may very well be his finest album to date. Recorded in Sydney and Nashville with what Lee describes as “some of the best musicians in the world”, Planet Country reveals enormous depth, masterful songwriting and maturity in Kernaghan that can only have come from experience. Standout singles include ‘Planet Country’, ‘People like Us’, the majestic ‘Love In The Time Of Drought’, ‘Dirt’, ‘Australian Boy’, ‘Gold’ and ‘Scars’ the southern rock inspired duet featuring U.S. country superstar Dierks Bentley. “Planet Country is about me and it’s about us. There’s not one line from any song that I haven’t lived myself or believe in. Every song on the album is there for a reason. Everyone who has contributed, from the players, songwriters, production and engineering team has made making Planet Country a highlight of my career. At the end of the day it’s only music, but there’s something special about this one for me.”
SPIRIT OF THE ANZACS
2015 marks the 100th Anniversary of the ANZAC’s landing at Gallipoli. In honour of this landmark occasion, music icon and former Australian of the Year, Lee Kernaghan, teams up with a host of local artists and musicians to bring you ‘SPIRIT OF THE ANZACS'.
Recorded at Rancom Street Studio in Sydney, Lee worked with long-time producer and collaborator Garth Porter. Granted unique access to the Australian War Memorial archive, ’SPIRIT OF THE ANZACS’ is inspired by the letters of these diggers to their loved ones from WWI thru to the present day.
'SPIRIT OF THE ANZACS’, the remarkable new album from Lee Kernaghan & Special Guests, has claimed the ARIA Album Chart #1 spot, overcoming a host of international and domestic releases with one of the strongest second week sales of the year. ARIA has also certified that the album has gone GOLD after only two weeks of sales.
‘Spirit Of The Anzacs' has dominated the iTunes All-Genres album chart this week with the Deluxe Edition of the album hitting the top of the chart on Sunday evening. The music video featuring the charity single Spirit Of The Anzacs’ has also claimed the number one position on the iTunes All Genre video chart.
Lee is thrilled that this album has resonated so strongly with the Australian public, saying “Writing and recording these songs that have been inspired by the letters and true stories from servicemen and women is the most humbling yet inspirational experience of my career.
I am so grateful for the contribution and incredible performances from some of Australia’s greatest artists, who have joined me in honouring the Anzacs. Every nation has its story. This ours”.
Additionally, ABC Music achieves a landmark this week, achieving their first ever artist No.1 ARIA Mainstream album. Robert Patterson, Director – ABC Commercial, said “It is a great achievement that ABC Music has attained its first No.1 mainstream chart album. It’s also entirely fitting it should be by Lee Kernaghan – an artist who has worked in partnership with the ABC for his entire career.”
‘Spirit Of The Anzacs’ features a diverse array of stars across the musical spectrum including Lisa McCune, John Schumann, Sara Storer, Fred Smith and VC recipient Ben Robert Smith. Superstars Guy Sebastian, Jessica Mauboy, Sheppard, Jon Stevens, Shannon Noll and Megan Washington donated their time and talents to the ‘Spirit Of The Anzacs’ charity song and video with all proceeds going to Legacy Australia and Soldier On.