‘Big Kenny' Alphin, Culpeper's country music superstar
"I don't believe in getting off the playing field"
By Audrey T. Hingley

"Big Kenny" Alphin's energy puts most people half his age to shame. Alphin, 46, cheerfully admits to having "eight jobs," including overseeing his new Nashville-based music company and releasing a new solo CD, The Quiet Times of a Rock and Roll Farm Boy. The kinetic singer/songwriter and self-proclaimed company CIO ("chief imagination officer") wears multiple hats onstage - and in real life.

"I don't believe in getting off the playing field," he says. "I think you do all you can till you can't do it anymore."

The Culpeper native burst onto the music scene in 2004 as one-half of the eclectic duo Big & Rich. He and musical partner John Rich took the music world by storm with their "country music without prejudice" fusing of country, rap and rock. Their success has produced four albums, sold-out concerts and a slew of awards.
In March, Rich released a solo CD, Son of a Preacher Man, on Warner Brothers, but Alphin has taken a different route.

"I got out of Warner completely as a solo artist and put my whole team together. I was at a place in my life where I didn't want to ask permission," he says. "Now I run my own show. If I'm sitting in L.A. and decide to cut a video tomorrow, I'll cut a video. You could never work like that in the normal label system, where everything had to go through some committee."

The video illustration is an apt one: That's just what Alphin did. In Los Angeles for meetings last May, he "decided to catch a perfect spring day in Virginia" and returned to his parents' large working cattle farm to film the video for Long After I'm Gone, his new single.
"No matter where I go, Virginia is still home. There's just something real comforting about being on the farm. I made the decision one day and did it the next," he says of the video featuring breathtaking vistas of his parents' lush farm and shots of Alphin with wife Christiev, son Lincoln, and parents Bill and Mary Alphin. "We wrote it, directed it and filmed it right there on the spot with no plan."

Alphin adds: "Farming has its ups and downs, but, boy, when I go back there and see it as everyone does in the video, I think it looks pretty doggone close to heaven. It really was quite an idyllic way to grow up."
The seeds of Alphin's success were sown as he was growing up with siblings Charleene, Robert and Wallace, overseen by parents who emphasized Christian faith, family and hard work.

"I never saw anybody around me with dust growing on them," Alphin admits. "My dad still works as hard as he can go."

Longtime farm employee George Ellis observes: "Kenny was determined not to be outdone. If somebody was lifting a bale of hay, he would roll 'em if he couldn't lift 'em."
By the time Alphin finished high school, he'd operated a variety of businesses. When he was in his early 20s, he ran a construction/development business until a real estate recession sent him into bankruptcy. Steve Southard, senior vice president with Virginia Community Bank in Culpeper, worked with Alphin then and recalls, "If you want to succeed, you can't be afraid to fail, and Ken was not afraid to fail. He always focused on the positive."

Close friend Paul Bates, who owns Bates Body & Repair, says, "Ken has always been the type of person who would go after what he set his mind to ... he would get these big ideas and not let up."

Bates remembers Alphin making a prosthetic arm for a high school physics project: "It had fingers on it, a motor to let the fingers move, and we fiberglassed it. ... His mind was just on a different level than most people."
Alphin's music career started after he was dared to sing at a Northern Virginia club. Afterward, a stranger asked if he wanted to join a band, and the die was cast. He moved to Nashville in 1994 and in 1995 inked a songwriting/music publishing deal. A 1998 recording deal with Hollywood Records ultimately fizzled, but when Alphin met Rich something clicked.

Mary Alphin admits there were times she and Bill wondered if Kenny was fooling himself: "We heard he was living off credit cards. John later said Kenny had $140,000 in credit card debt, and he wasn't far behind [when Big & Rich hit]. But Ken never said anything to us about it [money problems]."

Bates recalls, "He always had an optimistic outlook. Sometimes I'd think he just doesn't want to accept the fact that he's a little too old to go to Nashville. The odds were against him. But Ken has the gift of gab and charisma; he could strike up a conversation with anybody. I think that has a lot to do with his success."
His father also modeled later-life career success, beginning a 20-year insurance career in his mid-40s while continuing to farm.

Alphin, whose first marriage ended in divorce, married stylist Christiev Carothers in 2005, becoming a stepfather to her two sons from a previous marriage. Friends say the birth of son Lincoln, now 4, has "grounded" Alphin.

Asked if parenthood has changed his perception of his own parents, Alphin replies with a hearty laugh: "Heck, yeah. I gave my parents hell! I was a kid; I didn't know. I love my wife completely, and Lincoln ... it's a crazy kind of love I've never experienced and can't explain. It [parenthood] has made me stronger and more enlightened to the world around me."

He's joined musicians such as Sheryl Crow in Music Saves Mountains, an effort to end mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia and is helping fund doctors in Appalachia via a nonprofit called Hope Through Healing Hands. Moved by the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan, Alphin is also involved with My Sister's Keeper, a nonprofit whose projects include a Sudanese school for girls and medical clinic.

Alphin says to fellow boomers, "I'm sure everybody goes through discouragement; I'm not saying I haven't. But the way you deal with it is the choices you make. If someone wants to talk themselves out of something, they'll find a reason. But if someone wants to go after their life's passion, and that passion can also be their life's work, that's a pretty good thing. I firmly believe that anyone is capable of finding that place in life."

Audrey T. Hingley is a Richmond-based freelance writer.

Battleground Academy's Middle School, Grades 5-8, collected over $1,800 from their students as a fundraiser for Haiti Relief efforts. The students gave a minimum donation of $5 for the privilege of wearing blue jeans to school (in exchange for their typical uniform attire).
As of this week, we've been able to donate over $115,000 of your generous gifts to provide immediate assistance for the victims of the earthquake in Haiti. Most recently, beneficiaries have included Missionary Flights International, which has provided air transport during this time of crisis in Haiti, and Mobile Medical Disaster Relief, which will be purchasing tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis vaccinations for over 6500 children in Port au Prince.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, February 22, 2010

CONTACT:

Jenny Dyer

PHONE:

(615) 386-0045

NASHVILLE, TN - Hope Through Healing Hands, a Nashville-based global health nonprofit organization, announced today the delivery of over 260 beds for relief efforts in Haiti.  The beds will go to clinics in some of the hardest hit areas of Haiti to help provide needed care and rest to those still recovering from injuries sustained from the January earthquake.  The beds were donated by Huntsville Hospital in Alabama, with special help and coordination from the Executive Director of the South Central Tennessee Development District, Jerry Mansfield and staff.

Former U.S. Senator Bill Frist, the Chairman of Hope Through Healing Hands said, "I am thrilled that our group was able to help facilitate the delivery of these beds to those in need in Haiti.  When I was down in Haiti following the earthquake, I saw tremendous need for supplies like these, and I thank Huntsville Hospital, Fayetteville Rotary Club, and Jerry Mansfield for providing these beds."

Hope Through Healing Hands' partner, Soles4Souls, a Nashville-based charity that collects shoes from the warehouses of footwear companies and from individual donors and then distributes shoes free of charge to people in need, has helped provide transportation for the beds through Operation Compassion, an international relief organization based in Cleveland, TN that has provided transportation for medical equipment needed in Haiti. The total donation of beds consisted of 256 Hill-Rom 850 hospital beds and 7 Stryker Critical Care beds. 

# # #

 Hope Through Healing Hands is a nonprofit 501(c)3 working to improve the quality of life for citizens and communities around the world using health as a currency for peace. Since January, Hope Through Healing Hands has raised over $125,000 for relief efforts in Haiti.  For more information, please visit http://www.hopethroughhealinghands.org/.

On January 3rd, Big Kenny was awoken with a strong emotion. Thirty minutes later it was the words to "Cry With You." Big Kenny worked on "Cry With You" while planning his departure to Haiti to help search for Walt who was in the country working on several renewable energy projects at the time. It features a broad range of spirit and talent who came into The Last Dollar Studio to track and complete the song while Big Kenny was away. The song includes the First String Orchestra directed by Carl Marsh, recorded at Oceanway Studios the day prior to Big Kenny's departure to Haiti, spoken word by Senator Bill Frist just back from Haiti himself, Better Than Ezra members Kevin Griffin and Travis McNabb, Glotown Artist Damien Horne, Lo Carter as well as many others.
February 10, 2010

Three Updates: Reflections and Reports

We continue to receive reports from friends and acquaintances and partners who are still in the field in Haiti. We want to share three of those stories today.
The work in Haiti continues, and there are still so many suffering. It is difficult to see if help is actually getting through at times with so much devastation and need. If you've followed my blog and twitter feed, you read some of the amazing things that have happened down there during this short time. There are hundreds of stories like these, but I wanted to share one with you now and thank the efforts of so many to make at least one success story.

I traveled to Haiti with Samaritan's Purse, an international relief organization, who had their first physician on the ground on January 13. Their work was tremendous and immediate. While I was there, they had built up to a 55-person Disaster Assistance Relief Team (DART), of which 21 were medical professionals. That number has only continued to grow since.
**Hope Through Healing Hands donated $5,000 to Big Kenny's Love Everybody, LLC to support the medical and trauma services he and his team provided in Haiti.

by Cindy Watts

The Tennessean Blog

Country singer "Big Kenny" Alphin was in the Charlotte, N.C., airport flying home to Nashville from a gig when he saw the news - a 7.0 magnitude earthquake had struck Haiti. Capital city Port au Prince was in shambles. More than 100,000 people were presumed dead.

Alphin immediately called Jeanne Ratterman. Her husband, Alphin's friend Walt Ratterman, had been in Port au Prince since Jan. 2.

The news - no news.

January 25, 2010

Invisible Lives, a documentary scheduled to air worldwide January 26 at 20:30 GMT on BBC World, will be featuring the work of Save the Children.  In the documentary, Dr. Joy Lawn, a newborn health expert with Save the Children, travels to Nepal and Malawi to examine how these two countries, although worlds apart, are making progress in saving newborn lives. The documentary explores how these low-income countries are among the few on track to meet the United Nation's Millennium Development Goal of reducing deaths of children under 5 years of age by 2/3 by 2015 despite a myriad of obstacles.

Those who have satellite television or special cable may have access to the program on the BBC World Channel.  If you don't, there will be a free download to the video of the program on and after 26th January at www.rockhopper.tv

 

Just after our arrival at the Port au Prince airport, I met a volunteer medical team on the tarmac. They had supplies, but they were stranded at the airport with nowhere to go. They were awaiting UN directions and approval to leave.

We had just gotten off our plane and they saw my Samaritan's Purse hat and asked for help. We only had one truck so I told them I'd just received an email from King's hospital and that they were in dire need of help.

I said I would postpone our departure from the airport to have our truck take them immediately to King's hospital if they were willing. They were dropped off...

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