Tim Hensley, a multi-instrumentalist and recording artist who spent 11 years as a key member of country superstar Kenny Chesney’s touring band and in-studio team, died today. He was 50 years old and suffered from liver failure.
Mr. Hensley also spent 10 years in Patty Loveless’ band, and a year with Ricky Skaggs. A superb harmony vocalist, he sang on major albums including Chesney’s “When The Sun Goes Down” and “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems,” Skaggs’ “Comin’ Home To Stay” and Loveless’ “When Fallen Angels Fly” and “Trouble With The Truth.” His vocals onstage and in the studio were a hallmark of Loveless’ live shows and records in the 1990s.
Mr. Hensley’s one solo album, 2008’s “Long Monday,” came about after years of singing and playing bluegrass songs with Chesney and other band members. When Chesney’s concerts were over and before the show moved on to the next city on the tour, Mr. Hensley would often lead informal sessions on a tour bus. The music always tended toward bluegrass, with plenty of nights featuring re-workings of standard “Workin’ On A Building” or of the Herb Pedersen-penned “Wait A Minute.”
“We sat so many nights backstage, or in a dressing room or on a bus, and started up a bluegrass jam session with Tim Hensley as the ringleader,” Chesney told The Tennessean in 2008. “I told him one day, ‘I don’t know how or when, but I’m going to capture you doing this.’”
Chesney and Buddy Cannon produced “Long Monday,” an album that found Hensley singing a mixture of bluegrass and Americana songs – some from his own pen, some from writers such as John Prine, Keith Sykes, John Scott Sherrill, Carl Jackson and Rodney Crowell – with guests including Loveless, Vince Gill and Sonya Isaacs. “Long Monday” became a Top 10 album on bluegrass charts, and Mr. Hensley realized a childhood dream when he played the Grand Ole Opry on April 4, 2008
The city of Boston holds a special place in Kenny Chesney’s heart, and after the Boston Marathon bombings he wanted to do something to help the victims:
Kenny Chesney is establishing the Spread the Love Fund, working with Boston Medical Center to help those affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. Besides making a sizeable donation for seed money, all of Chesney’s proceeds from the downloaded iTunes single sales of “Spread the Love,” his track co-written and produced by the Wailers, go to the fund, which will benefit post-acute care for victims of traumatic injuries from the Boston Marathon bombings at BMC or other Boston hospitals.
“It’s hard to imagine a world where taking your children to school, going to the movies or witnessing something as iconic as the Boston Marathon is a dangerous thing to do,” Chesney says. “For me, I want to help give these people as much of their lives back as possible, but I’d also like to counteract some of the negativity in the world… Remind people that there are more good people out there, and it’s up to us to ‘Spread the Love.”
Download the single “Spread The Love” at iTunes now to support the cause. You can also donate online here.
If you’d like to mail a donation, send it to this address:
Boston Medical Center, Office of Development
801 Massachusetts Avenue, First Floor
Boston, MA 02118-2393
“I can’t change what happened,” Chesney says. “I can’t imagine how the families, as well the city of Boston, feel – and I want to do what I can. If we can all remember that the negativity only wins if we let it, that’s a good start. That, and helping these families with this huge process of dealing with a prosthetic. Hopefully, we can all come together and make a difference.”
The day has finally arrived. Kenny Chesney’s new album Life on a Rock is in stores today!
If you haven’t already, download the album now at iTunes or AmazonMP3. You can also order the CD at Amazon.
Be sure to catch Kenny on Good Morning America this morning and then Late Night with Jimmy Fallon tonight.
“I’ll look back on [Life on a Rock] as one of my favorite records for a lot of reasons, but one of the main reasons is the way the record was made,” Chesney tells Billboard. “I wrote a lot of these songs without music. I just wrote the lyrics down and tried to take moments from my life and my friends lives, and some of their stories, and the crazy characters I’ve met, and tried to give them a pulse, tried to paint a picture, and honestly tell a story that I haven’t been able to tell up to know because of the nature of our business and the way we make music. And not only did I write without music initially, I wrote them without expectations, without a timeline. I wrote them without editing myself.”
Billboard has a great track-by-track interview with Kenny Chesney where he provides the inspiration for each song. Be sure to read it.
Drop your thoughts on the new album in the comments section below.
Legendary country icon George Jones passed away Friday morning at the age of 81. For Kenny Chesney, Jones was like a father.
“He had a voice that was the truth, raw and unfiltered. You can’t get any realer, any more tortured or any more alive. No one can do what George Jones does, and that’s why 50 years later, he still stands out as one of the greatest singers in any genre of all time. … We were great friends, but it was really more like a father/son relationship. He even showed up in Lexington, Kentucky two years ago to surprise me onstage for my birthday… all the way from Nashville, to surprise me and sing ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today’ with me, which will be one of the greatest memories of my life. … When I was just staring out, and I was picked to open the George Jones-Tammy Wynette Reunion Tour, I thought I’d made it… Then one night, George asked me if I was heading home because he and Nancy had a plane, and they’d take me,” Chesney recalls. “I remember sitting there on that jet, thinking, ‘This can’t be happening’ because he was George Jones, and I was some kid from nowhere.’ I’m sure he knew, but he was generous to kids chasing the dream, and I never forgot it.”
In an interview a couple years ago, George praised Kenny and spoke about their relationship:
I love Kenny, and he has remained as close as a son to me. My stepdaughter with Nancy worked for Morris Management, who manages Kenny. Kenny was just starting out and we all agreed to bring him along on the tour. He took his first private plane trip with me and he was just thrilled. In fact, he wore overalls that day and gave them to me. I have them framed down in my memorabilia basement! Through the years, Kenny always stayed in touch and, as he became such a big star, he never forgot me. We do little surprises for each other. Just a couple of months ago, I surprised him on tour and walked out onstage singing to him. He just about fell over. He was so happy and emotional. He knows I don’t normally show up at other people’s shows, and it was a wonderful moment between us. We had dinner back in Nashville a couple of nights later. Kenny is a good, good man and I think of him as a son — and he calls me “Dad.” I am so proud of all that he’s accomplished, and he has stayed the same down to earth humble guy that he’s always been.
“I’ve been lucky to get some good advice along the way from different people,” Kacey tells The Boot. “Most recently, I joined the Kenny Chesney tour. After our first show with him, as the tour president, he gave me a really nice guitar and a really sweet note that he wrote. When he gave it to me he was like, ‘I know things can be overwhelming at times and all this can bring elements of that, but don’t let it become anything more than us up here having fun and playing music because that’s what we’re here for.'”
There’s publicity obligations and fan reaction and so much more, but this singer-songwriter is doing her best to take Kenny’s advice. “I try to remember that,” she says. “There’s politics, like with any job, that get involved, but it’s all about the music.”
Being on tour with the “Pirate Flag” singer is allowing Kacey to see him from a perspective not everyone is so lucky to see. “Kenny is this massive, worldwide star. People come from miles and miles to see him by the thousands. It’s pretty insane. He’s the most genuine, down-to-earth country boy that you could meet. You can totally tell whenever you meet him that nothing’s going to his head. He likes being around real people and you can tell by the crew that he has around and the way they treat him and the way that he treats everybody else that he’s just genuine.”