‘Tennessee Whiskey’ Dad Kris Jones Has a Rough Backstory
Viral video stars rarely have a shelf life longer than a few weeks, at best, before the next big thing comes around. However, the case of "Tennessee Whiskey" dad Kris Jones is different. It's a real story — one that took years to develop, with many twists and turns along the way.
Jones, who just released his debut self-titled EP Mar. 22, explained his long and winding road to fame in a detailed profile for the Dallas Morning News on the day of his record release.
Jones grew up in Fort Worth, raised with four other siblings by his mother, who held down two jobs to keep the family afloat. Since his mom was white and his dad black —something Jones says was not popular in his neighborhood at the time — he found it difficult to fit in with any group at school.
Music was his solace. He sang with his church choir, and his father would take him to karaoke contests on the weekends, which he frequently won. He wooed the girl who would eventually become his wife with a karaoke song, on a teenage double date.
However, things began to go seriously wrong when he moved out at age 17 and found himself in trouble with the law: An incident at his apartment landed him a conviction of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and he spent the next six years in and out of jail. He didn't fit in there, either (“I was either too white or too black for the gangs"), but at night, he sang for the inmates — a variety of R&B hits and some Garth Brooks.
At age 26, he was released, found a job, and got married. He never lost his dreams of becoming a singer, but family and work took over most of his focus. His wife urged him to try out for American Idol, but he was just outside of the age requirements. A tryout for The Voice was also unsuccessful.
Jones returned to everyday life, but the serendipitous video recorded by his daughter singing "Tennessee Whiskey" opened up an unexpected door. From there, he was invited to sing on Ellen, and following that, was accepted by The Voice, as well as new competition The Four.
He said no to both, having decided he could not support a family on his musical dreams alone. Jones realized his real fame was online, where millions of fans supported him daily — so he returned to his day job, with hopes that his music would live on where it was discovered.
And he may have something going there, indeed. As of posting time, the album is climbing up the Top 40 iTunes Country Albums Chart.
"Tennessee Whiskey" was first made famous when it was released as a single by country legend George Jones. Chris Stapleton turned it into a hit song when he performed the track at the 2015 CMA Awards alongside superstar Justin Timberlake. The song is also included on Stapleton's critically acclaimed album, Traveller, which helped launch the singer into stardom and earned him a Grammy Award for Best Country Album in 2016.
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