Lonestar is an American country music group consisting of Richie McDonald (lead vocals, acoustic guitar), Michael Britt (lead guitar, background vocals), Keech Rainwater (drums), and Dean Sams (keyboards, background vocals). Before the group's foundation, both Rainwater and Britt were members of the group Canyon. John Rich was Lonestar's bass guitarist and second lead vocalist until 1998, when he was fired from the group. He left for a solo career, before joining Big Kenny in the duo Big & Rich in 2003, and Lonestar has not had an official bass guitarist since. Between 2007 and 2011, McDonald exited the band for a solo career, with former McAlyster lead singer Cody Collins replacing him as lead vocalist in this timespan. McDonald has also composed singles for Clay Walker, The Wilkinsons, Billy Dean, and Sara Evans, among others.
Lonestar first charted on Hot Country Songs in late 1995. Nine of the band's singles reached number 1 on this chart: "No News", "Come Cryin' to Me", "Amazed", "Smile", "What About Now", "Tell Her", "I'm Already There", "My Front Porch Looking In", and "Mr. Mom", with nine more reaching Top 10 on the same chart. "Amazed" also charted at number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming the first country song to do so since "Islands in the Stream" in 1983. Both "Amazed" and "My Front Porch Looking In" were the top country songs of 1999 and 2003, respectively, on Billboard Year-End. The group has recorded seven albums, one EP, and a greatest hits package for BNA Records, one album for Saguaro Road, and one album for 4 Star Records. Three of their albums have been certified platinum or higher by the Recording Industry Association of America.
Lonestar began in 1992 as a band named Texassee. This name was derived from the fact that all five members were natives of Texas, and met in Nashville, Tennessee's Opryland USA theme park. The original lineup consisted of lead singer/rhythm guitarist Richie McDonald (Lubbock), lead guitarist Michael Britt (Fort Worth), drummer Randy "Keech" Rainwater (Plano), keyboardist Dean Sams (Garland), and bass guitarist/co-lead vocalist John Rich (Amarillo). Before Lonestar's foundation, Rainwater and Britt were members of the group Canyon, which recorded two albums for the independent 16th Avenue Records and charted in the country top 40 with "Hot Nights" in 1989. By 1992, Texassee changed its name to Lonestar. The band first played at a concert in Nashville in 1993 and signed to BNA Records in 1995.
1994-96: Lonestar Live and Lonestar:
Lonestar's first release for BNA was an extended play titled Lonestar Live, recorded at the Wildhorse Saloon in Nashville and issued in January 1995. Their debut single, "Tequila Talkin'", was released that August, peaking at number eight on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart. It was included on their self-titled debut album, which was released that October, with Don Cook and songwriter Wally Wilson as producers. The next single, "No News", spent three weeks at number one in April 1996. The physical single release, which featured both songs as a double A-side, went to number 22 on Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles. After these two songs, "Runnin' Away with My Heart" also went to number eight on the country charts. It was followed by "When Cowboys Didn't Dance" at number 45 and "Heartbroke Every Day", the only single to feature Rich on lead vocals, at number 18. Both of these songs had previously appeared on the Lonestar Live EP. Their chart runs both overlapped with Mindy McCready's "Maybe He'll Notice Her Now" (from her debut album Ten Thousand Angels), which featured McDonald as a backing vocalist and peaked at number 18 as well.
Lonestar was met with generally favorable reviews. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic and Brian Wahlert of Country Standard Time both praised the band for having neotraditionalist country influences in their sound, with Wahlert also stating that the use of both Rich and McDonald on lead vocals gave the album "versatility". Rick Mitchell of New Country criticized the band for using several session musicians, and thought that the album's sound was "lite rock with a twang". In 1996, Lonestar won the Academy of Country Music award for Best Vocal Group.
1997-98: Crazy Nights:
Lonestar's sixth chart single was "Come Cryin' to Me", which Rich and Wilson co-wrote with "No News" co-writer Mark D. Sanders. The song peaked at number one on the country charts in August 1997, two months after the release of its corresponding album, Crazy Nights. As with Lonestar, it was produced by Wilson and Cook. The next single, "You Walked In", was written by rock producer and songwriter Robert John "Mutt" Lange. It peaked at number 12 on the country charts and became the band's first entry on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number 93. "Say When" and "Everything's Changed" followed it, with respective peaks at thirteen and two on the country music charts in 1998. The latter also went to number 95 on the Hot 100. Former solo singer Larry Boone and Paul Nelson co-wrote both of these songs, collaborating with Rich on the former and McDonald on the latter. Also included on the album was a cover of Pure Prairie League's "Amie". Thom Owens gave the album a mixed review, saying that "Come Cryin' to Me" and the "Amie" cover were "solid", but criticizing the rest as "slick and bland".
Shortly after the release of "Everything's Changed", Rich was fired from the band and began a solo career for BNA. He charted the singles "Pray for You" and "Forever Loving You", and recorded an album titled Underneath the Same Moon in 1999, although it was not released until 2006. Rich went on to form Big & Rich with Big Kenny in 2003, also serving as a songwriter and producer for several other artists.
1999-2002: Lonely Grill, This Christmas Time, and I'm Already There:
After Rich was fired from the band, the other four members began performing "unplugged" shows which included acoustic renditions of their songs. The band members also expressed a desire to "reinvent" their sound. They chose session guitarist Dann Huff to replace Wilson and Cook as producer, and added three members to their touring band: Robbie Cheuvront (bass guitar), Kurt Baumer (fiddle), and Jeremy Moyers (steel guitar).
Lonely Grill was released in 1999. Huff produced all of the album, except for an acoustic version of "Everything's Changed", which Sam Ramage and Bob Wright produced; Cheuvront and session musician Mike Brignardello alternated as bassists on the album. Although lead-off single "Saturday Night" failed to make Top 40, its followup "Amazed" spent eight weeks at number one on the country charts. It would later reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100 as well, becoming the first song to top both the Hot Country Songs and Hot 100 charts since 1983, when Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton accomplished the same feat with "Islands in the Stream". The song also peaked at number 2 on the Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks chart. All of the other singles from Lonely Grill ("Smile", "What About Now", and "Tell Her") reached the top of the country charts as well, and the album was certified double-platinum by the RIAA. Erlewine wrote that Lonestar "takes a middle ground, moving back toward hardcore country while retaining elements of the pop sheen of Crazy Nights. The results aren't always successful, but overall, the album is stronger than its immediate predecessor."
Also in this album's timespan, McDonald co-wrote Clay Walker's "She's Always Right" and The Wilkinsons' "Jimmy's Got a Girlfriend", which were respectively released in 1999 and 2000. He worked with "No News" co-writer Phil Barnhart and Ed Hill on the former, and "What About Now" co-writers Ron Harbin and Anthony L. Smith on the latter. Lonestar's first Christmas album, This Christmas Time, was released in September 2000. It featured covers of seven traditional Christmas songs, plus three original compositions: "If Every Day Could Be Christmas", "Reason for the Season", and the title track. The latter two songs were co-written by McDonald and Sams, respectively. The renditions of "Winter Wonderland", "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas", "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town", and "The Little Drummer Boy" included on this album all made the country charts in late 2000 based on Christmas airplay. Allmusic criticized the album as "An unfortunately slick and forgettable collection of holiday tunes, cloyingly done in a soulless pop-country style."
I'm Already There, Lonestar's fourth album, was released in 2001. The lead-off single was the title track, which McDonald wrote with Gary Baker and Frank J. Myers. It spent six weeks at number one on the country charts between June and July 2001, in addition to reaching number 24 on the Hot 100 and number 2 on the Adult Contemporary charts. After it, "With Me" peaked at number ten, "Not a Day Goes By" reached number three, and the Mark McGuinn-penned "Unusually Unusual" went to number twelve. The album received a platinum certification. Maria Konicki Dinoia of Allmusic compared the album favorably to the ballads on Lonely Grill, also praising McDonald's "vocal prowess."Alanna Nash of Entertainment Weekly was less favorable, saying that Huff's production was "generic".
2003-05: From There To Here: Greatest Hits and Let's Be Us Again:
BNA released Lonestar's first greatest hits package, From There to Here: Greatest Hits, in 2003. Three new songs were recorded for this album: "My Front Porch Looking In" (written by McDonald, Myers, and Don Pfrimmer), a cover of Marc Cohn's "Walking in Memphis", and "I Pray". The first two of these were both released as singles; "My Front Porch Looking In" went to number one and became the top country hit of 2003 on the Billboard Year-End charts, while the "Walking in Memphis" cover peaked at number eight.
Let's Be Us Again was released in May 2004. This album produced three singles, all co-written by McDonald. The title track was the first, reaching number four on the country charts in mid-2004. "Mr. Mom" followed it, becoming their final number one by the end of the year. After it, "Class Reunion (That Used to Be Us)" peaked at number 16 in early 2005. Although not released as a single, the closing track "Somebody's Someone" charted at number 53 in late 2004 based on unsolicited airplay. Once again, Huff served as their producer, except on "Somebody's Someone", which the band members produced themselves. Also included on this album was "Let Them Be Little", co-written by McDonald and Billy Dean. Dean recorded his own version of the song for his 2005 album of the same name for Curb Records, and his version peaked at number eight on the country charts in early 2005. Another track on Let's Be Us Again, "From There to Here", featured a guest vocal from Alabama lead singer Randy Owen. Erlewine praised the album for containing more up-tempo songs than its predecessors.
2005-06: Coming Home:
Coming Home followed in 2005. The band members bought fifteen different albums at Walmart to determine which producer they wanted to replace Huff for this album. They chose Justin Niebank, who has also produced for Marty Stuart, Blues Traveler, and Leftover Salmon. On July 19, 2005, Lonestar previewed the album at Sony Music Nashville's offices, accompanied by Moyers, Cheuvront, and guitarist Jack Sizemore, who also co-wrote the track "Doghouse" on it.
Only two singles were released from this album: "You're Like Comin' Home", which reached number eight, and "I'll Die Tryin'", their first single since "Saturday Night" to peak outside the top 40. Both were co-written by Jeremy Stover, and previously recorded by the Canadian country band Emerson Drive on their 2004 album What If? Erlewine criticized Coming Home as a "perfectly dull set of songs of happy homes."
In early 2006, Sara Evans charted within the Top 40 with "Coalmine", a cut from her album Real Fine Place which McDonald co-wrote with Roxie Dean and Ron Harbin. At a December 2006 concert in Corpus Christi, Texas, McDonald was unavailable while recovering from back surgery, so Josh Gracin sang lead vocals in his absence.
2007-2008: Mountains and departure of Richie McDonald:
Mountains was the band's final album for BNA. Released in 2007, it was produced by Mark Bright, whose other production credits include Blackhawk, Rascal Flatts, and Carrie Underwood. Its title track, co-written by Larry Boone, went to number 10 on the country charts, but "Nothing to Prove" peaked at 51. Erlewine criticized the band for taking "fewer risks than ever" on the album. In March 2007, Lonestar was dropped from BNA's roster due to declining sales. Guitarist Michael Britt attributes the group's downfall in the mid-2000s to the label's choices in singles, saying in an interview with CMT, "I think we painted ourselves into a corner... They started putting out a bunch of family-type songs. I think that really pigeonholed us. The majority of the band didn't really want to continue doing that same thing. But that's what kept getting put out."
Lead singer Richie McDonald also announced that he would be leaving the group at the end of 2007 to begin a solo career. Cody Collins, who had previously fronted another band called McAlyster, was confirmed as his replacement. Lonestar's first compilation with Collins as lead singer was the 2007 Christmas music compilation titled My Christmas List, available exclusively at the restaurant and gift shop chain Cracker Barrel.
McDonald also released a Christmas album in late 2007, titled If Every Day Could Be Christmas. It was followed a year later by I Turn to You, a contemporary Christian music album released via Stroudavarious Records (later known as R&J Records). After this album, he had two chart singles in 2009, both peaking at number 51: "How Do I Just Stop" and "Six Foot Teddy Bear". The former appeared on his third solo album, Slow Down, which was released via Loremoma in 2010.
2008-2011: Party Heard Around the World:
The group's first single to feature Collins on lead vocals was "Let Me Love You", which was released in early 2008 on Saguaro Road Records. The song made it to 50 on the country music charts. It is the first single from the album Party Heard Around the World, released on April 27, 2010. "You're the Reason Why" was released to radio on March 2, 2010.
2011-present: Life As We Know It:
Collins left in 2011, with McDonald re-joining as lead singer. The band's first single after his rejoining is "The Countdown", released via 4 Star Records. It peaked at number 52 on the country charts in late 2012. The song is included on an album titled Life as We Know It, released on June 4, 2013.
All four members of Lonestar appeared on separate episodes of the game show Wheel of Fortune during a country music-themed week aired in February 2007. During this week, contestants and country music artists competed in teams; the singers had cash amounts equal to their corresponding contestants' winnings donated to a charity of the singer's choice, with a minimum guarantee of $10,000. McDonald and Britt both won the bonus round, respectively donating $61,000 for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and $59,350 for Adopt-a-Platoon, while Sams and Rainwater won $10,000 each for charities. McDonald previously competed on an identical week that aired in February 2003, where his winnings were donated to Habitat for Humanity.
The group appeared on The Price Is Right, serving as the house band on the episode that aired June 17, 2010. They performed the show's theme song, along with a sample of songs from Party Heard Around the World.
The group was featured in an episode of BYUtv's "The Song That Changed My Life" in October 2013.
Michael Britt (born June 15, 1966) - lead guitar, background vocals (1992-present),
Keech Rainwater (born January 24, 1963) - drums, percussion (1992-present),
Dean Sams (born August 3, 1966) - keyboards, harmonica, background vocals (1992-present),
Richie McDonald (born February 6, 1962) - lead vocals, rhythm guitar, piano, keyboards (1992-2008, 2011-present),
John Rich - bass guitar, lead and background vocals (1992-1998),
Cody Collins - lead vocals, acoustic guitar (2008-2011),
Current touring musicians
Robby Wilson- bass guitar, vocals,
Former touring musicians
Kurt Baumer - fiddle,
Robbie Cheuvront - bass,
Jeremy Moyers - steel guitar