Canadian country music star Kenny Hess will be playing a benefit concert at the Fernie Memorial Arena on July 15. Submitted photo

Kenny Hess is coming home

In a brazen act of rural-Canadian teenage rebellion, country music icon Kenny Hess and his childhood friend Johnny Guzzi stole a fishing rod from their neighbours many years ago.

The then 13-year-old Fernie residents were quickly nabbed for their crime and sentenced to community service at the local senior citizen’s home. Hess found himself working in the kitchen where he was singing to himself, as was his habit.

“One little old lady heard me singing and she said, ‘you should sing for the people,’” he said. “I said sure. I sang a few songs and ended my sentence singing twice a week at the old folks home.”

Hess would go on to become one of the biggest names in country music. He’s performed with Charlie Pride, Don Williams, Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash. He’s traveled the world and had a number of top 40 hits but he’ll soon be back home, singing for the benefit of the community’s senior citizens once again.

On July 15, Hess is playing a benefit concert at the Fernie Memorial Arena. Proceeds from the event will be donated to the Tom Uphill Memorial Home and the Elk Valley Hospital Foundation. Hess said any local businesses who want to sponsor the event are welcome to do so.

Born in Outlook, Saskatchewan, Hess was the middle child of a large working class family of six brothers and two sisters. When he was a child, his father moved the family to the Elk Valley to work in the local mining industry and the future country-music star grew up in Fernie.

Hess said it was an idyllic upbringing, getting into trouble with his friends: the Hutchinsons, the Osbournes and the Guzzis.

“It was awesome,” he said. “I had so many great friends and we had wonderful times as kids. I miss them dearly and I look back on my childhood very fondly.”

At just four years old, Hess already knew he was going to be a singer. His father was a preacher at the local church where the whole family was taught to sing. At just 15, Hess was already on the road, performing music.

Back in those days, Hess would play country music stomps in community halls in Jaffray and Elko.

They were country affairs in every sense of the word, he said.

“There was so much fun, so much excitement and so much crazy anger,” said Hess. “It was true country fun. Lots of fighting, lots of dancing, they were country boys and girls going out to let off steam.”

“They’re my fondest memories, they really are.”

Hess began his career performing songs of country music legends but it wasn’t long before he was singing his own songs and sharing the stage with those very same great artists.

He is fortunate enough to have played with many of his musical influences. Later on this year, he’ll have played with another one when he performs with Willie Nelson.

“It’s like a cherry on top of the sundae for me,” he said. “(Nelson) is the last guy I need to check off my bucket list.

Hess has enjoyed a successful career with several national top 40 hits and 14 critically acclaimed CDs. He has been nominated for Canadian Country Music Awards, a Juno award for Country Artist of the Year and has won several BC Country Music Awards including Male Vocalist of the Year and Album of the Year.

Hess is also the founder of Merritt’s Rockin’ River Music Festival, which takes place in August.

He’s looking forward to coming home and seeing old friends.

“To be able to come home and play a dance and watch all my old buddies, who are now in their 50s, dancing the way they did when they were teenagers will really be a thrill for me,” he said.

Tickets are by donation. Call Sharon at 250-423-3356 or email becca@rockinriver.com for more information.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Wildsight turns a sour situation into sweet online learning

The group is offering a variety of resources for home learning

Chamber launches localized workforce attraction website

The Work in Fernie website intends on bringing workers to the Elk Valley during the off season

Fernie Heritage Library sparks sweet summer fun

The library hosted their annual Lemonade Social on June 24

Interior Health will not expand Police and Crisis Team

Southeast Division Chief Superintendent Brad Haugli asked IH to expand the program

Elk Valley locals mountain bike for mental health

Strahan Loken leads a summer solstice fundraiser for the Elk Valley Suicide Task Force

VIDEO: Musqueam Chief captures captivating footage of bald eagle catching meal

‘This is why we have chosen to live here since time immemorial,’ Chief Wayne Sparrow’s nephew says

Police ramp up efforts to get impaired drivers off B.C. roads this summer

July is dedicated to the Summer CounterAttack Impaired Driving Campaign

Migrant workers stage multi-city action for full status amid COVID-19 risks

‘COVID-19 has exacerbated an existing crisis’

Okanagan school drops ‘Rebels’ sports team name, citing links with U.S. Civil War

Name and formerly-used images “fly in the face” of the district’s human rights policy, says board chair

PHOTOS: B.C.’s top doc picks up personalized Fluevog shoes, tours mural exhibition

Murals of Gratitude exhibit includes at least one portrait of Henry alongside paintings of health-care workers

In troubled times: Independence Day in a land of confusion

Buffeted by invisible forces and just plain worn out, the United States of America celebrates its 244th birthday

Stop enforcing sex work laws during COVID-19, advocates say

There are provisions in Canada’s prostitution laws that make workers immune from prosecution, but not from arrest

Liberal party finished 2019 having spent $43 million, raised $42 million

All political parties had until midnight June 30 to submit their financial reports for last year

B.C. teacher loses licence after sexual relationships with two recently-graduated students

The teacher won’t be allowed to apply for a teaching certificate until 2035

Most Read