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.

Just Posted

The Fernie Ghostriders trample Osoyoos

The Fernie Ghostriders trampled the Osoyoos Coyotes 7-1 Saturday night at Memorial… Continue reading

Ghostriders defenseman commits to North Dakota university

Ghostriders defenseman commits to North Dakota university

Fernie Public Works facility hosts grand opening.

The City of Fernie held the grand opening of its new $6.9… Continue reading

Ghostriders climb Rockies in nail biting home victory

The Ghostriders took a nail biting 6-5 victory at home against the… Continue reading

Regional winter road maintenance operations underway

Mainroad East Kootenay Contracting shifting into winter as snow season fast approaches

VIDEO: ‘Climate emergency’ is Oxford’s 2019 Word of the Year

Other words on the shortlist included ‘extinction,’ ‘climate denial’ and ‘eco-anxiety’

Violence response procedures updated for B.C. schools, police

ERASE program expands to target gangs, bullying of students

A pawsitive ending: Missing puppy found after nine-day search in Chilliwack

Pit bull Frankie ran from dog sitter booked through app

Federal laws at heart of West’s anger up for debate, as Liberals begin outreach

Vancouver mayor to Trudeau’s western critics: ‘Get over yourselves’

Snowboard pioneer Jake Burton Carpenter dies at 65

He was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2011

Teen developed ‘popcorn lung’ due to vaping: Ontario doctors

Boy went from being in perfect health to being on life support after just five months

B.C. judge tosses ‘N’ driver’s claim he was just using phone to decline his mom’s call

Distracted driving laws are more strict for Class 7, or Novice drivers, the judge noted

Woman calls 911 to say she was late for train, asks Ontario police for ‘emergency ride’

Peel Regional Police received more than 180,000 improper calls so far this year

It could take you 218 years to save up for a house in this B.C. neighbourhood

It would take 27 years in the most affordable city in the Lower Mainland

Most Read