...for the children in Darfur
By Anne Stanton 8/3/09
Its one of those, Isnt it a small world stories. Bart Lewis of Honor was in Nairobi two years ago at a private plane hangar on assignment with the Kenyan tourist bureau to find good stories. He noticed a film crew milling around and a guy standing alone with long hair and an oddball top hat.
The celebrityat least he guessed he was a celebritywas wearing a vest that said, Love everybody. After talking to the camera crew, he learned the man was named Big Kenny, a country western singer who was there to provide supplies to the war weary people in Darfur and set up a new school.
A few days later, when Lewis was back in the states, something clicked in his head, and he turned on the television to the Country Music Awards. There was the same guy, singing and playing guitar in a super-charged duet performance.
It was Big Kenny on stage with his partner, John Rich. Their band, Big and Rich, was up for album of the year. As it turns out, Kennys a very successful country Western band. Very high energy.
CLOSER TO HOME
Now Lewis, who has kept in contact with Big Kenny, can see him perform closer to home. The duo is playing at the Turtle Creek Casino and Hotel in Williamsburg on August 6 at 9 p.m.
During the concert, the audience will be sure to see Big Kennys motto, Love Everybody on most everything he owns, because thats what he lives by. His heart has motivated him to help build and equip a new school in Akon, Sudan, which now educates more than 500 children (he and his wife work with a Boston-based group called My Sisters Keeper), he said in a phone interview.
Big Kenny recently returned from a trip where he took three planesone with 13 doctors, nuns and teachers, one filled with school supplies, and another with a crate of pharmaceuticals because they just went through horrific cholera. He gained more film footage from the trip, and hopes to edit the past four years of film to show others how good things can be done to help the worlds children.
Instead of crying, pissing and complaining, Id just as soon do something. Use my energy to accomplish something positively.
I cant see stuff like that and not try to do something to give them a little hope. I firmly believe that in being engaged in it, and watching lives get saved and children get an education, makes the world a better place Id much rather make friends everywhere right now when you can still talk to them, than send our sons and daughters and teens to kill them ten years from now because they are rising up out of despair.
Kenny said that if his son were ever in the same situation as the children of Darfur, hed hope someone would come and help him out too.
I just cant get it out of my head. Some people can, but Im not one of them. And its cool, its fun, its awesome man. Its so great to go in a place like that where theyve lived in war for so many years, just a few years out of civil war, and see the kids pick themselves up from where they livednothing more than reed grass, a sickle knife, and a bag of beans. And you see such joy in the kids eyes. Such great inspiration. Theyd never heard anyone sing songs from a guitar. Music is a common denominator.
And speaking of music, Big Kenny said to expect an absolutely stomping concert form beginning to end.
The thing thats different about this year is that everyone was so raring to get up and play again; the bands never been tighter. We are doing all the hits and breaking them up with solo songs. Ive got a new one, Long After Im Gone. The video is out; its about where I grew up. The farms been in my family for eight generations. My dad is still running a herd of cattle. Weve got music out there, and its really exciting and fun to play.
Big Kenny is also drawing on his boyhood days with a solo album this fall, The Quiet Times of a Rock and Roll Farm Boy.
These are exciting times for me. Ive got my independence a solo artist from Warner so Im going to release in a partnership using my favoritest friends Ive met throughout the business over the last couple of decades. Im having more fun than Ive ever had.
And the future looks great. You can write a song and put it out on the Internet tomorrow for everyone to hear. Thats so beautiful to see, and Im feeling so blessed.
Big Kenny said to expect a fantastic concert next week.
In these times, we really appreciate when people are coming out and spending their hard-earned money. We want them to leave feeling that they just heard a tremendous concert; that their life is so much better somehow.
As for Bart Lewis, he and Big Kenny have connected since meeting at Nairobi. Lewis works for National GEO, which is involved in missionary work. Big Kenny cant help but inspire people, he said.
Hes a really great story, Lewis said. He doesnt fit any image one might have. His partner, John Rich, supported John McCain and wrote a song for him and was on McCains campaign trail, whereas Kenny just believes in doing good. Hes got a whole breadth to him.
Tickets, from $40 to $70, are available at the Leelanau Sands and Turtle Creek Casinos, Meijer, www.casino2win.com, or by calling 800-585-3737.