No “overnight success” story here. Lee--one of the most acclaimed artists internationally—and often identified as virtually the ultimate name that comes to mind when patriotism is mentioned in the entertainment industry--gained his success the old fashioned way: He earned it, one rung up the ladder at a time. After years of struggling to gain recognition in the music industry, one song—“God Bless The USA”— in 1983 singularly transported Lee Greenwood far beyond the ranks of stardom to a niche in America’s pop culture that is seemingly reserved for he and he alone.
If any doubt existed of Greenwood’s “forever imprint” on America, it was dispelled in 2003—the 20 year anniversary of its release—when “God Bless The USA” was voted online by Americans as the “most recognizable patriotic song” in the nation. The song that Lee Greenwood wrote bested competition that included “God Bless America” and the “National Anthem” as a modern national anthem of the common man.
Like many great careers, Lee’s had humble beginnings on a farm near Sacramento, California. He began honing his musical abilities in Jr. High School, learning to play most of the instruments in the orchestra by age 14. Both of his parents were musicians, and Lee followed in their footsteps from an early age. He was quick to acquire the musical and business skills that would prove necessary for his life as an entertainer.
He formed his first band, the Moonbeams, while still in Jr. High School. By the time he had graduated high school, Lee was already a seasoned performer. His career became the focal point in his life, so much so, that he turned down a music scholarship to the College of the Pacific, abandoned a promising professional baseball career, and even skipped his own high school graduation because he was booked to perform a standing engagement at the Golden Hotel & Casino (now Harrahs) in Reno, Nevada.
For the next several years, Lee was faced with a series of near misses. At one point, Felix Cavaliere, a musician from New York City, approached him about forming a new group called the "Young Rascals" but Lee passed on the opportunity to stay in Las Vegas. The Young Rascals went on to record "Good Lovin" which became a major # 1 hit and a string of other hits.
Reaching out for his own recording opportunity, Lee moved to Los Angeles to record his first solo album on Paramount. This attempt was a successful project but was never released. After a two and half year struggle, Lee returned to Vegas to recover lost economy. Instead of allowing his trials to bring him down, Greenwood found inspiration in coming so close to success. In 1978 he found the courage to leave the security of the Vegas lounges and welcomed the opportunity to fly to Nashville to write and record a demo session with the help of the Mel Tillis Band. The results of this long-shot opportunity led to his contract with MCA and his producer Jerry Crutchfield, then head of MCA Publishing. Their first session together yielded hit songs like "It Turns Me Inside Out," "Ring On Her Finger, Time On Her Hand." "Ain't No Trick," and introduced this dynamic new recording artist to country music.
Greenwood found immediate acceptance with country music audiences who appreciated his powerful vocals and energetic show. His feel for country music, coupled with his electrifying performances, quickly established him as a major artist. Only two years after the release of his debut album, he won the coveted Country Music Association's Male Vocalist of the Year award. He won the same award again, as well as a Grammy for Best Male Country Vocal Performance the following year. Continuing his streak, Greenwood won the 1984 ACM Male Vocalist of the Year award. His first three albums achieved gold status, and his Greatest Hits quickly went platinum. In 1985, a less publicized facet of his talent was recognized when the CMA awarded him Song of the Year honors for penning both the words and music to "God Bless The USA."
After the Gulf War in 1991, Lee was one of the most in-demand performers. Because of his support for the military and veterans during that time, Lee would often play two and sometimes three shows per day, traveling to and from in private jets.
The staying power of this dynamic performer throughout twenty successful touring years remains evident in every Lee Greenwood show. Thirty albums, numerous TV appearances, and hundreds of radio interviews are all vehicles through which this tireless performer maintains his visibility with the public. His celebrity tours with the United Services Organization (USO), including his most recent USO tour in September of 2003, are one of the many high-profile charity organizations to which this humanitarian donates his time.
In 1995, Lee Greenwood decided to take a break from his rigorous tour schedule to start a family with his wife Kim. Their son Dalton was born in April 1995. In order to spend more time at home, Lee elected to build and perform in his own theater in the Smoky Mountains.
The April 1996 opening of the “Lee Greenwood Theater” nestled in a picturesque Tennessee mountain setting near Gatlinburg, provided the chance to continue performing, but without the rigors of being on the road constantly. The theater was heralded for its state-of-the-art sound and lighting, as well as one of the most entertaining shows around. With the help of dancers, musicians, intricate staging and numerous costume changes, Greenwood captivated audiences with a variety of musical styles, from movie themes to "God Bless The USA."
Lee and Kim's second son Parker Reid came along three years later in July 1998. Although he was not touring at the time with the exception of a few major appearances, Lee focused on his songwriting and being a father and husband. After five brilliant seasons at the “Lee Greenwood Theater,” life offered Lee the opportunity of being selective on his return commitments to work major concert appearances.
Since the tragedies of September 11, Lee has seen his signature hit "God Bless The U.S.A." take on yet another incarnation. Since the attack on America, airplay has increased ten fold, skyrocketing "God Bless The U.S.A." back into the top 20 of the Billboard country airplay chart, and sending Lee's 1992 album "American Patriot" to the top of the sales charts. The album was certified gold in October 2001 & platinum in December 2001. In January of 2002, Lee signed a long-term recording contract with Curb Records.
The past several years have proven the true impact Lee Greenwood’s “unofficial anthem” has on the American public. As 2003 marks the 20th Anniversary of the patriot hymn, its emotional impact was proven yet again, as American’s nationwide embraced it’s message in March 2003 when the United States engaged in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Lee's performances continue to be as in-demand as his music. He has been called upon to perform at numerous events and on national television programs. Other stellar career highlights within recent memory include appearances at The Prayer service at Yankee Stadium, a moving a cappella performance for the rescue workers at Ground Zero, the nationally televised Thanksgiving Day parade in Detroit, Michigan, Game 4 of the 2001 World Series, Regis and Kelly, Entertainment Tonight, Good Morning America, Larry King Live, Fox & Friends, Hannity & Colmes, The Other Half, Movie Guide Awards, Access Hollywood, and many more. He continues to maintain a rigorous touring schedule, including visits to military bases and performances at government functions, including the Veteran's Day ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Noted Lee in a recent interview: “If you’re smart, you learn pretty quickly that life in the music industry is a journey that never really posts an ‘arrival time.’ I’ve loved the ride—the ups and even the downs—and it’s only thanks to God and a lot of good people around me that I’ve stayed pretty steady no matter how hard the ground shook. I think it’s a lesson we all collectively learned as a nation on 9-11. The ground shook, but when the dust cleared, we stood strong—prouder than ever to be Americans.”