John Rich recently held a benefit concert at his Nashville home for the Dickson County Family YMCA reports the Tennessean. John, who lived in Dickson for 9 months and graduated from Dickson High School, made lifelong friends during his time there and used the event as a way to pay it forward. The fundraiser was part of the YMCA’s campaign to raise $150,000 for operating expenses for the next three years. After tickets were sold, the YMCA was still $10,000 short of their goal. John announced during the event that he would contribute the last $10,000.
John’s mother, Judy, is a native of Dickson County. While John spent most of his life in Amarillo, Texas, he and his family returned to Tennessee around 1990 and settled in Cheatham County. After his parents divorced, John’s mother moved the family to Dickson where John started a new school his senior year and met his best friends.
“It was huge,” John said. “It was a huge school. I didn’t know anybody in the school. I walked in just blind. It was pretty scary. It was a pretty wild situation. Right out of the box, I met a couple of guys.” Those ‘guys’ were Jody Barrett, Marcus Peters and Kyle Steranka, who have remained John’s closest friends over the years.
John, whose father taught him to play guitar, counts the high school’s choir teacher Cindy Freeman as his first critic. “I learned real quick that criticism is a valuable thing,” he said. “Mrs. Freeman critiqued me very sternly many times and I probably deserved most of them. Not that she was ever down on my singing. She was just down on my brazen level of singing. I wasn’t one that liked to blend in.”
A breakfast of cereal at Marcus Peters’ home one morning in 1992 served to be the setting off point for John’s career. Marcus was reading the paper and came across the news that Opryland in Nashville was having auditions for Country Music USA. John made the show and met the people with whom he would later form the band Lonestar. Even as his career took off, he stayed in touch with his best friends.
“I’m proud to call John my friend. I’ve known him for a long, long time…before anybody knew who he was,” Jody Barrett, chairman of the Dickson County YMCA, said to the Tennessean. “I’m proud of the way he has relentlessly pursued success. From the first day I met him, he knew, and openly stated, that he wanted to be a country music star. He has had laser-like focus on that goal since we were 17-year-old kids.”
John is known for his charitable endeavors. His mother Judy credits John’s childhood with her son’s habit of giving back to his community. “He did not come from a wealthy family, by any means,” she said. “I think he remembers what it’s like to not have everything, so he is generous in helping others.”
With the success of this fundraiser, John hinted to attendees that there might be more on the horizon. “When you get back home and you are talking to your friends about what you did here, tell them you had a great time,” he said. “And tell them the next time one of these comes along, they need to come be a part of this. You are helping the county. You are helping folks that need help.