While chatting up his “Rock N Roll Jesus” album a decade ago, Kid Rock revealed that he was thinking about trying his hand at country.
“I can see crossing over,” Rock — aka Bob Ritchie — said. “A good song is a good song, it’s not about the genre. You can cross over from rock or rap or pop to country or to whatever. Anything is possible.”
Darius Rucker, who fronted the platinum-plus Hootie and the Blowfish, is proof. Rucker reinvented himself as a popular country recording artist during the prior decade.
Ritchie has dabbled in country with 2010’s “Born Free” and 2015’s “Perfect Kiss.” The charismatic entertainer dives headfirst into the Music City pool with his latest album, ‘Sweet Southern Sugar,” released in 2017.
Such songs as “Tennessee Mountain Top,” “Grandpa’s Jam” and “Raining Whiskey” are greasy, visceral and country. Ritchie, who idolizes such country icons as Willie Nelson and the late Waylon Jennings, even turns the Four Tops Motown classic “Sugar Pie Honey Bunch” into a slow country jam.
It’s a fascinating reinvention and second act for Ritchie, who is connecting with his inner Merle Haggard. Richie could have stayed with the rap-rock formula but give the 47-year old grandfather credit for not playing it safe.
Ritchie, who will perform Saturday (7/21) at the Great Jones County Fair in Monticello, is unpredictable. Here’s a few things you might not know about Kid Rock.
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1. Kid Rock is one of the few remaining larger-than-life figures in the music world, but Ritchie is one of the more laid-back musicians. During two different interviews prior and post show, Ritchie, who grew up in suburban Detroit, just kicked back in the most mellow manner talking sports, which is his passion. That’s particularly so when it comes to his beloved Detroit teams. Ritchie attends as many Red Wings, Pistons, Tigers and Lions games as possible whenever he is in town. He’s close friends with former Red Wing Chris Chelios.
2. Richie might write about his heroes at the methadone clinic and pen songs about hardscrabble Detroit, but he grew up in the tony suburbs. His father owns a number of car dealerships, so Ritchie lived in opulence.
3. Unlike many rappers or rockers, Ritchie, who is self-taught, can play any instrument and has often done just that while recording his material.
4. Ritchie lives life like a rock star. While backstage with Rock four hours before a concert, he was sick and had some vocal issues but the show must go on. A doctor was summoned and he easily sussed out the problem. “You can’t do this,” the doctor said while pointing to an ashtray full of about dozen Winston stubs.
“All right, doc, I’ll stop,” Ritchie said.
“You can’t perform and smoke like this,” the doctor said just before asking for an autograph and photograph. After receiving treatment, Ritchie posed and signed for the physician. Within a minute of his departure, Ritchie lit up a Winston and smiled.
“You know I need another cigarette after dealing with that,” he cracked.
The world of rock used to be filled with characters like Kid Rock, and there are so few who will walk that tightrope in an increasingly staid environment. Ritchie has no problem crossing that line, and that’s part of his appeal. He doesn’t care what anyone thinks, hence his conservative political views. Ritchie will air it all out in the rare interviews and especially in song.
5. Kid Rock has a heart. Ritchie is a philanthropist who oversees the Kid Rock foundation, which raises money for a number of causes, from helping disadvantaged children and victims of war and natural disasters to his favorite sports teams. He also believes in affordable ticket prices. Unlike many of his peers, he has never charged triple digits for a ticket: $65 is the top price for his show in Monticello.
6. Ritchie has received quite a bit of ink for his right-wing views. However, he met President Barack Obama and supported him, as well as Bill President Clinton while they were in office. “You have to respect the President,” Ritchie said when Obama was Commander-in-Chief.
WHAT: Kid Rock
WHERE: Great Jones County Fair grandstand, 800 N. Maple St., Monticello
WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday (7/21)
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TICKETS: $65 track, standing-room-only, $55 amphitheater/bleachers, Greatjonescountyfair.com; free on the hillsides, bring seating
GATE ADMISSION: $10; free ages 10 and under
ARTIST’S WEBSITE: Kidrock.com