While Lee Greenwood is best recognized for his perennial hits, especially the decades-long success of “God Bless the U.S.A.,” which was originally released as a single in 1984, there’s actually so much more you need to know about the country singer.
So, we’ve gathered some of the most interesting facts – as well as those not-so-known ones – about Lee Greenwood. Keep on scrolling below to get to know more about the artist.
1. He’s a native of South Gate, California.
The country singer, whose real name is Melvin Lee Greenwood, was born on October 27, 1942, just a few miles south of Los Angeles. However, after the separation of his parents, Greenwood was raised by his mother’s parents on a chicken farm in Louisiana, Sacramento.
2. He kicked off his career at a young age.
At an early age, Greenwood taught himself to play piano, saxophone, bass, banjo, and keyboards. When he was fifteen, he made his first television appearance as a band member of country singer Chester Smith.
In 1962, he founded his first band, The Apollos, which later changed its name to Lee Greenwood Affair. The band played mostly pop music and appeared at small venues in Las Vegas.
3. He was discovered by Mel Tillis’ road manager.
Greenwood’s break came in the late 1970s when Larry McFaden, Mel Tillis‘ bass player and band leader, heard one of his performances and was impressed by his talent and vocal ability. McFaden then brought the aspiring country artist to Nashville and helped him sign with an agency. Since then, the two worked together, with McFaden helping Greenwood create demo tapes to submit to record companies.
4. His first hit was a song rejected by Kenny Rogers.
In 1981, Greenwood signed with the MCA label, and McFaden started managing his music career. His first single was “It Turns Me Inside Out,” which was originally written for Kenny Rogers, who declined as he was receiving a large number of other song offers at the time.
Fortunately, Greenwood’s “It Turns Me Inside Out” swiftly secured a place on Billboard’s country chart. It then paved the way to several other Lee Greenwood hits, such as “Dixie Road” and “Going, Going, Gone.”
5. He’s married to a former Miss Tennessee USA.
After several marriages, Greenwood found lasting love with his wife, Kimberly Payne – who currently serves as the executive director for the franchise of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Georgia USA events with the Miss USA Organization.
“My wife and I share a wonderful life, and I couldn’t ask for more,” the singer said. The couple met in one of USO Tours at the North Atlantic and have been married since 1992. They have two sons, Dalton and Parker. Meanwhile, Greenwood has four other children from previous marriages.
6. He once took a break from touring to spend time with his family.
In 1995, Greenwood took a break from his touring schedule to spend more time with his wife and newborn son. During his time off, he built the Lee Greenwood Theater in Sevierville, Tennessee, which opened its door in 1996 and operated for five seasons.
Indeed, these Lee Greenwood facts showed the ups and downs of his life and career. At the end of the day, he put all the work in, and eventually, it paid off.