May 6

“Chicken Fried”: Get To Know The Zac Brown Band Members Who Made This All-Time Hit Song

Everybody knows frontman and lead vocalist Zac Brown, and listeners could probably list all of their hit songs like their debut single “Chicken Fried,” but the rest of the Zac Brown Band members may be a bit of a mystery to some. And if you are one of those people, it’s time that you get to know these people and how they came together. 

Let’s get on it!

Zac Brown Band

Zac Brown Band is a multi-platinum, Grammy Award-winning, southern rock group based out of Atlanta, Georgia. The band released their debut album ‘The Foundation’ in 2008, and over a decade later, they have released a total of seven studio albums along with two live albums, one greatest hits, and two extended plays. The band also charted 16 singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs, with 13 at number one. 

The band has also collaborated with prominent names in the industry, including Alan Jackson, Jimmy Buffett (who was also named as one of the band’s musical influences), Kid Rock, Jason Mraz, Dave Grohl, Chris Cornell, Brandi Carlile, Sara Bareilles, the late Avicii, and most recently Shawn Mendes. 

Meet the Zac Brown Band Members

Zac Brown Band is an eight-member group composed of frontman, and lead vocalist Zac Brown, guitarist and keyboardist Coy Bowles, fiddler and vocalist Jimmy De Martini, drummer Chris Fryar, percussionist Daniel de los Reyes, bassist Matt Mangano, and their two multi-instrumentalists John Driskell Hopkins and Clay Cook. 

And last 2021, the band also welcomed a temporary tour addition to their line-up, singer-songwriter Caroline Jones. Jones joined the band for their ‘The Comeback Tour,’ which kicked off last August 5. Though it’s just for the tour, she was definitely thrilled to perform on stage with the band, who she sees not only as masterful musicians but soulful people as well. 

Zac Brown

Full Name: Zachry Alexander Brown
Date of Birth: July 31, 1978 (43)
Place of Birth: Atlanta, Georgia
Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia
Position: Founder, Frontman, Lead Vocalist, Songwriter
Other Affiliations: Sir Rosevelt (electronic dance group)

Zachry Alexander Brown or more popularly known as Zac Brown, is the founding member, frontman, and lead vocalist of the Zac Brown Band. Brown was born in 1978, the eleventh of twelve children of mother Bettye and stepfather Dr. Jody Moses, in Atlanta, Georgia. At a young age, he already learned how to play classical guitar (inherited from his mom), and then as a teenager, he played local solo gigs covering pop and country songs. Then, it was during his college days at the University of West Georgia that he first created his own band. They recorded CD and sold them at gigs, but the band didn’t last and broke up during recording sessions. 

It was in 2002 that he created the Zac Brown Band. A year later, he started his own label Southern Ground Artists (previously called Home Grown). Then, five years later, the Zac Brown Band released their very first studio album, The Foundation, which sold more than 5 million copies and making it 5x platinum. And their debut single off the album titled “Chicken Fried” also went 5x platinum with over 255 million streams. 

But aside from being a record label head, producer, songwriter, and businessman, Zac Brown is also a philanthropist. Giving back has always been a major and forefront commitment of his career. And so, he founded Camp Southern Ground, an inclusive camp for children (aged 7-17) with autism, ADHD, dyslexia, as well as those who experience social and emotional challenges. The camp also supports 9/11 veterans while they readjust to civilian life.

Zac Brown was married to his wife Shelley for 12 years before they divorced. They share four daughters and one son – Justice, 14; Lucy, 13; Georgia, 11; Joni, 10; Alexander, 7. 

Coy Bowles

Full Name: Coy Bowles
Date of Birth: –
Place of Birth: –
Hometown: Thomaston, Georgia
Position: Keyboardist, Guitarist, Songwriter
Other Affiliations: –

Coy Bowles is the band’s keyboardist and guitarist. He also contributes as a songwriter with writing credits for the band’s three number one hit songs – “Knee Deep,” “Colder Weather,” and “Sweet Annie.” 

Bowles started playing guitar at 11, and when he turned 13, he had a band called Betty Doom. They played punk rock and rock-n-roll music at different events in their hometown and even at churches. He then attended West Georgia College, where he studied biology, and that was where he first met Zac. And that was what inspired him to shift gears right before he graduated and decided to be a full-time musician. He took a year off and practiced like clockwork to qualify for Georgia State University’s Jazz Studies program. He did, and after four years, he started his own band, Coy Bowles and The Fellowship. They had the opportunity to open for the Zac Brown Band at the Sky Bar in Auburn, Alabama, which then led to an offer from Zac to either open for them full-time or join the band. 

Bowles decided to join the band in 2007, and the rest was history. 

Though aside from being a musician, Coy Bowles is also a children’s book writer wherein he explores current issues hoping that he could give parents, teachers, and children a common ground to discuss and face these challenges. He has already written four books titled ‘Amy Giggles – Laugh Out Loud,’ ‘Will Powers – Where There’s a Will There’s a Way,’ ‘When You’re Feeling Sick,’ and ‘Behind the Little Red Door.’ 

Clay Cook

Full Name: Douglas Cook
Date of Birth: April 20, 1978 (44)
Place of Birth: Atlanta, Georgia
Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia
Position: Multi-Instrumentalist, Songwriter
Other Affiliations: –

Clay Cook was born in 1978 (same year as Zac Brown) and had a relatively normal suburban upbringing. But what made him different than most kids his age was that at 5, he already had what he called ‘a little out of the ordinary’ interest in music. Then when he turned 7, he was actually playing the guitar. A few years later in high school, he joined the fine arts department and started learning drums. When he auditioned for Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, he changed his principal instrument back to guitar. 

During Cook’s time in Berklee, he met singer-songwriter, John Mayer, with whom he formed the duo known as Lo-Fi Masters. They quit school, moved to Atlanta, and started writing songs together. They made quite a name, but due to creative differences, Cook and Mayer parted ways. Cook then joined his uncle’s band, The Marshall Tucker Band. After some time, Cook left the band to come and play bass as part of Sugarland’s first line-up. He also had a nice long run with singer-songwriter Shawn Mullins. 

Then finally, in late 2008, Cook joined the Zac Brown Band, where he was given the opportunity to stretch out his range and play different instruments. 

Daniel de los Reyes

Full Name: Daniel de Los Reyes
Date of Birth: July 18, 1972 (49)
Place of Birth: New York City
Hometown: Puerto Rico, Las Vegas
Position: Percussionist
Other Affiliations: –

Daniel de los Reyes was born into a family who has been making a living playing music for three generations. His grandfather was a trumpet player and singer who co-founded the famous Cuban orchestra called Casino de la Playa. His father, on the other hand, became one of the most successful Cuban drummer/percussionist and also a pioneer of the incorporation of the drum set with congas and other percussion. And his mother, a Puerto Rican-American, loved to sing beautiful Puerto Rican melodies while they were growing up. It was definitely just in his genes to become a musician. 

And true enough, at 2 years old, he started banging on drums, and his first-ever teacher was his dad. By 11, he learned all of his instructions from another drum teacher named Irv Klooger. De los Reyes also had the chance to participate in jamming sessions with prominent names like Joe Morello, Alan Dawson, and Armando Peraza, just to name a few. When he started his professional career, he got to work with different names in the industry, including Ben Vereen, Steve Winwood, Ricky Martin, Earth, Wind & Fire, and Jimi Hendrix. It wasn’t until 2012 that he joined the Zac Brown Band as their percussionist. 

Aside from the band, Daniel delos Reyes also performs on different tours and conducting his self-created rhythm outreach programs with children, teens, adults, elderly, and even special-needs individuals. 

Jimmy De Martini

Full Name: Jimmy De Martini
Date of Birth: –
Place of Birth: –
Hometown: –
Position: Fiddler and Vocalist
Other Affiliations: –

Jimmy De Martini started his musical journey around the age of 12, and the first instrument that he got introduced to was the violin. By high school, he learned how to read sheet music and play the classical violin. But he wanted to be in a band and not in the orchestra, so he taught himself how to play the guitar. After graduating from high school, he moved to Athens, Georgia, to attend college though that didn’t go as planned, and he ended up dropping from school and joining his first band, The Hill. When that stint ended, he landed a new project with the tribute band Dave Matthews Cover Band (DMCB) and toured nationwide. The band had a great four-year run before they finally split up. 

A year after the split, Jimmy found himself playing gigs in a small bar and restaurant in Atlanta. After one of his odd gigs ended, the bartender called him over to the bar, asked if he knew Zac Brown, and then passed him his number. He gave Zac a call, and then the next night, the two of them played a gig in a sports bar. And that was how he ended up joining the band. 

But it’s not just the band that Jimmy De Martini is thankful of (and for) everyday but also his wife Stacey and his four kids – James, 14; Joseph, 11; Jackson, 7; and Jonelle, 5.

Chris Fryar

Full Name: Chris Fryar
Date of Birth: November 22, 1970 (52)
Place of Birth: –
Hometown: –
Position: Drummer
Other Affiliations: –

Chris Fryar was an easy-going, laid-back kid who loved to sing and bang on pots at a very early age. By the age of 6, he got his first guitar, and then when he turned 11, he received his very first pair of drumsticks. He joined his junior high school band program and learned to develop his craft. After graduating, he briefly attended North Texas State University and then Mississippi University for Women (yes, that’s true!), where his professors advised him to quit school and get out on the road. And so he did. 

He went to work with different bands – Birmingham cover band, the blues-rock band Gravy, and the Oteil and the Peacemakers – before he became a part of the Zac Brown Band as their drummer. 

Chris Fryar is currently married to his second wife, Holly Travis, and is a stepdad to two daughters, Ashley and Allison. 

John Driskell Hopkins

Full Name: John Driskell Hopkins
Date of Birth: May 3, 1971 (53)
Place of Birth: San Antonio, Texas
Hometown: Gainesville, Georgia
Position: Multi-instrumentalist
Other Affiliations: –

John Driskell Hopkins, like a true-blue Southerner, began his musical journey with the church choir. Then when he reached fifth grade, he started learning the basics of music theory as well as how to play the piano. He also tried playing guitar (first experience was his Dad’s old Martin guitar knockoff) and bass in high school. And of course, the highlight of all of the learning was when he formed his first band, Only For Tomorrow, with his buddies. 

After high school, Hopkins attended Florida State University, where he earned his degree in General Theatre. During that time, he was also part of the band The Woodpeckers, where he was the lead singer. Then when college ended, he moved back home to Atlanta, where he created a band called Brighter Shade, releasing two independent albums and playing countless gigs. But when the schedule slowed down, Hopkins turned into producing and writing, and that was how he first met Zac. 

It was 1998, and they were at CJ’s Landing in Buckhead, where Hopking hosted an open mic night where Zac performed. Zac didn’t win, but he made friends with Hopkins. They remained friends, but it was only in 2001 that they started recording together. Then in 2005, Hopkins learned that Zac was in need of a bass player, and so he volunteered to take the part until Zac found a permanent player. 

Then that space was eventually filled in by Hopkins, and as the band grew, he assumed the position of multi-instrumentalist alongside Clay Cook. 

Matt Mangano

Full Name: Matt Mangano
Date of Birth: May 12, 1976 (45)
Place of Birth: Visalia, California
Hometown: Visalia, California
Position: Bassist
Other Affiliations: –

Matt Mangano is the newest member of the Zac Brown Band, and he plays the bass. He started music at a very young age, enjoying his dad’s Martin guitar and his grandmother’s baby piano. Then when he turned 10, he learned how to properly play the guitar and explored the saxophone as well. But it was his freshman year in high school that he got into playing bass. After high school, he briefly attended Visalia’s College of Sequoias and then enrolled in the Berklee College of Music. This was where he met bandmate Clay Cook not knowing that their paths would cross in the future. 

After graduation, Matt moved to Atlanta and played in the local bar scene. Then he went and got hired to play as tour bassist for Michelle Malone, and at that same time, he met Zac Brown. The two got acquainted and then began playing together occasionally at bars in and around West Georgia. Matt was also given the chance to tour with John Mayer as a guitarist. Then in 2002, he decided to leave John’s band, move to Nashville, and return to playing bass. 

Fast forward to 2008, Zac reconnected with Matt as he asked help from the bassist to work on three records. And the rest was history.

Aside from music, Matt Mangano is also very involved with his family. He is happily married to his wife Emily, and the couple share two kids, a son named Elliott and a daughter named Maia. 

Now that you know the Zac Brown Band members, it’s time to tune in to more Zac Brown Band songs! Enjoy!


Tags

Chris Fryar, Clay Cook, Coy Bowles, Daniel De Los Reyes, Jimmy De Martini, John Driskell Hopkins, Matt Mangano, Zac Brown, zac brown band


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