Meet Hillbilly rock star Kenny Chesney

Talks about his brief marriage to Renee Zellweger, and the rumors that followed

This segment was originally broadcast on Feb. 18, 2007. It was updated on July 17, 2007.

Country music singer Kenny Chesney grew up in a Tennessee town of less than 1,000, is barely 5'6" tall, weighs just 143 lbs. and is balding, to boot. Yet according to Billboard and Pollstar magazines, over the last three years, no one in music—not Madonna, not U2, not the Rolling Stones—have sold more concert tickets in America than the 39-year-old singer.

As CNN's Anderson Cooper reports for 60 Minutes, last year alone Chesney made $76 million on tour. While some know of him from the tabloid coverage of his brief marriage to actress Renee Zellweger, his small town roots and hybrid sound of country, rock and island music have earned him a reputation as America's Hillbilly rock star.



To find out why Kenny Chesney has become so popular, Cooper caught up with him last summer in Detroit.

With a small video camera in tow, the 60 Minutes team joined him as he was preparing to go onstage. He begins hidden in a road case, rolled into the middle of the stadium, through an unsuspecting crowd.

"I make these guys roll this case out like three or four times a night to get the crowd used to seeing it," Chesney says.

Chesney tours relentlessly. He has played nearly 1,500 concerts over the last 13 years.

Photos: Kenny Chesney

Photos: Renee Zellweger
"Ok, we're officially in the middle of the stadium now," Cooper remarks, rolling along inside the case. "I gotta tell you, sitting in here, I always thought being a rock superstar was really glamorous."

"It's not that glamorous, it really is not," Chesney says.

"So, where are we now?" Cooper asks.

"We are in the middle of Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan, and we are literally in the middle of about 60,000 people right now," Chesney replies.

With a knock as the signal they have arrived, Chesney crawls out of the box and into a cramped waiting room. "I'm gonna come up and I'm gonna be in the middle of this football stadium. Pretty powerful stuff, man," he says.

When Chesney finally appears, the crowd erupts. For the next two hours, he is constantly in motion.

His songs are as much classic rock as they are classic country. He sings not about whiskey-soaked heartache but about first love, best friends, milestone moments that make up everyday life in America.

"I love the fact that I can go out there on stage with a guitar and sing a song that means something to somebody," Chesney says.

"Someone said to us about you that you're committed to the dignity of small-town America," Cooper remarks.

"It sounds like a cliché, but it…you do sing about what you know about. And I grew up in a small town, and I grew up in a place where your whole world revolved around friends, family, school, and church, and sports. And that's it. And I loved that," he tells Cooper.

Chesney also loves the Caribbean and there's an island vibe in much of his music and his videos. Like Jimmy Buffet, Chesney is selling a beach party lifestyle his fans embrace.

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