Country legend performs at county fair

Mark Chesnutt is a country music traditionalist who knows exactly what his fans want and expect. And even with all the changes in the genre, Chesnutt has stayed consistent and true to his original sound. His first big hit, “Too Cold at Home,” climbed the charts in 1990.

Chesnutt is no slouch. During his 29 years in the business, he’s had 14 No. 1 hits, 23 Top 10 singles and five gold records.

Chesnutt has noted he isn’t a trend chaser. “I’m way beyond that. I’ve been here so long, and really nobody wants to hear me do nothing but what I’ve been doing all along.” Not surprisingly, Chesnutt’s newest album is called Tradition Lives. Released in July 2016, it’s his 15th studio album. The singer was especially prolific from 1990 to 2000, releasing nine albums. His first album, Doing My Country Thing, was released in 1988.

Raised in Beaumont, Texas, Chesnutt found his love for music through his father, Bob, and said he was influenced by George Jones, Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings. Early in his career, he rubbed shoulders with those same heroes, and it left a lasting feeling he’s never forgotten.

“I’ll never be in that caliber, but I learned from them,” Chesnutt said. “I copied them. … They inspired me, and I learned how to do what I do from watching them.”

Chesnutt is a firm believer in learning from one’s elders, and he’s said he likes to think he “picked up where they left off.”

While most of his music is original, Chesnutt has covered more than one hit, including Aerosmith’s “Don’t Want to Miss A Thing” in 1999. Some critics said his version was better than the original.

It gives Chesnutt great joy to meet young people who like his music at his concerts. He enjoys knowing that “there are still young people learning from the old guys. That’s what’s really exciting for me – seeing the young folks come out who have just discovered who the hell I am. That’s a big deal for me.”

At 53, Chesnutt doesn’t plan to slow down. While he’s considered reducing his tours to just Texas, he has fans across the country who want him to perform in their area. “I want to go see them and sing for them – and as long as I can … that’s what I’m going to do.”

One song from his new album that will likely appeal to audiences of all ages is “Never Been To Texas.” Chesnutt, a proud, lifelong Texan, claims the people there remain unchanged – like himself – and still love their honky-tonk.

Chesnutt’s show begins at 7 p.m. Saturday, July 22, at the Chaffee County Fairgrounds. Gates will open at 5:30 p.m. for the show. In Salida, tickets can be purchased at Cellar Wine and Spirits, Walke and Associates, and Bangs Salon. Tickets are also available at the Saguache Town Market, the Buena Vista Chamber of Commerce and online at Eventbrite.com.

Children 5 and younger will be admitted free. General admission is for the grandstand seating and standing room in the arena. The show will happen rain or shine. Start practicing your two-step Ark Valley, Chesnutt promises a fun show.