In early 2000, just as a new year, decade, and millennium were getting underway, a year-old country-pop trio debuted on the charts with their first single for Disney’s Nashville-based label, Lyric Street. The group, made up of singer Gary LeVox, bassist and keyboard player (and LeVox’s second cousin) Jay DeMarcus, and guitarist Joe Don Rooney, was Rascal Flatts and their debut hit was the harmony-rich “Prayin’ for Daylight.”
Twenty years later, Rascal Flatts have just announced they will ride off into the sunset with their Farewell: Life Is a Highway Tour, which begins June 11th and is currently slated to wrap in mid-October. What the trio will leave behind as they each start a new chapter is a string of major hits, including Number One singles such as “These Days,” “Bless the Broken Road,” “What Hurts the Most,” and their most recent chart-topper, 2017’s “Yours If You Want It.” They also scored successive Number One country and pop LPs from 2004’s Feels Like Today to 2009’s Unstoppable, becoming one of the best-selling groups of that decade. From 2003 through 2008, they were the CMA Vocal Group of the Year, having also earned the organization’s 2002 Horizon Award (now Best New Artist).
While DeMarcus and LeVox were both natives of Columbus, Ohio, and would often play music together in their youth, DeMarcus was already living and working in Nashville in 1997 when he encouraged his cousin to move there to pursue a music career. Eventually, DeMarcus met Rooney while the two were playing in country star Chely Wright’s band. Working together in the now-defunct Fiddle and Steel Guitar Bar in downtown Nashville’s Printers Alley, LeVox recalled in November 2014, at their last performance at the intimate venue, “When we first started, Jay and I… we had about five songs that we knew that we had to do for about eight hours.”
By 2001, their star was on the rise and the group’s blend of soulful pop and country would lead to numerous hits and high-profile tours, supporting superstars Alan Jackson and Lonestar, among others, before headlining their own record-breaking treks. Their debut LP, which would be certified Gold (on its way to Double Platinum) would also send four consecutive singles into the Top Ten. That same year, the trio hosted their first CMT concert special, Live From the Sunset Strip, which featured the above performance of their inaugural hit, a tune that was already familiar to the majority of fans in the audience.