Happy 54th birthday, Kenny Chesney! The singer was born on this day, March 26, in 1968.

Chesney was born in Knoxville, Tenn., and raised in nearby Luttrell. He played football and baseball in high school and might have become a professional athlete if he hadn't received a guitar for Christmas one year and gotten into music. After graduating from high school, Chesney attended East Tennessee State University; he studied advertising, but aspired to a career in country music.

Chesney obtained his college degree, then moved to Nashville and began pounding the pavement, trying to secure publishing and record deals -- but it took two years before someone took an interest in him. Finally, he got a meeting with Troy Tomlinson, then at Opryland Music Group.

"First of all, I was attracted to the songs, because I thought that he painted great pictures in his lyrics, particularly for someone who had not been around the typical Music Row co-writes," Tomlinson recalls. "I thought that he sang very well too, but more than anything, there was a kind of this ‘I-will-do-it’ look in his eyes. I was really drawn in by the fact that he was so set on being successful in this business."

Chesney first signed a publishing deal in 1992, followed by a record deal with Capricorn Records in 1993; he released his freshman album, In My Wildest Dreams, in 1994. Although the record barely cracked the Top 40 and did not contain any hit singles, Chesney remained undeterred. He signed with BNA Records for his sophomore album, All I Need to Know, which spawned two Top 10 singles, including the album's title track. But more than anything, the record confirmed Chesney's determination to succeed in country music -- a dedication that hasn't waned in the nearly 30 years since.

"If you do enough one-nighters, touch enough lives, make enough people smile or laugh or sing along, keep looking for better songs that say something that’s real to you, it all adds up," Chesney says. "It all adds up."

PICTURES: Kenny Chesney Through the Years

Chesney's third album, Me and You, went platinum, as has each of his following 10 records. He also scored numerous No. 1 hits, including "She's Got It All," "You Had Me From Hello," "Summertime" and "The Boys of Fall," and became one of the first country artists to sell out stadiums, including selling out Massachusetts' Gillette Stadium multiple times.

"You never know when you’re starting out, where a dream will take you -- or what it might cost. You just know you can almost taste it, touch it, breathe it, and that’s enough to keep you going," Chesney says. "I sometimes look back on growing up in East Tennessee and see, just like most people’s, how my life was; there was no reason to think I could get a record deal, let alone play football stadiums in Boston, Seattle, Indianapolis, Detroit and San Francisco, but somehow I did."

Chesney, whose newest studio album, Here and Now, was released in 2020, says that he will always pour all of his energy into his concerts.

“Every time, I want people to have the best night of their lives,” Chesney says. “I take that very seriously. I’ve heard enough stories about people planning their summer around coming to see us, and when you know that, you wanna always give ’em more and better, trying to think what else? But, you know, these songs are the reason people come — and I don’t ever want to take away from the music.”

Chesney has also won numerous awards, including 10 CMA Awards and 12 ACM Awards.

This story was originally written by Gayle Thompson, and revised by Angela Stefano.

WATCH: How Well Do You Know Kenny Chesney?

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