William Kenneth Alphin is 15 years old and picking up a girl on a first date. It is 1978 and Kenny, as he's known to friends and family, has been granted his driver's license early on account of his status as a volunteer firefighter in the tiny agricultural town of Culpeper, Virginia. In the Pioneer cassette player in his Datsun 810 is Steve Miller's Greatest Hits, whose country-tinged rock 'n' roll might have had a subliminal effect on Alphin. It's still the record that transports him back to pulling up to that girl's house on a warm summer night, "Take the Money and Run" playing through the little Datsun's Kenwood speakers.
Alphin stops a moment and reflects on the record and its associations with a low, warm laugh. He's sitting outside his Nashville home with his family's newest addition, a German shepherd named Beethoven that will eventually join the ranks of Alphin's downtime project of raising military-spec guard dogs. Beethoven barks and Alphin begins to talk about his dogs, one of whom currently is in service at the U.S. Capitol. Of all the things he has to be proud of, this is but a minor accomplishment in the scope of his life. Kenny Alphin is much better known as Big Kenny, one half of critically acclaimed and beloved country duo Big & Rich, whose rock-inspired take on country music once was ahead of its time. Country, it seems, has finally caught up to the band.