Rodney Atkins’ America’s Heroes Celebration
By BJ Bennett
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Rodney Atkins is anxious to share the songs that define his life with the people who allow him to live it.
A certain passion has led the rise of Rodney Atkins up the country charts. With a half-dozen number one hits since 2006, the platinum recording artist from East Tennessee has prime positioning at country music's head table. There, however, he has actually rarely been. Atkins is spending this summer out on the road, making memories while making music. In a 14-stop tour in August alone, Atkins will travel from Canada down to the calm shores of the deep southeast. His stage should come with doormat and mailing address.
Home is a place that has always resonated with Atkins. For him, It is a shelter that has taken many forms. A methodist orphanage in Greenville, Tennessee was stop number one. Born to an overwhelmed 19-year old mother, Atkins was put quietly put up for adoption at the residence. He was signed for twice before being returned on each occassion. After deep consideration and a medical procedure for the Mrs., Allan and Margaret Atkins decided to take young Rodney in as their own.
Though his street would sometimes change, the foundation for Atkins never budged. His home was with those who cared for him most.
After a college stint at Tennessee Tech, Atkins packed up and moved to Nashville. Putting it all on the line, he came to Music City with close to nothing. A few years later, he had a major network record deal in-hand. Atkins was in and, in 2003, released his first studio album. In 2006, the Academy of Country Music named him the genre's top new male artist. The following year, he was nomitated for male vocalist, album, song and video of the year. Tracks like "If You're Going Through Hell", "Watching You" and "These Are My People" burst Atkins onto the national scene. From humble beginnings, the radio was both where and how he was now paying his rent.
Atkins would turn that momentum into staying power, furthering his brand with singles such as "Cleaning This Gun", "It's America" and, most recently, "Take a Back Road". While each of the three would go on to top the charts, Atkins' own national anthem struck a chord with fans from sea to shining sea. At a time where many of the country's best were serving abroad, "It's America" told the story of a place where freedom always rings and friends and family are always there to answer.
On August 18th on Jekyll Island, Georgia, Atkins, in his blue jeans and dusty ball cap, will recognize those in uniform with the "Rodney Atkins America's Heroes Celebration". The concert, presented in part by SouthernPigskin.com, will headline a military appreciation weekend on the island where members of all branches of service and their families will be given free access to area attractions and a local festival. Before Atkins Sunday night, rising stars Marjory Lee and Cole Taylor will perform. Atkins' fiance, Rose Falcon, will later open in the couple's first-ever dual show.
For Atkins, this will be a performance with a special meaning and tone.
"That is the ultimate for me," he explained, on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network, of playing for military personnel. "You talk about heroes. When one of those guys comes up to you and says that one of your songs is what they cranked up when doing patrols in some crazy part of the world, that blows you away. We will be saying thank you to those men and women and their families, providing the day to just hang out, have a good time and sing along with some songs."
Throughout his travels, Atkins has always made it a priority to give back to those who give the country their all. In 2011, he helped launch the "Thank You Movement" to honor troops and veterans with an announcement and live performance on NBC's Today Show. Early last year, he toured with the USO on location in Afghanistan and Kuwait. Privately, he makes it a point to share time with soldiers recovering from trauma suffered away from home. Those moments, more than any, stick with him the most.
"I've gotten to know a lot of men and women and just visited recently with a double-amputee, it happened to him over him in Afghanistan," Atkins recalled. "He is doing good and his mental outlook is so unbelievable. He lifts you up, the way these men and women are. The sacrifices that they make, this is the least we can do."
The "American Heroes Celebration" will come one day after Atkins plays "SEC Beachfest" in Gulf Shores, Alabama and three days before a back-to-back in Pennsylvania. This, though, is an opportunity he wouldn't miss. Atkins is anxious to share the songs that define his life with the people who allow him to live it.
"It's going to be a blast. We are just going to plan on having a great time and saying thank you. Jekyll Island is so beautiful and I can't wait to be there. It's going to be fun," he added.
Born far from blue-booded, Atkins now has a red, white and blue hue running deep through his veins. It's those colors, just like the family that long ago brought him in, that has given Atkins the chance to do what he loves.
America is a place that welcomes us all. In homes all around the country, that spirit is reflected in the actions and apsirations of people unified by a common cause. Though we sometimes take it for granted, sacrfice safeguards that sanctum. At an intimate concert on Jekyll Island, Atkins' audience will be that white picket fence.