Neo-honky tonker Mark Chesnutt parlayed a solid grounding in classic country into chart-topping stardom during the '90s. Born in Beaumont, TX, in 1963, Chesnutt grew up listening to his father's extensive country-record collection (Bob Chesnutt had been a locally popular singer who never hit it big, and thus worked as a used-car salesman). Chesnutt learned both guitar and drums, and made his professional singing debut with his father's band at age 15 on the local club scene. He even dropped out of high school for a time to pursue music, but later reconsidered and got his diploma; meanwhile, his father began taking him to Nashville for recording sessions. During the '80s, Chesnutt released singles on local labels like the San Antonio-based Axbar (where he also issued a full album, Doing My Country Thing) and the Houston-based Cherry. He also served as the house headliner at the Beaumont club Cutter's, where his band often featured future star Tracy Byrd. After around a decade of dues-paying, positive word of mouth finally helped Chesnutt land a record deal with MCA.