One of the more unexpected Country Music successes of the first decade of the 21st century.
Prior to the duo's foundation, both members had some experience in the field: William Kenneth "Big Kenny" Alphin had recorded a rock album in 1998 and had performed in a band called luvjOi, while John Rich was bassist and occasional lead vocalist in Lonestar on their first two albums. The two unlikely musicians began writing together in 1998. After Rich had an unsuccessful solo album, the pair founded the MuzikMafia, a loose aggregation of performers including Cowboy Troy, James Otto, Gretchen Wilson, and Shannon Lawson.
The first break for Big & Rich was penning "She's a Butterfly" for Martina McBride in 2003. A year later, Big & Rich were signed to Warner (Bros.) Records. While their lead single "Wild West Show" made some noise, it was the rap- and rock-influenced "Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)" that turned the most heads in Nashville that year. The unlikely success of the song, combined with Rich's songwriting and production success on Wilson's "Redneck Woman" which blew up around the same time, resulted in the duo's debut album Horse of a Different Color selling triple-platinum. For a time, Big & Rich were heralded as a new and fresh sound in the genre.
Comin' to Your City saw minor success in its rocking title track and the tender wartime ballad "8th of November", while Between Raising Hell and Amazing Grace saw the duo's sound growing tired, even if the album produced their only #1 hit in "Lost in This Moment". During this timespan, Rich continued to serve in several capacities as a producer and songwriter for acts such as Jewel, John Anderson, and Alabama lead singer Randy Owen. After a 2008 hiatus, both Big Kenny and John Rich recorded solo material, with Rich achieveing a minor hit on the Protest Song "Shuttin' Detroit Down". Their 2012 reunion album Hillbilly Jedi bombed, so they exited Warner and instead opted for a series of quietly-performing, independently-released albums. These later albums have found the duo's sound toned down somewhat, but the impact of "Save a Horse" was felt for many years afterward in the genre's shift toward rap and rock influences for most of The New '10s.
- Horse of a Different Color (2004)
- Big & Rich's Super Galactic Fan Pak (EP) (2004)
- Comin' to Your City (2005)
- Between Raising Hell and Amazing Grace (2007)
- Big & Rich's Super Galactic Fan Pak 2 (EP) (2008)
- Hillbilly Jedi (2012)
- Gravity (2014)
- Did It for the Party (2017)
Big Kenny solo releases
- Live a Little (2005, recorded in 1998)
- The Quiet Times of a Rock and Roll Farm Boy (2010)
- Big Kenny's Love Everybody Traveling Musical Medicine Show Mix Tape, Vol. 1 (2011)
John Rich solo releases
- Rescue Me (2001)
- Underneath the Same Moon (2006, recorded in 1999)
- Son of a Preacher Man (2009)
- Rich Rocks (EP) (2011)
- For the Kids (EP) (2011)
Tropes present in their work:
- Call-Back: "Party Like Cowboyz" featurse the lyric "I'm feeling like Tonto ridin' a pinto", a reference to their debut single "Wild West Show".
- Cerebus Syndrome: Gravity was praised for focusing more on the ballads.
- Country Rap: Many of the songs on their first album, such as "Rollin'" (which features Cowboy Troy) and "Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)" feature strong rap influences.
- Double Entendre: Pretty much all of "Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)".
- Early-Bird Cameo: On Martina McBride's "She's a Butterfly".
- Everything Is an Instrument: Near the end of "Wild West Show", the percussionist can be heard shaking a peanut can.
- Fading into the Next Song: "Rollin'" fades into "Wild West Show".
- Genre Mashup: Their style mixes country, hard rock, and hip-hop, as codified by "Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)".
- Later Installment Weirdness: Gravity was dominated by ballads.
- Non-Appearing Title: "Saved".
- Singer Name Drop: Many of which double as a Stealth Pun:
- "Rollin' (The Ballad of Big & Rich)": Cowboy Troy's name is shouted before his verse, and one of the other verses has "I'm a crazy son of a BAD WORD / But I know I'm gonna make it big and rich."
- "Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)": "...havin' ourselves a big and rich time."
- "Filthy Rich" has two: "Me and my friends were talkin' 'bout that, ol' Freddy, Bill, and Sonny" (writers Freddy Powers, Bill McDavid, and Sonny Throckmorton). Also, the last chorus performs a Lyric Swap to "Everybody's trying to get big and rich off of somebody else's money".
- Solo Side Project: During the hiatus at the beginning of The New '10s, both halves of the duo released solo albums. Rich followed his with two more extended plays.
- Song Style Shift: "Real World" shifts from a silly midtempo to an upbeat, heavily voiced, Word Salad Lyrics-driven B-section.
- Soprano and Gravel: Most of their songs feature John Rich's high wispy tenor against Big Kenny's theatrical, crooning bass-baritone.
- Stealth Pun: Several on their name. "Rollin'" also has the line "Charley Pride was the man in black / Rock and roll used to be about Johnny Cash".
- Vocal Tag Team: Big Kenny and John Rich seem to split the lead vocals pretty evenly.
- A Wild Rapper Appears!: Cowboy Troy on "Rollin'". He comes back, uncredited, at the end of "Kick My Ass".