Know Your Military

Face of Defense: Horton Hears the Blues

Feb. 1, 2019

Come hear the voice of military bluegrass straight from the source! Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Kenny Ray Horton explains his journey into the world of Country Current, the premier country-bluegrass group of the United States Navy Band. What is life like for a front man?

Navy guitarist pumps his fist in the air.
Fist Pump
Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Kenny Ray Horton performs with Country Current, the premier country-bluegrass group of the U.S. Navy Band, as the group kicks off its 2018 national tour in Elmwood Park in downtown Roanoke, Va., Aug. 29, 2018. Country Current performed in four states during the nine-city, 1,600-mile tour, connecting Americans to their Navy.
Photo By: Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Melissa Bishop
VIRIN: 180829-D-NW255-1076

Hometown: Rocky Comfort, Missouri
Unit: U.S. Navy Band Country Current
Stationed: Washington Navy Yard, Washington, D.C.
Job Title: Musician

How did you get into music?

That started at a very early age. I was around the Albert E. Brumley family when I was real small ... I just grew up around it. I'm 47 as I stand right now, so that's 41 years of music. I've never looked back. That's all I've ever done.

A military musician signs autographs.
Audience Autographs
Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Kenny Ray Horton, frontman for Country Current, the premier country-bluegrass group of the U.S. Navy Band, greets an audience member after a performance at the Mark Burkhalter Amphitheater at Newtown Park in Johns Creek, Ga., Aug. 19, 2018.
Photo By: Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Melissa Bishop
VIRIN: 170819-D-NW255-106

How did you become a musician for the Navy?

I actually joined as an electronics technician. I didn't know anything about the bands. I knew they probably had some marching bands that I had seen at inaugurals and things of that nature. I had no idea we had rock bands and country bands and some swing.

I walked into tryouts at A-school [the Navy's post-boot camp technical training] and the tech assistant asked, "What can we do for you son?" I told him, "I'm here to audition for the band," and he said, "Prove it." I played three songs and he said, "You're coming to lunch with us. You're hired. They got an audition down the hall and you've a show at the Pabst Theatre in Milwaukee in one week. Are you good with that?"

A Navy musician shakes hands with audience member.
Bluegrass Handshake
Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Kenny Ray Horton, frontman for Country Current, the premier country-bluegrass group of the U.S. Navy Band, greets an audience member after a performance at the Mark Burkhalter Amphitheater at Newtown Park in Johns Creek, Ga., Aug. 31, 2018.
Photo By: Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Melissa Bishop
VIRIN: 180831-D-NW255-1046

How long have you played for the Navy?

18 years. I just cleared my 18-year mark. It has been astounding: the quality of musicians, the dedication that goes into what we do. We're only around 750 people in the world, in our program. That's not a lot of people to cover the amount of ground we gotta cover. The caliber of musicians I've been surrounded by has made me better.

A sailor sings the national anthem at football game.
Salute to Service
Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Kenny Ray Horton, assigned to the U.S. Navy Band in Washington, sings the national anthem before an NFL game between the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Nov. 4, 2018. The performance was part of the NFL's annual Salute to Service.
Photo By: Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Adam Grimm
VIRIN: 181104-D-LC494-1208

Video by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Sean Gallagher, DOD