Donny Richmond remembers it like it was yesterday.
Richmond was a second grader living in Maryland and with a distinct set of talents. A set of talents he used to entertain those around him.
“When I was in elementary school if it would rain when I was in the second grade, my teacher would call on me to sing when we couldn’t go outside,” Richmond recalled, laughing.
He took his craft, including pitch and tone, past the classroom, though, and into the sanctuaries and choir rooms of the Baptist church he grew up in.
“I saw a lot of solo’s in my church as I was growing up,” Richmond said. “I went to a Baptist church and they would call on me all the time. So, I guess my singing comes from a combination of both of those. Singing in elementary school, then in the church choir.”
Richmond will return to his roots Dec. 1 when he makes the trip from his current hometown Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, to Lively Stones Baptist Church where he’ll bring his unique mix of country, country gospel and pop music to the congregation.
“It’s an honor really. I love the music I get to do, love the people I get to meet and it’s an honor to be able to represent Jesus. I mean think about it. The creator of the universe and I get to work for him,” Richmond said, laughing.
In the early 1990s, Richmond decided to strike out on his own and pursue his dream of being a recording artist by moving to Nashville. Upon arriving in the country music mecca, Richmond picked up a copy of country legend Stonewall Jackson’s autobiography and caught some inspiration.
“I found it at the Earnest Tubb Record shop in Nashville and I bought it and I started reading it and it started out with him saying, ‘I was born in Tabor City, North Carolina,’ and I said, ‘wait a minute, that’s where I was born,’” Richmond recalled, letting out his broad laugh.”
“I read a bit more and he said, ‘I’m a Christian and I’m not ashamed of it,’ and I said, ‘wait a minute, that’s my kind of guy.’”
Richmond sent Jackson a letter and a copy of his demo tape and before Richmond knew it, he received a response from Jackson and wound up on a compilation CD with the likes of Garth Brooks, Connie Smith and Vince Gill.
The appearance jumpstarted Richmond’s dream, sending him down a path where he would perform music professionally, collaborating with artists such as Brooks, Gill, The Gatlin Brothers, Amy Grant, Hank Snow and Kenny Chesney to name a few.
Richmond has also been inducted into the Country Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame, The International Country Gospel Hall of Fame and The Texoma Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame.
Despite these honors, Richmond hasn’t gotten a big head.
“It’s almost comical to me to even think about that because I don’t understand how a person wouldn’t have humility,” Richmond said. “We’re all just functioning by the grace of God. I wasn’t raised to think I was anything special. I just feel like someone who’s privileged enough to do what I do and something I love.”