Tennessee Whiskey is a song first released by country singer David Allan Coe in 1981. The song found a wider audience when Chris Stapleton released an R&B influenced take on the track on his debut album, Traveller (2015). Country Thang Daily notes that this set off a social-media fad of recording covers of Stapleton’s version over backing tracks
The video of Kris Jones’s singing Tennessee Whiskey in a Home depot carpark in 2017 is the most popular of these covers. His daughter Dayla asked him to do the song as she wanted to show her friends how well he sings. Country Music Family estimates that the video received 70 million views across various social media platforms in just 14 months.
In a comment, Mr Jinx captures the appeal of Kris Jones’s Tennessee Whiskey “Dayum! To sound that good just in the car is saying something. No effects, auto tune, nothing. And how proud your daughter is; so wonderful to see”. As well as Jones sings, and he knocks the song out of the carpark, a lot of the appeal of the video is the reactions of Dayla, She beams, glows, and lip syncs. As much as it is a video of a stunning cover of Tennessee Whiskey, it is a portrait of father/daughter love.
When Dayla showed the carpark recording to her mom, Destinie Jones, she posted it on Facebook. The video reached the attention of Ellen DeGeneres who invited Kris and Dayla onto The Ellen Show. On the show. Jones explained that he had long wanted to be a singer, but life had gotten in the way. Then in 2018, Jones released an EP which made the country music charts. Here is the Chris Stapleton classic that started the social media fad that kickstarted Kris Jones’s viral video success:
When Kris Jones mentioned that life had prevented him from pursuing music, he wasn’t exaggerating. Raised in Fort Worth, Texas, Jones was one of four siblings raised by a single mother who worked two jobs. As a kid, Jones battled to fit in, which he puts down to him having a White mother and a Black father, which, he says, “was not popular in his neighborhood at the time”. Jones found solace in music, singing in the church choir, and in karaoke competitions.
Jones was bullied to the extent that his mother withdrew him from school for his safety. Kris Jones started working full time at 14. He left home at 17 and fell in with a bad crowd. An altercation in his apartment lead to him serving six years in prison for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Interviewed by the Dallas Morning News, Jones says he found peace “by singing in his cell where the acoustics were irresistible”.
Jones was 26 when he was released from prison. He found steady employment, married, and focused on putting his life back together. His wife suggested that he try out for American Idol, but he was a little too old. After an unsuccessful American Idol audition, Jones reconciled himself to continuing with his day job, with a little karaoke to satisfy his urge to sing. Then, in 2017 his daughter asked him to sing Tennessee Whiskey in the car.
After appearing on The Ellen show, Kris Jones was invited onto The Voice. He also appeared on a televised music competition called The Four. Unfortunately Kris Jones’s music career has yet to take off to the extent that he might have liked. He remains happily married, and he is still known as The Tennessee Whiskey dad.