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Lee Kernaghan
Lee Kernaghan

Lee Kernaghan OAM (born 15 April 1964) is an Australian country music singer, songwriter and guitarist.

He was the 2008 Australian of the Year, in recognition for his support of rural and regional Australia.[1][2]


The son of country music singer and truck driver Ray Kernaghan, Lee Kernaghan was born in the Victorian town of Corryong and raised in southern New South Wales.

In 1986, Kernaghan traveled to the United States to represent Australia at the Nashville 'Fan Fair' country music festival. In 1993, his debut solo album The Outback Club won an ARIA award for Best Country Album and his hit single "Boys from the Bush" topped the Australian country music charts.

Kernaghan has dominated the charts with successive hit albums, including Outback Club, Three Chain Road, 1959, Hat Town, Electric Rodeo, The New Bush, Planet Country, Beautiful Noise and Spirit of the Anzacs. Kernaghan has made a huge impact on country music in Australia, creating a new musical landscape for the genre when he burst onto the scene.

To many people, Kernaghan represents the spirit and values of contemporary rural Australia. His love of the Australian way of life features in his music, and he is a passionate supporter of Australia's rural culture.[3]

During a visit to the Australian War Memorial in 2013, Kernaghan's friend and AWM Director Dr. Brendan Nelson introduced Kernaghan to letters that were written by Australian service men and women during various wars dating back to the landing at Gallipoli during the First World War. These letters were held in the vaults at the AWM.[4]

The power of the letters affected him deeply and the experience at the Australian War Memorial that day was the catalyst that saw these letters put to music in what would become his most recent album, Spirit of the Anzacs.

Upon release, Spirit of the Anzacs went platinum within 3 weeks, and dominated the ARIA album chart by holding the #1 position for four weeks and then the #2 position for another three weeks, making it the highest selling Australian album for 2015.[5]

2015 also saw the release of Kernaghan's first book, The Boy from the Bush, These Are My Songs, These Are My Stories.

Kernaghan closed out 2015 with a national tour called The Songs and the Stories in Concert. Fittingly, the tour covered elements of the book and also featured songs from Spirit of the Anzacs.

In 2019 Kernaghan released the album Backroad Nation with the title track staying four weeks at #1 on the country singles charts.[6]

He is the father of two sons.[7]


Kernaghan has won four ARIA Awards and three APRA Awards, and has been nominated in award categories numerous times.

As of 2015, Kernaghan has had 33 #1 hits on the Australian country charts, and has sold over two million albums.

He was named "Hit Maker of the Decade" twice, in 2001 and 2011.[5] This title goes to country artists from anywhere in the world who achieves the most hits in the Australian market over the past decade.

He has sold over two million albums, and won 36 Golden Guitars at the Country Music Awards of Australia (second to Slim Dusty).

Kernaghan was the recipient of the Outstanding Achievement Award at the 2015 ARIA Awards, for Spirit of the Anzacs.[5]


Kernaghan received the Order of Australia Medal in 2004.[8]

In 2008, he was Australian of the Year,[9] in recognition for his support of rural and regional Australia; his 'Pass the Hat Around' tours have raised more than a million dollars for rural communities during a challenging period of drought.[10] He was presented with the award by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

In 2015, Kernaghan was inducted into the Australian Roll of Renown.[11]


During July 2015, Kernaghan's music was played at anti-Islam rallies in Australia, without his permission.[12][13] He responded that the use of his work should be "consistent with – and respectful of, the memory of ... [soldiers who] laid down their lives for the freedoms we have today."[13] Fellow local artists, Jimmy Barnes, John Farnham and Mark Seymour, objected to the use of their material at those rallies.



The ARIA Music Awards is an annual awards ceremony that recognises excellence, innovation, and achievement across all genres of Australian music. Kernaghan has won two awards from 9 nominations.[38]

The APRA Awards are held in Australia and New Zealand by the Australasian Performing Right Association to recognise songwriting skills, sales and airplay performance by its members annually. Kernaghan has won four awards from eight nominations.[39]

Kernaghan has won thirty-seven Golden Guitar awards at the Tamworth Country Music Awards of Australia.[41]

The Music For A New Generation Awards are run by the Planet Country with Big Stu & MJ radio program and celebrate crossover country artist efforts each year. The awards have featured fan voting since 2016.

Business ventures

For several years, Kernaghan owned the historic Great Western Hotel in Rockhampton, Queensland, after buying the pub in 2003 when it was placed into receivership after a downturn in trade and public liability concerns.[42][43] Kernaghan has described the time during which he owned the Great Western Hotel as one of the greatest periods of his life.[44]

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