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Published:April 6th, 2011 09:38 EST
McKinley & Beggs:  A Country Duo With a Legend`s Stamp of Approval!

McKinley & Beggs: A Country Duo With a Legend`s Stamp of Approval!

By Tom Ski

Musicians, writers, entertainers all have the desire and drive to work hard and pay their dues while holding on to their immense hope that one day someone will give them a chance.  While working their way up the ladder of success, the one thing that keeps entertainers going is the belief they have in their talents; and, they continue to hone that belief in order to get their voices heard.  Not many of these artists can boast that a true Country Legend stands behind them, but Ronny McKinley and Jody Beggs are one pair of believers who can. 

In 2008, Mel Tillis - a true country icon - heard the demos that came from the amazing minds of McKinley & Beggs and called them in for a meeting.  There, in a moment that must`ve felt like a dream, Mel Tillis looked at these two men and delivered the unforgettable words, "You guys have got it!" 

Strangely enough, Mel began his career by leaving the great state of Florida and heading for Nashville, Tennessee.  Who would`ve known that decades later he would run across Ronny McKinley and Jody Beggs who also hail from Florida.  Not only would Mel Tillis be introduced to their music, but McKinley & Beggs would end up having the backing of a true country powerhouse whose list of accomplishments include such feats as, induction into the Nashville Songwriters International Hall of Fame; Country Music Association`s (CMA) Entertainer of the Year; and, for six years in the 1970`s, Comedian of the Year.

 McKinley & Beggs, two amazingly talented men, were born in separate counties in Florida.  Although they would never run into each other as they were growing up, the fates had long ago decided that they would meet face to face at just the right time in their lives.  That golden moment came in Live Oak, Florida at a place called The Spirit of the Suwanee Music Park - a one-of-a-kind music park and campground that plays host to a variety of performers throughout the year, including offering live music during the week in their Music Hall.

It was at this fabulous venue where Ronny McKinley and Jody Beggs were performing, that their paths finally crossed.  Although they didn`t know it at the time, a lightning bolt had struck their world that would lead them to a destiny they hadn`t even thought of yet.  Not only were both men moving to Nashville, Tennessee in the next few days to follow their chosen career paths, but they also promised each other that as the `newbies` in the country music capital of the world, they would look each other up and keep in touch.

This oath is an improbable, if not, impossible, feat when performers are focusing on their own careers.  But the hands of fate worked magic and the two men kept their word, as their individual trains began to meet on the same track. While in Tennessee, the trains belonging to what would one day become the country duo McKinley & Beggs, moved a little bit closer, as both men ended up being part of a writing team who lived and worked with Hank Cochran.  For those of you who`ve been asleep for many, many years, Hank Cochran was also a living legend.  He was the mastermind songwriter behind hits like Patsy Cline`s, "I Fall to Pieces," which is still a favorite among all country performers and fans.  Starting in the 1960`s, Hank Cochran became a prolific songwriter working with not just Cline, but also extreme talents like Ray Price, Eddy Arnold, and many more.  Not to mention through the years of 1962-1980, Hank also became a beloved recording artist scoring seven times on Billboard magazine`s country music charts.

Ronny McKinley and Jody Beggs were also multi-talented and extremely fantastic songwriters, which ended up landing them both jobs with the great Mr. Cochran.  When the two men would speak, they maintained that when they ever decided to travel home to Florida they would start up their own band and call it McKinley & Beggs.  From those conversations, steered by the hands of a higher power, these two men had the conviction and foresight to know something was taking hold of them.  And, sure enough, McKinley & Beggs came into being.  As their career began to flourish, Florida Magazine rated McKinley & Beggs as one of the top three entertaining bands that originated from Florida.  The popular groups, Matchbox 20 and Creed, rounded out the list.

The word phenomenal is the perfect adjective to describe their songwriting ability, and both McKinley & Beggs knew that with work, drive, faith, and desire, someday someone out there in the world would hear their incredible lyrics and lose themselves in their unforgettable music - literally discovering " the next great country duo. 

But even McKinley & Beggs could not have imagined that the person who would pay attention and jump on their bandwagon was going to be a true country legend.  Mel Tillis earned his first writing deal after country star Webb Pierce took the Tillis- `penned` tune titled, "I`m Tired" to Number Three on the charts.  Being a master of entertainment for over fifty years, Mel Tillis has recorded more than sixty albums, garnering thirty-six Top Ten singles (nine of which were Number One hits).  A true songwriter who knows a good thing when he hears it, Mel Tillis has also written well over one thousand songs, and over six hundred have been recorded by major artists.  Mel Tillis is songwriting personified, and he not only discovered the huge talent that McKinley & Beggs possessed, but he also wanted to stand behind this newest duo and help them bring their songs to country music fans everywhere.

After their initial meetings with Mel, McKinley & Beggs found themselves in Ashland City, Tennessee in 2009.  There, on Mel`s farm, they recorded demos that would not only be enjoyed by the country legend, but would also become a Radio Records Project produced by Mel and Sonny Tillis.

As we proceed over the next few weeks, readers will discover everything there is to know about this truly talented group of musicians.  From McKinley & Beggs and their incredible band to their fantastic album titled, "By The Fire," we will sit down and talk to these musicians who are heading down the same path traveled by the incomparable Mel Tillis.  Yes it`s true the duo of McKinley & Beggs is well on their way to becoming the next Country Legend. 

Listen and view the fantastic songs of McKinley & Beggs at

McKinley & Begg`s Tour Schedule!

April 9th -  Bradford Sportsman Clay Shoot, Graham, FL
April 10th - HIGH OCTANE, Homassasa Springs, FL
April 16th - Mel Tillis Fishing Tournament, Crystal River, FL
April 30th - HIGH OCTANE, Homassasa Springs, FL
May 1st - HIGH OCTANE, Homassasa Springs, FL
May 28th - Salt Creek Rest, Suwannee, FL
July 2nd - Salt Creek Rest. Suwannee, FL
August 13th - Columbia County Fairgrounds S & S 50th Anniversary, Lake City, FL