Ellis County is no stranger to Sonny Burgess.
Burgess, a who lives right down the road in Cleburne, will play at Country Thunder on Sunday, on a return trip to Waxahachie, where he previously played two years a row at the annual Barn Dance to support the Gingerbread House children’s advocacy center.
“Waxahachie has been real good to me and we’ve had a real good relationship - especially with the advocacy center,” said Burgess, who still plays the smaller, local shows that made his name known by country western fans across Texas although he’s begun the transition to larger, nationally recognized shows that mark his success in the business.
“We’re trying to make that step,” Burgess said. “And we’re starting to get calls for bigger things.”
In addition to the invitation to play Country Thunder, Burgess has played several illustrious venues including the Grand Ole Opry and the main stage at Billy Bob’s Texas.
Burgess’ video for “The More I’m Around Some People, The More I Love My Dog,” starring his yellow Labrador Tyson, has received airplay on country music television stations across the country.
Tyson hasn’t let the success go to his head,” Burgess said, noting, “That’s one thing we have in common. We are who we are and we always will be.”
Only three days prior to opening for George Strait at Country Thunder, Burgess took a break from the humble act of building a fence for the two shelter dogs he is fostering to talk to the Daily Light.
“I’ve always been loving to animals,” Burgess said. “Dogs are my favorite, but I’ve always loved all animals. The song ‘The More I Love My Dog’ is what made things happen with the Humane Society, and I’m glad it did.”
Burgess refers to a series of public service announcements he has recorded for the Humane Society of the United States, an arrangement that came into being as a result of his new album’s release. He has also formed an alliance with Bark Busters, a program that promotes responsible pet ownership.
Burgess uses his talent and compassion as tools to support other charitable organizations including the Cystic Fibrosis Organization and the American Cancer Society. He lost his father, who smoked, to lung cancer in 1989 and feels driven to do what he can to further cancer research.
“I’ve been sold off on the auction block to raise money for cancer research,” Burgess said. “I’ve brought as much as $10,000. I played a backyard party for the winning bidder and even supplied all of the barbecue and food for the guests. I wasn’t very well known then, so that was pretty good. I would like to have sold for $100,000.”
Burgess is married to Donna, his high school sweetheart. They have two daughters, Rachel, 25, and Robin, 20.
He recently released his second album, “Stronger,” which has hailed three solid chart singles: “Jesus and Bartenders,” “The More I’m Around Some People, The More I Love My Dog” and “A Little Bit Stronger.”
Though Burgess’ success in the music industry is apparent, he has experienced success in other endeavors as well. A well-rounded high school athlete, Burgess played college baseball for Trinity University in San Antonio, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in coaching with a minor in biology.
“I’ve done some substitute teaching,” Burgess said. “You never know, I might just go to work as a coach one day.”
Burgess took his passion for baseball to the professional level and played minor-league baseball with San Antonio Missions for two years.
“Trying to move to the major league from the minor league is a lot like trying to make it in the music business,” he said. “You are always looking for a break. I just decided that I wanted my break to be in music.”
And it was. Burgess will begin his set at Country Thunder at 7 p.m. Sunday, May 27, on the Wolf Stage.
“I’m real excited to play in front of such a large crowd,” he said. “And they have to sit through our show because George Strait is playing later.”
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