Lead Pastor at Lighthouse Christian Fellowship Church and 2016 Prosper Person of the Year Nominee, Kenny Thacker’s talents are many and varied. He’s a family man, religious man, music man, a Bluegrass celebrity, and a bit of a family historian. Originally from Kentucky, Kenny moved his family to Prosper 12 years ago. Married to his wife Lynn for 35 years, he is proud to be a father to a son and a daughter, and his eyes light up when he speaks of his grandchildren. 13 year old Madeline, 8 year old Kaelan, and 5 year old Cadence Grace are surely growing up listening to fascinating stories from their grandfather about music and family members who were impressionable to him.
Kenny has a long history with bluegrass music, and many would never guess his love for and involvement in the music industry. “Music is a passion and a calling. It’s been a wonderful thing and part of my life I can’t remember not having.” Raised with his mother’s side of the family, he was born in eastern Kentucky where he describes it as “the middle of nowhere.” Kenny describes his family growing up as a musical family. “I grew up sitting on the front porch in the evenings, that’s where family and friends met and whoever could sing and play did that. At an early age I picked up a guitar and joined in too. I got my first guitar when I was 6 and by the time I turned 11 I went on the road with a band.” Being in a band at 11 years of age may seem a bit startling, but his uncle had a band and when a member suddenly quit, he turned to Kenny because he believed in his abilities and asked him to join. The band was made up of his uncle and his two daughters, who were 15 and 13 at the time. They were a rare novelty as there were no youth bands like there are today. The Sloane Family played bluegrass music at festivals where Bill Monroe, the father of Bluegrass, was in the audience at one particular festival, and liked them so much he required anyone who booked him, to also book The Sloane Family as well. Kenny says of Monroe, he “took a likin to us.” So did listeners, because before long they were signed to a label, there was a record deal, and they played at the Grand Ole Opry.
When the children reached an age where they would need to attend formal education or get tutors on the road, his uncle “pulled the plug on it all and said you are not all quitting school.” Education became the deciding factor in the band’s end. Kenny said, “It devastated me, that was my dream and I thought I was going to be a musican, and not knowing at the time, he did me the biggest favor ever.”
It was then that Kenny had an experience with the Lord and came to faith. “I realized the real call in my life. I stopped playing professionally, but I never stopped playing. It became a hobby and a passion.” Thereafter, Kenny met Jesus and his wife and began his path to being a minister. Music is an important part of religion services to Kenny. When his musical friends play at the church it’s an experience of getting to interact as a family rather than a music star coming to give a performance. When asked to describe his congregation at Lighthouse Christian in one or two words, he answered “community” without hesitation. “The feedback we hear about our congregation is friendly. Family is a high value of ours here at the church because we are not trying to create a sense of family, we are trying to build family. Community and family, that’s who we are here.”
When asked about who has been influential to Kenny in his life he said two men in particular: “my grandfather and Dudley Hall.” Kenny’s grandfather is a standout as a personal hero. “He’s the one who had time for me. He was the guiding light. He taught me how to treat people the same and with respect. My grandfather said often ‘you ain’t no better than nobody in this world, but there ain’t nobody in this world no better than you.’ And I heard that enough that I truly believed it.” Kenny’s childhood memories are crisp and concise, and his stories and music are steeped with a deep love for his family roots.
“A few years ago I felt the desire to stick my finger back into music, and with encouragement from friends, I made a record that was a tribute to my grandfather who was my hero. He was an underground coal miner who worked at that since the age or 13. He was a musician, banjo player, fountain of wisdom, and funny. Spending an evening on the front porch with him you would get this mixture of mountain music and bits of wisdom about life. Hilarious stories about the characters of the town. I always felt bad for people who didn’t get to spend an evening on the front porch with my grandpa. When I occasionally do a program An Evening on the Front Porch is what the venue is billed as and tries to recreate what that was like – deep mountain songs, a little bit of funny stuff, wisdom here and there about life, and stories about the characters I grew up with.”
Kenny describes Dudley Hall as a father figure to him, both spiritual and natural father. “He’s a big hero in my life. One of the reasons I came here was to be closer to him. He’s in Grapevine at a network of churches, and it’s a little bit of a dream come true getting to work with your hero.” Dudley Hall says of Kenny, “Kenny is a multi-gifted vessel of honor in the King’s house. His hillbilly upbringing uniquely provided the atmosphere to grow a son able to connect with the common man. His trust in God’s grace made him capable of relating to the elite classes of society. He eagerly seeks accountability and knows where honor is due. I am so proud of him.”
When asked to give a piece of advice to his grandchildren, Kenny got quiet and thoughtful for a bit. A sense of pride and love crossed his face and he said, “Discover your purpose as quickly as possible. My grandpa would say ‘find out what you love and figure out a way to make money at it and you’ll never work again a day in your life.’ And what that means, find your purpose. That makes life a whole lot better.”
Kenny Thacker’s love for God, family, music, and his Appalachian history make him a unique asset to Prosper. If you already know Kenny, then you are aware of his many talents, but if you do not know him, then be sure to meet him and listen to his music. Both will give you a glimpse into a great love of family.