Ricky Van Shelton Biography

Ricky Shelton was born in Danville, Va., to Jenks and Eloise Shelton. He was brought up in the small community of Grit, where his family still lives today. Ronnie and Don Shelton are his brothers, and his sisters are Judy Underwood and Cacky Guill. Ricky is the youngest sibling.

As a young boy, he loved being outdoors, and would camp out in the neighborhood woods during the summer with his friends. All they needed was a blanket. They would explore the area and hike for miles each day — his youth was filled with fun, innocence and daily adventures.

During his school days, Ricky's favorite classes were art and choral. He loved to paint and draw pictures and was able to earn his spending money by selling one oil painting a week to local customers.

Besides drawing, Ricky spent a great deal of his time singing in church, at fish fries, or in his bedroom. Singing was Ricky's life. He fell in love with country music when he was 14 and discovered a style that combined gospel, rock n' roll and soul music.

After high school, he performed wherever possible, accepting local bookings at lodges, clubs, and private parties. For years, he worked a regular day job, rehearsed in the evenings and performed on week-ends. His past jobs have included car salesman, house painter, plumber, appliance store manager and construction worker. He pumped gas at Jack Dawson's service station and even cut up chickens in the meat department of a local grocery store. Whenever a particular "day" job interfered with his "music," he quit and found something else.

He started dating Bettye Witt in 1979. In December, 1984, the two of them moved to Nashville Tenn., to try their luck in the music business. Bettye had accepted a position as personnel manager with a new company. Ricky spent his days cleaning house, writing songs and preparing his voice to be ready for his "big break." At night, Ricky visited local night clubs, making contacts in the industry and handing out homemade demos to whomever would listen.

Bettye and Ricky were married August 4, 1986, the same year Ricky signed with CBS Records. They have built a log house outside of Nashville and raise a small herd of Beefalo cattle. Ricky has also written and published a series of children's books, called Tales From a Duck Named Quacker.

Today, when he's not touring, Ricky spends time flying his airplane, working on his 150-acre farm, gardening, repairing his collection of classic cars and antiquing.