The Union County Opry Band

In December of 2018, with early ground work beginning for the Union County Opry, Vice President, Danny Cooke began searching for talent to form a house band. With a tremendous amount of talent here in and around the Union County area, he began to summons pickers and singers for the band. Check out each band member’s biography to learn more about them.

Danny Hébert

Photo of Danny Hébert.

Danny is a singer-songwriter born in New Orleans, Louisiana and was raised in Europe. He now lives in Tellico Plains, TN with his wife Kay and their German Sheppard Lucy.
Danny began his musical career playing western swing and outlaw country in the dance halls and honky-tonks of Texas. He started or was part of several successful full-time gigging groups throughout the southeast. He has played with Percy Sledge and the Drifters and opened for several touring groups. Happy to be part of the Union County Opry, Danny continues to write songs and performs with The Danny James Band, The Wings of Love (Gospel) and with Tim Childress & Unwound.
Danny’s influences are classic country artists like, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, George Jones, Marty Robbins and many more that played on his fathers’ reel to reel tape recorder almost every day. His heart went from country blues to rhythm and blues, and he fell in love with Delbert McClinton, Joe Bonamassa, Etta James, Bill Withers, Wilson Picket, Bob Dylan, The Blues Brothers and The Eagles. Ask him to nail down his favorite and his answer will be that the story, the composition, and the vocal styling are what excite him, and there are so many great artists out there that he enjoys, there is no way to choose just one.
You can hear some of his original music on iTunes or Spotify performed by Daniel Aris.

Tim & Sandy Childress

Photo of Tim & Sandy Childress.

Country singer and guitarist, Tim is a native of Tellico Plains, TN, where he resides with his wife Sandy on their horse farm. They have two daughters, five grandchildren, and a brand new labradoodle puppy named Maggie.
The son of a minister and musically talented family, Tim’s love of music began in the church at a very early age. However, it was his love for horses that would reveal his own musical gifts. The annual wagon trains of Tellico included hours of singing. It was there that Tim learned to play guitar. After high school, Tim realized his vocal ability and began developing his style while listening to artists such as Merle Haggard, Conway Twitty, and George Strait. He soon became the lead vocalist for a local country band. After several years, he eventually formed his own group, The Unwound Band, which continues to perform today. Tim has entertained for several decades and promises a showcase of traditional country, southern rock, and gospel. He feels blessed to have the opportunity to share his love of music on the stage of the Union County Opry.
Sandy was born and raised in Newport, TN. She and her husband Tim live in Tellico Plains with their horses and labradoodle named Maggie. They have two daughters, Cierra and Kenzie, and five grandchildren: Connor, Lucy, Crew, Cross, and Collins. Sandy’s gospel/country piano-style heritage stems from her mother, an outstanding pianist, and her uncle, country/Christian guitarist and vocalist. Before she began formal training, she already had an ear for playing. At age nine, her lessons began and lasted until the age of sixteen. During that time, she developed a love for gospel music and with the guidance of her uncle, began learning the art of transposing and playing by ear. At the age of thirteen, she became the organist of the largest Baptist church in Her hometown. At sixteen, she became the keyboard player for a gospel group where she remained for ten years. After her marriage to Tim, she joined his country band and has been with him for the past twenty-seven years playing venues all over East Tennessee. Together, she and Tim are excited to be a part of this new venture with the Union County Opry.

Mark Bills

Photo of Mark Bills.

Mark Bills grew up in a musical family that played piano and guitar. At six years old, he started taking drum lessons that continued through High school. After growing up in Anderson County, he now calls Union County his home. Over the years, he has played with multiple country, blues, and southern rock groups in local and out-of-state shows.

Jessica Cooke

Photo of Jessica Cooke.

Jessica Cooke is a Union County native and resides with her husband of 10 yrs and their two children. She has had a love for music from a young age and got her first guitar when she was nine. She started playing the fiddle when she was 15. She now plays one her daddy built in 2008. "I have respect for all kinds of music, but my favorite is true bluegrass, gospel, and classic country. I love music that tells a story and has some feeling behind it. I love that my kids love it too! I'm thankful for the Union County Opry and I hope that everyone can enjoy it for years to come!"

Danny Hutchins

Photo of Danny Hutchins.

Danny Hutchins is a multi-talented musician and singer. He currently plays keyboard for 3Dog Celebration and joined the Opry band in December 2019. With his talents and his energetic personality he has become a great fit for the Opry band.

Melinda Jessee

Photo of Melinda Jessee.

My name is Melinda Jessee. I am married to my college sweetheart Sidney Jessee Jr, and we have two boys- Landon and Logan. I began singing at a young age at my home church with my dad, Vic Graves, and our family. My favorite genre of music is bluegrass gospel, and I play the upright bass in my spare time. (Psalms 100:2 Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.)

Sidney Jessee

Photo of Sidney Jessee.

My name is Sidney Jessee and I am a native of Union County. I grew up in the Tater Valley Community of Luttrell and that is where my family and I reside today. Early in my life, I developed a great love and passion for music. I began taking guitar lessons at 6 years old from Doyle Collins and then Wayne Goforth. Before I could even chord a guitar, I would strum along to the Williams Family Gospel Cassette Tape every morning before school. At the age of 17, I began taking banjo lessons from Kipper Stitt, former banjo player of Pine Mountain Railroad and started learning to play the Upright Bass. My musical heroes and influences are Earl Scruggs, J.D. Crowe, Doyle Lawson, Tony Rice, Terry Baucom, Stuart Wyrick, Theodore (Ted) Wyrick, and Wayne Goforth. I’m thankful for what little talent God has given me and allowed me to share it with others.

Rusty Rutherford

Photo of Rusty Rutherford.

Rusty Rutherford is a Union County native who began playing music as a child coming from a family with a strong musical heritage. Has appeared on many recordings as a session musician and decades of live performance experience. A lover of all music and true "Guitar Nerd" always open to new challenges.

Steve Nicely

Photo of Steve Nicely.

Steve grew up in Union County Tennessee in the heart of Maynardville, the Cradle of Country Music. He now resides with his wife Cindy and their twin daughters Kylie and Rylie, just up the road in Washburn, Tennessee. Steve’s love for music began as a young man growing up in the country churches of East Tennessee where he started with playing the old time gospel hymns. He loves to play gospel, bluegrass and country music. His choice of instruments are the bass and the banjo, with the banjo being his favorite instrument. Steve currently plays the bass for the Union County Opry Band and he also plays for another local band known as “The Unwound Band”.

Travis Solomon

Photo of Travis Solomon.

Travis grew up in Jefferson County, TN where he started playing electric guitar and performing with various local musicians on the weekends. He has always loved the sound of the pedal steel guitar and decided to learn to play it. Immediately, he fell in love and decided this was his dominate instrument.He took lessons from a well-known local steel guitarist, Stoney Stonecipher. Stoney took Travis under his wing and became not only his instructor, but mentor. “If it was not for Stoney, I would have not progressed with this instrument. I learned a lot from him and miss him dearly.” Travis plays steel guitar and other instruments. He has done session work for various studios. “I am humbled and honored to be a part of the Union County Opy, they are true to their roots and fantastic people.” Travis resides in Anderson County, TN with his wife and daughter.