John Rich's Granny Rich Celebrates 87th Birthday With Launch of Her Own Whiskey

Jason Davis
Ann “Granny” Rich and John Rich 

Not many 87-year-olds celebrate their birthday in a Nashville bar smoking, drinking whiskey and launching a new business venture, but Ann “Granny” Rich is not your typical octogenarian.

Family and friends joined Big & Rich’s John Rich at his Redneck Riviera Bar on Valentine’s Day evening to celebrate his grandmother’s birthday and the launch of her own Granny Rich Reserve, an 86 proof whiskey.

“I just loved it because I knew he was doing it to honor me,” Granny Rich told Billboard as she smiled at her grandson, standing in the second-floor men’s room, the only semi-quiet place to conduct an interview during the raucous party.

Rich launched his own Redneck Riviera brand whiskey last year in partnership with Eastside Distilling, which will also handle Granny Rich Reserve. Rich says his grandmother was an integral part of developing and launching his whiskey last year. “We worked on the original for a long time and Granny Rich was the final say so on that blend,” he told Billboard. “What I brought her as the final product, she said, ‘That’s the smoothest thing I’ve ever drank.’ 

“So the question became, ‘How do you make that better? How do you make a reserve version of that?’ The answer was a more aged version,” Rich continues. “The whiskey sat in the cask longer. Granny tried that and said, ‘That might be even better.’ That’s when we knew we had it right.”

Granny Rich Reserve is touted as being “aged a little longer yet more refined, just like Granny Rich.” Wearing a tiara and a sash that said “Redneck Royalty,” the birthday girl sat onstage, taking long drags on a cigarette during the event, while her grandson, granddaughter Lea Katherine Hayes, Gretchen Wilson and others celebrated her indomitable spirit. Calling her the “Queen of the Working Class,” Rich shared with the audience how Granny still puts in at least 40 hours a week at the alterations shop she has owned in Ashland City, Tenn., for 19 years.

“She’s the epitome of ‘work hard, play hard,’” Rich says. “My Granny Rich has lived through the Dust Bowl days, the Great Depression and World War II. Through it all, she’s remained a work hard, play hard freedom-loving woman.”

“It’s what you get up for every day,” Granny Rich told the crowd when Rich asked her about still working at her age. “If you’ve got a job to do that you enjoy doing, it’s so much more fun than it is to sit in the house and look at four walls. I’d be dead and gone if I did that but here I am.”

Rich announced that Eastside already has the newly launched Granny Rich Reserve in 10 states. He presented Granny with her first royalty check for $10,000. 

During the evening, he also talked about his grandfather, Granny Rich’s late husband, and their 58-year marriage. He spoke of his grandfather being so distressed at seeing caskets come off the train in Glasgow, Ky., , carrying friends and loved ones killed in WWII, that he had an older sister pretend to be his mother and go with him to enlist in the Army, even though he was only 17. Rich spoke of his grandfather’s impressive military service and honored him with a song he wrote about him “The Good Lord and The Man.”

Ten percent of profits from Rich’s Redneck Riviera Whiskey go to Folds of Honor, a non-profit that provides scholarships to children and spouses of deceased or disabled veterans. “In 2018, Redneck Riviera Whiskey paid for over 40 college scholarships through Folds of Honor,” Rich proudly said. 

During the evening, there were performances by Wade Hayes, Wilson, Jason Michael Carroll and Big & Rich. The birthday girl enjoyed all the festivities.

“We were blessed to grow up around a woman like this. She’s the person we look up to. She’s the person we want to be like,” Rich said. “I want to be 87-years-old, drinking whiskey down on Broadway and launching something new. This is the American dream!”