RICHLAND -- Michael Peterson has made his mark in the music industry -- several Grammy and Country Music Association nominations including hit songs like From Here To Eternity and Drink, Swear, Steal and Lie -- but he has never forgotten his Tri-City roots.
Peterson, a 1977 Richland High grad, is coming home for a concert Aug. 9 that will honor American soldiers.
Showtime is 8 p.m. at John Dam Plaza across from the Federal Building between Jadwin Avenue and George Washington Way in Richland. Admission is free.
"It's been a while since I've visited the Tri-Cities, but I'm so excited about coming home," Peterson told the Herald in a recent phone interview. "We're going to have some fun at this concert."
Part of that fun includes catching up with old friends like Sean Lewis and Gary Davis. Lewis, a musician who now lives in Seattle, will open the show for his high school chum. Davis lives in Kennewick and is a radiological engineer for Mission Support Alliance at Hanford.
"Mike and I met in the sixth grade and lived a block apart. I was the smallest kid in class, and Mike was the biggest, and it never hurts us little guys to have the big guy for a best friend," Lewis said with a laugh.
"He always had a huge talent, but I never saw the Nashville thing coming. When we were young, he'd sing in pop and rock bands, not country. And when he played the pep assemblies at Col. High (now Richland High), all the girls would swoon."
Davis agrees that Peterson's talent was evident as a teenager.
"I always knew Mike would sing for a living someday," Davis said.
And there's a whole lot of truth to those girls swooning in high school, he added. "But Mike sang all kinds of music back then -- gospel, pop, rock -- he even sang at church," Davis said.
Peterson says his Tri-City show will include many of his hit songs, as well as some patriotic tunes, because playing music for veterans, especially those serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, is something close to his heart.
Peterson has entertained troops in Afghanistan nine times, Korea two and Germany four. And he plans to continue those musical tours for as long as his voice holds out.
"When 9/11 happened, I was too old to enlist but wanted to do something to help," Peterson said. "We're all called to do what we can with what we have. I have an open heart when it comes to supporting the men and women who put themselves in harm's way every day serving in the military. I've seen the difference music can make in a soldier's life. That holds value for me."
Peterson, who has released 17 albums in his career, has a slew of music kudos to his credit since he went to Nashville three decades ago. He was named the 2008 Bob Hope Spirit of Hope award winner.
He also was honored with the American Legion's National Education Award for his role as co-founder of the national high school assembly program Tag, You're It, which is an interactive website developed for students searching for ways to control their lives and meet the challenges that life dishes out.
When Peterson was playing football for Richland's Bombers, he couldn't make up his mind whether he wanted to play football or music for a living.
He accepted a football scholarship to Pacific Lutheran University, where he met fellow teammate Brad Westering, who also worked as a record producer for Grammy-winner Deniece Williams.
Though Peterson loves performing, it is writing songs that stirs his musical soul. His songs have been recorded by many country, rock, pop and gospel hall of fame musicians, including Travis Tritt.
"It's always been more important to me to write a good song than record a No. 1 hit single," he said. "Not that I mind having a hit song. It's just that writing a really good song means more, even if I don't record it."
After living in Nashville for 17 years, Peterson and his wife Ret. Army Col. Jill Chambers moved to Las Vegas not long ago.
"During a visit to Vegas about two and a half years ago I realized how much I missed the sunshine and dry heat from my childhood in Tri-Cities," Peterson said. "So we decided to move here."
There will be a welcome home party for Peterson starting at 8:30 p.m. Aug. 8 at The Roxy in downtown Kennewick. Lewis will be providing the entertainment. The event is open to the 21-and-older crowd. Cover is $10, with proceeds to benefit the Columbia Basin Veterans Coalition.
-- Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; email@example.com; Twitter: @dorioneal