Guitarist Joe Don Rooney Apparently Quit Rascal Flatts

Jay DeMarcus / Joe Don Rooney / Gary LeVox

There was a time when the vocal trio Rascal Flatts defined the very cutting edge of safe, pallid, mainstream pop country. From the very beginning, they felt more like a contemporary Christian group who recorded secular music as opposed to anything resembling a country act. That’s why the disordered unraveling of the band has been quite shocking.

These days, the assessment of the music of Rascal Flatts has been resuscitated for some through both nostalgia, and from the fact that some of today’s “country” stars such as Dan + Shay have taken what Rascal Flatts started, and somehow have done them one shade softer, and safer. Some now pray for the days when the sanguine, pallid, inoffensive music and frosted tip hairdos of Rascal Flatts were the worst thing you had to interface with in the “country” realm.

But it appears the band will not be coming back, at least any time in the foreseeable future. They first announced a farewell tour in January of 2020, while giving a wink and a nod that they could always return, as is often the case after “farewell” tours. But the tour was subsequently postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak, though they still planned to fulfill the dates once the pandemic cleared up.

Now it appears the underlying issue for the band is guitarist Joe Don Rooney. Rascal Flatts was first formed in 1999 in a nightclub in Nashville’s Printer’s Alley district. Gary LeVox and Jay DeMarcus were second cousins from Columbus, Ohio, and guitarist Joe Don Rooney was from Oklahoma. Rooney filled in one night behind the two relatives, and soon they were performing as a trio.

In a recent interview, lead singer Gary LeVox revealed that the issue with fulfilling the planned farewell tour or any future plans is in fact Rooney.

“I’ve never been OK with the way that it ended. I was never OK with….I wasn’t happy that Joe Don quit. It kind of came out of nowhere,” Gary LeVox said. “It was like, ‘Let me try to wrap my head around this.’ And then I certainly wasn’t OK with the pandemic, which canceled everything. I hate the way that it ended. I hate that we didn’t get to do this farewell tour. I can’t stand the fact that it just feels there’s no closure with something that we’ve been so blessed with. That will always be in my heart.”

Joe Don Rooney was arrested for DUI at 4:00 a.m. September 9th in Franklin, Tennessee after crashing his vehicle into a tree. At the time many wondered why someone of his wealth and stature would be driving drunk. But there might be more underlying concerns. Normally after such an incident by a public figure, you would expect a public apology. But now over five weeks later, none has come. In fact, Joe Don Rooney has deleted his social media profiles, and gone dark.

“I have not talked to him,” Gary LeVox says of Joe Don Rooney. “And I was heartbroken too. But you know what? I think God gets your attention in different ways. I just wish him the best and I hope he gets everything that he needs to get well and take care of whatever issues he’s got going on. There’s power in prayer.”

Gary LeVox has subsequently launched a career in contemporary Christian music, recently releasing a new single “Working on Sunday,” with an album on the way and a planned tour for 2022. Bass player/singer Jay DeMarcus started a side venture in 2019 called Red Street Records and appointed himself CEO. He’s since been pouring himself full tilt into the project.

Meanwhile, no matter what you think about the music of Rascal Flatts, or their notorious hairdos, you can’t help but worry about Joe Don Rooney who has not been seen or heard from since August 25th when he appeared at the ACM Honors gala at the Ryman Auditorium.

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