By Anna Grace Usery
Chet Lott, son of former U.S. Senator Trent Lott from Pascagoula, Mississippi, has encapsulated several careers and traversed the world in a fashion most people dream about.
Lott, a Bourbon County, Kentucky resident, has a homestead tucked neatly in the rolling hills and bourbon-tinted air of the bluegrass state where he was introduced to the sport
of polo. He’s enthralled by horses, especially through the sport of polo, and has devoted the last 20 years of his life perfecting his athleticism.
His passion for attaining skill, success and happiness snowballed into an entrepreneurial spirit that recently led him down the path of royalty. Off a whim, he travelled to a polo tournament and met the soon-to-be face of Polo Ralph Lauren, Nacho Figueras.
“You know how you immediately meet someone and know you’re going to be friends? That’s the feeling I had with Nacho,” Lott said.
That budding friendship was integral in engaging a brief rendezvous with British royalty. Nacho invited him to play polo in London with Prince Harry for his Sentebale charity
event, and Lott quickly accepted.
“What’s funny about it is you’re out there—like I said polo is very physical—slamming into each other and I look up and thought, ‘Whoa. There’s Prince Harry.’” Lott said. “It was a surreal moment during the game because I was playing hard like I would against anyone.”
Another brush with (musical) royalty spans back to Lott’s high school days when he befriended a kid named David Grohl, former drummer for Nirvana and now frontman for the Foo Fighters. Before coming to the Grove for a football game one Saturday in 2015, Lott caught a Foo Fighters show in at the FedEx Forum in Memphis. Soon into the start of the show, Grohl pulled his high school buddy on stage for a Queen and David Bowie duet of “Under Pressure.”
Something really cool happened at the Memphis FedEx Forum Foo Fighters show last night on 10/7/15. It has a very cool back story. I started filming after Dave had already told the story about his youth battle of the bands contest in Virginia when he was in high school.
No matter how much life yo-yos Lott in different directions, his anchor is still planted in Mississippi. He said his time spent at Ole Miss with friends and brothers of the Sigma Nu fraternity shaped the framework for his success in business and in life post-graduation.
For more about Lott’s story, read the interview below:
Usery: Chet, my parents used to use the phrase “jack-of-all-trades, master of none”, but after doing some research I think you’re jack-of-all trades AND master of all.
Lott: Haha, I try to master what I get interested in. That’s what my wife says is my problem — I get obsessed and I won’t stop until I’ve at least reached a certain level of skill. It’s kind of my blessing and my curse, I guess.
Usery: Take me back to your childhood in Pascagoula.
Lott: We spent summers and holidays in Pascagoula because we moved to Washington in 1969 where dad worked for his predecessor. I was just a couple years old. I went to school up there through high school. People would always ask me ‘Where are you from?’ I always answered Mississippi. I always felt like I was a Mississippian who just happened to be living in Washington. My parents instilled that in me, and all our relatives were in Mississippi. Everything I had dreamed about was in Mississippi. Even as I got older I realized I had the benefits of both worlds. I was able to run barefoot, climb oak trees go to the islands off the coast of Pascagoula in the Mississippi summer, but then I was able to experience some unique things in Washington.
Usery: Those Mississippi roots take hold and it’s hard to stray too far away.
Lott: Since I was a child it was my dream to go to Ole Miss. Because of dad I think people thought I knew a bunch of people in Oxford, but I literally knew no one. I had a couple friends in Pascagoula, but when I showed up for rush I didn’t know one person. That was strange for me, because people might know me but I didn’t know them. Dad always told me if anybody makes eye contact with you make sure to speak to them because you never know who they might be — your friend, neighbor or cousin. Going to Ole Miss was a wonderful experience and challenging in some ways because I was an outsider, in a way. I made some close friends. Some of the guys in my Sigma Nu fraternity were in my wedding and are still some of my closest friends to this day. I’m hoping my son will have that same experience as he attends Ole Miss.
Usery: What is he pursuing?
Lott: He’s a sophomore and he’s pursuing general business. He’s actually in Ireland right now doing an international business course through Ole Miss.
Usery: Where did life lead you after Ole Miss?
Lott: Years later I moved to D.C. and I went to work for a guy who worked for my dad and had a Domino’s pizza franchise there. He was originally from Biloxi. He was very successful and I really admired him, as I was his first employee. I hung a sign ‘Coming Soon Domino’s Pizza’ and there was a description as to what it was, because there was no delivered pizza back then. Nothing was delivered. It was a very unique thing. I wanted to franchise like he had done and I wound up in Lexington, Kentucky believe it or not. I’ve been here for more than 20 years.
Usery: Aside from being a successful restauranteur, you’re also an avid polo player. Did you find the sport or did the sport find you?
Lott: When I first moved here I made a friend who was very persistent on me trying polo. In Lexington, we live in the heart of the bluegrass. It’s the horse capital of the world. We’ve got fried chicken, bourbon and horses. We live in Bourbon County on a farm, about 15 miles outside of Lexington. It’s beautiful. When you come here you’re automatically enamored with it because every road is like a car commercial with perfectly mowed fences, fields, horses, etc. My friend who played polo said, ‘You have got to come try this.’ I had never ridden that much. I always said no to him. I told my wife ‘I think this guy is trying to get me out there so he can knock me off the horse. I don’t know why he’s so persistent about me playing this sport.’ Although I was fascinated with it because of Polo Ralph Lauren, but it was scary. There are horses and you’re running full speed. One day I went to a BBQ and watched a game, and he asked again if I wanted to hit the ball around. I said sure and kind of tapped it around. I was surprised I could even make contact. Of course I was hitting it three feet and thought I was doing great. After that I got bit by the bug. I started playing a couple days and week and joined the club. It’s my 21st season. My son plays, too. He’s 20. That’s all he’s ever known is polo. He started playing at 12-years-old and he’s incredibly gifted at it. I know it’s kind of an unusual sport but he’s at the highest level of kids his age around the world.
Polo has taken me around the world. First of all, polo is really big in Argentina. Most of the world’s best polo players are from there. One year I went to Aspen, Colorado to play in the Snow Polo tournament and I met a guy there named Nacho Figueras. You know how you immediately meet someone and know you’re going to be friends? That’s the feeling I had with Nacho.
Do you know who Nacho is?
Usery: No sir.
Lott: Nacho is the face of Ralph Lauren. Years ago Nacho was in the Hamptons at a polo match. There’s a photographer named Bruce Webber who does fashion photography. Ralph’s son David said he thought they needed a real polo player to be the face of the brand. Bruce Webber told him he knew just the guy. He met Nacho, did a few shoots and that was it. Six or eight months later he got a call and asked if he would be in a commercial. They needed a Latin counterpart to Penelope Cruz who was doing their new fragrance. Nacho has been the face of the brand ever since. He’s the long-haired, dark, handsome guy who you see in all the Polo ads. He’s an incredible polo player.
So, we met at the snow polo tournament and he asked me if I’d ever played in the Hamptons. I said no. He said, ‘We’ll have to correct that.’ He reached out to me and we went to the Hamptons one summer to play polo. Then he invited me to play in Argentina and Uruguay. I’ve literally played all over the place, in part because of Nacho and partly because of my willingness and desire to meet new people.
Also, one one thing I want to tell you about polo is it raises a lot of money for charity. The match I recently did with Prince Harry raised more than $1 million for charity.
Usery: That was my next question. What was it like playing polo with Royalty?
Lott: Well, after I played in the snow polo tournament I played in the world beach polo tournament in 2012. We won that tournament. I played against Nacho, and John Walsh from America’s Most Wanted was in the match, too. Every time you go to these things you meet new people and forge friendships that continue. Nacho asked me to come to London to play with Harry for an invitation only situation. Of course they have to vet you very heavily and you have to do a background check because you’re slamming into Price Harry, the Duke of Sussex. They don’t take that lightly.
Usery: Did Prince Harry end up winning that match or did you prevail?
Lott: We were getting beat at halftime and I came out and scored a goal that put us on the board 3-1. Prince Harry was winning. We pressed in the second half to tie it up. It was 4-all. Nacho, of course, put one in in the last seconds and won it by one. Although I was trying to win, it wouldn’t have been very cool to beat Prince Harry at his own charity tournament. But you know what, he deserved it. He outplayed us. Prince Harry is a good player. We had the same rating, so we were matched up on each other. What’s funny about it is you’re out there—like I said polo is very physical—slamming into each other and I look up and thought, ‘Whoa. There’s Prince Harry.’ It was a surreal moment during the game because I was playing hard like I would against anyone. He was very gracious and a gentleman. He thanked us for coming and supporting everything. Meghan Markle couldn’t have been sweeter to me and my family. It was a special experience.
Usery: Straying from your sports endeavors, I’d like to know more about your singing career.
Uploaded by Chet Lott on 2014-05-20.
Lott: It started with Katrina. I was in Kentucky and everyone I knew—my relatives and friends—were completely decimated. I felt helpless. I played all around Oxford when I was in college—at the bars, at The Gin (right down from Newk’s), Sid and Harry’s (now Central Grocery), the Downtown Grill (now Bouré) and crawfish boils for sororities and fraternities. I wrote a song about that bar, The Gin.
“Shoulder to shoulder
Sticky beer on the floor
Birkenstocks and sandals slidin’ across the floor
….It’s all about gettin’ in The Gin.”
It was a small place and the song was about waiting in line to get in. They had a fire code and when it got really packed you had to wait outside. After college I didn’t play that much, but when Katrina hit I needed to do something. I wrote a song called “Where Am I From?” and I came up with the idea to do a benefit CD to help the Red Cross in Pascagoula. We gave $125,000 in sales of the CD to them. It helped them get new trucks and computer systems for the office and modernize the facility. They also did swimming lessons for kids in the community. Apparently that was a big problem because a lot of the underprivileged kids never learned to swim, and unfortunately some would drown on occasion. They did a lot of good things with the money and I was proud of that. That’s how I got back into music.
I did a follow up CD because my juices were flowing. I met a local guy who helped me produce it named J.P. Pennington and he was in a band called ‘Exile’ that had 11 No. 1 hits in the 70s and 80s including “I Wanna Kiss You All Over.” They wrote some songs for Huey Lewis and the News. I wanted to do my CD at a level of quality and that’s what he could offer. I wanted it to be something people would enjoy.
Usery: Enough about work, let’s talk play. I need to hear it from a Bourbon County, Kentucky expert…is Pappy Van Winkle the best bourbon?
Lott: Haha, I’m partial to Bulleit bourbon because Tom Bulleit is my neighbor. He just bought a few hundred acres across the river from me. I would have to say I like Bulleit bourbon and Jefferson bourbon. But, you know what, any Kentucky bourbon is good in my book.
Usery: When you’re daydreaming about Oxford and Ole Miss, what comes to mind?
Lott: It’s that feeling of excitement you get in the fall around football games. The friendships I made and the experiences we had during that time were very special to me. Oxford and Ole Miss have a special spot in my heart. Even though it’s changed, the memories I have are still there.