The Story Behind Deacon’s Real-Life Rayna

23 Years in Love: Chip and Patty Esten

Even though Nashville’s Deacon has had a string of gorgeous girls come and go since the prime time drama launched in 2012, I think it’s safe to say we all know that there’s really only one woman for him. Good ol’ Rayna James.

Which is kind of like Deacon’s off-camera life. His real life as Chip Esten where there’s only been one woman for him for almost 30 years.

According to The Tennessean, the daily newspaper in Nashville, Esten married his college sweetheart Patty Hanson, but first, he had to win her love.

Hanson was the blond girl who rode a moped around the William & Mary campus in Virginia. “All I knew is that she was gorgeous and she was taken,” Esten said.

Unbeknownst to Esten, Hanson and her boyfriend broke up during her junior year.

He was playing a gig with his band in Williamsburg, Virginia, she was there and he asked the band to play Dire Straits’ “Romeo & Juliet.”

That eventually led to a lunch date. And then, 23 years ago, a wedding date.

“I look back and see a foolish kid. I made a million mistakes. I don’t know how that guy, that foolish kid, did that one smart thing that would change his life,” Esten said, “and that was, hold on to her.”

Let’s hope art imitates life on this week’s Nashville when Deacon needs to hold on to his one true love for dear life.

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.