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The Beat Profiles* — James Garrett

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HOME: Branson, Missouri. Originally from Los Angeles.


AGE: Old enough to not tell anybody.


PROFESSION: Performer-producer.


HOBBIES: Riding Harley-Davison motorcycles with my dad. Drawing and painting.


LAST BOOK I READ: Robert Redford: The Biography by Michael Feeney Callan (2012). It’s a great book. I read a lot of biographies about people of distinction, fun to read about how they got to where they are. I read about all kinds of people but mostly people in my business, show business.


RECENT ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Winning the Terry Beene Show of the Year award in Branson, Missouri for the John Denver Tribute Show that I’m doing in Destin. We’re calling it the Rocky Mountain Christmas show. It’s an acoustic show with guitar, bass, fiddle and mandolin—and an Ozark Mountain hammer dulcimer, the same lineup John had when he first started touring. It will be mostly the John Denver hits—he had quite a few—sprinkled with Christmas songs that John did. I knew John, and I share stories behind the songs. My personal connection and insights have kept this show going for 10 years.


QUOTE: I can’t tell you who said it, but… “Success is just an opportunity given to you by someone who believes in you.”


PROFILE: I auditioned with a bluegrass band in Silver Dollar City in Branson when I was about 17. Singing and acoustic guitar—a balladeer, like John Denver was. After that, I opened shows for famous people and ended up getting a gig with the Kendalls (“Heaven’s Just a Sin Away”). In fact, we had a hit on the country charts with John’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” The Kendalls were Royce and his daughter Jeannie. When Royce passed away in 1998, she asked me to sing her dad’s parts, which was a real honor.


I’ve been based in Branson mostly, aside from touring. I decided to do a show in Branson so I wouldn’t have to travel so much. I went into the only IMAX theater in Branson and gave the manager a CD of me singing John Denver songs, and three days later he offered me the opportunity to produce the show. In 10 years, we’ve won 18 awards, so that’s a pretty good run. The beauty of Branson is getting off the tour bus.  We get about eight million visitors every year. If you have a good show, you’ll sell tickets. Which I hope to do in Destin!


When you’re singing and touring with people who have hit records, you get to go backstage and hang out with people. I never did any shows with John, but when he was in the vicinity, I met him and we had a friendship over the years. My favorite songs are the ones that weren’t hits—turns out those were John’s favorites, too—and, of course, “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” “Rocky Mountain High,” “Annie’s Song.” I’ve done these songs six days a week for nine months.


I asked John if he ever got tired of singing “Rocky Mountain High.” And he said, “The audience makes it brand new every time you sing it.” That’s so true.


John influenced maybe two thirds of the people in Nashville now making records. He had a huge influence on country, folk…he was lots of things. It’s amazing to be able to cross those genres. He was all over the place.




Catch James Garrett’s Rocky Mountain Christmas show through Dec. 23 at the Bart Rockett Theatre in HarborWalk Village at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25. Discover more at


* Inspired by the late, great CREEM magazine.

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