James Rogers Biography
James Rogers was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee on December 22, 1949 without any trace of a silver spoon.
But Hershel and Elizabeth Rogers gave their son a healthy respect for hard work and music.
The Rogers family and friends used music to escape the drudgery of working at a textile mill. James' father
played the steel guitar and his mother often sang with her sisters. Other family members played a number of instruments or sang harmony. Occasionally, they performed at church or gathered at home to sing and
play—just expressing their love of music.
After James started school at East Lake Elementary
in Chattanooga, he was chosen to represent his class in a talent show. For the first time, James Rogers met his public.
In 1958, the Rogers family moved across the Tennessee state line to Fort
Oglethorpe, Georgia, where James' parents still live. The family joined the First Baptist Church and the children entered Fort Oglethorpe Elementary.
James' older brother, John, become the school Romeo and James acted as his
personal manager by selling John's pictures to the girls.
In the following years, James becomes the person who was always picked to sing
the solo during performances before the PTA.
His first guitar arrived on Christmas morning when James was 11. Along with the
guitar came the promise that if he learned to play the instrument, the next Christmas would bring a more expensive model.
The new electric model arrived as promised.
For a 12 year old, James' career took a quantum leap forward. He describes it this
way, "I started to travel around to all the best garages in Fort Oglethorpe, playing in as many groups with as many different people as there were garages to play."
During high school, James lettered in track two years. He lifted weights. After school
on weekends, he worked at the drug store, but still found the time to play in local bands at sock hops, talent shows and church gatherings. Graduating from Lakeview High
School in 1967, he was chosen for many honors, including Most Popular and Most Handsome.
James entered Dalton Junior College in Georgia in the fall of 1967 with the hope of
becoming a Lawyer. He continued his part-time job at a drug store and added a job pumping gas and changing oil at a station in Chattanooga. Because his parents
couldn't afford to send him to school, James remained determined to do whatever it took to get his degree. But he never felt sorry for himself. He hung on to his music and his dreams.
"Sometimes when business was slow and homework was done, I would sneak in my
guitar and sing songs to the oil cans, grease guns and used tires," James says of this period in his life.
In 1969, after receiving his associate of arts degree from Dalton, James entered the
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with his sights still set of becoming a lawyer. He majored in political science and took a second shift job at the factory where his
mother and father had worked most of their lives. He was kicked out of a band, The Expressions, because he had to miss practice due to work.
At this time, James' music began to change.
Elvis, the Beatles and other rock groups of the period had influenced him. But the
music of the times was a-changing', and James changed with those times. The music of Bob Dylan, Jim Croce and John Denver became James' stronger influences during
this time in his life. He also taught himself to "finger-pick" the guitar in a classical style.
"Perhaps getting kicked out of the band for missing practice was the greatest thing
that happened to me since I got that first guitar at 11," he says.
A member of the Tennessee National Guard, James' senior year was interrupted by
a six-month tour on active duty with the U.S. Army. Prior to being called up for active duty, the Guard was briefly activated in Chattanooga. During this period, James
entertained in the mess hall. Later, on active duty, he became famous for his "latrine concerts."
Between military obligations and the pressures of finances, James missed a year
and a half of school. But he was determined to graduate. He bagged groceries, worked for a real estate company and worked as a carpenter's helper to save money. Soon he
was back in school again. The carpentry work brought him a new friend who suggested he audition for another friend at a local nightclub to fill in for the regular act who was away.
On June 19, 1972, James became a two-week replacement performer at the Light
Fantastic in Chattanooga. When the other act returned, James had become so popular that the club owner refused to let them back on stage. James Rogers hasn't had to sing to an oilcan since!
His career now included school and the status of professional entertainer. He began
to put money away for law school. After taking the Law School Admissions Test, he was accepted by three schools.
But his career and the popularity garnered at the Light Fantastic were growing larger
and larger. Then James' dreams and the Light Fantastic both went up in smoke when an arsonist torched the building. With the building went James' first guitar.
It was April 1973 and James was still in school as well as the National Guard.
Fortunately, he found another guitar in a pawnshop and began to make the rounds. He was determined to find another place to play and sing his songs.
A group of investors had begun to reclaim the old railroad station in Chattanooga
and turn it into a complex with restaurants, shops, entertainment and a Hilton Hotel. With guitar in hand, James went calling, but he was informed that "big name
entertainers" would fill all the entertainment slots.
In an effort to get rid of James, a bartender pointed out Allen Casey, the short with
words chairman of the board who was strolling by. "Check with him," James was told.
Running after Casey in the rain, James had no idea who the man was and didn't
know that he was the wealthy mastermind behind the entire multi-million dollar Choo Choo complex. Once again, James was told that all the slots were filled and his faced dropped.
Casey hesitated and said, "Hey kid, how good are you?" James, knowing his back
was to the wall, smiled and said, "Sir, I am the best." Casey laughed and invited him to audition sometime. "I have my guitar with me," James said. And then Casey really
began to laugh, but said, "Well, go get it. We're going to drown out here.
Needless to say, the impromptu audition went incredibly well. James worked his way
into the featured spot at the Choo Choo and Allen Casey became his manager.
During his long tenure at the Station House, James met his wife, Debbie. In the
summer of 1974, James received his BA from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. On December 22, 1974 James and Debbie were married in the Crystal
Room of the Choo Choo. They now have two children, Heather, born July 14, 1977, and Justin, February 21, 1982.
From 1975 to 1983, James spent most of his time traveling all over the country. He
performed in large show rooms and in concerts with some of the biggest names in show business, including Alabama, Suzy Bogguss, Roy Clark, Steve Martin, Ricky Skaggs and superstar Dolly Parton.
While trying to land a recording contract, James was advised to enter a talent
contest at a theme park in the Smokies called Silver Dollar City by some friends at a popular radio station in Knoxville, Tenn. (WIVK-FM). James had heard of this contest
and knew that it was open "to all comers."
James won the 1983 Silver Dollar City Search for Talent Contest and through ten
years of working with the corporation, he won the respect and friendship of the Dollywood Company, who became his business partners in Music Mansion in Pigeon
Forge, Tennessee from 1993 - 1998... during this time James Rogers and Company (as the huge production show was called) earned the title of "the number one most
attended show in the Smokies". His 2000 seat, multi- million-dollar theater has received worldwide acclaim. Their performances won several awards including the
peoples' choice award for "BEST SHOW" 1997 and 1998, "BEST THEATER" 1996, 1997, and 1998, and "BEST ENTERTAINER" 1997 and 1998,just to name a few.
James Rogers song "I GUARD AMERICA" was adopted in 1997 by the Enlisted
Mens and Womens Association of the National Guard as their official theme song. In 2002, James wrote a special song for the Fraternal Order Of Eagles. As a result, he
wrote "Where Eagles Fly" which has been adopted as their theme song on August 7th, 2003.
"Dreams really do come true, if you are willing to work for them and sacrifice for
them. You know, it beats the heck out of singing to oilcans," James says with a mischievous smile.
"The days of Music Mansion were a wonderful time in my life and I will never forget
them and the wonderful people I got to work with on a daily basis, but I have always enjoyed new challenges and new projects, now that I will not be involved with the huge
production show anymore, I can concentrate more on my song writing and performing one on one with my audience, which is for me the single greatest thrill of all. I have many
new ideas that I am very excited about pursuing... and right now my biggest plan is to enjoy each day as it comes, doing what I love to do, entertaining you."