During a concert that lasted almost two hours, Rogers had the crowd in the palm of his hand. From his opening welcome to his passionate rendition of “Mary Did You Know,” it was evident that the singer was there for one reason and one reason only - to connect with his fans. Rogers, recently retired from a 27-year run at Dolly Parton's Dollywood, brought many of his self-written hits with him. His self-described career-maker, “Fly Eagle Fly,” was a highlight of the evening. Written while on vacation in a Florida swamp, it is one of those songs that make one proud to be an American.
Rogers received several standing ovations throughout the evening, but perhaps the most notable was when members of the National Guard and Reserves presented the former guardsman soldier with an award for his support of the military. His song, “I Guard America,” was adopted in 1997 by the Enlisted Association of the National Guard as their theme song. Prior to performing the anthem, Rogers recognized a sizable number of veterans in the audience, something he does at every one of his concerts.
At one point he was joined onstage by several children for his tear-evoking version of “Thank God for Kids.”
Rogers, who birthday is Dec. 22, was surprised on-stage by local television personalities Chip Chapman, David Carroll and Bob Johnson, who led the audience in singing “Happy Birthday” to the surprised and humble singer.
The second half of his show was dedicated to a Christmas theme, featuring numbers originally performed by the late Elvis Presley and Jim Reeves. The Reeves number, “Scarlet Ribbons,” was a throaty, passionate piece and received a long round of applause.
He also took some of the older audience members on a stroll down memory lane with several hits from the ‘50s and ‘60s. Rogers' rapped to “Twas the Night Before Christmas” and brought down the house with his red-and-white striped hat and rapper moves. Judging by those in attendance, Rogers' fan base is not new to his music, but has grown up and matured right along with him.
As mentioned earlier, this was more than a concert. It was a homecoming celebration between old friends. To make the evening even more personable, quite a few of his extended family, including his mother and wife, Debbie, were in attendance.
It is safe to say that James Rogers is as fresh and exciting today as he was when he was performing at the old Light Fantastic and the Choo Choo's Station House back in the early ‘70s.
Dennis Norwood is a reporter for The Catoosa County News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 706-935.2621.