James 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 playjust 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 mother still lives. The
family joined the First Baptist Church and the children entered Fort
James older brother, John, became the school Romeo and James
acted as his personal manager by selling Johns pictures to the
In the following years, James became 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 couldnt 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
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
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 carpenters 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 hasnt 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
Running after Casey in the rain, James had no idea who the man was
and didnt 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. Were 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
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. Out of 2,000 contestants, James won the
1983 National Mountain Music Festival at Silver Dollar City in Pigeon
Through 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
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.
In recent years, James music has taken on a very patriotic tone.
Many new songs feature tributes to the Armed Forces, the American
Bald Eagle and other causes that bring the listener closer to God
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. It was also adopted in 1999 as the official
song of the National Guard. This is truly the greatest honor
I have ever received, he said. For a performer, this is
bigger than having a hit record. Many people have hit records, but
very few singers or songwriters can say theyve been granted
an honor like this. I wrote the words for I Guard America
from my heart and out of deep admiration and respect for those who
will fight to defend America and its freedoms.
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. James also wrote
and recorded Save the Eagle as a benefit song for the
American Eagle Foundation. Collaborating stars included Lee Greenwood,
Ricky Skaggs, Tanya Tucker, Deborah Allen, Deanna Carter, Ricky Lynn
Gregg, Joy White and The Oak Ridge Boys. When Challenger Flies,
his new song for the American Eagle Foundation, has had three million
hits on YouTube. After the loss of his father to the disease, James
wrote Find The Way for the Alzheimers Association.
In 2006, James Rogers headlined as a singing angel in the musical
Fixin 2 Rain Starring James Rogers which played for a year at
the Governors Palace Theater in Sevierville, TN. The show featured
Broadway style singing, dancing and original music to support the
cast of humans and sophisticated animal puppets that re-imagined the
Biblical story of Noah and the Ark in 1930s Appalachia.
During his off-season from Dollywood, James gets a chance to get out
on the road and perform benefit concerts at various places around
the country to raise money for needy projects such as food ministries
and training programs for mentally challenged people. In Florida,
he performs at St. Petersburg University, the Citrus County Food Bank,
and Key Training Center to name a few. He also makes annual trips
to schools and churches in surrounding states such as Marion Primary
School in Virginia where he has visited for over 15 years as part
of Discovery Day.
James Rogers has a deep respect for all that is good about America.
It is this unique combination of American spirit and love that keep
his fans coming back for more. Not just content to sing the song,
he walks the walk by demonstrating his patriotism for his country
and his love for his fans in every performance. James Rogers has lived
his dream of performing and entertaining audiences around the country.
His new song, Dreams Can Come True as Long as You Believe
illustrates that the healthy respect for hard work and music he learned
from his parents has made his dream come true.
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.