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Regional favorite James Rogers to give benefit concert for Kingston Police Explorers

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Perennial favorite East Tennessee entertainer James Rogers will be in concert in Harriman next week in a performance to benefit Kingston Police Explorers Post 376.

The concert will begin at 8 p.m. Sept. 14 in the Princess Theatre.

Rogers, a Chattanooga native, is a versatile musician who made a regional name for himself as a performer at Dollywood and in Pigeon Forge.

In the 1980s, he was a favorite performer on the main campus of Roane State Community College, often performing in the student lounge for special events.

Rogers is described as being “as patriotic as Old Glory” in a biography on his website, jamesrogersonline.com.

He will be available for meet-and-greet sessions preceding and following the Princess show.

Tickets are $25 for main-floor seating and $15 for balcony seating. A backstage meet-and-greet ticket is available for an extra $10 with ticket purchase.

Call Larry Cox at 274-0508 or Cathy Rakestraw at 934-8537 to purchase tickets.

Rogers, an award-winning performer in Pigeon Forge, writes a lot of music with a 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 and country.

His composition, “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,” Rogers  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 they’ve 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, he wrote a special song for the Fraternal Order Of Eagles. “Where Eagles Fly” was adopted as the organization’s theme song on Aug. 7, 2003.

Rogers 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 song for the American Eagle Foundation, has had 3 million hits on YouTube.

After the loss of his father to the disease, Rogers wrote “Find The Way” for the Alzheimer’s Association.

Rogers was raised in a blue-collar family who used music to escape the drudgery of working at a textile mill. His father, Hershel, played steel guitar, and his mother, Elizabeth, often sang with her sisters.

Rogers himself first performed in public at East Lake Elementary School in Chattanooga, where he was chosen to represent his class in a talent show. In later years, after the family moved to Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., he was always picked to sing the solo during performances before the PTA.

Rogers’ first guitar arrived on Christmas morning when he 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.

“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,” he said.

Dreams of becoming a lawyer meant Rogers had to forego his musical pastimes in favor of working to pay for his education. He was kicked out of a band, The Expressions, because he had to miss practice due to work.

At this time, Rogers’ music began to evolve with influences of Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Jim Croce and John Denver. He also taught himself to “finger-pick” the guitar in a classical style.

The member of the Tennessee National Guard had his education 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, where Rogers entertained in the mess hall.

Later, on active duty, he became famous for his “latrine concerts.”

Rogers became a two-week replacement performer in 1972 at the Light Fantastic in Chattanooga. When the other act returned, Rogers had become so popular that the club owner refused to let them back on stage.

After losing that gig and his guitar to a fire, Rogers impressed Allen Casey, the wealthy mastermind behind the Chattanooga Choo Choo, with an impromptu audition. He worked his way into the featured spot at the Choo Choo, and Casey became his manager.

From 1975-83, Rogers 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 Dolly Parton.

Through years of working with the corporation, he won the respect and friendship of the Dollywood Co., his business partners in Music Mansion in Pigeon Forge from 1993-98. During this time, James Rogers and Co., as the huge production show was called, earned the title of “the No. 1 most-attended show in the Smokies.” His 2,000-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 in 1996, 1997, and 1998, and Best Entertainer in 1997 and 1998.

Rogers often goes the road and performs 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. He also makes annual trips to schools and churches in surrounding states, such as Marion Primary School in Virginia, where he has visited for more than 15 years as part of Discovery Day.