John Michael Montgomery coming to Manistee

MANISTEE — John Michael Montgomery likes to say that “lightning struck three times” with his family.

“My mom and dad were both musicians. My dad was the guitar player and lead singer in the band and my mom was the drummer and she sang also,” he said. “It was unusual, people back then didn’t see female drummers.”

He started playing music with his parents when he was around 6 or 7 years old, as did his brother Eddie, who is half of the country music duo Montgomery Gentry.

“When we got to be teenagers, we joined the family band. I became the guitar player/singer and Eddie took over playing drums for mom,” Montgomery said. “Then me and Eddie started our own band out of high school, and we started playing bars around central Kentucky.”

In 1992, Montgomery got a record deal while playing his first “five-night a week gig” with Eddie.

John Michael Montgomery will be performing at 8 p.m. on May 5 at the Little River Casino Resort. Tickets go on sale Friday. (Courtesy photo)

John Michael Montgomery will be performing at 8 p.m. on May 5 at the Little River Casino Resort. Tickets go on sale Friday. (Courtesy photo)

“I remember when I first started out, nobody knew who I was and I was playing to empty chairs. It really wasn’t fun to play to empty chairs,” he recalled. “When I played with my mom and dad, they had already built up a lot of fans. They had fans that came to see them when they played places. But me and my brother both, we had to build up our own fan base. We had to basically start from one and two people.”

The brothers pulled it off, and John Michael Montgomery soon was discovered by Atlantic Records.

“I was fortunate, I didn’t have to go to Nashville to get a record deal, which is unusual also,” he said. “I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve been singing, in a musical family. My mom and dad didn’t have much; we rented houses and we lived in the country sometimes, in the city, where ever we could afford the rent.

“We loved pickin’ and singin’. We didn’t have a lot of money but we didn’t care about that, as long as we got the bills paid. We just wanted to pick and sing somewhere. That was our wealth, being able to have music in our family.”

Montgomery grew up listening to country music, rock n’ roll and what he calls “outlaw country,” but his two biggest influences were Lionel Richie and George Strait.

“I definitely get my trait of singing timeless love songs, that comes from listening to a lot of Lionel Richie and a lot of George Strait, those two guys were my two favorites,” he said. “They sang songs that lasted forever. Nobody did it better than Lionel Richie and George Strait when it comes to timeless songs. I know for a fact when it comes to ‘I Love the Way You Love Me,’ and ‘I Swear’ and ‘I Can Love You Like That’ that all came from my time as a young kid growing up listening to those guys. That’s the kind of music that I wanted to sing if I ever had the opportunity to make a record. That’s what I looked for.”

The musician believes that a large part of his and his brother’s success came from the powerful influences they had growing up.

“I grew up listening to a lot of Alabama, Randy Travis, Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, Bog Seger … I was a child raised in that ‘70s era with Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers Band. Southern rock stuff I really liked a lot. A lot of it because of pickin’ and twin leads. I think I grew up in a really cool era.”

After performing for 25 years, from big stages to small venues, Montomgery said there’s one thing he likes most about it.

“It’s the people. There’s nothing more satisfying as a musician than to get on stage and have people show up and they’re gonna want to see if you’re any good or not,” he said. “My job was to entertain them and see if I was good enough to get them to be fans.”

This spring, Montgomery will travel to Michigan to perform at the Little River Casino Resort in Manistee. The performance will begin at 8 p.m. on May 5. Tickets go on sale on Friday at www.lrcr.com.

“I look forward to coming up there to Michigan and visiting a bunch of country music fans,” he said. “I don’t get to come up there as often as I would like. I’ll be singing all of my hits that I had from the late 1900s, as I tell people.”

One of those hits is the song, “Sold,” which hit number one on the country charts in the U.S. and Canada in July 1995.

“’Sold’ has become quite the popular song at the shows,” Montgomery said. “I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that it’s pretty big in the karaoke world out there. It’s definitely become kind of a legend in itself.”

He said at first, his record label wasn’t sure about the song because he’d been singing big power ballads like “Rope the Moon.”

“I had a song on my second album, called ‘Be My Baby Tonight,’ which was a little bit of a tongue twister,” he recalled. “They thought that was a little bit hokey. I said, ‘no people love singing this stuff, it’s fun.’ So when I brought ‘Sold’ to the table, they were like, ‘Really?’

“A lot of the folks who run the table down there, they’re not necessarily what you would call from the country. They weren’t sure if it was going to be funny or hokey. I knew it was going to be great. I love songs like that.”

Montgomery said the video for the song was shot down the street from his high school and a grocery store where he used to work.

“I’d walk by the stock yards there and hear the auctioneers doing their thing. When I cut the song I knew I had to do a video right there in that stock yard,” he said. “It turned out to be one of my better videos … the dancing Amish and all that.

“I’ve always been an artist playing the night clubs, I took those years having live audiences, I’ve always tried to sing songs to make ‘em laugh, make ‘em cry, make ‘em dance and make ‘em love. It’s the same approach I took on my albums; I tried to give everybody a little bit of every emotion on an album. I had a good time doing it.”

 

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Posted by Michelle Graves

Michelle is the managing editor of the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach her at (231) 398-3106 or mgraves@pioneergroup.com.

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