It was a picture perfect moment in Medicine Lodge late on Tuesday afternoon as I was headed west on 160. Three cowboys, fully attired, were decorating the Buster’s sign, parked in a lot, for Christmas. Two towered over the sign in their cowboy hats and dusters, draping gold garland down.
“Christmas for Cowboys,” I thought, and would hear the song performed later in the same evening at a John Denver Tribute concert in Alva, Oklahoma.
Ted Vigil has not been performing John Denver’s music as long as Jim Curry. Curry, who has been doing this since 1999 and did a community concert in Dodge City last April.
A phrase from college days came to mind as I watched Vigil perform in Alva on Tuesday night: suspension of disbelief. Vigil looks amazingly like the John Denver, nature-boy of the 1970s (visit www.tedvigil.com to see his image). As a longtime John Denver fan, I have enjoyed both Curry and Vigil for different reasons. Vigil’s main appeal is that it is easy to suspend disbelief and imagine yourself at a John Denver Concert in the 1970s. That’s when I attended my first JD concert, as an 11 or so year old boy.
Vigil shared with the audience the interesting story of how he came to be a John Denver Tribute performer. The Seattle-born musician said he entered the rock and roll portion of a contest in Laughlin, Nevada, as he had up to that point always been in rock and roll bands. While there, someone asked him if he was going to enter the country contest. He opted to do so since he was in Laughlin for the full week. As he mingled with the other performers, people kept telling him, “Did you know you look a lot like …?” Eventually, he was booted out of the rock and roll contest but kept rising in the country contest. He finally beat out the top five contestants when he performed “Rocky Mountain High” in the final round.
Musician John Lennon’s quote that “life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans” finds a perfect application in Vigil’s life. He has been performing the tribute concerts ever since winning the contest.
Vigil performs Denver’s work with a true, folky sound. He also shared another trait of the deceased artist. “He has John Denver’s enthusiasm,” said my mother, Sheila Case, who joined me for the evening. She happens to be the primary reason for my love of JD’s music today, as I was raised on his music.
Vigil has a CD, Sing My Songs, which features his and John Denver’s music. One song he wrote and performed Tuesday night, “Blessings in the Sky,” offers good advice, in words that John himself could have written. Here are some of the lyrics:
“Like a free wind, blowin’ / Like a rain cloud, when the plains are dry / Like an eagle, high above us soaring / These are the blessings in the skies … We take for granted all the gifts that we’ve been given / Most of us struggle to survive / We need to take care of this planet that we’re livin’ on / We gotta keep the dream alive.”