Looking to the Legends

Josh Turner is a classic country voice who carries on the traditional sound of singers like Hank Williams and Johnny Cash, because that is who he has always looked to for inspiration.

Following in the footsteps of these legendary musicians, Turner has written and recorded several hit albums and is one of the youngest members ever inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, at the age of 29 in 2007.

Turner grew up singing in church in South Carolina and knew early on that music would be his career path.

“I started singing publicly when I was 4 or 5,” Turner said. “I sang my first country song in public when I was 13. That was when I discovered my passion for singing country music. I started playing guitar and writing songs at age 17, then three years later I moved to Nashville to finish college and pursue a record deal. So yes, I guess you could say I’ve known for a long time that I was gonna end up in country music.”

He moved to Nashville and attended Belmont University, where his career began to pick up.

“While attending Belmont University, I met a friend who shared my song ‘Long Black Train’ with a music publisher that she was interning with at the time, and that opened several doors for me,” Turner said.

He persuaded Grand Ole Opry General Manager Pete Fisher to give him a slot on the show in 2001, which brought his talent to light.

“Pete Fisher, the general manager at the time, relented and allowed me to sing one song late in the show the Friday before Christmas 2001,” Turner recounted. “I decided to play ‘Long Black Train,’ and it was the only song I was prepared to play. The response I got was far from anything I could have imagined. I wasn’t even halfway through the song, and people were standing and applauding. By the time I finished, the whole crowd was on their feet. I couldn’t believe what was happening. After my performance, when I was almost to my dressing room, Bill Anderson, who was hosting, asked the crowd if they wanted to hear more, and they got even louder. Bill said, ‘Josh, let’s make that train a little bit longer.’ I didn’t have another song prepared, so I played ‘Long Black Train’ again, and the crowd was blown away. I couldn’t believe it. It was a night I’ll never forget.”

Another time he won’t forget also came while attending Belmont and taking some initiative to achieve his dreams. He took it upon himself to meet one of his heroes, knocking right on the front door of the Man in Black.

“While I was a student at Belmont University in Nashville, I was reading Johnny’s autobiography and discovered that he’d been diagnosed with a neurological disorder,” Turner said. “I knew that if I didn’t meet him before he died, I would be utterly disappointed. I set out on the journey of finding where he lived… and I did find it. I drove there late one night and managed to make it through the gate. I knocked on the door, and to my surprise, Johnny answered the door! He and I both were surprised to see each other.

“I began telling him who I was and why I was there. I told him I had been reading his book and knew what he was struggling with and that I’d been praying for him. I was talking a mile a minute and had to stop to catch my breath and said, ‘My heart’s beating out of my chest!’ He laughed and said, ‘Well, we’re all human.’ I said a few more things before he reached out his hand and shook mine and said he needed to go back in and rest. I walked back to my truck, and I broke down crying because I could not believe what had just happened! The morning I woke up and found out that he’d passed away was a memorable morning because I was so thankful I had taken that risk because it would end up being the only time I met him.”

Cash is one of the artists Turner paid tribute to on his last album ‘Country State of Mind.’ He is also one of the legends which Turner places on his “Mount Rushmore of country music,” along with Randy Travis, John Anderson, Vern Gosdin and Hank Williams, who also have their respective places on the album.

The dozen songs on “Country State of Mind” span more than half a century of classic country music, encompassing both well-known standards and deep-catalog cuts.

Turner plays guitar for the first time on one of his albums on his renditions of Cash’s “The Caretaker” and Williams’ “Alone and Forsaken.” Turner has often performed Gosdin’s first No. 1 single, “I Can Tell By the Way You Dance (You’re Gonna Love Me Tonight),” and took his chance to re-introduce it to a new generation of listeners on the album.

Anderson joins Turner to reprise his 1993 hit “I’ve Got It Made,” and Travis appeared in the studio for the first time since his 2013 stroke, to sing the final “amen” on Turner’s version of his song, “Forever and Ever, Amen.”

“That was Randy’s first time back in a studio since his stroke,” Turner said. “It was an emotional moment, but also a historical one. Randy is my hero and friend, and I was honored to share another moment in the studio with him.”

From the beginning of his career, Turner was influenced by these heroes and said, “Any song you hear coming from my voice, you’re going to hear bits and pieces of those five guys.”

With that foundation, Turner carved out his own successful career flooding listeners with his rich baritone, which warms the soul unlike any other voice.

He has topped the charts several times with singles like “Your Man,” “Would You Go With Me” and “Why Don’t We Just Dance.” He’s enjoyed 20 years on the same label (MCA) and sold more than 8.8 million units. Along the way, he’s racked up countless memorable moments.

“As a boy from rural South Carolina, it’s incredible to think that I’ve become a member of the Grand Ole Opry, I’ve met two U.S. presidents, I’ve been to every state in the union and several foreign countries, and I’ve met just about every notable artist in country music in the last 20 years,” Turner said. “Every day I get to do this for a living is a highlight for me.”

Fans can catch Turner in Laughlin at the E Center Saturday, Aug. 13.

“We’ll be playing all the hits everyone has come to know and love, and we always have a few surprises up our sleeves,” Turner said. “It’ll be a fun night of country music for all ages.”