Grascals’ Jamie Johnson Inspired by Brother’s Musical Legacy
The Grascals’ Jamie Johnson may seem like a natural-born musician and songwriter — especially to those who hear ‘I Am Strong,’ a Grascals song he co-wrote to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. But it was a family tragedy that brought him to music. Jamie was a 19-year old college student in Louisville, Ky., in 1991 when his brother died in an accident.
“I took all of his records and converted them over to tape because I had a tape player in my car at the time,” Jamie tells The Boot. “I listened to the Osborne Brothers and fell in love with them.”
From there, Jamie began to delve into music. He soon began writing and playing, and his love for the Osborne Brothers’ sound forged a friendship with fellow Osborne fan Terry Eldredge. The two seriously honed their musical partnership — which would later blossom into the Grascals — in the late 1990s when Jamie moved to Nashville.
Jamie did have musical talent in his heritage, though. His paternal grandfather, whom he never met, played guitar and his brother aspired to be a musician, too.
“I have some tapes of him singing,” says Jamie of his brother with a fond laugh. “They are pretty awful. It was his love of music that carried over to me and made me want to play. I would trade it in a heartbeat if I could have him back. That’s not my choice. I met my wife in Nashville. Without music, I never would have met her. I wouldn’t have my [2 1/2 year old son] Cole Train. I wouldn’t be doing music. I have an engineering degree. I’d be an engineer somewhere.”
Instead, Jamie is continuing to write and play music with the rest of his Grascals’ band mates. The group’s January release ‘The Grascals + Friends — Country Classics with a Bluegrass Spin,’ includes 13 tunes. One version of the song ‘I Am Strong,’ includes many of the guests on the album including Joe Nichols and Tom T. Hall. A second version is performed by the Grascals with only their longtime mentor Dolly Parton, who also sings on the “all-star” version.
The Grascals are on tour. Their next scheduled concert is January 15 in Murray, Ky. For a complete list of dates and venues, check here. And watch their incredibly touching ‘I Am Strong’ video below.