You can find and follow country roads through almost any part of the Beehive State, but if you want them to take you home again on Friday night, you’ll need to traverse Center Street in Provo.
That’s where John Denver tribute artist Ted Vigil will be honoring the musical legacy of the popular country/folk artist at the Covey Center For the Arts at 7:30 p.m.
Vigil has been involved playing music from a young age, but it was a national talent show held in Laughlin, Nevada, in 2006 that sealed his current career arc. He won that contest singing John Denver songs, and the rest, as they say, is history. He’s been doing the tribute show now for about 10 years.
“The show started taking off, and I could not slow it down,” Vigil said this week in an email interview. “It was meant to be.”
Many tribute acts have the musical chops, but have to work on the appearance side of things — think stage outfits, vintage instruments, mannerisms, hairstyles, etc. — to really cop the look of the artist or band they are honoring. For Vigil, however, it was pretty much the other way around.
Bro just straight up looks like John Denver.
While freely admitting that his Denver look has been a major factor in his success, he said there’s a lot more to it than that.
“It is a combination of natural ability and hard work,” he said. “I still listen to John’s recordings regularly. He was a master at storytelling and singing with incredible emotion.”
Vigil, 55, said he started singing when he was a small boy and began playing drums in grade school. He went on to perform in concert, stage and marching band all through high school, and even fronted a rock band for several years in his early 20s. But he didn’t start playing guitar seriously until winning that talent contest in 2006.
The kismet side of things is that Vigil could look like any artist or celebrity — but ended up bearing resemblance to someone he grew up listening to and admires greatly.
“The music has been in my soul since I was a kid,” he said. “My mother played John’s music. I grew up with John Denver, James Taylor, Jim Croce and many other great singer songwriters. I have always loved to sing. That came natural.”
When asked to name a couple of his personal favorite Denver songs, Vigil points to “Take Me Home, Country Roads” and “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.”
“I feel every word,” he said of the anthem “ ... Country Roads.” Of the latter, he said it’s “full of energy and good vibes.”
Like many people attending his shows, Vigil said he never had the opportunity to see Denver — who died in a single-fatality airplane crash in 1997 — perform live. Having the opportunity to give others the chance to experience what it might have been like to do so is one of his favorite things.
“I do like the fact that I get people coming up to me after the show expressing the joy of experiencing these songs live because they never got to see John,” Vigil said. “Or they just want to relive some great memories.”
Vigil said he typically likes to set the tone to his shows right out of the gate, often performing “Rocky Mountain High” and “Take Me Home, Country Roads” as the first two songs. He said he likes to joke around, smile and have some fun with the audience.
“I tell people there will never be another John Denver,” said Vigil, noting that he is not an impersonator. “This seems to help the skeptics and hardcore fans to accept me and the show I do as a great tribute to a great man.”
One cool thing tribute artists often take advantage of is the opportunity to perform a couple deep tracks that the real artist would never have room for in their own sets. Vigil is no exception.
“I do ‘Like a Sad Song’ and ‘Love is the Master,’ ” Vigil said. “These are a couple great deep tracks.”
Vigil previously performed with the late Steve Weisberg, who was Denver’s lead guitar player for his major touring period in the 1970s. Currently, Vigil is accompanied by Devin Angelo on keys and vocals, and Amy Daves on fiddle and vocals.
“I feel very honored to be in this position,” Vigil said. “I have the ultimate respect for John and his legacy. My hope is that people who attend the show will walk away with the joy of his music and a chance to relive some great memories. And make some new ones.”