Appalachian Mountain High

That’s not John Denver. You better believe it.

Some John Denver fans might not recognize a musician named Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr., although that was the name on Denver’s birth certificate. Likewise, Denver fans may have never heard of Ted Vigil. But when they pass him on the street, they do a double take. 

Denver is best known for his ’70s folk-rock hosannas celebrating nature, family, and life in the country. And those who hear Vigil perform on stage report feeling as though they are in the presence of the late singer/songwriter. A common reaction is the shedding of tears — before offering a standing ovation. This month, Vigil brings his show “Rocky Mountain High: Ted Vigil is John Denver” to Hendersonville, one of some 100 shows he does per year around the world, including in North America, Mexico, and Jamaica.

Bold Life caught up with Vigil recently as he toured Australia.

How did your Denver tribute-artist career begin?

I went to a singing contest in Laughlin, Nevada, in 2006, called “Talent Quest.” Other contestants said I looked like John Denver, and I got the nickname Denver. Then I won, singing a John Denver song. After that people started saying I should do a tribute show. I started learning to play John’s songs and opened for an Elvis tribute act, and the crowd loved it.

Do you have to wear a wig or anything?

I do not wear a wig. I do wear round glasses.

You bear an uncanny resemblance to
John Denver.

People say I look like John all the time. Even when I am at the supermarket, wearing a jogging suit on and a stocking cap.

What about musically? 

My voice is naturally very similar to John Denver’s voice. And I toured with John Denver’s lead guitarist, Steve Weisberg, for four years. We did about 30 shows a year together. Steve passed away four years ago and I really miss him. 

What’s your own musical background?

I started singing in choir in grade school, and taking drum lessons when I was nine. When I was about 30 I started learning to play the guitar, and when I started playing John’s music, it just took off.

Why do you think Denver’s music endures?

I think [it’s] due to the songs — heartfelt classics about real life and the human experience.

Do you have a favorite?

“Calypso.”

Ted Vigil performs “Rocky Mountain High: Ted Vigil is John Denver” in four shows Thursday, July 18 through Saturday, July 20, at The Center for Art & Inspiration in downtown Hendersonville (125 South Main St., www.thecenterai.com), as part of the venue’s “Legends” series. Show times are Thursday at 2pm, Friday at 7:30pm, and Saturday at 2 and 7:30pm. $44. For more information, call the box office at 828-697-8547 or visit Vigil’s website: www.tedvigil.com.

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