|Click here to see the three finalists’ video submissions for the Trucker Talent Search contest.|
After voting by OverdriveOnline.com readers, Brad James, Keith Sampson and Jennie Simpson were named the finalists of Overdrive-Red Eye Radio’s Trucker Talent Search. They will compete at The Great American Trucking Show immediately after the show floor closes at 5 p.m. Aug. 22.
Red Eye Radio will award each finalist a pair of Justin boots, and the first-place winner, a Cobra GPS and CB. You can see video performances of the finalists, as well as the other contest entrants, in the 2014 Trucker Talent Search playlist.
Brad James, 47, lives in Port Orange, Fla. When he was about 15, he began singing in his church youth choir. In his 20s, he performed with local bands, later moving to karaoke.
“I was hooked,” James says. “I would go out singing once or twice a week when I had a local job in the Daytona Beach area.”
After the economic downturn, James cut back on nights out and went back to over-the-road driving to support his wife and four sons. After discovering he could sing karaoke on his iPhone, he’s been posting videos to YouTube and Facebook.
James has more than 150,000 views on the video that he submitted for the contest. He set new lyrics to Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay,” calling it “Detention (You Ordered It, You Unload It).” He originally recorded Redding’s version singing with a karaoke track he ordered from iTunes. He says that worked out well, so he took about 20 minutes to rewrite some of the words. “It was just to have fun,” he says.
But with all those views, something about it has to be striking a chord with the public. “It’s something that every driver in the world can identify with,” James says. “They’ve had that feeling of sitting there and being held up by somebody through no fault of their own. … That’s what makes it so popular.”
Keith Sampson, 50, of Rhome, Texas, is originally from West Virginia. He says his uncle gave him his first guitar and taught him a basic three chords when he was 8 years old. “I’ve been hooked ever since then,” he says, and he now plays songs by ear.
The GATS competition will give Sampson a chance to show off original work. He plans to perform at least one of his own songs, as well as his contest submissions: Blake Shelton’s “Boys ‘Round Here.”
In addition to playing the guitar and singing, he also plays banjo and keyboard, writes jingles, and records in his home studio.
Sampson and his wife, Vickie, once collaborated on a promotional jingle for Speedco, which they took to the lube and tire service company’s booth at the Mid-America Trucking Show in 2012. Speedco liked it, asked the couple to record the tune and uploaded it to YouTube in August 2012.
“You’ll find lubricants, tires, yeah, we do inspections, too, at Speedco,” Keith sings on the track, while Vicki speaks at the end about the rewards program and other store details. View it here.
A dual citizen of Australia and the United States, Jennie Simpson, 51, says her interest in music can be traced to her life Down Under. She learned the guitar, then moved to keyboards, but doesn’t play much anymore. She loves the drums the most, but never learned to play as well as she would have liked.
Simpson worked her way up the ladder at a bank in Australia until she was in charge of writing small personal and car loans and preparing mortgage documentation. She then moved on to working as a law clerk for an attorney.
“I had always wanted to see America,” she says, and when an opportunity arose, she moved in 1999 and began driving for a New Jersey company the next year. “I began seeing America as I had always wanted to do,” says Simpson, who became a citizen in 2010.
While she took some time away from singing, she picked it back up and now is recording tracks that she hopes to release one day. “I enjoy most genres of music and try my hand at most,” says Simpson, whose contest submission was “Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses.”
Tony Justice to perform at competition
Driver-songwriter Tony Justice will serve as emcee for the Trucker Talent Search competition and will also perform.
“It’s a great opportunity to meet other drivers with talent,” Justice said in an interview with Eric Harley of Red Eye Radio. “There’s so many drivers out there that are talented at so many other things than just keeping America rolling and driving a truck for a living.”
Justice’s latest album, “Apple Pie Moonshine,” was released in July and features the songs “Eighteen Wheels and Jesus,” as well as “The Big Road,” written by Trace Adkins and Chris Wallin. It’s available for purchase at many major truck stop chains and for download via TonyJusticeMusic.com.
Click here for links to Tony Justice songs and interviews.