Johnny Rodgers was born in Miami, Florida, where he spent his childhood and teen years. He had a grandmother who wanted to be a Zigfled girl and a sister who wanted to play the piano so badly that she drew a piano keyboard on a strip of cardboard and pretended to play until their parents finally broke down and bought a piano. On this piano, grandmother would pick out melody lines with one finger, and this inspired Johnny to take piano lessons so that he could play for her favorite tunes for her.
Johnny's career as an entertainer started out with his impersonation of Howard Cosell in the third grade. Miami was blessed with great magnet art schools, where he got his start in musical theatre. High school roles included Oliver, Randolph in Bye Bye Birdie, Og in Finian's Rainbow, Baby John in West Side Story and Mark in A Chorus Line. He also wrote his first song in 10th grade.
He began his college career as a musical theatre major at FSU and ended with a BFA in jazz studies and voice from Western Michigan, then headed to Chicago in 1998. Picking up The Chicago Reader, he found an add for a pianist at Davenport's Piano Bar, where he worked for two years, playing for the patrons in the front room and developing his own shows in the back room.
Davenport's brought in artists from NYC and so Johnny met Jim Caruso and Billy Stritch, who run a weekly "extreme open mike" called The Cast Party in New York City. Moving to NYC, Johnny played with Jim Caruso at Arci's on Park Avenue. John Miller, owner of Arci's, was impressed and hosted Johnny's NYC debut at the club in 2000. Among those who came to the show were cabaret legends Margaret Whiting and Julie Wilson, who later that year presented Johnny with his MAC Most Outstanding Debut Award. Romance, Regrets & Rude Awakenings was the title of that debut show.
In 2001, Jim Caruso introduced Johnny to Liza Minnelli. When her regular accompanist was not available, she asked Johnny to sit in, and then invited him to perform with her for some benefits. Eventually he became a member of her troupe. Working with Liza, he went around the world. " I learned so much from being in the best seat in the house with the best entertainer in the world," Rodgers says.
For the last five years, Johnny and his band have been honored as American Ambassadors of Music for the U. S. State Department. They have represented the United States in S. E. Asia, the Pacific Islands, the Middle East, Russia and North Africa, giving workshops, jamming with local musicians, playing with symphonies and using music to build friendships. Soon Rodgers will return to Russia as a solo artist, where he will perform with local jazz and big bands.
In May of 2013, Rodgers moved to Nashville after several visits. "I met so many incredible songwriters and liked the vibe I needed a change of scenery. Nashville has some of the greatest musicians in the world – and I'm writing lots of new music,"
In May 2013, Rodgers helped launch Carolan Trbovich's Absinthe: A Broadway Cabaret at The Factory in Franklin, where he shared the stage with another superstar, Eden Espinosa. Now Absinthe is coming back – to The Hermitage Hotel in Nashville on Friday, November 15, where Rodgers will debut his own Legends of American Music – comprised of the songs that he and his band have been taking around the world to celebrate our country's musical heritage and contributions. The show features songs made famous by Fred Astaire, Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, James Taylor, Carly Simon, Louis Armstrong, Sammy Davis, jr, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley and Chet Baker – to name just a few.
And Rodgers will be joined by the incomparable Stephanie Adlington, who will give us her take on some Patsy Cline.
All the details are at www.abcab.net
Come to Nashville and Go to the Theatre!