For Arkansas native Phil McGarrah, it just comes naturally for him to sing a song that reflects his beliefs and feelings. That certainly holds true on “Red, White and Green.” Penned by McGarrah, the song has garnered a fair amount of regional attention over the past year. The independently-released single reflects its title, focusing on how he strongly believes our country has caved to money hungry giants and how politicians have given a deaf ear to their constituents.
“It amazes me to see how things are today. Gas prices hit the ceiling not long ago, and the powers-that-be showed little to no effort of easing our pain. Plus, the morals of this country have gone straight down the tube. In many ways, we no longer resemble the aspects and truths for which this country was built,” McGarrah said in a recent phone interview.
McGarrah, who fills each of his shows with a combination of his warm voice and hot guitar licks, can point to his upbringing as the root of his strong willed nature and tell-it-like-it-is attitude.
He grew up in a one-room log cabin near Huntsville. Although his parents were not of elite status, they taught him the virtue of hard work and making an honest living.
“We were 30 years behind most people in Arkansas, but you can’t miss something that you’ve never had,” he commented. “Daddy drove a dozer, and we grew strawberries and tomatoes. My mom worked as hard as any man, and she always had a big table of food for us.”
McGarrah’s love for country music dates back to his childhood. He was heavily influenced by such legends as Hank Williams, George Jones and Merle Haggard. His earliest memories consist of family members gathering around the television to watch whatever country music program they could.
“I grew up watching shows like The Porter Wagoner Show and The Wilburn Brothers Show,” the 53-year-old singer recalled. “Not only did I enjoy those programs, but I learned a lot from watching the performers on there.”
McGarrah quit school in the ninth grade, married young and was the father of three children by the age of 21. He worked to provide for his family but in his spare time, his passion for music was exhibited. Ranging from local dances to larger concert settings, he played wherever he could find work.
As time progressed, McGarrah became a popular regional performer. Aside from many live appearances, he has released two albums, “Sweet Hazel Eyes” and “Dirt Road Patrol.” While establishing himself as a singer/songwriter and to have his own sound, he recorded all original material on both projects.
“I feel you have to be different,” he stated. “Any artist that has had any longevity has a distinct sound. That’s important. If you don’t have something different to offer, you’re just in the mix with everyone else.”
In recent years, McGarrah has made several appearances on the famed Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree, recorded live on WSM in Nashville. In addition, he has performed on The Gene Williams Country Show, a syndicated television program from Branson.
As for personal appearances, McGarrah keeps a hectic schedule. Along with his group, The Runnin’ on Empty Band, he has been featured on such music festivals as We-Fest in Detroit Lakes, Minn.; Country Fest in Cadott, Wis.; and Country Fever Fest in Pryor, Okla.
“It takes a lot of hard work to stay in this business,” McGarrah concluded. “Since I was a kid, music has been the only thing that I’ve ever really wanted to do. I thank God for my talent. Each time that I go out on stage, I realize just how blessed that I am.”
Beebe native Charles Haymes is a writer and a member of the Country Music Association and International Bluegrass Music Association. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.