What the heck is a guy supposed to think when, out of the blue, someone calls to relay this message: Hey, Garth Brooks saw your show flier at a restaurant and he wants to meet you.
It happened to Oologah’s Paul Bogart, who wondered if the phone call was real.
It was real enough that the call put Bogart on a path to Nashville, where he moved 12 years ago to cultivate a country music career.
Bogart is returning to this neck of the woods for three upcoming shows. He is performing Wednesday, July 31, at Downstream Casino; Friday, Aug. 2, at the Cherokee Casino in Siloam Springs, Arkansas, and Saturday, Aug. 3, at the Dog Iron Saloon in Claremore. If you see any of the shows and like what you hear, credit Brooks with an assist.
Bogart’s songs (they won’t be mistaken for bro country) are a reflection of who he is, and that’s someone who was raised on horseback. Rodeo scholarships sent him to Connors State and Rogers State.
During a summer break while in college, Bogart scheduled a concert in his hometown. Show fliers were posted at businesses and restaurants all over the area to promote the gig. Brooks was a Rogers County resident at the time and saw one of the fliers while eating at a Claremore restaurant. Someone had previously given Brooks a CD that Bogart made in a garage studio in Muskogee for a Connors State college project, according to Bogart.
“That’s the last album I would ever want anyone to hear now, but you’ve got to learn somewhere,” he said.
Brooks noticed the name on the flier was the same as the name on the CD he had been given. That apparently stoked Brooks’ curiosity, so one of his representatives called the number on the flier (it was a home number for Bogart’s parents) and said “Garth would like to meet you.”
Said Bogart: “On one hand, I thought this could be legit. He is in the area. He has to eat, and I’m sure he likes greasy breakfast food just like anybody else. But on the other hand, anyone could have called that number because we put it out there.”
Bogart did not want to be musically catfished, so he said his summer was pretty busy and he would need to check his schedule.
Brooks’ representative called back the following week and asked Bogart if he had been able to free up enough time to visit with the country music superstar. A few days later, the representative pulled up in a half-ton Ford pickup truck and chauffered Bogart to Brooks’ home near Keetonville Hill.
“It was just so surreal,” Bogart said. “We knocked on the door and a guy walked to the door and he’s in his athletic shorts and a T-shirt and an Oklahoma State ballcap turned around backwards and he was barefooted. ‘What’s up man? I’m Garth Brooks.’ I wanted to say ‘I know who you are.’ ”
That started a bit of a friendship, according to Bogart. He said Brooks encouraged him to finish school and, if you’re serious about pursuing a music career, go to Nashville. Bogart took the advice.
What prompted Brooks to seek out Bogart?
“I don’t know if I ever asked that question, per se,” Bogart said. “I remember, in those first few times we got together, he actually offered a place to stay. He said, ‘I’ve got a place in Goodlettsville if you need a place to land before you go rent an apartment or whatever,’ because he knew I didn’t know anybody. I didn’t know anybody in Nashville. ... At that point, I was just, like, what is going on here? I never asked, ‘Why me?’ but he knew that was the question I had. He was like, ‘Look man, I had help along the way and you are going to help folks along the way as well. This is just a way I can kind of throw you a bone.’ I do remember him using those words. ‘I will throw you a bone along the way.’ And he has.”
Bogart said he has written “a little bit” with Brooks. Bogart also said he and a brother got to sing on the 2005 Brooks single “Good Ride Cowboy.”
Bogart’s 2017 album, “Leather,” is cowboy-flavored. Videos for the tracks “Cowboy Ride” and “The Cowboy Way” have been seen by more than 2.5 million fans. The video for “Cowboy Ride” pays tribute to Bogart’s rodeo heroes and features images of Oklahoma legends like Jim Shoulders and Freckles Brown. He said he secured the blessing of the families of each of the rodeo heroes before including them in the video. You figure that was way easier than the time he asked for permission to marry his high school sweetheart and, oh by the way, we’re going to move to Nashville to try to make it in the music biz.
Bogart plays more than 90 dates per year. He’s heading to Norway after the close-to-home gigs. He has opened for Joe Diffie, Lyle Lovett, Sawyer Brown and others. The new album (produced by Trent Willmon, who has produced Cody Johnson albums) garnered four nods in first-round Grammy balloting. Bogart views it all as a sign that he’s doing what he’s supposed to be doing.
“And it’s working,” he said. “Are we Luke Bryan? No. But, heck, we are writing songs and we are playing them for folks and making a living. Mama’s staying home and raising babies and music is keeping us afloat.”
During the course of a phone interview, Bogart was asked to put the Garth factor in context. Bogart said this: “I will say that the encouragement that I needed as a young man, wondering what to do with my life, he was that encouragement to go ahead and try it. Do it. Give it a go. And I haven’t looked back.”