When Roger Barkley was 7 years old, he attended a revival at his home church, Long Lick Baptist in Stamping Ground where his father, Roger Barkley Sr. was the pastor. His mother, Bennie, was trying to wrangle all of the children, but Roger kept escaping to go talk to one of the preachers.
“That night she was asking me why I wasn’t sitting down and I said because I needed to talk to the preacher. I needed to know more about that Jesus he was talking about,” Roger said. “Why this man would want to give his life for someone like me. Even as a kid, I understood that I didn’t do anything majorly wrong, but I knew there was something I had to get right.
“What Jesus has done for me time and time again is help me through a situation, so I can tell someone else how to get through a situation.”
The medium Roger uses to teach others what Jesus has taught him is music.
Roger has been singing since he was 4 years old at churches where his father was called to pastor. Along with Kentucky, he’s lived in Illinois and Louisiana. He now lives in Frankfort and attends Leestown Gospel Church.
In 1987, when Roger was 18 years old, he went on the road fulltime with his mother, father and two brothers, Keith and Curtis.
“We went everywhere from Pennsylvania, through the eastern seaboard, mid-south and Texas,” he said. They played gospel music at churches, concert halls, revivals, camp meetings and fairgrounds.
The family traveled for years together performing until his father died about 10 years ago. At that point, his mother decided not to tour any longer as well as his brothers, so Roger decided to start a solo career.
“I didn’t know how to quit,” he said. “God moved me into a solo position. It seemed that a lot of doors were opening up with the country movement at the time. I knew a lot of people in Christian country and country music.”
He started talking with the record company Chapel Valley in Chapel, Tennessee, and was asked to record a CD.
“I made my first number one hit with them — first top 10 hit and top 10 record,” he said. “It took me 35 years to be an overnight sensation.”
Roger’s first number one song on Christian Country top 40 in Christian Voice magazine was “Good Ole Days.” The song is about his childhood in Stamping Ground.
“We would sit on the front porch and crank homemade ice cream,” he said. “When it was time to go to church, we would go together. We all knew each other and took care of each other.”
Roger said songs come to him in different ways at different times. At one point when he sat down to write, he asked God to give him a song that could go on country stations.
“He said ‘OK write this down.’ I said, ‘write what down?’”
Roger got a pen and started writing so fast that he couldn’t keep up with what he was writing.
“That’s how ‘I’m from the U. S. of A.’ came to me,” he said.
Although the song is 7 minutes long, which is typically too long to be played on the radio, stations still picked it up. The song became his second top 10 hit with Christian Voice and Cashbox magazine, he said. Roger has also won Soloist of the Year.
“The overall message of that song is no matter the fighting in this country, the bottom line is we are from a country that is not only paid for by the blood of veterans, but by Jesus’ blood on the cross,” he said.
Part of the lyrics is “if you don’t like it, you can leave it. It wasn’t your blood that bought it anyway.”
A couple of years ago, Roger asked his wife Diana and daughter Chelsea Barkley Springs to sing with him. His son-in-law Joshua Springs and friends Chuck and Rhonda Helms also sing with him. The name of his band is now Roger Barkley and the Redemption Band.
This summer, they have plans to perform in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama on their 20/20 Vision Tour, which began last September but was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
One of their favorite shows to do is Christmas in the Smokies in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Along with performing songs, they also incorporate comedy.
“We do a skit called ‘Redneck Cousins,’” he said. “Anything we can do to crack the other one up is what we do.”
Around Frankfort, Roger can usually be caught performing at Candlelight. He used to perform at Capital Expo until that was canceled in 2017.
Follow Roger Barkley on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and visit rogerbarkleyjr.com for more information.