The Oklahoma singer is rooted in country music tradition, which you’ll discover as we premiere a touching new clip dedicated to his ranching dad.
C.J. Garton says he was the typical ranch kid growing up in Oklahoma on his family’s land. He did all his chores, minded his elders, and learned the virtue of self-reliance. Yet his young mind was always occupied with music.
Garton has been writing and singing for as long as he can remember. Working on the ranch with his dad as a kid helped cement his lifelong dedication to authentic country sounds. “Growing up on the ranch you were surrounded by George Strait, Merle Haggard, and Willie Nelson tunes, and working cattle, and waking up early.
“I learned a lot about common sense and hard work out there, and I'm proud to say that I think that translates into my music. It's just working man's music and honest songs that got me through it.”
Now in his late 30s, Garton has made a career of country music and works out of Nashville, but he still returns to the family land in Oklahoma to reconnect with his roots. He’s lived without his dad since losing him in the early 2000s.
The new single from Garton’s upcoming double album, Tales of the Ole West and Other Libations to Please the Palate, addresses grief and memories the artist still carries for his father. “If Daddy Could See” hits home with earnest lyrical sentiment and powerful baritone vocals (of which Keith Whitley and Merle Haggard would be proud).
Garton has agreed to premiere the brand-new video for “If Daddy Could See” (directed by Ty King) as an exclusive for Cowboys & Indians readers. Grab a hanky, watch the video, and then read on.
Garton steps into the father role for the video, and stars along with his own son, Clinton (who is named after his late granddad). They recreate some of the times Garton used to have on the ranch as a kid – touching footage, and a kind of catharsis for the artist himself.
“I think as a writer, some of the closest things to you are the hardest to write, because there's so much emotion coming like a wave,” Garton says. “And it took me, I'd say, around 10 or 12 years after [my dad] had passed to properly be able to absorb it, just being able to take it one line at a time.
“I was sitting on the porch at a buddy of mine's house and his front porch reminded me of being back home, kind of that bunkhouse feel; and as I was looking across the woods in the backyard and the pond, that song hit me like a ton of bricks in about 15 minutes.”
The Record and the Ride
Along with “If Daddy Could See,” which hits a sweet spot for any ’90s country fan, the other tunes on Tales of the Ole West mine the greatest lyrical traditions and styles of late-20th Century country. Garton is staunchly traditional in his tastes and proudly averse to the latest poppy-country trends. His dedication to the classics bodes well for his new album, the first of his career to be released on his own label, G-Bar Records.
The traditional sounds and heartfelt messages on Garton’s double album began to take shape in 2019, when he set out with his son on a remarkable journey. What started as a crazy idea to spend more time together became a father-son horseback ride from Tennessee to Oklahoma. Garton and son dubbed their monthlong trip “Riding for Real Country: The Ride Back Home,” and connected with folks on every stop regarding their love for traditional country music.
“When I approached [my son], I said, ‘Hey, I'm going to go hop on a horse and ride 700 miles back to the cattle ranch. And I'm planning on doing it in 30 days. You want to go with me?’ He just looked me and said, "Yeah, yeah, I'll do it with you.’”
The trip was a rousing success not only for Garton’s own songwriting inspiration, but for the bond he strengthened with his son, then 13. They spent countless hours together on their horses, Pancho and Lefty, met real people from every walk of life, and got attention from local news orgs along the way. The singer found that he missed the beautifully simple substance of the trip after it ended.
“I loved the idea that we’d wake up in hammocks, and there's a light rain coming down and the sun's coming up over a cornfield, and we're getting ready to hop on a horse, me and my son, and just ride, you know?”
What’s satisfying about Garton’s new album is that the varied sounds – drinkin’ songs, love notes, odes to faith, family, and history – all reflect the singer’s own personal journey. He’s evolved from ranch kid to loving father, with highs and lows all along the way. His daddy would be proud, indeed.
More on Tales of the Ole West ...
Keep tabs on the release of Tales of the Ole West and Other Libations to Please the Palate at cjgarton.com. In advance of the digital release, Garton has put out a special double-vinyl edition of the album. Intricately designed by Scott Yousey with a holographic cover depicting both a cowboy and a Native American (the dichotomy of the West), it is visually stunning by design and speaks to Garton’s vision for the project. The song titles on the back are listed in English and in Cherokee text. In the visuals and the music (co-produced with frequent collaborator and accomplished Nashville fiddle player Joe Spivey), Garton aims to honor both the cowboy and Indigenous culture of his Oklahoma home. “I really connect with what the Cherokee did, and the tranquility of earth and mother nature, and just the natural God-given environment that we have.”