Telling the story of the life of a famous entertainer such as country music singer John Denver can be a daunting prospect, unless you have the boyish looks and voice to match. Not only does international musician Bevan Gardiner have those attributes, but Denver’s music transforms him back to a six-year-old driving in his dad’s car. Bevan says “I was six when I started playing guitar and John Denver was my first real influence as a child.
“It was one of the only cassette tapes we had and it is the first music I remember Dad playing in the car,” Gardiner said.
Bevan was only 10 years old when Denver was killed in the aircraft he was piloting and said it was one of those moments in time he will always remember.
“I was getting ready for school and it was on the breaking news and it was not nice to hear,” Gardiner said. “As a young kid you dream of meeting that person but it was cut short, it was a sad time.
“As a kid, I was part of the official John Denver fan club and I was emailing back and forth to the lady who ran it, and she found out I sang and asked me to send her some of my music. “She sent it to the John Denver International Music Festival and I was invited to perform there in Aspen, Colorado when I was 18 or 19 years old. It was fantastic.”
Gardiner, who is partially blind because of a condition that affects the retina, has not let it crush his dreams of performing around the world. He teaches guitar and drums privately from his home in Dunedin, NZ as well as teaching at some schools in his area. He was born partially sighted and learned to read and write and ride his bike before his eyesight degenerated further, but his upbringing was to stand him in good stead. “I was raised by my parents to be independent so I have always been like that,” he said.
“I did a music degree at uni and my friends will often say to me they forget I am partially sighted. I do nearly everything the others do, I just grab someone’s arm and away we go.’’
He said the occasional mishap or funny incident would happen on stage due to his eyesight. “One night we were on stage and I was thanking the band, when I swung my arm to acknowledge the musical director. Our back-up singer Georgie had come forward to say something to me and I sconed her right in the nose with my arm. There are always jokes behind the scenes among us.”
“Now as an adult I am inspired by lots of different styles of music. I went on to be in bands at school and rock bands and I am a drummer as well.
“Everybody can relate to his music and he was a really honest songwriter,” he said. “I am not trying to be him but I am honoured to be able to show others who this great man was.”