LIVING THE DREAM - Tony Justice
LIVING THE DREAM
Legend Nominee: Tony Justice
If you are involved within the trucking industry – whether behind a desk or in the seat of a semi – the name, Tony Justice should ring familiar. A full-time driver for Everhart Transportation Inc., based out of Greeneville, TN, pulling dry van and flatbed, Tony has accumulated over 3 million lifetime miles throughout his 20-year driving career.
The All-American trucker has never shied away from the media when it comes to standing up for what he believes in. Co-founder of TruckerNation.org established in 2018, Tony helped form the organization on behalf of our nation’s truck drivers. As a forum for educational purposes, the mission’s objective was created solely for the benefit of truckers, by truckers. Stating,
“Everyone at TruckerNation is dedicated to educating, motivating and empowering professional truck drivers to get involved in the industry by using their voices in a respectful manner, and becoming their own best advocate.”
Tony also extends that open-book philosophy toward all areas of his life, including his musical career as a country artist, as well as his home-life, juggling marriage, family, and fame. The term fame, hints a bit cliché – very superior; but in all fairness, not many can recount writing songs with hit producers or collaborating alongside music legends. Humble to the given notoriety, Tony remains connected with his following by keeping true to his roots and old school values – a proud American, hard-working husband who loves his family – strong characteristics; relatable as a fan favorite among country music.
By putting his loved ones first, Tony’s priority as a provider is what keeps him on the road driving, rather than pursuing music full-time. Investing in both careers and trusting the process, opportunities continue to unfold. As our interview plays out, we discuss his upbringing – his childhood dream of one day becoming a race car driving preacher – how the support of his fans helped him and his wife overcome their battle with cancer, and what this year holds for all of the Tony Justice music fans.
GOOD OL’ DAYS
Although a long-time Tennessee resident, Tony was originally born in Visalia, California. His family relocated from the big city to a more rural area with plenty of mountain space. Tony’s childhood imagination came alive in Appalachian paradise, and he soon discovered a love for all things of nature. The youngest of five, he spent much of his time outdoors building forts in the woods or fishing – he recalls joining his Uncle Clayton on many fishing adventures. His father, Bob Justice drove dump trucks hauling coal for a company out of Kentucky. He later purchased his own truck, while business increased as did his fleet of trucks; his brothers joined the family operation as drivers. While Bob handled the mechanics, Tony’s mother, Sharon managed the secretarial duties on the business end.
With a large household to support, the core principles to a good work ethic were instilled early on. Looking back, Tony states that music also played a huge part of his life. His musical roots began in church with his mother singing in the choir, while his uncles preached the gospel. At 6 years old, he began learning to play the bass guitar, by 7 he joined their gospel group and was traveling to various churches. He adds,
“Between growing up singing with my mom in church and my dad playing Conway Twitty and Merle Haggard, I had a good dose of southern gospel and country music. Both have helped shape my musical background, but also me as a person.”
With a musically inclined family, the given environment set the tone for young Tony, although his interests as a kid typically led him into his father’s world – where Bob thrived as an adrenaline junkie; for a living he operated heavy equipment and large trucks; for fun he raced loud boats and stock cars. Not only did Bob pass down the trucking bug, but first came a passion for racing. In 1969, Bob set the World Record on the Colorado River for a quarter of a mile topping out at a speed of 102 mph. Combining both influences, Tony had his mind made up at an early age– he wanted nothing more than to become a preacher and race cars when he grew up.
BLESSINGS & GOOD TIMING
Tony entered a local singing competition at the age of 19 with his first written song titled, “This Old House.” Each contestant was required to enter three songs, but Tony only had his one. And one was all it took! Beforehand, singing was a hobby, right in line with racing, however getting a taste of the excitement from performing live, heightened the entire musical experience which nudged his singing career to the forefront.
He hit the road touring full-time, frequenting restaurants and dive bars, any type of venue up for entertainment – the Tony Justice Band was ready. He enjoyed the traveling aspect of music, meeting new people and visiting different places. For years, they hauled their band trailer from one location to the next, often falling behind a truck driver on the highway, coasting in line with the trucker’s pace to the next scene.
Tony was committed to singing country music, performing and touring – becoming a songwriter was never his intention. But life has a funny way of reminding us how little control we possess when it comes to fate. In the late 90’s, Tony connected with a musician out of Gatlinburg who invited him to join his band on stage for a show. Tony’s first song of choice was a personal favorite, “Working Man Blues” by Merle Haggard.
The two had a lot in common, both talented instrumentalists and vocalists, which led Tony into the field of songwriting. Eager to develop his own artistry as a musician and learn from his friend’s experience, Tony studied his writing and developed an understanding for the creativity that is involved with composing music. Appreciating the form of expression that songwriting provides opened Tony’s eyes to the beauty behind the scenes. The process as a whole that musicians unveil reeled Tony in, and the rest is history.
After 10 years of singing full-time, Tony shifted his attention to raising his two daughters and opted for a steadier source of income, securing a job driving a truck. His time spent on the road became the perfect space to focus on writing music. His Christmas song, “Bring Daddy Home” hit the airwaves in 2005 and was an instant hit – earning him the attention of mega producer, Randy Boudreaux; songwriter for country artists, Joe Nichols and Tracy Lawrence. Next, entered the late, Kim Williams (Nashville Songwriter Hall of Fame inductee) who has written several hits for artists such as, Garth Brooks, Randy Travis, and many more. Working alongside the two seasoned professionals opened many doors within the country music scene. Tony landed a huge distribution deal with Pilot, Flying J and TravelCenters of America, covering all the major truck stops across the nation. Tony’s following continue to grow, as did his support in the country music industry.
It’s no hidden fact that Nashville is referred to as Music City due to the famous country musical legends with ties to the popular area. The second largest music recording and production center in the nation, artists have flooded the city in hopes of receiving their breakthrough opportunity among the network of music professionals. Nashville is home of the Country Music Hall of Fame and many record labels (independent and major). Tony teamed up with producer, Jeff Silvey, who has worked with some of the biggest names in country music. He received endorsements from Erv Woosley, widely recognized in the business as George Strait’s manager, NASCAR professional, Rusty Wallace, and all-time NASCAR legend, Roger Penske – recent NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee and recipient of the 2019 Presidential Medal of Freedom. Tony has performed at Bristol Motor Speedway and Talladega Speedway, opened for country superstars, John Michael Montgomery and Jon Anderson, and headlined shows at multiple trucking events. Country musician and record producer, Aaron Tippin was featured on Tony’s third album, collaborating on the cover track, “Brothers of the Highway” in 2016.
As an independent artist, Tony’s music is purely authentic – mainstream is not the purpose – rather the freedom to make his own musical career choices. That also entails the support of his fan base, and the vital role they play as to his success as a singer songwriter. Most have been along for the journey since day one; Tony’s likeability stems from his originality as our all-American trucker, standing up for the rights of the American people – that same loyalty is returned by each fan, as we witness his climb up the Nashville tower – doing it his way. With four albums under his belt, he is set to release new music before the year is up. Stay tuned with your eyes peeled for big plans to be announced in the coming months, this year is already rounding out in his favor.
The encouragement Tony receives from the trucking community in support of his music, extends into his personal life, as well. Tony met his wife, Misty in 2011, tied the knot the following year, and the power couple forged forward accepting the responsibilities of balancing the trucking lifestyle and Tony’s musical career together. As anyone in the trucking industry is aware, running over-the-road puts an enormous strain on loved ones left behind to live independently. In Tony and Misty’s unique situation, factor in the additional trips to Nashville to record music and scheduled events at any given place or time, the itinerary is endless. Thankfully Misty is no stranger to hard work and self-sufficiency.
Misty joined the U.S. Army at age 18 – growing up a tomboy, she enlisted in the military seeking direct combat. Right after the Gulf War, one of the first combat arms available to females were units operating semi-trucks. Misty was a Patriot missile crewmember, responsible for hauling the missile. Her disciplinary experience crossed over into civilian life after serving in the military, as she later pursued a degree in construction management. Misty is proficient in the intricacy of tedious work. While maintaining a full-time job and helping Tony build his brand, multi-tasking has always come remotely easy for Misty – until she was faced with a difficult (and very unexpected) situation.
Misty was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2018. Tony says, “Thankfully we found it early, at least there was that bit of comfort in the miracle of our timing. With the aggressive form of breast cancer she had, the window of catching it as early as we did was almost impossible. You’d have greater odds of hitting the lottery. Between the outpouring of support from everyone, the prayers, the donations – all of it helped get us through the worst chapter in our lives. Literally – emotionally, spiritually, financially, and physically – I can’t express how life-changing that amount of support meant for us. We are so blessed!”
Following the diagnosis and treatment options, January 2019 Misty underwent a double mastectomy. She spent a week in the hospital and a month at the mercy of her husband. Tony took off of work the entire month to help his wife recover. Today she is cancer-free, but the mental and emotional challenges of surviving cancer prove to be just as difficult.
“I have always been compassionate toward others dealing with cancer, because everyone has had or knows someone affected by it. But until you’re face to face with it, in your own life – especially when it’s someone as close as your spouse, knowing there is nothing you can do to make it go away – it’s heartbreaking to see them suffer. And nothing really prepares you for the aftermath it leaves behind. We’re having to find our new normal, it’s an adjustment period. Misty is strong, she’s a fighter. This battle with cancer was a testament to our Christian faith, it brought us closer together and made us stronger as a couple.”
AT THE HEART OF THINGS
Tony credits Cline Everhart, company owner of Everhart Transportation for the support he receives, and flexibility permitted to continue living his dream as a country music artist and drive a truck full-time. In 2016, Tony was presented the prestigious honor of the Larry Martin Memorial Award by Brian Martin, owner of 4 State Trucks and Chrome Shop Mafia. The same year he was named American Trucker Magazine’s 2016 “Trucker of the Year.”
As well-known among the trucking community for his singing career, Tony is also recognized for his 2007 Peterbilt 379, dubbed as, Purgatory. You can view photos and stay up to date with Tony’s current events, become a sponsor, or purchase albums directly from his website at TONYJUSTICEMUSIC.COM. Songs are available for purchase and download through Amazon, while Pandora offers the Tony Justice Radio Station for all of his loyal listeners.
I reference back to the beginning of our interview, curious to how he and Misty find the balance amongst everything, I’m reminded of why we are all rooting for the success of this all-American family.
“At the end of the day, between driving a truck, the music, and our family, we focus on telling ourselves that the good Lord has brought us this far and that is all that matters. We do the best we can and fortunately, we’ve done a good enough job to get where we are today with the love and support of everyone involved.” – Tony
On the weekends, they both enjoy hanging out with their kids and grandbabies – with the second little one due in September. From card games, movies, to days spent at the lake – quality time surrounded by his loved ones is what lay at the heart of things.
GET TO KNOW THE ARTIST: TONY JUSTICE
Stranded on an island, what 3 items do you have?
“My guitar, the bible, and a fishing pole.”
“I’m a pretty good cook! Some may not know that, but I am.”
What was your latest song played on repeat?
“Right now, I’m a huge fan of the song, Heartache Medication by Jon Pardi – we met back before he hit it big and did some writing together. He’s a great guy, plus he is from California too.”
Who would you say your artistry mirrors as a musician?
“It’s a mix of Merle Haggard, Alabama, and Keith Whitley. Their types of songs have always resonated with me, they’ve probably had the biggest influence on my writing and the songs that I sing.”
The world is your arena, where is your place of choice to perform? And your special guest(s)?
“Madison Square Garden in New York, like Garth did… that’s a crazy dream, but hey! I like crazy dreams! As for musicians to join me, I’d say Gene Watson, Chris Stapleton, or Jamey Johnson… I like the outlaw kind of country guys.”
If you could be any super hero for the day, who would it be? And why?
“Superman, because he’s the defender of the innocent and I’m down with that.”
Latest show to binge watch? “Yellowstone. I couldn’t watch it quick enough, that show is good.” Most relatable character on Yellowstone? “Rip, for sure.”
Pick your Tony Justice Day…
“I’m all about Spring time, so I’d go with March 15th – it’s usually a good month for fishing. Everyone could take off of work, have a fishing tournament, and then follow it up with a big fish fry.”