By LARRY VAUGHT
He’s not one to normally get nervous before a performance but Montgomery Gentry lead guitarist Bo Garrett is a bit anxious about playing the national anthem before the Kentucky-Tennessee football game Saturday night.
“I am crazy excited to get to do the anthem for the Cats and the veterans but at the same time you do not want to screw this up,” said Garrett, a life-long UK fan. “There are usually six other guys (in the band) with me I can blame mistakes on. This time it’s just me with everybody listening to me.”
Garrett played the national anthem before a baseball game last year — “but compared to the baseball game this crowd will be huge” —and knows having baseball coach Nick Mingione give him that opportunity led to Saturday night’s invitation.
“When they were thinking about a salute for veterans and remembered I had that guitar with the American flag on it, it just kind of fit,” Garrett said. “This is going to be something I will remember forever. If the Cats are playing marbles, I would be there rooting for UK. This is such a big deal and such an honor for a Kentucky boy like me to get to do this for the Cats and our veterans. It’s a perfect scenario for me — big rivalry game, salute to the veterans and I get to play the national anthem.”
He says he even got a little nervous during a sound check at Kroger Field earlier this week because the way sound bouncing around a big stadium makes concentration on what he’s doing even more difficult.
Then there is the weather with freezing temperatures expected around kickoff Saturday night.
“Once your hands get cold, you can’t feel the (guitar) strings like you should,” he said. “You have to have a feel for what you are doing, so I have plans to hopefully keep my hands warm.”
He also has plans to honor late UK quarterback Jared Lorenzen by wearing an authentic No. 22 Lorenzen jersey when he performs the national anthem.
“Wearing that jersey is the perfect way to pay tribute to him,” Garrett said. “Everybody has been paying tribute to him the last few months and it is the right thing to do. I am really, really excited about that.”
He’ll be even more excited, though, if UK can win and he won’t have to listen to friends from Tennessee in the music industry who give him and Montgomery Gentry lead singer Eddie Montgomery a hard time whenever the Vols beat UK in any sport.
“I get calls and text messages from people I worked with years ago if Tennessee wins,” Garrett said. “I never want to pay or hear ‘Rocky Top’ again. So we just have to win this game.”