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Gary singer-songwriter recording an album

Kerry James Jr., who started his music career playing guitar on the steps of Gary City Hall, is recording his first album.

Gary native Kerry James Rodgers Jr. started his musical career on the steps of Gary City Hall playing covers with an acoustic guitar his mother gave him for Christmas in 2012, and then by taking the stage at open mic nights around the area.

Now Rodgers, who goes by the stage names Kerry Junior and KJ, is recording his first full-length album.

"My Journey XXIII" concerns how he overcame seizures, strokes, a speech impediment, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and being born premature and underweight to make music that's earned him a Chicago Music Award nomination and an appearance on the Soul Train Impact Showcase in Chicago.

He's been featured in several local media outlets, including WGN, WJOB and Chicago Bridge Magazine.

"I'm working on an EP album in the studio and doing photo shoots to explain my story to the world, how I came up as a disabled kid full of health complications and turned around and made music," he said. "I'm working with different producers on the album to represent my life and the struggles I still have today."

Rodgers has released singles online, such as "I'm Drowning," "Break Apart" "Mother and I" about his love for his mother. He expects his first album will include six tracks, including some newly recorded material he's now working on.

"My mother inspired me to have my own voice and to be a very persistent individual," he said. "I suffered from a lot of health complications and had a speech problem growing up, but I taught myself to play guitar via YouTube videos and now I've been in newspapers, TV and magazines, even on the front cover of Chicago Bridge Magazine."

His music, which can be heard on YouTube, draws on influences like Michael Jackson, Justin Timberlake and Chris Brown. His lyrics are deeply personal.

"I want to inspire other people to have a voice, to be their own person, and to never give up on their dreams when life gets tough," he said. "I grew up in a less fortunate area, where there was poverty and crime and violence, but my music tells my story about what I did to overcome my obstacles. I want to be a role model to young men and women across the world."

For more information, find Kerry James Junior on Facebook.


Business reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.