Upon high school graduation, the desire to start a career in Gospel music was too strong for Josh to resist. In the spring of 1998, Josh joined an upstart group from Taylorsville, MS called Master’s Voice. As a member of Master’s Voice, Josh would have the opportunity to learn some valuable lessons from veteran Gospel singers Tim Shelby and Dallas Gilliland, former members of the Dixie Echoes and Gold City, respectively. Master’s Voice would make waves in the Gospel music industry in a very short time. Jerry Kirksey, Editor of Singing News Magazine, declared Master’s Voice as the finest quartet to come along in over 20 years and declared the group’s project, “Totally Southern”, as one of the greatest quartet recordings of all-time. However, as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end, but a once in a lifetime opportunity was just around the corner.
In the fall of 1999, Josh would receive the call to join one of Gospel music’s most popular and respected groups, the legendary Florida Boys. After 50 years, manager Les Beasley decided to step back from singing lead with the quartet. Josh would prove to be the perfect fit for the group bringing an appreciation for the history of the quartet, a wide vocal range to fill in each of the top three parts when needed, and a much needed youthful energy and enthusiasm. Josh’s impact on the Florida Boys would bring immediate growth and exposure to the already historic quartet. In 2001, the readers of the Singing News Magazine voted Josh as the Favorite Horizon Individual. A year later, the Florida Boys were awarded Album of the Year by their peers at the SGMA Hall of Fame Inductions and Awards ceremony. Josh would be featured on such Florida Boys hits as “I’m Forgiven”, “Declaration Of Dependence”, “I’m Gonna Be There”, “For God So Loved”, and many others.
With the Florida Boys, Josh was honored to sing at the National Quartet Convention, the Great Western Quartet Convention, and the Canadian Quartet Conventions. Josh was also a featured soloist on several Gaither Homecoming Videos and Concerts, as well as the world-famous Grand Old Opry. His performances with the Florida Boys aired regularly on Gospel Music Television, The Nashville Network, TBN, and INSP.
After 60 years of full-time service to the Lord, the Florida Boys Quartet officially retired in July of 2007. Josh was faithful to the group to the very end, even making a special appearance at their Farewell performances at the 2007 National Quartet Convention. While the retirement of the Florida Boys would close one door on Josh’s career, the Lord would soon open many others. Josh embarked on a new career as a soloist and emcee of Gospel music events. The love of Gospel music had burned deep in Josh’s heart for nearly three decades and he was excited to meet the new challenges and triumphs that awaited in this new adventure.
Josh kicked off his solo ministry in the fall of 2007 with the release of two new recordings. Josh’s first project, “Sunday Meetin’ Time”, featured a collection of hymns and Gospel standards, while “Rays Of Sunshine” showcased many of the songs Josh made popular with the Florida Boys. Though his time as a soloist and emcee was rewarding, Josh’s passion was quartet singing and in December of 2009 he accepted the lead position with the revamped Blackwood Quartet. The decision was prompted by the opportunity to sing with long-time friend, John Rulapaugh. Unfortunately, health issues would force group owner, Ron Blackwood, to once again retire the quartet, but the combination of Garner and Rulapaugh was too strong to simply let go.
After much prayer, Josh Garner and John Rulapaugh took a leap of faith and started a new trio, Freedom. The group was an instant success, being nominated for Horizon Group of the Year, and charting three songs, “Look What He’s Already Done,” “My Retirement Plan,” and “If It Wasn’t For That Cross,” from their debut recording. For three years, Freedom traveled from coast to coast and border to border, spreading the Gospel message. From the beginning, the decision was made that Freedom would not keep a typical full-time travel schedule, as each man was involved in other business ventures at home. It was also during this time that Josh made the decision to finally complete his college education through Liberty University, ultimately graduating Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science of Religion degree. As Freedom continued to lighten their schedule, the desire to return to full-time quartet singing began to burn once again in Josh’s heart. A door that had been open several times before, was open once again and it turned out to be just what Josh needed.
The Dixie Melody Boys had been making regular stops in southern Illinois for many years, but Josh Garner was a freshman in high school the first time he was in concert with the group and met SGMA Hall of Famer, Ed O’ Neal. Josh was immediately captivated by the high energy and traditional sounds of the legendary quartet. That night he forged a friendship with Mr. O’ Neal that would prove faithful throughout his entire career. Over the next fifteen years, O’ Neal would offer Josh a position with the Dixie Melody Boys on seven different occasions, but circumstances and timing prevented him from taking the job. Instead of writing Josh off, O’ Neal simply replied each time, “I’ll get you one of these days!” In the summer of 2013, the Dixie Melody Boys were in need of a lead singer and due to Freedom’s light schedule, Josh was able to fill-in for a number of weeks. O’ Neal’s patience finally paid off, as Josh accepted the lead position with the Dixie Melody Boys in September of 2013. Josh shares his side of the story:
“I was 15 years old and my family group, the Garner Boys, opened a concert for the Dixie Melody Boys at the high school auditorium in Wayne City, IL. After the concert, Ed approached me in his unmistakeable way and said, “Hey buddy, can you play the bass guitar?” After I replied, “No, sir,” he said, “Well, how soon can you learn?” I’ll never forget that night, as I gained one of the biggest cheerleaders I’ll ever know in Mr. O’ Neal. To this day, he has encouraged me in my career as no other. He made the first official offer to me when I was 19 years old, but I had just joined Master’s Voice a week earlier and didn’t feel right about making the sudden change. Each time he offered the job after that, it was simply not the right time for me. After filling in with them for several weeks, I knew that the Lord was leading me to finally accept the offer. Not only did I want to sing with the Dixie Melody Boys, I felt that I needed to. Call me nostalgic, but just as I wanted to remind people of how great the Florida Boys were when I accepted that position, I want to remind Gospel music fans of the great heritage of the Dixie Melody Boys and their incomparable leader, Mr. Ed O’ Neal. He has championed me through my entire career and I want to honor him and the legacy of the group he has led for over 50 years.”
On a personal note, Josh met the love of his life while traveling with the Florida Boys. On June 14, 2005, Josh married Alison Kimery of Limestone, TN at the very church they met. Alison is an Occupational Therapist at Holston Valley Medical Center in Kingsport, TN. On May 20, 2014, Josh and Alison welcomed a beautiful baby girl, Olivia Kimery Garner, to their happy family. The Garners make their home in Jonesborough, TN.