Singer/songwriters Kenny Loggins, Gary Burr and Georgia Middleman recently formed the new band Blue Sky Riders, and were profiled by Huff/Post50 in February. They are finishing their first album and will be chronicling their experiences as a band in this blog.
I was very shy in high school; I played the baritone horn in the Platt High band. Cool kids do NOT play the baritone horn. It's one degree above a tuba. I got asked to the Sadie Hawkins Dance every year and I would gulp and turn red and run away down the hall from the confused and hurt young girl who was foolish enough to like me. Quite the stud.
But in 1969 I went to Woodstock, and while sitting in the crowd, something happened to me that changed my life. The girls all around me were going crazy for the musicians on stage. If any of those players had come down off the stage and walked through the crowd they would have had girls clinging to them like dryer sheets on a pair of freshly dried socks. I wanted that. (Not freshly dried socks. I gave up any concept of footwear on the second day at the festival.) I decided I would go home and learn the guitar and BE those socks! Metaphorically speaking.
A month after I returned I was on the Platt High soccer team doing something I should never do. I was assuming I had athletic ability and I tried to score a goal against a goalie who actually HAD athletic ability. First of all... do any of you know anything about soccer? No? Well I didn't either. I was a Halfback. Halfbacks, I have since learned, should play defense and stay in the back. The word "back" is actually in the name. Why was I racing toward the goal with visions of being raised on the shoulders of my teammates in my head? I had momentary delusions of talent.
Well THAT got dashed out of me real quick. The goalie grabbed the ball. He also, being the over-achiever that he was, grabbed my leg. He fell on both at the same time. The crack was so loud that my friend (the captain of the team... who's the over-achiever NOW?) thought the ref had fired the pistol signaling the end of the half. It wasn't the end of the half. It was the end of me walking without a limp.
The coaches rushed over and looked down at me while I writhed. I had never writhed before but this seemed like the perfect time to try it. One of them looked at my leg, now jutting out at a jaunty 45 degree angle and said (hand to God I do not make this up):
"Do you have a trick knee?"
"No," I replied between writhes.
"Well, you do now."
I have always silently thanked that coach for teaching me that there is no situation so painful or serious that cannot be made worse by a bad joke.
Now we get to the interesting part. I had nothing to do but lie there in a body cast for two months and teach myself how to play my brother's guitar. I had a little hi-fi set up next to the bed. After the first month I smelled so bad that I stopped having visitors except for the paid tutors who probably put Vicks VapoRub under their noses like the guys doing autopsies do on CSI. Obviously I had nothing but time.
I owned three records. I had the first Pure Prairie League album. I had heard their tune "Country Song" on FM radio and fell in love with them and was determined to learn how to play all 11 glorious minutes of it.
I had Carole King's Tapestry. It made me appreciate a beautifully crafted pop song for the first time. An amazing record and I was playing it over and over again because these songs, properly played, would deliver the chicks!
I had Abbey Road. The Beatles final record. I played along to "Octopus's Garden" and "Something" and "Come Together."
Those were the three records I wore out while I taught myself to play and sing.
Then I grew up, (with two legs the same length, something the health teacher at school told the entire student body I would NEVER have) started bands, moved to California, moved back to Connecticut, moved to Nashville ... and along the way ...
I became the lead singer for Pure Prairie League for six years. I played with Carole King and wrote songs with her for 10 years. I played in a band -- The Roundheads -- with Ringo Starr and wrote four albums with him.
See what I did there? Those were the albums I had when I was laid up. Don't you think that's kind of cool?
Flash forward, years later. I am a breathtakingly successful songwriter in the sleepy little town of Nashville. Suddenly, Kenny Loggins was coming to town and asking to write a song with me. The actual request probably had "anyone available" in the place of my specific name. But he was coming and I was sharpening my pencils and putting on my magic songwriting dickie.
We wrote great together, we sang great together, we got along great together, he left.
Fast forward a few MORE years. My phone rings and Kenny Loggins is asking me to start a band with him. In this thing I laughingly refer to as my "career" I have had some wonderful occasions to play on stage with amazing and famous artists, but this was to START A BAND with one of my idols.
Current day...we're having a friggin' ball. Who knew that the cocktail hours of our careers could be this much fun? I will try to shine a light on the dark (and light) underbelly of the "band experience" by blogging about it as we progress. The Blue Sky Riders have been born!
Follow Gary Burr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@Garyburr