Singer/songwriters Kenny Loggins, Georgia Middleman and Gary Burr have created the new band Blue Sky Riders, and were profiled by Huff/Post50 in February. The band will release their debut self-titled album Blue Sky Riders on January 22, 2013 and will be chronicling their experiences as a band in this blog.
At one of our shows this summer I made a joke about this tour being the "45-Degree Angle Tour" because every time I looked out into the audience every head I saw was at a 45-degree angle to me. Everyone was looking at stage right, where Kenny was standing, to catch a sight of the Mr. Pop Legend. I saw a lot of left ears. Did that bother me? Not really. Most of my career has been devoted to being a sideman. I always liked being the guy who stands at one of the side mics and helps the star shine as brightly as they can. Now I am on stage as part of Blue Sky Riders and being one of those "stars" on stage is taking some getting used to.
Being the child of the 60s, you would think that my idols growing up would be Paul McCartney or Bob Dylan or one of the giants who stood at the center microphone and ruled the crowd. I scoff at you for your wrongness.
Did I want to be James Taylor? Desperately. But I also realized that I could reach total contentment being Danny Kortchmar.
Did I want to be Buck Owens? I wanted to WRITE like Buck Owens (and maybe DRESS like him) but if I was going to play on stage I would have rather been Don Rich, the guy to his right who sang all those amazing harmonies with him.
I have had a lot of chances to know what it feels like to be Spock to a lot of amazing Kirks. I have toured as part of Carole King's Living Room Tour and stood at the second mic and sang and played songs like "Up On The Roof" and "Natural Woman." All I wanted was for people to leave the show loving what they heard and maybe, just maybe, saying "That guy playing with her was pretty damn good too!"
I stood to Ringo's left as part of the Roundheads, a band he put together and played and recorded with for about eight years. I will never forget standing behind the curtain at our first show at the Bottom Line and hearing the MC ask Ringo how he would like to be introduced. "Ringo and the Roundheads" Ringo said without a moment's pause. One minute we were a band with no name and the next we were...Roundheads. He explained to us later that the Roundheads were a political party in England long ago but I am pretty sure that there is some sort of sexual aspect to it as well.
I am now in a band where I am one of three people at the front of the stage. I admit that through the years I have wondered what it would feel like to stand up there and sing and play my own songs. Answer: It is everything that the secret voice that whispers in my head said it would be. (Funny side note: That voice has a distinctive lisp.) This new situation has taken some getting used to. For example: I have to sing a little closer to the microphone so I sound like a lead voice and not a background. I have to MOVE! Sidemen usually stand in one place all night or, if they are daring, they cavort on the stage and risk the wrath of a star who might not like having attention diverted from him to the guy playing guitar with his penis. (You know what I'm talking about...all you Styx/Tommy Shaw fans out there)
I'll gladly adjust. I find that I am actually thrilled by the on-stage freedom and the responsibility to be the occasional center of attention. I am not shy or EVER at a loss for something inane to say. Sidemen never talk onstage except to acknowledge the applause for a well-crafted solo. Now no one can tell me not to climb on the drum riser and make faces at Tommy, our drummer. No one can tell me not to interrupt Kenny in midsentence. No one can tell me not to flirt with Georgia in the middle of a song to see if I might "get lucky" after the show. (I almost always do.)
Don Rich never got away with that, I guarantee you.
Follow Gary Burr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@Garyburr