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.
Kenny came to town a few days ago and we've been working hard on some new songs and some final tweaks on the record. Yesterday he flew off to play a show in Connecticut (without us...not gonna be much of a show) and it got me thinking: What made me want to get into this business anyway? Was it the piles of easy money? (Still looking.) Was it the respect of the artistic community? (Gave up looking for that in 2003.) I have previously given the credit or blame to being at Woodstock and watching all those bands play and hearing the crowd scream. Is that really the reason? Was it something more twisted and dark? Let's go with twisted and dark and see what kind of fun we can have!
I remember the exact moment I decided to have music become my life. I was a freshman in college. I was a terrible student in high school. The classes I hated the most were Science and Math -- even now I capitalize them to show my fear. Well, apparently the "fun" colleges demand more than straight Ds on report cards to let you attend, so I found myself being accepted to the college my older brother graduated from. That made me a "legacy." That means they HAD to take me. I have never been prouder. I packed my bags and my guitar and found myself in -- wait for it -- a Math and Science college. I flunked every class I went to (technically speaking I flunked only ONE class because I didn't show up to the others).
What I DID do with consistency was play and sing in my dorm room. My new best friend Jim (a man with a never ending supply of good advice and hash) talked me into going down the street to the girl's junior college and getting a Tuesday night gig at their coffee house. They had a nice stage, a PA system and 50 or 60 girls on any given Tuesday running around drunk and adventurous. Do you know what that LOOKS like from the stage to a boy of 18 who had never been laid? I don't either. I sing with my eyes closed.
One Friday night Jim talked me into going to a frat party. I knew I was not long for this school. Either by MY choice or theirs, I was toast. Jim was doing fairly well so he pledged a frat and had a steady stream of keg parties on his calendar. One rainy night I joined him and found myself seated on the stairs watching a gorgeous girl dancing in the middle of the basement/party room/hazing room. She was dressed like an American Indian: fringed mini skirt, long black hair with feathers in it, bow and arrow. Dazzling. She was dancing with one guy after another and I ached to be one of those guys. I was too shy to ask so I simply sat all night long and watched her from the stairs.
As the clock ticked down the seconds until the party would be over, I overcame my self-loathing, screwed up my courage (although I still felt pretty certain that my courage was the only thing getting that kind of action that night) and left my hiding place. There she was, out of breath and beautiful, for a tiny window of time actually standing alone. It was almost like the crowd had parted to give this poor boy a clear path to humiliation. I didn't listen to the voices in my head, I didn't think about what I was doing... I just walked across the room and asked her to dance.
She said yes.
Just as we stepped out onto the dance floor the jukebox (what was it, 1960?) or the DJ (as you young people say) or the f#*king radio started playing a slow song. Every young man in the world knows what I felt right then. Relief that I wasn't going to have to gyrate in front of a complete stranger and pretend to have rhythm, but I WAS going to have to HOLD her!!! I can hear all you women say, "Well isn't that what you wanted?" At that age I wanted to be within touching distance but not actually touch. I'm not saying I had never slow danced with a girl before... I had. Just not Pocahontas. I played baseball too. It didn't mean I was ready to hit a major-league curve ball.
So I take her in my arms with all the suave charm of Cary Grant. (Unfortunately not the actor. Cary Grant the plumber.) The song plays on. We start our dance. She leans in and places her lips against my ear and whispers, "You're Gary Burr, aren't you? I listen to you every Tuesday night at the coffee house. I LOVE you."
The rest is history. Sweaty, awkward history.
So we learn that behind every spiritual quest, every Hosanna moment in the mud, every righteous effort to change the world ... some guy picks up a guitar to impress a girl. Apparently it worked because I get to stand on stage with MY girl every night and play guitar.
Out there somewhere in the world ... an Indian weeps.
Follow Gary Burr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@Garyburr