Today we’d like to introduce you to Gary Seiler.
Gary, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I think most of my generation of musicians started their musical dreams after seeing the Beatles and the other notable musicians that were featured on the Ed Sullivan show those priceless Sunday nights.
On my fifth birthday, we left my Uncle Nick’s house headed home from our typical Sunday afternoon family visits, and drove past a small music store. I saw four or five guitars hanging in the window on display. I remember snapping my head back to see those instruments for as long as I could. (To this day I still see the colors of those first guitars vividly in my memory.) Spellbound, from that day on, every time we left my uncle’s I asked my dad to drive home the same way so I could see those guitars. I didn’t know what it meant to me but I knew they were somehow important in my life.
The summer of 1966 two of the best things happened in my life. I fell in love with surfing and playing music. I saved my money from my two paper routes and bought my first guitar, a $29.00 classical string from a local department store (Whitefront) just in time to take it on the family vacation in the High Sierra’s where we would fish, swim, camp and hike all day long. Every minute that I had to myself was spent learning the ED & A chords and by the end of our summer vacation, I could play Van Morrison’s Gloria and the Kingsmen’s song, Louie Louie. High as a kite, I was on my way.
I played in a couple garage bands in junior high and high school but really didn’t have the skills or the money to buy the electric band gear so I played at home alone on the acoustic guitar, endlessly. I joined my first paying band, The Classics in 1983. It was a 50’s & 60’s cover band that was actually very good but this genre wasn’t inspiring. As I continued to get bored with this project I started bringing in songs from Jimmy Buffett, Eagles or Loggins & Messina for the band to learn. This eventually got me fired. A heartbreaking moment in my life. Going from a 6 night a week gig making a $100 a night, plus tips, to what now?
I start my own band, Whip N’ Post, about a year later. I didn’t ever want to get fired again and the only way I could control that was to run things myself. This new band played a lot of Southern Rock, good old country music, and started playing Jimmy Buffett songs. Country music was alive and well here in So Cal due to the success of the movie Urban Cowboy. It was this time in my life that I started to learn how to front a band and be a bandleader.
After about five years I grew disenchanted with the lack of growth and quit my own band. I had seen Jimmy Buffett in concert several years earlier and was mesmerized by his show. He was having a ball. That night he had five pizzas delivered from a local pizza joint to the Humphries Concert Stage. He was passing out pizza to some of the audience. Hilariously fun evening. It was a happy vibe. He was upbeat and made people happy. There is no single event I can remember that was more of a defining moment in my musical life. I instantly knew the direction I was headed. Now how do I get there?
After quitting Whip ‘N Post I started learning more and more of Buffett’s songs along with a few other groups of the 1960s & 1970s. Poco, Buffalo Springfield, Eagles, Loggins and Messina. By this time Garth Brooks was making his name. Watching his NBC TV Special was the second defining moment in my life. I woodshedded for another six months learning every Garth tune I could. That’s when I started performing solo. Scared as I was to be on stage alone it was tremendously refreshing. No hiding behind others, everything had to go right and when it didn’t it was on me.
After spending a year rehearsing all these new tunes and doing a handful of solo shows I started my next band (1992) with a former Major League Baseball player, Tim Flannery, who was a local San Diego sports legend. He had no experience playing on stage but was actually a good singer and songwriter. He was known for his affable character and his incredible work ethic on the field. There were baseball players with more natural skills but none that worked harder at their craft. He was a hero of mine and when he called me that March morning and asked to play some music with me it changed my life.
With Tim’s connections, we opened concerts for Judy Collins, Willie Nelson and Jimmy Buffett. We had some fun but we each had different ideas about direction and future. He went back to coaching baseball and I kept moving forward with the Buffed Out Band, which turned into an amazing group of players. It lasted for 18 years, with Scotty Burns, Steve King, Guy Hufferd, Sharon Hancock, Donny Bowman, Gerry Gontang, Buzzy Buchanan, Taylor Harvey, Ric Marquis, Ron Bell, and a couple other people who’s names escape me. We hit the Yacht Club circuit and the beach bars and had a ball mostly covering Jimmy Buffett, but these talented players could play anything at a high level. These are the people that molded me and held me up way over my talent level. I think God definitely was working overtime in my life bringing these people around me.
Jimmy Buffett had a huge audience and his fan base spread from young to old … whomever you could imagine. You can’t pigeonhole his music or his celebrity. He’s one of a kind entertainer. Performing his music became a continuous windfall for me and my band members. San Diego is a major corporate retreat destination and the Margaritaville theme fits our beach city pretty well. It has been a mainstay for me ever since.
I found myself searching for something more. Over the years I had been writing songs but had not really chased that effort commercially. In the late 1990’s, I started touring the country and all over Mexico doing top-rock shows and festivals. Trop Rock is a term that has surfaced over the last fifteen years as the genre related to the type of music Jimmy Buffett is famous for. Finally buckling down and putting time into the original music I recorded 3-CDs, Living On Dreams, He’s Finally Living, and lastly Toes in the Sand which I recorded at the Emmy award-winning Direct Image Studios in Nashville, TN.
I toured consistently with top rock stars Mark Mulligan, Kelly McGuire, and Rob Mel, and spent a lot of time in Florida with a bunch of great artists like Sunny Jim, Hugo Duarte & Jim Morris, from the late 1990s until 2008 when I married (way over my head) to my lovely wife and best friend, Audrey. I was tired of being on the road and was thrilled to stay closer to home, and for the first time in decades, I had a good reason to stay home. I still had to perform festivals and small concerts on the road.
I still had the Buffed Out Band playing local shows in between my touring schedule, but the writing was on the wall and it was time to move on, again. I shut the band down. The following year the CoastRiders (band) was born. The venues I’d been working solo and with my previous band embraced the new group. Our instant popularity, combined with the many solo shows I was doing here in So Cal, I now was able to stay close to home and not have to tour. For me, this was a blessing.
The CoastRiders’ started with three great guys; Gerry Dog Walker, Jim Allen and Mike Silver, all great musicians that always bring their “A Game” to the stage. We were playing at a higher level than I had ever been. As with most bands, the players come and go. We had our share of that, but the list of musicians that came through our turnstile was extraordinary. Jim Soldi, Paul Kimbarrow, Alex Watts, Kevin Ryan, Randy Hess, Sam Hunt and a few other notable players came together under the CoastRiders’ banner and made our show incredibly fun. When our drummer Paul Wheatbread (the original drummer from Gary Puckett and the Union Gap) left the band in 2015 we found a gem, and world-class guy in Ceaser Ivie to fill the shoes.
Our shows these days are limited to private and corporate events, casinos, and the occasional club gigs. The band has changed its name to The Gary Seiler Band in order to grow to whatever is coming next. In November 2017 I reconnected with Gerry Dog Walker to form the Dos Amigos duo. The duo has grown to a trio with the addition of a Mac MacDonald, the venerable entertainer with a 40-year entertainment resume. Now called Seiler, GDog & Mac this trio focuses on the harmonies groups of the past 50 years with songs in our repertoire from The Beach Boys, The Eagles, Simon & Garfunkel, The Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison, Neil Young, Tom Petty and so much more. It’s an absolute blast doing this show with these guys. It’s unplugged, meaning acoustic guitars in lieu of loud electric.
And it’s the third defining moment in this musical odyssey. One word tells the story, “inspiration”. This new show has inspired me like that first solo show or standing onstage with Jimmy Buffett singing Havana Daydreamin’ with him.p in front of 10,000 people. So many wonderful things have happened to me because I saw those first guitars hanging in that window so many years ago. I performed with Jimmy Buffett twice. Opened concerts for musical legends. Met thousands of good people, and have traveled to far away places with my guitar that can only be seen as having lived out my dreams.
Thirty-three years later, I’m still a bandleader and running a small entertainment business. Who would have thought… I’m a lucky guy. There are countless people to thank for my success… the many musicians, club owners, Casino managers, corporate destination agents, my family and a long list of friends and fans that have supported my efforts. I’m in complete gratitude.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It’s been anything but a smooth ride. There’s an old joke: “The entertainment business is a heartbreaking, soul-crushing industry that will destroy your dreams. And there are some downsides too.” The business has changed dramatically since the 1980’s when most of the players of my generation had regular 4 to 6 night a week gigs. Those days are gone. But that’s the nature of life. Change is inevitable… you either adapt or do something else.
I worked day jobs for most of 25 years while doing shows at night. I would do week-long shows in places like Cancun, Cozumel, and even worked in Tahiti while still holding down my corporate job. But how blessed are we that we get to do this? Play, sing and entertain, and have people coming out to enjoy it all. My dreams, truly, have been realized.
But the bumpy ride is something most of us, who are still on the positive side of this, have endured. Musicians are unique creatures and not always easy to have to work for you. But when it’s firing on all eight cylinders there’s nothing like it. Ask any happy musician. It’s taken a lot of time to learn to go with the flow. It doesn’t do any good to freak out and ruin your night if your guitarist or bass player shows up five minutes before downbeat. But things like that happen all the time.
I’ve been blessed for the past twenty plus years to have a great crew of musicians to work with regularly. And right now I’m having a blast with my trio Seiler, GDog & Mac. GDog and I have clicked musically for most of the last 9 years and have formed a great friendship. That shows up big time on our stage. We have stripped down the show to minimal instrumentation to allow the vocals to be the most important element.
I never broke into the local pop music culture. I’ve always been outside of the mainstream, sort of like Jimmy Buffett himself, hard to pigeonhole. I wouldn’t trade any of the past. It’s placed me right here, right now, and as I said before… I’m in complete gratitude.
Please tell us about Gary Seiler Entertainment.
For several years I worked in the corporate world in the HVAC and the energy industry. It taught me some great basic business fundamentals that I apply all the time. Running an entertainment business is a great thing. We get to provide the fun.
There are a couple of basic principles to follow in this Business:
#1-Knowing what you’re good at and what you’re not good at. Never take on a job that isn’t right for you.
#2-Charge a fair price for your services, focusing on what’s fair to the musicians who have spent thousands of hours learning their craft and preparing for every event, show or gig they do. And what the market can afford.
#3-Leave your ego off the stage. It’s not about us. It’s about the people in our audience and those that hire us. Give them what you have, from your heart. With a little love and luck, it just might turn into something great.
We put our hearts into what we do. We’re goal and success oriented. Done properly, that’s how and when your business grows and your clientele expands. And that’s what keeps us going, but most importantly if you love what you do, it’s never work. It’s always fun… and the phone keeps ringing.
If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
Maybe I would have started much earlier. But that’s more or less guessing. Would it have worked with this level of success? Probably not… Life only happens one way. There are no do-overs. So I guess the answer is nothing. It’s working just fine.
- Website: www.garyseiler.com
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