Script for July 2008 QMH
Elliot Pilshaw Interview
To Try For The Sun
stood in the windy city,
Elliot Pilshaw & Lorin Schlamberg - To Try for the Sun (1982)
This is JD Doyle and you're listening to Queer Music Heritage, a part of Queer Voices on KPFT. Fans of 60s folk music may recognize that song as "To Try for the Sun," first released by Donovan in 1966. It was not one of his hits, but it contained some gay nuances. Basically it's the tale of two young homeless teenagers comforting each other, and how they did that was left up to the listener. I sure didn't miss it when I heard the song in the late 60's. Remember at that time there was just not much gay subtext to hear, in any music. That version was from a 1982 cassette by Elliot Pilshaw and Lorin Sklamberg, and Elliot is the subject of this show's interview.
Elliot Pilshaw has been recording as an out gay musician since his debut release in 1982 He is co-founder of the Flirtations, an original cast member of Tom Wilson Weinberg's Ten Percent Review, and founder of Sons & Lovers, a gay a cappella quintet, and he's an excellent recording artist on his own. You'll hear about all of that on this show.
When did you first blend your gay identity with your music?
I started coming out around, I guess around 1980. One of the first things I did, I started going to the gay synagogue, in Los Angeles where I was living at the time. That's where I met Lorin Sklamberg, the guy that I made the first cassette with, the first album. And he was a volunteer cantor, like a cantorial soloist, at the gay synagogue in L.A., and got to know each other and realized we had a lot in common musically, in terms of Jewish music, and he started introducing me to a lot of the lesbian feminist singers of the time. I was already familiar with Holly Near, and he also would play albums by Cris Williamson, Meg Christian, and Alix Dobkin. We were listening to all that stuff, and I love it. I loved all of it, and I thought, how come this is only happening in the women's movement? As far as I knew there was no parallel in the gay men's world. And I thought, I just resonate to this music so much, and Lorin felt the same way, so we thought why don't we start singing songs by these people, and also look for other songs that might sort of fit in, and we wanted to be inspirational as gay men the way these women were. There just seemed like there was a big vacuum to fill. I just felt like a calling, in a way, like that's what I wanted to do.
Tell me about your first recording.
At first we didn't have any ambition to perform publicly, or to do this in any public or professional way. We were just we just got together for fun. And occasionally we would sing for friends, at little parties or gatherings. After a few months of doing this we went to this thing called the California Men's Gathering. It's a weekend retreat, mostly for gay men, but some straight men go, too. And a friend had asked us to perform at it, and they loved it, and it was a great audience, and they really loved it, and the response that we got was all these people coming up afterwards, saying "you guys should be doing this professionally, you should be going out and performing." And Charlie Murphy was there, and he actually invited us to be an opening act for a concert he would be doing a few months later, in LA, and that was very thrilling. And we started performing at small venues around town, and we did the concert with Charlie and after that we decided to make a recording. And it was very it was sort of one of these homemade low-budget recordings, and we had a friend who was a graphic designer, and you know, put together the photos and the cover, we didn't really we'd never done anything like this before but we just kind of figured it out as we went along.
Since people wonder about such things, were you two a couple?
Oh, no (laughs), yeah, people did ask that a lot, but no, we weren't. But I think one of the reasons that people asked that, besides from the normal curiosity, was that when we performed as a duo, we would sing and we would really relate to each other, in a very sweet way. We'd smile at each, we would really get into enjoying the harmonies we would make. We clearly we had a tremendous affection for each other, as both friends, and we let that show on stage, and I think that that is unfortunately unusual among men. And we realized that that was something that was very natural for us, and that people responded to tremendously, they were very moved by it. So I thought, wow, this is something that is so easy to do and it's something that people want to see so much, and see so little of.
One song you picked that was not subtle was by Kristin Lems, called "How Nice."
Right, not subtle at all. Yeah, I love that song, it's about heterosexual privilege in the sense of how heterosexual relationships are celebrated often so elaborately, and with so much fanfare, by families and by society and how gay relationships were invisible and were either received no recognition or received condemnation, and so the double standard. It was about the double standard.
Elliot Pilshaw & Lorin Sklamberg - How Nice (1982)
Again, that song was "How Nice," and it's interesting, at least to me, that it was written by a straight artist, Kristin Lems. I've played her version on this show before.
A song I might not have expected you to sing on that album is Holly Near's "Something About the Women."
Oh, why would you not have expected that?
Well, probably a listener back in, this was what, 1982, wouldn't have expected a woman's song on a cassette by a man, by two men.
Yeah, they still wouldn't. Yeah, well the reason we did this was we were so deeply inspired and constantly inspired by Holly Near, and people like her, the other women that I mentioned earlier. They were our heroes, they were our role-models, and our mentors, and we wanted to model ourselves I mean, I wanted to model myself after them, because I thought that what they were doing, and what they had figured out how to do through music, in terms of inspiring people to come out of their shell, to be be themselves, and be themselves not just as gay people, but in every way to be themselves fully. So we sang as a tribute to the women of the women's music, to make a statement that we were totally supportive of it and connected to it and part of it.
Elliot Pilshaw & Lorin Sklamberg - Something About the Women (1982)
"Something About the Women," by Elliot Pilshaw and Lorin Sklamberg.
Before I move on I want to give you a sidebar to tell you about Lorin Sklamberg's music career, which has been extensive. He's appeared on over 50 albums, and is noted as a member of The Klezmatics. The music is called Klezmer and is a genre a little hard to describe, as it's Jewish music with influences from just about all over. The Klezmatics have released nine albums over the last 20 years and have won numerous awards. But, back to our interview.
[in the background, "Man In a Hat" by The Klezmatics, from "Jews With Horns," 1995]
After "Bending the Rules," in 1984 you released a solo cassette, which I believe spoke to one of your passions in life. It was called "Native Tongue."
Yeah, that was an album of Israeli songs, all sung in Hebrew. What that came out of was, I guess when I was a junior in college, I had gone to Israel, like for a year abroad of study. But the main thing that really, really inspired me, and I got the most excited about when I was there was the music. I bought records in those days people were buying LPs and I bought records like crazy and listened to the radio all the time. I made that album it was really a collection of some of my favorite Israeli songs from the late 70s, early 80s period when I was there.
Elliot Pilshaw - Mishirei Eretz Ahavati (1984)
I won't even try to pronounce the title of that track, from Elliot's album, "Native Tongue."
After living in LA for a few years you moved to Boston, where you became quite involved with the production of Tom Wilson Weinberg's "Ten Percent Revue."
It was good timing. I was just when there when he had written that show, and was putting it together. It was a very tight knit community of musicians in Boston. Tom and I became friends and he was putting the show together and I got involved in it pretty early on. It was like a musical revue of songs, some songs that he had recorded on his own before. I think he wanted to put together a revue of his songs sung by different people, and he wanted to have two men and two women singers, and then he was at the piano. So we did this song at the Arlington Street Church in Boston, and it was very well received and a producer offered to produce a whole summer run of it in Provincetown, so we took it to Provincetown and performed for like ten weeks. That was a really great experience. It was like performing six nights a week, and getting paid for it, which was unusual. And then because Provincetown draws people from all over the country, there were people who saw us from other cities and then we wound up making connections and getting bookings in other cities, and so the show had an opportunity to tour. It was really fun.
I think Tom has told me you took the show to the West Coast.
Yeah, we did the show in San Francisco for a whole summer, the next summer, and that was at the Valencia Rose, which was kind of a gay cabaret coffee house. Yeah I got involved I was in the show and also kind of got involved in the production end, managing the production end of that that summer, as well as performing in it.
I have I think the first recording of "Ten Percent Revue, Live in Boston"..that's from '85 and I'd like to ask about a particular song, "Before Stonewall."
Oh yeah, that was a song Tom wrote that talks about what gay life was like before the Stonewall Riots, and how people had to live in hiding and secrecy and there was a lot of references to sort of code words, and language that people would use in bars, or in other situations where they couldn't be out, where they would say something like "do you know Dorothy," or "are you a friend of Dorothy," and other things that people would say to find out if another person they thought might be gay was. It was commemorating the time when everybody had to be closeted and how difficult it was to be out.
Ten Percent Revue - Before Stonewall (1985)
From the cast of "Ten Percent Revue," singing on the track "Before Stonewall," were Elliot Pilshaw, Jean Gauthier and Tom Wilson Weinberg.
Now it's time to talk about the album "Feels Like Home." Could you tell me about that album?
Yeah, I did not want to stop working with Lorin, but you know we did go separate ways. The idea of being a solo performer was not one of my dreams. I love ensemble work and that's why I was very drawn to working in "Ten Percent Revue" and later on in the Flirtations and you know I love working with other people, whether as a duo or part of a small group. Artistically there is so much music out there that I love. I'm sort of a song collector, in a way, and I just know a lot of songs by a lot of people that just may not be all that well known, so I thought it would be great to put together an album of some of my favorite songs that I think have a message that would be a powerful, loving and inspiring message that I could put out as a gay man.
Gotta ask, who's on the cover with you?
Oh, yes, everyone wants to know who's that guy, ooo, cause I'm leaning intimately and affectionately against the back of another man, and you don't see his face. That was my friend John Paul, and he's a graphic designer who was a good friend of mine and he was the designer for the album cover. Actually he and the photographer, Irene Young, came up with this idea, that the song is all about relating to people, and intimacy and love and relationships, so why not show you relating with somebody. And his face wasn't in it, because, you know, it wasn't his album, it was me. But it was, I thought it was a great idea, to come up with something where the cover conveyed something about relating to someone, instead of just me, me, me
This was kind of early for an album cover to do that, and I guess it's still early.
Well, I'll tell you, it was pretty scandalous in my family, but most people, most of my friends and other gay people that I knew, they loved it, they thought it was a beautiful image.
An interesting cover song you chose is "Matelot."
Well that song is by Noel Coward, somebody singing about a sailor that they're in love with, who is going out to sea for a long time and how much they miss that person. The sailor's name is Matelot, and their longing and longing for that person, for that guy. And it was probably was meant to be sung by a woman about a man, but I thought, it was written by Noel Coward, who was a man, so I thought it came from him, it came from his heart. It was coming from a man knowing what it's like to love and miss and long for another man who they love, so I love the song.
Elliot Pilshaw - Matelot (1986)
Willie Sordill was one of the pioneers who appeared on the album "Walls To Roses." And you sang one of his songs called "While Walking."
The song is about the danger that gay men face walking down the street. It's about anti-gay violence. The song is remarkable because it's very hard, I think, to write a song about sort of an issue like that without it sounding preachy or dry and not poetic. Willie, who is a straignt singer/songwriter wrote the song that, first of all, I thought showed incredible awareness and sensitivity and empathy. But the song itself is very powerful and very well written, and great music.
Elliot Pilshaw - While Walking (1986)
I think it's also nice that you chose the title track from "Walls to Roses"
Oh yeah, this song was by Jeff Langley, who most people know as Holly Near's original co-songwriter and accompanist. That song was about growing up as a young gay boy, and starting to realize, oh my God, I'm attracted to men, what does that mean, what do I do with this, I'm supposed to go out with girls, but I like them but I don't feel attracted and how do I make sense of all this. And then a little later, getting a little older, realizing, oh, that means I'm gay and it's okay and I actually you know, can be in love with a man and that's a fine thing and what an incredible realization.
Elliot Pilshaw - Walls to Roses (1986)
On to the title track, please tell me about "Feels Like Home."
"Feels Like Home" was written by John Bucchino, who plays piano on the whole album, really beautifully. I can't say enough about him as a musician and as a songwriter. He's extremely talented. So this is a song that he wrote. It's one of those genderless love songs. So anybody could sing that song. It's really not about being gay specifically but I figure that any love song sung by me automatically can become a gay song, you know, and a lot of it has to do with what context you put it in. So if I put it in the context of that album, to me it was a gay love song.
Elliot Pilshaw - Feels Like Home (1986)
I just love that, the title track for the album "Feels Like Home."
I think next in your musical career is your involvement with The Flirtations. Tell us about that?
Yeah, that was a really amazing chapter in my life, and it came about in kind of a funny way. After my involvement with the "Ten Percent Revue," kind of wound down, there was another guy who had been in the "Ten Percent Revue" with me, named Jon Arterton, and we had performed together in it, some of the productions, but the show was over. We wound up back in New York. I was living in New York at that point, and he already lived there, and we had become friends. And we got together to go out for breakfast at a coffee house in Brooklyn. Just were talking casually over breakfast about the idea of wouldn't it be great to start some kind of a gay men's political singing group that would go sing at Act Up rallies and gay pride events and other types of political rallies and things to just to kind of lend support and inspiration. And so I said, I think I said, how about if we start a gay singing group, an a cappela group, and I think he said something like "I don't know, I don't know if that's a good idea." And then the next day he called me up and said "I've been thinking about your idea, and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. Let's talk about it some more." So he had started to get interested and excited about the concept. So he and idea just came up with the idea of this group, and we put out a notice in the gay newspaper in New York, and put up some flyers at the gay community center about auditions, and a number of people called and came to auditions, and among them was Michael Callen. And we had our group very quickly, and we spent a couple of nights brainstorming about the name, and came up with, I don't know, a list of about thirty crazy names, and finally The Flirtations just jumped out as "that's the name, it just felt right." That's how it got started.
And at first, similar to how in the beginning when I was singing with Lorin, I didn't realize the potential of what we were doing. The Flirtations started out with sort of modest ambitions, just singing at rallies, being out in the street, doing street singing. That was kind of it, and we'd stand on the street corner, and we learned a few songs and we sounded good. They guys in the group are great singers, great music readers and we had a good blend. And we started performing that way, and literally put out a hat and collected change, like street singers do, but we drew a big crowd and people just started throwing dollar bills, and putting a lot of money in that had, so we started to realize, "oh this is a bigger thing that we realized, so we started I think we produced our own concert that summer at the gay community center in New York and that was a big thing and drew a big crowd. And very quickly we started to take ourselves much more seriously and started performing in concert halls and theaters and became more established.
Do you remember what year this was?
This was either '86 or '87, but I think it was '87.
Well, they released their first album in '90.
Yeah, and I was not on the album. I was in the group maybe we started in '86, I don't remember exactly, but I was in the group for about three and a half years, and I was one of the co-founders, and I also did a lot of the arranging, the a cappella arraigning. Ultimately I would up leaving the group because it became actually the more successful they became and the more ambitious, I should say we, we became, we wanted to go out there and tour and do a lot of things, the other people in the group were very very driven in a way that it was kind of a group ethic that we were going to kind of give up everything else in our lives. We were going to give up our social life, our love life, or just sort of put them off the the side. There's not time for that, we have to rehearse, and perform as much as possible, and make it a top priority, and it was amazing, a lot of the guys in the group, they were working as waiters and they were just sort of struggling to get by, and but they found ways to rearrange their lives so that the group would become a priority, and our goal was to be able to make money doing it for a living, as professional singers and performers.
But to me it became very grueling, and I was just starting a new relationship, sort of my first serious relationship, and I wanted to devote energy to that, and I also found that sense of drivenness, felt like little bit like too much for me. It felt like life was out of balance. I didn't know what the best balance was, but I just decided at that point to leave the group. And it's a decision that in some ways that I regret to this day, because it was a tremendous loss. The singing was thrilling for me and the performing was really exciting and fun, and then after I left they got another guy to sing bass and the group went on to become pretty successful and make the CDs and tour around the country, and they were very successful in the gay community and very beloved in the gay community. And I was very sad that I missed out on all that, and I was the one who had chosen to leave, nobody kicked me out. But you know sometimes we make decisions that are very difficult and we are ambivalent about and have regrets about and wonder whether it was the right one or not. But that was the decision I made and I went on to do different things.
I've got to slip in a song by The Flirtations, and even though Elliot did not record with them, they used his arrangement on the Cris Williamson song "Shooting Star."
Flirtations - Shooting Star (1990)
"Shooting Star" from the self-titled debut album "The Flirtations", and that arrangement by Elliot has also been used on the recordings of several women's choruses.
And this is a good time to invite you to check out my website. If you visit it while you're listening you can see the playlist and follow along, while looking at photos of the artists and recordings. I've always considered our music history as a visual as well as an audio experience. Again, that's at www.queermusicheritage.com, Also, for more very queer programming, please listen to After Hours with Jimmy Carper, every Friday night/Saturday morning from 1 to 4 am, on KPFT, it's Queer Radio, with attitude.
In 1990 you appeared on a various artists album called "Feeding the Flame: Songs by Men to End AIDS." It wasn't just gay artists and it included many of my favorite folk performers. If I started naming them I would have to name them all, as I think it's that good of an album. Tell us about your involvement in it.
I guess in some ways there's a parallel between that album and "Walls to Roses," because it was kind of a coming together of gay men and straight men contributing songs and music to help raise money for AIDS, AIDS research. I was asked to participate by contributing a song to it. My friend George Fulginiti-Shakar you think my name's hard to pronounce try his name. He's a pianist and singer who I knew from Boston and he and I were old friends and he was part of the Boston folk scene. He had written a song, I think he wrote that song that we did, and he asked me if I wanted to sing on it with him, and I said, yeah, and we both had been asked to be part of the album so we decided we would do this duet together and that would be part of our contribution.
George Fulginiti-Shakar & Elliot Pilshaw - Welcome Home (1990)
Around 1993 you formed an a cappela group called "Sons & Lovers." Tell us about the group.
Yes, I did miss it. Leaving The Flirtations was sort of like leaving the you know, for people who somehow broke up with the love of their life and never got over it I kind of never got over leaving The Flirtations, cause that was the musical love of my life. And it wasn't easy to get back into doing this, and I decided, why don't I just start another gay a cappela group. And I had to grapple with a lot of self-doubt oh, are people going to think that this is sort of Flirtations II, or oh it will never be as good, and all that stuff, but eventually I just put all those negative messages in my mind aside and decided to just do it. So I did and I had the repetoire, and I had the experience and I knew how to hold auditions and find singers. And it wasn't The Flirtations. It was very different. But it still was a group of gay men singing a cappela music that was really fun some of the music was must fun and entertaining, and some of it was political and had an important message, and some of it was very moving and romantic. That combination is what I really loved to do.
How did you name the group?
Ah, it's very hard to come up with a good name for a group. It seems like all the good names have already been taken, and actually one of the other guys in the group, I think it was Bob Stern, suggested that. He was one of the more educated fellows amongst us, and he was more literary, and he sort came up with this literary reference, "Sons & Lovers," a book by D.H. Lawrence, and I haven't read the book. I don't even know what the story is, but the name of the group is not about the book. It's just what Bob's idea was: well, we're all sons and we're all lovers, cause we were all in relationships at that point and we were all close to our mothers. So we were all into being sons and we were all into being lovers, so it seemed like it would be kind of a fun title.
It contained one song that was also on your "Bending the Rules" album. Can you tell me about "Listen"
Oh, yeah, that was like, the other song that I wrote I think I've probably written two songs in my life. That song is kind of like an invocation, I would call it, and I remember hearing songs like that in other concerts I'd been to, probably some by, I don't know, Meg Christian or Cris Williamson, or Holly Near concert, where the concert would begin with a very brief song, that was maybe sung without any instrumentation, that would set the mood, it would change the energy in the room and bring it into focus, and so that was a song that I wrote that was sort of like that. I don't know if I was thinking about all that stuff when I wrote it, but thinking back on it now, that's the kind of song that it is.
Sons & Lovers - Listen (1994)
I thought it really neat you covered the Cris Williamson song "Waterfall"
Yeah, well that's again sort of like the song "Something About the Women" by Holly Near. "Waterfall" is I would say probably one of Cris Williamson's signature songs, and it became I would say one of the anthems of the women's movement. When Sons & Lovers did "Waterfall" we were you know wanting to pay tribute to these women composers, lesbian composers, who were inspirational and wanted to celebrate their music. And it's just an incredibly beautiful song, in that of itself, and I thought, wow, wouldn't it be great to try to write an a cappella arrangement of that.
Sons & Lovers - Waterfall (1994)
And you covered a song by two of my icons Romanovsky & Phillips
Yeah, let's see we did "Emotional Rollercoaster" cause I love so many of their songs are just amazing. Well, I knew Ron & Paul very well, for years, and Ron & Paul were very sweet, very supportive, and very knowledgeable about music and the music business, and they were very generous with their knowledge and their contacts and their information. So that song, "Emotional Rollercoaster," about the ups and downs of being in a crazy making relationship with somebody who's constantly giving you double messages. And I guess we've unfortunately probably all been in those relationships at one time or another, so it was one of those songs that has universal appeal
Sons & Lovers - Emotional Rollercoaster (1994)
From the 1994 album "Sons & Lovers" that was "Emotional Rollercoaster," and the members of the group in addition to Elliot were Bob Stern, Ken Browne, John Whitley and Deian McBryde, and John and Deian have gone on to release excellent solo albums, which I encourage my listeners to track down.
I read a review, written by Deian McBryde, one of the group members, where he wrote that "had this CD been made just five years earlier, it would be in every gay man's library and remembered as a classic of gay music." Here's his reasoning: "this album is a bridge. The songs here are a time capsule, a connection to music and a way of making music that moved the gay community from coffee houses to concert stages only to find its market usurped by the major labels." What are your comments on that?
Yeah, he was talking about exactly what was happening. There were some mainstream performers, mainstream artists like k.d. lang comes to mind, but there were a lot more mainstream performers who were coming out, and the gay community, and whatever that means, the gay media, like The Advocate, ah, the more mainstream gay community identified very much with those mainstream artists who were coming out. And it was like those of us who were not in the mainstream, but were out there being very out, gay musicians with a political message, and a gay affirmative message and identity it felt like we had this brief shining moment of recognition, but then it was usurped by these mainstream artists who had the power of major labels behind them, which we could never compete with. I think what happened was that some of us started to feel that our music and what we were doing became more invisible and not as much appreciated.
And so I believe what Deian was referring to was that he and I and the others in Sons & Lovers, Ron & Paul, you know, Romanovsky & Phillips, we were all fortunate to have done what we did during the time when it could be appreciated and when it was appreciated. I think a lot of that had to do with I think that every liberation movement or important social movement has its musical components, it's musical expression, and at that time the AIDS activism movement, in all of its permutations, was that's where the gay community was focused, focusing its energy, and I think that the music that most of us did, I those years, was the music of that movement in a sense. It was kind of the musical part of it, because people were feeling very drained and very discouraged, and there was a sense of despair because of the AIDS crisis, and all of the loss and all of the struggle, and I that some of the music that we did gave voice to that in a way that was affirming to people, and healing, and also provided some levity and some lightness that people needed too. And so, you know, we were fortunate to be able to be a part of that important time, but then it faded.
You've also done some backup work, for example on Michael Callen's "Legacy" album. That was done after his death, right? That was on the song "We've Had Enough."
Yeah, when Michael Callen was recording that song he actually asked a number of singers if they would sing backup, cause he sort of wanted the sound of a big crowd, a big background chorus, so I guess I was among, I don't know, maybe about 15 other people, and we all crowded into the studio and recorded that part for that song, and it was such an honor to be able to work with him, and to be on that album, which is such a beautiful, beautiful and is what we have left of Michael.
But I also worked with Michael very closely in The Flirtations in the years that I was there, and when you're working with you know, five people working on music is just very intense and intimate you get to know them really well, and you get to know them as musicians, and interact a lot as musicians. A lot of people who know Michael, who know of him, know of his political work, which was amazing in and of itself, and his solo music and his solo recording, which is magnificent, but he was also just an incredibly funny, zany person, and incredibly fun to work with, and came up with a lot of the comic stuff that The Flirtations did in the early years, which went over so well with the audiences. It was campy and smart and funny, things that only Michael could have thought of.
Callen - We've Had Enough (1994)
And that was Elliot, and a very honored supporting cast of artists, backing up Michael Callen on "We've Had Enough"
And you also helped with the backups on the title track for Grant King's "Bodies of Water."
Yeah, Grant King was one of the people who..he may have been one of the founders of Outmusic I don't know specifically, but he was very, very active in it, and he was a real champion for gay and lesbian musicians in New York, and he really in addition to doing his own music he was such a big supporter of everybody else, and such a warm and caring person, always encouraging me and other people I knew to do what we were doing, and it was sometimes hard, so if you weren't feeling good, he could really make you feel good about yourself and I was very happy to sing on his album and to collaborate with him.
In recent years you've been involved with the Miami Gay Men's Chorus. Could you talk about that.
Yeah, I move to Miami about six and a half years ago, and when I moved here at that time it was called the South Beach Gay Men's Chorus, later changed its name to the Miami Gay Men's Chorus. I had never been involved in gay men's choruses before. I was aware of them but I wasn't I sort of tried them out, I had gone to a couple of auditions and things and concerts and it just didn't feel like my thing. It felt a little bit too to me some of the choruses come across a little stodgy, you know, in their tuxedos, singing Broadway songs and it felt that it wasn't that interesting to me.
So I was not drawn to choruses, like that, but when I got here I just thought, well I'll go check out this group. So I found this group to be different. It was kind of funny and edgy and they were putting together these full stage productions that were kind of campy and silly and with good music, and Miami doesn't have a gay community center and it's sometimes hard to find, find this community here in the way that you can in some other cities, so the chorus was one of the few places where I felt like I could make some friends and so some singing. And it was nice to do some singing in a group that was already formed, after years of sort of forming groups from scratch myself, I had recently adopted my son, who is a year and a half old, and I was a single adoptive parent, and I really had my hands full, so I didn't have the energy or time to start a new singing group. So to join something that already existed was a good thing for me to do, and I have had a lot of fun over the years in that group.
Looking back on it all, is there any question I should have asked you?
Hmm, no, I think that you asked me great questions, and really covered a lot. I can't really think of anything right now. There is one other thing that I did, that I guess you wouldn't have known about, that was something that I liked a lot. It was something that I did in Miami a couple years ago. I got together with two other gay guys, (Mark Akens and David Vance) who were singers and we put together a cabaret show, and it was called "Taking a Chance on Love," and it was like a musical review of love songs, from the 40s, from Broadway, from kind of any love songs that we liked. And we did a combination of duets and solos and trios, and performed it just locally for a couple of weekends. So that was another project that I did and I'd like to do more stuff like that, because I love cabaret style performing, and performing with one or two other people in a small, intimate venue for an audience that's really listening, and where you can really get into a song and really deliver a song in a way that's entertaining and moving.
I'm down to the last song, but before I get to it I want to thank you all for listening, and I want to especially thank Elliot Pilshaw for the wonderful interview. He was one of those artists where it took me several years to track him down. I'm so glad I did. As always you can find out more about his music at my site, www.queermusicheritage.com. And, as always if you have questions or comments about any of the music I've featured, please write me. This is JD Doyle for Queer Voices on KPFT in Houston.
For the last song for this show I am going back to Elliot's 1986 album "Feels Like Home." It contains a wonderful song that itself originated in 1977, in a musical written as a response to the bigotry of Anita Bryant. The show was called "Joseph McCarthy Is Alive, and Living in Dade County." The message is no less valid now, and the song is called "Who Have You Loved Today."
Elliot Pilshaw - Who Have You Loved Today? (1986)