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10 Good Years? (according to Larry)

What was it like for YOU 10 years ago? A lot happens over a decade, but the only thing certain is that everyone reading this is 10 years older now than at the beginning of 2000! 

We’re not only older but hopefully wiser, too. Here’s what the last decade looks like to me from here and now – a recap of what was, the way one path to grow and pursue happiness unfolded – and how that journey might continue: 

2000: I was still living in Woodstock NY, Orleans hadn’t played at all since late 1997, both Hoppen parents were still living and Rock & Pop Masters didn’t exist.

Looking for a big change, my family and I decided to move to Central Florida, where my father was dying. Having other family and friends there, a warmer climate, new surroundings and no State income tax all seemed very appealing. 

Alas, Dad passed two weeks before we were able to relocate to our “new” 1892 Victorian house. We arrived November 30 to see CNN just packing in coverage of the election shenanigans in our town of Sanford. We were also greeting what became the coldest winter on record there. Immediately, I had to leave my family in a strange new house in a strange new neighborhood to tour Mexico, Central and South America with Voices of Classic Rock, predecessor to Rock & Pop Masters, for 10 days. Not an auspicious beginning to our new life, not what we’d had in mind at all!

2001: The Voices (hereafter called VCR) went to Maui for a cool gig and shortly after returning, I got set up with my brand new Larry Hoppen Band at Universal’s City Jazz night club – a weekly Monday night gig! My mission was to invite notable Orlando-area musical artists into our show each week, which served to hone the band, allow me to meet many of the area’s finest players/singers and get paid to do it, all without infringing on weekends! Pretty sweet all the way around; we took advantage of it further by recording pretty much every show.

It was July? when John Hall called to ask if I’d be up for an Orleans gig at Opus 40 near Woodstock – a unique, most favorite show we’d done most Labor Day Weekends since the mid-1980s. At that time, after an almost 4-year Orleans break, it sounded GREAT to me AND to Lance, living in Nashville TN since 1989. 

Meanwhile, back at City Jazz, some featured artists on those Mondays: world-renowned drummer Danny Gottlieb; Charlie Dechant, the great sax with Hall & Oates for well over 30 years; guitar hero Pat Travers… and one night, our drummer Fred Domulot brought his friend Charlie Morgan along. I’d never heard of him, but Fred said he’d drummed with Elton John’s band for 13 years until 1998, when he’d moved to Florida. 

When Charlie sat in, he instantly enhanced the music’s feel. He came by to play a bit for several weeks after that; soon I asked if he’d be interested to do some Orleans gigs. To my very pleasant surprise, he said he’d played Orleans’ tunes in bands in England during the 1970s and would love to do some gigs.

That August, VCR went back to South America – Colombia, Peru, Brazil – re-entering the USA in Orlando, playing a huge 12-Singer show at the same City Jazz club then continuing on to Canadian racetracks and casinos. A productive, satisfying year so far. Plus, my family was settling into our new home with our twin 5-year olds attending kindergarten by walking across the street. Good stuff!

When Labor Day Weekend’s Saturday came, it was perfect Woodstock weather and the largest crowd we’d ever had at Opus 40! It felt terrific, and Orleans became an instant priority for all three of us, once again. 

The LH Band continued at City Jazz through September 10. The next morning, I awoke to noisy chaos. Barry Dunaway, our bassist who’d stayed over the late night before, was glued to the TV with my wife Patty, watching CNN live coverage of a plane crash at one of the Twin Towers in Manhattan. When a second plane struck, as Barry and I stood speechless, Patty blurted out: “This is war!”

I don’t remember much detail about 2001 after that. Following 9/11, VCR cut an EP disc of  ‘patriotic’ songs at the request of a Wash., DC radio station (vocals done via Internet, as nobody could fly to Orlando where the studio was). I coordinated that, producing the tracks with Charlie Morgan, whom I’d asked to help. Orleans began to gig again. VCR played South America again in October, but with Charlie on drums now. Air travel was changing quickly and radically – way more security, new rules. Also, headlines notably began shifting from Afghanistan and Osama Bin Laden to Iraq and Saddam Hussein. 

2002:  With new Management, new energy, a new century and 30th anniversary, Orleans decided to release a “30 year retrospective” CD. The result was “Still The One LIVE”. The band had been John / Lance / myself with Peter O’Brien (drums) and Bob Leinbach (keys) since the early 1990s, but it was easier now to play outside of the Northeast with brother Lane (keys) and Charlie (drums). So we now had two different line-ups at shows! 

VCR played numerous gigs over the year, but U.S. economics began declining when the Tech Bubble burst in March. Many companies VCR played for – Lucent in particular – imploded.  Orleans, looking to reestablish ourselves on the concert circuit, took on a new Manager in L.A. By year’s end I decided to try a “real job” in hopes of some stability to balance the uncertainty.

2003:  On top of Orleans and VCR gigs plus a dayjob as a Northwestern Mutual agent, I began writing a book based on my music career; I hoped it might help out kids and others who yearned to be ‘in the music business’, but had no clue how or where to begin. It was also a distraction from news, mostly focused on starting and advancing the Iraq Invasion.

I was making a living but nothing was vibrant. Our new Orleans Manager was doing OK, but nothing special was happening. VCR was fun onstage, but many of us perceived a lack of leadership – and honesty – in “Management” there. Full potential was not being realized in either project. Time marched forward, Iraq was a mess, I worked on my book. 

In September, my head-butting with VCR’s founder ended that relationship. VCR’s Band and most Singers agreed: re-form under a new name and work hard to make this winning, fun concept the success we all knew it could be.

2004: 8 years after the “Ride” CD, John, Lance and I produced and released a new Orleans album in Florida with Charlie Morgan,  at his home studio: “Dancin’ in the Moonlight”. Gigs continued for us and for “ex-VCR”. In late October, we learned to our great displeasure that the Bush Campaign was using Still The One as its theme song! We did all we could to stop that, then got hate mail from Americans, lots of support from “foreigners”. Bush remained President.

2005:  I quit my brief career as a Financial Agent. Orleans decided to pare down to one constant live band, as two versions wasn’t going to work long-term. Charlie had become integral plus he, Lane and I all lived in Central Florida. That worked! Frustrated with our Manager not finding label interest for our new CD or better (and enough) gigs, a phone call with a longtime fan became much more. Andy Broady, successful Financial Advisor in New Hampshire, was up for managing Orleans’ business. The “ex-VCR” situation still worked some, but was not focused. So, everything was in flux. We asked Andy to plan on Managing Orleans beginning in 2006. To top it off, in November John Hall told Lance and me of his plans to run for Congress. Well then, 2006 looked to be REALLY interesting!

2006: Orleans planned to re-work ‘Fly’ Amero into Orleans’ lineup as John’s Campaign ramped up. John played gigs when possible. We organized a special gig in August with BOTH Fly and John, to film our first DVD – which also might be our last gig with John. The “We’re Still Havin’ Fun” DVD was released before 2006’s end, but after John won his Congressional seat (D-NY, 19th) in early November. Lance had already begun doing ALL Orleans’ website construction and maintenance work. With Andy now seriously helping the cause, we began to focus on turning ‘ex-VCR’ into Rock & Pop Masters.

2007:  A February’s eve beach show in St Thomas (USVI) began the year’s gigs. The band with Fly, Lane and Charlie got tight. SONY released “We’re Still Havin’ Fun”’s best audio as a CD. I took time to make the “Time and Tide” CD as part of the Robbie Dupree Band, which had played Japan and Woodstock the last few years. Rock & Pop Masters, expanding its Roster of Singers, started playing good gigs regularly with Andy’s help marketing and booking. The projects were now being treated as businesses: focus, plans of action and connecting with fans. 

2008: Rock & Pop Masters continued growing, concurrently going through webmasters and sites that did not work well for various reasons. But both RPM and Orleans continued with some great events – Orleans did a memorable cruise on Lake Cayuga after a show in Ithaca, where our roots were deep. RPM’s gigs included returns for all of Labor Day Weekend in Madison, WI and in December, Chicago’s House of Blues. Orleans compiled and self-released “Obscurities”, a CD of previously unreleased studio cuts. Notably, Charlie and I played a Florida fundraiser for Sen. Obama, meeting him. More notably, he won!

2009: The financial collapse of late’08 loomed large (and still does). Andy, Lance and I were determined to move forward, regardless. We hired cutting-edge web designers for RPM, left our “booking agency” and hired our own in-house Agent to concentrate solely on Orleans and RPM. Proactive decisions are helpful. We also began an annual Holiday fundraising drive for Feeding America at www.LessHungerMoreMusic.com. Other associations with broad ramifications are in the works as I write this. Some ‘repeat” gigs didn’t happen in ’09 due to the economic climate, but considering the big picture, we did well – as we are still in business, and one that we love!

So, here we are in 2010. I hadn’t thought “in order” about those years until I needed to recreate the timeline (more or less ;-). So now, we both know more about how all that stuff happened – and why.  As we can’t see the future, I say that what got us – and kept us – going was doing what we love, learning to find others who can do what we can’t do well, and trying hard to always do the right thing. By that I mean being at least fair if not generous in business, exceeding expectations by delivering more than promised, and never forgetting that we are only able to have a career if we have YOU – our fans. So, we try to treat our fans well at every turn.

Thanks for stopping by; we’ll see you out there at a gig near you!   Al the best, Larry H

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Lance, Commentary, News, January 4, 2010, 9:26 PM

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