Auditions

Call for Entries

Golf

Volunteer

Donations Please

Corrections or additions?

This article by Richard Skelly was prepared for the November 24,

2004 issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Beatles Inspired Songwriter

Had it not been for the arrival of the Beatles in February 1964 and

the influence of his two older brothers, Glen Burtnik might have never

pursued a career in music. The North Brunswick-raised Burtnik, long a

struggling singer-songwriter, saw international success as a

songwriter in the early 1990s with Patty Smyth’s hit, "Sometimes Love

Just Ain’t Enough." Recorded with Don Henley of the Eagles, the tune

was a pop radio hit in the U.S., Europe, Canada, and in other parts of

the world. More recently, Burtnik wrote the theme song for John

McEnroe’s new show on the Fort Lee-based cable news channel CNBC.

Burtnik, who appears this Wednesday, November 24, at the Court Tavern

in New Brunswick, felt validated by his success in the early 1990s

with "Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough," which reached No. 1 on radio

pop charts. Yet the road hasn’t always been easy.

"My getting started in music had to do with the Beatles and having two

older brothers who would bring home instruments," Burtnik explains,

"and I just kind of never gave it up." He was nine when the Beatles

appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show" in February, 1964.

"I started with drums and took lessons on drums for many years. But

one day my brother Brian brought home a guitar, and I started with

that immediately," he says, recalling he was 11 at the time. "By the

time I was 12, I was getting into Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix.

Ultimately, it was the Beatles and Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix that got

me going, and I often look back on those three," he says.

"To this day," he adds, "I move around on a number of different

instruments, including piano, drums, bass and guitar. But I’ve never

really mastered any of them."

What Burtnik has mastered is the art of songwriting. Raised by a

postman father and foreign editor mother who worked at McGraw-Hill in

Hightstown, he led or was part of a procession of local bands through

the late 1960s and 1970s. His first break was joining the West Coast

cast of "Beatlemania" in 1978 after answering an ad in the Village

Voice.

"I’m not so sure I ever had any big break, but certainly a landmark

for me was in 1978 when I auditioned for ‘Beatlemania,’" he says. "The

ad in the Voice was looking for Beatles impersonators. That’s kind of

what got me into music in the first place.

"I got the job (impersonating) Paul McCartney and it was good for me.

The standards were high with the show, so I had to study. I studied

from the masters. It was good to sing his songs while playing his bass

lines, which were always quite melodic. I’ve always said, ‘I didn’t go

to college, I went to Beatlemania.’ The West Coast production of

‘Beatlemania’ certainly wasn’t anything to make me rich, but it was a

steady check, and for a musician, a steady income is a blessing."

The West Coast production of the show brought Burtnik into a new

circle of music business friends in San Francisco, San Diego, and

primarily, Los Angeles. Hoboken-based Marshall Crenshaw, another

respected singer-songwriter and rock ‘n’ roll star who rose to

prominence in the 1980s, was also part of the cast.

After a year of "Beatlemania," he spent a year working in the mailroom

at Johnson & Johnson, where he cemented a relationship with a woman

he’d known in high school, Rose. They got married in 1980.

Burtnik toured with keyboardist Jan Hammer in the early 1980s. Then he

began focusing on leading his own band. He landed a deal with A&M

Records, then a major internationally distributed record company, in

1986. Burtnik’s two albums, "Talking in Code" and "Heroes and Zeroes,"

in 1987 and 1988, gained him a foothold as a touring musician in the

U.S. His videos were played on a then-fledgling MTV.

In the late 1980s Burtnik was a frequent performer at the Stone Pony

in Asbury Park, Club Bene in Sayreville, and other Shore-area clubs.

He spent a small fortune on postage to let his fans know of his

upcoming shows. Through the 1990s he remained accessible, always

meeting with his audience after his shows to pose for pictures or sign

albums.

The Slaves of New Brunswick grew out of a loose jam session that used

to be held on Wednesday nights at the Melody Bar on French Street in

New Brunswick in the early 1990s. These days all of the core musicians

in the group get together once a year on the night before

Thanksgiving.

The atmosphere at the Court Tavern Wednesday night will be

celebratory, somewhat formalized, and yet loose. Vocalists and other

guest musicians will jump on stage for a tune or two, creating a "jam

session" atmosphere. "For the Thanksgiving Eve show, we typically go

in with some kind of set list, but we always change it," says Burtnik.

"On a good year we try to touch on all the talents in the band. It’s

also imperative that we do songs from ‘The Slaves of New Brunswick’

album."

The "Slaves" album was released locally in 1992. While it was very

successful in New Jersey, what surprised many of the 60-odd musicians

involved in the project was how wide-reaching was the airplay in other

parts of the country. The album featured songs like Burtnik’s own

"Exit Number 9," and "Riding the Avenue," a song written by Patti

Smith band guitarist Lenny Kaye. Kaye, a few years older than Burtnik,

was also raised in North Brunswick and attended New Brunswick High

School. The high school is still situated on Livingston Avenue, the

street referenced in the song about cruising around in cars in 1960s

New Brunswick. The album was distributed nationally through

Performance Distributors in New Brunswick in 1992 and 1993.

The idea for a group of songs about New Brunswick and central New

Jersey in general came to Burtnik while he was on the road, playing

bass for the pop-rock group Styx. While out touring with that

Midwest-based band around the U.S. and Canada, he began writing songs

about home.

Once he got off the road, he began assembling all manner of New

Brunswick-area blues, jazz, and rock ‘n’ roll musicians. Included on

the sessions were harmonica player Nancy Wertheim, jazz pianist Ernie

Scott, and even a throwback to the early 1970s, Sid Gottlieb, who led

a popular New Jersey rock band called Heavy Trucking. As a result of

all his research, the album took nearly eight months to record.

The project became a musical celebration of New Brunswick. It even

included a parody of Elvis Presley’s tune, written by Doc Pomus, "Viva

Las Vegas," only it was called "Viva New Brunswick." It was even

chosen as ‘Album of the Month’ in Guitar World magazine."

Featured players on the "Slaves of New Brunswick" album who will be at

the Court Tavern show include South Plainfield-based guitarist and

guitar teacher, Bernie Brausewetter; bassist Tony Shanahan, now with

Patti Smith’s group; drummer Mark Sacco; and vocalists Patty Moloney

and Barbara Hahn. Lenny Kaye, Smith’s longtime guitarist, is also

known to pop his head in to the annual Thanksgiving Eve show.

Asked about current and future projects, Burtnik, who’s released two

albums independently since "Slaves of New Brunswick" in 1992, says

he’s working on a DVD to "Welcome to Hollywood," his most recent

album, but one that’s still available only in Europe.

"We want to make the DVD for `Welcome to Hollywood’ available in the

U.S. I’m always writing new songs and doing a little bit of performing

with my own band," he says.

Glen Burtnik and the Slaves of New Brunswick Annual

Thanksgiving Eve

Show, Wednesday, November 24, 10 p.m., Court Tavern, 124 Church

Street, New Brunswick. $5. Call 732-545-7265.

Annual Christmas Extravaganza, Benefit for the Community

Food Bank of

New Brunswick, Friday, December 10, 8 p.m., State Theater. Call

732-247-7200.

Top Of Page
Auditions

Villagers Theater seeks actors for "And the World Goes Round," opening

February 25. Audition dates are November 29 and 30 at 415 Demott Lane,

Somerset. E-mail jc@villagerstheatre.com.

Stars in the Park at Kelsey Theater seeks female actors for

"Nunsense." Auditions are Saturday, December 11, from 11 a.m. to 3

p.m. at Kelsey Theater. Call Lorraine Wargo at 609-530-0912 for

appointment and information.

Ritz Theater seeks African-American actors for "Fences," opening March

3. Auditions are December 13 at 915 White Horse Pike, Oaklyn. Call

856-858-5230 for appointment.

The Academy Theater seeks actors for "Cabaret." Auditions are January

8 and 9, 1 to 5 p.m. All parts are open except Sally Bowles. 146 Route

130, Bordentown. Visit www.theacademytheatre.com or call 609-291-9000

for information.

Mercer County School of Performing Arts holds auditions on Wednesday,

December 1, at 3 p.m., and Saturday, December 4, at 8:30 a.m. The

program, located at Mercer County College, seeks high school junior

and seniors interested in pursuing a career in drama, dance, or vocal

music. There is an open house on Thursday, December 9, to tour the

school and see student performances. Another round of auditions will

take place in February. Call 609-586-3550 for information.

Top Of Page
Call for Entries

Trenton Film Society seeks local amateur and professional filmmakers

for "Films of the Trenton Film Society II" competition. Selected films

will be screened on Saturday, January 22 in Trenton. All submitted

films must be under 30 minutes in categories narrative, experimental,

animation, documentary, or foreign. Visit www.trentonfilmsociety.org

for application and information. Deadline is December 10.

Top Of Page
Golf

Middlesex County Improvement Authority reminds golfers that the four

Middlesex County golf courses are open dawn to dusk, seven days a week

year-round. Starting December 1, golfers may register for 2005. $35

for county residents, $30 for senior and students, and $45 for

non-county residents. Visit www.mciauth.com for information.

Top Of Page
Volunteer

Stony Brook Millstone Watershed seeks volunteers for StreamWatchers to

monitor water quality at sites within the Millstone Watershed.

Volunteers are also needed for Chemical Actions teams. Volunteers must

be 14 or older. There are sites in West Windsor, Plainsboro,

Princeton, Montgomery, Franklin, and Hopewell. Visit

www.thewatershed.org or call 609-737-3735 for information.

Top Of Page
Donations Please

HomeFront offers suggestions on how to help a homeless family this

holiday season and all year long. Donate gifts, turn your holiday

party into a rent party by raising funds to help a homeless family

with a security deposit on an apartment of their own, provide a meal

for a HomeFront program, send your holiday greetings with a HomeFront

Tribute Card, throw a party for homeless kids at your facility, have a

linen drive for twin and full size sheets, blankets, pillows, and

towels for the shelters and traditional housing, and visit

www.homefrontnj.org for more ideas and information.

Bristol Riverside Theater seeks donations for the Robert M. Kelly

Family Center of Bristol Township. Requested items include tickets for

family recreations, gift certificate to restaurants and stores,

dishes, glassware, utensils, dish towels, pillows, blankets, beauty

products, disposable diapers, baby food, car seats, toys, board games,

books, and holiday wrapping supplies. Bring to the theater, 120

Radcliffe Street, Bristol, Pennsylvania. Call David Abers at

215-785-6664.


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