Yep, it has been a long time since I let you know “what’s new” with me. I hate to apologize – so I won’t. Instead, I will tell you that like all of the rest of you I have been as busy as a three- legged beaver.
So, the last time you heard from me here was back in March when I had just finished playing the Music On The Bay music festival in Tampa, Florida with A1A. When that incredible gig was over, I caught the next flight out to Idaho and hopped back into the last leg of the 2019 Abba Mania tour. Which once again finished up with two shows in Hollywood on March 17.
Like every year the Abba Mania tour was a most enjoyable experience. I am very grateful to get the opportunity to tour across the country once a year in grand style with the most amazing musicians, entertainers and production people I know. To have the chance to perform in the most beautiful theaters and performing arts centers in the country and see a lot of my friends along the way who are spread out over the country is a blessing.
The only downside I regularly experience while on this annual tour is that it takes a significant toll on my body. While I enjoy traveling on a big tour bus, I do not sleep very well at all in the beds we have. I toss and turn with insomnia. Hips hurt, feet hurt — backaches, etc. etc. Of course, right along with all that is the fact that it is so challenging to eat right and stay fit on the road. Every year I have come home weighing more than I did when I left, and it always takes me a few weeks to remotely start feeling myself again. So at the end of last years tour in 2018, I finally decided that enough was enough. I decided that I could not let this continue and that it was damn time I got in shape and learned to eat healthy again once and for all.
I knew full well that I could not do this alone, so I set out to find a serious personal fitness and nutrition trainer so that I would be held accountable. I enlisted my very close long-time friend, business partner, and manager, Kathy Mullen to assist me in this serious life quest. We were lucky enough to be referred to Tiffany Bryson, who runs Faithfully Fit Fitness Center in Dawsonville, Georgia. She turned out to be just what we needed, and I started my new physical life trek in August of 2018.
I committed myself to change the way I ate and to exercise daily. My goal was to lose 40 pounds so that by the time I went back out to Oregon this summer to do some work with Gino Vannelli I would be in much better shape. Looking and feeling a lot healthier. I didn’t quite make 40 pounds, but I did lose 33 pounds, going from 222 to 189 in 11 months. To help me stay accountable and committed, I use a Fit Bit Icon Watch, a Weight Guru Scale, and a Spark Hydration Bottle. These indispensable tools all have great I-Phone apps that sync together with the My Fitness Pal App. This makes all the information I need to stay on track accessible in my hand at any time. I have to say that it has been a whole lot harder than I thought it was going to be, but I have done my best to stick to regular and consistent walking, cardio and strength training program on and off the road. A huge thanks to Tiffany and Kathy for consistently kicking my butt and helping me stay on track. Thanks to all of the hard work I was able to impress Gino, showing him I mean business, and, for the first time in my life, I lost weight while on the road.
I will admit that I was quite scared to go back out on the road with Abba Mania this year. I was so afraid that I would slip and all of the work I have done would be wiped away by bad eating habits and little to no exercise. But the show must go on. So Tiffany gave me some severe cardio exercises I could do in my dressing room, and we arranged Facetime workouts whenever there was an opportunity. Also, whenever we stayed in a hotel, I parked my butt in the gym as much as I could. Eating well was still a big challenge, but when it was all said and done, I came back from the tour in March eight pounds lighter than when I had begun. All of the exercises, lifting and walking I have been doing significantly helped this summer performing with A1A. It also helped my vocal performance, posture, overall health, and self-confidence. If you are up for the commitment, I recommend this for everyone.
The band has had a good summer with a lot of fun shows. Every performance this year has had its own set of challenges and great memories, especially my Birthday weekend, which was spent with The Atlanta Parrot Head Club at Margaritaville at Lake Lanier Islands celebrating the clubs 30th Anniversary. In spite of our show being rained out and losing about $2,500 worth of equipment in the storm, I still had a great time. Seeing so many old friends gathered together in one place for three days brought back floods of memories of so many good times over the years.
It was also very nice to return to The Marietta Square this year for their July 4 Independence Day Celebration. A1A and Marietta have an extensive history together that goes back 25 years. Our fan base there has always been significant, and I have made many friends in and around the Marietta area since I started playing there way back in 1985. Although I have never lived there, it does not feel strange at all to feel quite at home when I am performing, relaxing at Hemingway’s, or just visiting the Marietta Square. It had been a few years since A1A had performed on the square and it felt lovely being able to play on such a great American Holiday.
This past weekend on August 30 we returned for the third year in a row to play The Rock N’ Rails Music Festival in Griffth, Indiana. The Rock N’ Rails music festival is a massive 4-day event in Griffth showcasing the very best Tribute Bands in the nation. I have to tell you that there are some SERIOUSLY good tribute bands out there. Some are better or just as good as the acts they are paying tribute too. While attending The Rock N’ Rails music festival, we have seen tribute acts to Elvis, Chicago, Led Zeppelin, Prince, Heart, Pink Floyd, Johnny Cash, and Simon and Garfunkle. All of these acts will leave you spellbound and speechless. They are THAT good. The Rock N’ Rails Music Festival is a very cool festival to be a part of, and we are very grateful to have been included in the lineup for the past three years. I have my fingers crossed that we can return next year.
On Sunday, September 1, we had the distinct opportunity to play the legendary Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa. We were brought in by Bart Mason and The Isle of Iowa Parrot Head Club to headline their annual Labor Day Weekend Show. I have heard about The Surf Ballroom all of my life but have never given it a lot of thought since we do not play that part of the country very often. Although several years back, A1A did fly into the same airport where Buddy Holly’s plane crashed. We were in a tiny plane, and the weather was not that great, so it was a little surreal. Even though we were that close to The Surf Ballroom that day, we did not have a chance to visit. So this past Labor Day weekend was the first time that any of us have visited this historical and legendary rock and roll landmark. I have seen a lot of rooms like this across the country when I am on tour with Abba Mania. But the history of the dressing room and the venue hangs in the air. I knew that performing here was going to be cool. However, I was not prepared for the intense emotion and aura of rock and roll history I experienced while in this building and on this stage. The vast number of legendary and iconic performers who have gone before us at The Surf Ballroom since it reopened in its current location in 1948 is mind-blowing. The entire band felt this way. This extraordinary feeling, along with a full house and a very energetic audience made this a night we will always remember.
This coming Friday, September 6, we return to play our annual concert at Thrasher Park in Norcross, Georgia. I have lost count on exactly how many years in a row we have been playing this event. I know that it is well over 15 years. It is probably our most anticipated shows of the year and possibly our most well attended. Norcross has a stupendous summer concert series, and they bring us home to close it out every year. It is generally our last huge show of the season which makes it all the more memorable. Looking out over the crowd every year, I have so many memories of faces gone by that I can’t even begin to count them all. This park has special memories for which also date back before A1A even existed. One that stands out is when I used to bring my daughter to this park to swing and play in the playground when she was just a petite little girl. She even had her 3rd Birthday party here. So yea, lots of good times and memories here at Thrasher Park. To be closing out this season with this lineup of A1A along with the phenomenal Rhythm Jets is an excellent feeling and I am very grateful.
We have a couple of more A1A, and Abba Mania shows left in 2019, and I have some other solo shows too. If you get a chance to make one, I hope you will come up and say hello. If not, I have some other very cool stuff to write about which I did not get to in this blog, so stay tuned.
"Ramblings From Jeff" - is a dedicated personal blog page within JeffPike.com written and posted by Jeff Pike.