Gratitude Retrospective: Ian Gillan, Part One

I first met Ian Gillan, as well as the rest of Deep Purple in 1997. My old friend Steve Jarrell had given Ian my first album years before and Ian had loved my songs. I was ridiculously honored to hear this. He wanted to meet me and of course, I wanted to meet him and finally we met. We loved each other. It was one of those wonderful instant bonding connections that happens sometimes. We have been friends ever since. I am grateful.
The night Ian and I met... Myrtle Beach, 1997
One of my favorite Ian and Bruce stories is from when Lynn and I were staying with him while DP were working on an album in Orlando. I was playing ukulele a lot back then and jokingly, I started playing “Smoke on the Water” and Ian started singing it with me. Now that was a surreal moment. We were just being silly, but it was “the” voice that goes with (and wrote) those words and me playing ukulele. I’ll never forget it. I am grateful. 

Lynn and Ian and brie and grapes on bread... I am not sure why i.g. is making that face. He likes brie and grapes on bread.
There are lots of stories, but we’ll fast-forward to 2004. Ian and I are discussing that he had never seen me perform live. DP was touring in the US and we looked for places where they were performing and I could possibly perform close by. We settled on Buffalo, NY in August. I set up a one-man show for the Comic’s Café, about a 200 seat club in Tonawanda, a suburb of Buffalo. The night before Deep Purple was to perform an outdoor concert, Ian and the band and most of the road crew came to see me. I did radio and television promo that morning and Ian called in (it was a blast- all facilitated by Michael Lee Jackson, wonderful friend and Ian's personal manager I believe) and we had a full house that night.

I did about an hour and a half and it was as good as I have ever performed. I was doing a lot of shows back then and I was at the top of my game. I will never forget it. I can think back right now to that night… to how I felt just before I went on stage… to seeing the table with the band up close to the front… watching Steve Morse (a guitar God) watching me playing guitar (that was unnerving). Then at the end came the massive standing ovation and encore. It was as good as it could be. It was validation that I will take to the grave. I performed for people whose talents I am in awe of, and I did good. I will always be grateful for that night.

After the gig, Michael Lee Jackson had arranged a pub that would stay open and we could all hang out for a while. It was a blast. It was there that the plan for me to do some shows in The UK was hatched. I heard, “They’d love you in England, mate!” over, and over that night. So we decided to do something about that… and we did. 

Laughing and hugging after the show.
Ian and me, still laughin'
Here are a few shots from the incredible (as always) show that Purple did the next night in Buffalo. It was also the first time I ever heard Ian sing my lyrics on stage. He had been putting the chorus of “I Love My Wife” into DP’s “Speed King” on this tour and singing my words all over the world. I was honored. I was thrilled. I am grateful.

Steve, Ian and Roger
Steve, Roger and Ian. Damn they're good!
Stay tuned for Part Two and my England tour.

Birds. Peace. Love. Earth. Laughter. Music.