By Mike Morsch
Lisa Shetler is a huge Beatles fan. She saw Elvis in concert a couple of times and Tom Jones live a half dozen times. She’s seen The Moody Blues, Pat Benatar and Neil Sedaka and she’s liked them all.
But her favorite band was always Air Supply, the Australian soft rock duo of Graham Russell and Russell Hitchcock. And by the summer of 1986, Air Supply had racked up an impressive number of hits, including “Lost in Love,” “All Out of Love,” “Every Woman in the World” and “Here I Am.”
So when Lisa saw that Air Supply would be in concert near her upstate New York home at the Finger Lakes Performing Arts Center on Aug. 29, 1986, she knew she had to go. And that she wanted to take her three children, 15-year-old daughter Lydia and two boys, 9-year-old Jim and 5-year-old Mat.
“I remember the weather forecasters kept calling for bad storms that day. I kept watching the weather and watching the weather but nothing happened,” said Lisa.
Potentially bad weather wasn’t the only concern. Money was hard to come by in those days for Lisa and her family. The top ticket price at the venue then – for all the bands on the summer schedule, which included the likes of the Pointer Sisters, America, Stephen Stills, Steppenwolf, The Guess Who, Mike and the Mechanics, the 20th anniversary tour of The Monkees, the Temptations, the Four Tops, Peter, Paul and Mary, Mr. Mister and Sheena Easton – was $15.
But lawn seats for the outdoor venue were only $10. And Lisa needed to come up with enough money for four tickets.
“We rolled change and pennies for hours to go to this concert,” said Lisa. “And I got the rolls to the bank before it closed. The boys didn’t want to go. They didn’t know what it was, they had never been to a concert before.”
Once the money for tickets had been secured, Lisa grabbed four lawn chairs, a cooler full of drinks and snacks and headed for a family outing with Air Supply.
Lisa youngest son, Mat, recalls that the cooler wasn’t allowed inside the venue, so his mom had to return it to the car. The family stationed itself on the lawn just behind the reserve seating. There was a short fence between the last row of seat and the lawn, and 5-year-old Mat was so short that he had to climb up on the fence to see Air Supply.
Neither Lisa nor Mat remember much about the show itself. But it was special nonetheless, not because of what the family recalled from the evening, but how that Air Supply concert would influence their lives as they all moved forward, especially the young brothers.
Mat grew up listening to all different kinds of music, but by age 15, he had gravitated toward heavy metal. He played bass in a band called Ridium, that was good enough to once open for heavy metal rockers Slaughter in 1996.
He went off to serve four years in the Air Force from 1999 to 2003 and then . . . he married my oldest daughter Kiley in 2008 and became my son-in-law.
For the first couple of years, the music we talked about was mostly heavy metal. It’s his area of expertise, not mine, so I didn’t add much to those conversations. In fact, I don’t listen to heavy metal music and never have.
Then one day, Mat mentioned that he was a big Air Supply fan.
“Really? You’re a heavy metal guy and you like Air Supply?” I said, unable to hide my incredulous tone.
That was a few years ago, and since then, I’ve tried to find a way to interview Graham Russell and/or Russell Hitchcock of Air Supply and the opportunity finally came recently. Air Supply was playing a show at Resorts Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City in late February. And we were going to do an advance story on the show for TimeOff, the entertainment section of Packet Media Group.
Russell Hitchcock couldn’t have been any more pleasant and accommodating. He gave a great interview and toward the end of our conversation, I was able to share my heavy metal son-in-law’s story about being a lifelong Air Supply fan.
“I have a couple of friends who play for a very heavy metal band. They’re big fans of ours, but they always say to me, ‘Don’t tell anybody because we’ll get into trouble with the other guys in the band.’ We’re a guilty pleasure,” said Hitchcock.
I had originally thought that I would take Mat the Air Supply show in Atlantic City. But I decided my daughter, his wife, should be the one to go with him. So we secured the tickets and they went to the show.
It was the first time Mat had seen Air Supply in concert since he saw them the very first time as a 5-year-old in 1986. And of course, he and my daughter thought they put on a great show.
Mat had come full circle. It all started 30 years ago when his mom rolled enough pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters to take her family to see Air Supply.
“It was one of the happiest things I ever did with my kids because it influenced them so much. They just loved it,” said Lisa. “Mat once told me, ‘Mom, when I hear Air Supply, the first person I think of is you.’”
It’s a great story about how important music is and how it influences our lives.
And it was all out of love.
Mike Morsch is executive editor and digital news director of Packet Media Group. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.
By Mike Morsch