Lounging in his home outside Orlando, Fla., Canadian-born guitarist Pat Travers relaxes in the 93-degree September heat. His sunny disposition matches the weather.
A Jimi Hendrix 1968 performance in Ottawa, Ontario, sparked Travers’ long career.
Travers started bands Red Hot and Merge in his early teens with venues in Quebec-area clubs. Travers said he knew it would pay off with improved musicianship, style and exposure.
“People are generally doing not much different than they were 50 years ago. They’re always doing the same thing but with new technology. I just try to focus on what I always have.”
While performing with Merge, 1950s rock artist Ronnie Hawkins noticed Travers and took him on the road to perform with him. While Hawkins’ music was mostly old rock ’n’ roll, country and rockabilly, Travers used this experience to hone his skills and voice as Hawkins’ lead guitarist.
After a year on the road with Hawkins, Pat traded in the tuxedos and ties to pursue his true dream: his own band and becoming a star.
“I started recording my first album in early 1976 in England,” Travers said. He was 20 then and a few hours of studio time to record a demo and his experience with Hawkins soon earned him a recording contract with Polydor.
“I was already playing professionally for five years then. Music is my passion and performing is something I put a lot of intensity in. I have to stay in shape to do that. I’m so grateful to have those fans around to appreciate my efforts.”
After the debut album, “Pat Travers,” in April 1976 with Mars Cowling on bass and Roy Dyke on drums, a tour of England in support of his debut soon resulted. This tour formed the bridge between Travers and his fans and a platform to display his roots.
Adorned in a red and white jumpsuit displaying the Maple Leaf of his native Canada, Pat increased his following. Trademarks of his early shows included giving away cardboard replicas of his black Fender Telecaster, playing barefoot and inviting audience members to play “air guitar” on stage during the show. His major accessibility with fans became a moving factor for organizers of the Reading Festival to invite him aboard in 1980.
“It’s kind of like winning the lottery,” Travers said. He said the best way to hear the Pat Travers Band was to hear it live and as a result they released their first live album, “Go For What You Know,” in 1979.
Travers soon found himself at the center of attention among aspiring guitarists. The album was one of his best sellers and still sells well.
“So many things depend on dumb luck now. Everything with the internet, digital recordings and everything else. Everyone has access to the market. What you’re trying to do is throw bait out to listeners to give into your music. The videos, the social media aspect. Today is a much more of a level playing field.”
Several of Travers’ videos appeared on MTV, yet that wasn’t enough to keep management and legal problems with Polydor away. Travers soon stepped out of the recording industry but continued to tour and kept in contact with his thousands of fans. Travers returned in 1990 with Mars, Jerry Riggs and Scott Zymowski and released “School of Hard Knocks” – a title with a close-to-home reflection of his career. The release strengthened fans who were glad to hear new music and attracted new fans.
“All in all, it might be better if you would be a Mercedes mechanic as a day job,” Travers said in response to his advice for musicians.
With Travers on keys, guitar and lead vocals, the Pat Travers Band is currently with major label Frontiers Records.
“I’ve driven up I-65 a bunch of times and I always wanted to go to the National Corvette Museum,” Travers said of his upcoming Bowling Green show. “When I saw Vette City Motorcycle Music Fest on my itinerary, I thought ‘it’s perfect.’ I like several models going back to the early 1960s, when I was a young boy. They’re always cool. Right now, I’d be very interested in the 2013 Chevrolet Corvette 427 model, of course that’s the 60th anniversary edition,” Travers said.
“We’re going to do a really exciting, high-energy show with a lot of people smiling,” Travers said. “We’re doing a lot of tours, so come out and see me.”
All tickets for Vette City Motorcycle Music Fest include a free tour of the National Corvette Museum. The event includes dyno drags, a globe of death, burnout contest, biker games, custom bike, car and the truck show, kids zone, beer garden, food trucks, merchandise vendors and two poker runs.
Gretchen Wilson is Friday’s headliner with Brett Michaels scheduled for Saturday. Lita Ford, Foghat, the Kentucky HeadHunters, The Georgia Satellites, David Lee Murphy, The Devon Allman Project with Duane Betts, Big Smo, Smith & Wesley, Louisiana Swamp Donkey, Geneva and Otis are also on the roster.
The Harley-Davidson of Bowling Green Kickoff Party is from 5 to 11 p.m. Oct. 11 at Harley-Davidson of Bowling Green. Bands featured are Kiss Kiss Bang, The Hootz, Jasmine Cain and The Josephines.