“Whiskey!” If you were to ask me who my biggest musical influencer was when I was growing up I would quickly reply, George Simser. “Georgie”, as he’s known by most, remains one of the greatest entertainers I’ve ever met. You won’t find him on Spotify or playing the Ryman but to me he’s a true legend that taught me more about performance than anyone in my life. I think it’s safe to say that if I didn’t have Georgie in my life I would’ve never gravitated towards playing music and writing songs.
Two of my closest friends are Georgie’s sons, Shane and Tyler. I spent most of my high school days and nights at the Simser house in Watertown, NY playing backyard basketball and chasing girls. The Simser crew is all about having fun, being real and always including everyone. Just about every night I spent there, Georgie and his wife Lynnie, would invite their friends over to their kitchen table for a few drinks which always included, of course, a late night concert experience if you stuck around long enough. And when that time came something magical and unexplainable happened when he opened up his beat up guitar case. The winds changed, the mood shifted and the outside world faded away.
Georgie would always start with a funny joke, lift his glass to everyone and say “Whiskey!” and then take off into a stompin’ sing-a-long that everyone knew. His family was so used to this that they would immediately start singing along with him and put their arms around everyone at the table. They pulled everyone in right from the jump and you knew that for the rest of the night you were going to sing until your throat hurt and laugh until you cried. Georgie showed me what I wanted to be. I didn’t want to just sing songs or be a guitar shredder. I wanted to be a force like he is, a full package that you can’t really define. I wanted to move people the way he does and be a source of pure joy. He would take us for a ride around the world and we never had to leave the kitchen table.
He has this ability to feel a room out and give it just what it needs. I don’t consider George just a singer, guitar player, musician, comedian, storyteller, etc… He is all of that and truly is a one man party. His ability to capture any room was, and still is, absolutely incredible. I’ve seen him take over a hotel lobby, a parking garage, a house full of strangers, my wedding reception and much more.
One thing I always was a kid was observant. I would listen and watch things very closely. When someone would display a quality that I found attractive I would try and work that into my make up. Georgie had so many qualities that I felt this way about. Here are a few things that I noticed.
1. If there was someone new to the party he would always address them directly, tell them a joke or sing them a song. It pulled them into the circle and made them feel welcome. I saw this several times, where someone that was from out of town or a complete stranger ends up having the time of their life because Georgie pulled them in and made them feel like old friends.
2. His flow. He would shift from storytelling - to a joke - to a song - to a limerick - to a toast, etc… He would do it all so seamlessly.
3. He never used amplification and yet somehow you could hear him in a crowd of 50 or 60 people like he had a wall of sound. Still haven’t figured out how he does this.
4. His musical selection was all over the map. He would play an old Haggard tune that would roll into the new Dave Matthews song that was on the radio at the time. This was a way to get everyone of all different musical tastes involved.
5. He would change lyrics in songs as little jokes. Most famously in Don Mclean’s “American Pie” the part where the song goes “And we sang dirges in the dark” Georgie would sing “got caught goosing statues in the park”.
6. He had 5 or 6 :30 songs that he would play at just the right times to keep everyone laughing and the party going.
7. His heart is full of love and he radiates that vibe to everyone. Through hugs, handshakes and fist bumps he sets the table for a fun loving night. Negativity doesn't stand a chance around him.
Georgie is a very special person and I'm extremely grateful for our friendship. Music and storytelling has been around for ages and is a beautiful thing when done right. It can truly change people. Georgie did this for me. Thank you ol' buddy. “Whiskey!”