Forever in our Hearts
FireHouse Brings Big Hair, Bigger Love to Ashland This Month
By Tammie Hetzer-Womack
The Greater Ashland Beacon
By my simple calculation, I was nearly a sophomore at Morehead State University when I discovered FireHouse. “Love of a Lifetime” became the unofficial sorority formal anthem that 1991 year, a time of seventh heaven and the rapture of meeting a new guy across the Adron Doran University Center.
Fleeting, or united with lavaliere devotion. An unraveling cassette in my Chevy Cavalier, many winds of a No. 2 pencil to bring her back to the living. Scuffed-up compact disc, skipping refrains leading my way home east on I-64.
There are recurrent verses, which stick with you from college days. Lyrics linger at age 50. To have that tease back, such innocence in my eyes, if only for a moment in time.
Yes. Big FireHouse fangirl. Now a golden oldie.
Back then, I would line up for days to be one chair closer to those FireHouse power choruses.
Then, last week, the phone rang. I knew why I chose this career. For this call. Finally.
Mr. Bill Leverty was on the other end of the line. After several to-and-fro emails, FOUND.
FireHouse is set to take you back in a ballad of time on Jan. 21 at 7:30 p.m. – the same bunch of guys, the litany of hits we hold dear to, Mr. Leverty still delivering commanding chords downstage.
“Happy New Year, Tammie!” he strummed, as I answered nervously.
I think what made FireHouse so simpatico with undergrads like me was their ability to sing – every bandmate offered the lilt we fell in love with. Lead singer and frontman C.J. Snare was first chair tenor in the Pennsylvania State Choir in youth. Music theory and classical guitar weren’t just passing glances for the band.
They were trained – pretty darn well, Leverty illustrated.
Young beginnings for Mr. Leverty. A plastic guitar left by Santa Claus under the tree one toddler Christmas. Plastic strings, too.
“Really just something for me to smash,” the rock idol plucked, adding the Virginia family had a babysitter. She taught him a four-chord progression – and then, this rock star was born.
At age 15, believing there was talent, his family hired a music teacher.
“Read the chords. Row, Row, Row Your Boat. Made me want to quit entirely,” modulated Leverty. “Well, actually I did quit.”
A new music teacher honed his D, C, and G – before long he could play his fave rock song, “Sweet Home Alabama,” and does till this day, upon request. (Made.)
Leverty took music theory at his Douglas Freeman High School what he dubs his will to “fight the good fight” towards becoming a classically trained musician. There, he met teacher Dr. Deen Entsminger, who is now professor of music at Belmont University in downtown Nashville.
Dr. Entsminger is a pioneer of chorale music. Leverty proclaimed one of his “biggest regrets” in life is not joining high school chorus. Maybe it wasn’t the place for cool kids back in the day.
“Entering this world, it’s so important to be a singer – you’re already one step ahead if that’s in your bag of tricks,” recommended Leverty, to those with a dream, looking for a plan.
Leverty considers FireHouse lucky. They garnered attention from a record label and got a deal in a time when rockers were oftentimes dime a dozen. They made FireHouse priority and offered a bit of promotions dollars to get the ball rolling.
He was in his late twenties – not really much older than the college students hearing his songs get airplay in those days.
“It seemed like it took forever to get signed. But then it all happened so fast,” relayed Mr. Leverty of their Top 40 chart-catapult.
FireHouse rented the cheapest tour bus they could find and played gigs six nights a week.
“The record label saw we were willing to work. We didn’t care where we slept or how hungry we got. We just went out and played.”
They had a CD. But really needed a music video.
The label tossed them $10K to produce a video – not nearly enough, even in those days. They found a way to make it work, shooting on 16-millimeter film. “Don’t Treat Me Bad” charted in the Top 20, and “Love of a Lifetime” was quickly in-line. They went on the road with fellow glam metal bands Trixter and Warrant – remembering days playing at my ol’ alma mater MSU.
Now Leverty is ready to return to Kentucky.
He’s abundantly patriotic, a proud backer of the Law Enforcement Family of Blue (donning a Thin Blue Line bracelet on-stage), and a staunch supporter of music and the arts in schools.
“I encourage parents to let their kids give it a try at music,” he vocalized. “Let them do what they feel.”
He recommends piano as a good starting point – as kids can easily see the layout of musical construction on the keyboard and with sheet music. Guitar can sometimes be a hard instrument to begin with, “encrypted,” or like a “puzzle” between notes and strings.
His heart remains with his pop-heavy metal-alternative genre.
“The cool thing about rock and roll is you can take it as far as you want or make it as simple as you want.”
Nowadays, Leverty does his own thing, unleashed by strings of popularity or fame. That’s water under the bridge.
“The older I get, I find I won’t box myself into what’s going to be the next big seller. I do something I enjoy; listen to the music I like.”
FireHouse has missions still to come. After playing domestically for soldiers in New Jersey and Connecticut – and five nights a week in Norfolk, VA to rocking’ American sailors, Leverty said his lifetime love remains with supporting our U.S. Troops – here, and abroad.
“God Bless America. I love this country. Every part of it. I say a prayer of thanks every single day that I’m American and this land offered us so much.
“All of this - this is all because of our country.”