Glen Burtnik is no stranger to New Jersey audiences, especially those at the Jersey shore. Hailing from Livingston originally, and growing up in North Brunswick, Glen played around the area in a variety of local bands before landing the part of Paul McCartney in the West Coast production of Beatlemania. After a few recording projects, Glen eventually returned home and started playing in Cats On A Smooth Surface, the Stone Pony house band that gained international fame when Bruce Springsteen started regularly joining the band on stage.
Cats became somewhat of a phenomenon, as Glen went on to record two solo albums for A&M Records, as well as serve stints in groups such as Styx and the modern day version of ELO; guitarist Bobby Bandiera is now the touring guitarist in Bon Jovi, bassist Fran Smith went on to join the Hooters, and keyboardist Ray Anderson went on to tour with Meat Loaf before becoming a successful children’s artist known as Mr. Ray.
Glen also went on to pen a number one pop song, the Patty Smythe/Don Henley duet “Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough.” A short while later, Randy Travis took Glen’s song “Spirit of a Boy, Wisdom of a Man” to number one on the country singles chart.
In between all his other endeavors, Glen has periodically performed around the area, and his annual Christmas shows feature many special guests and always draw sellout crowds. He has now put together a special show to commemorate the 70th birthday of John Lennon, which will take place at the State Theater in New Brunswick on Saturday, Feb. 19.
“It’s Johnny’s Birthday,” says Glen about the idea for the show. “He would’ve been 70. I probably wouldn’t be a musician had there been no John Lennon and the Beatles. Hell, there’d probably be no Aquarian, for that matter.”
As he does for his Christmas extravaganza, Glen has brought together a cast of participants that includes both local stars and nationally known artists. “Geez, there’s so many,” he laughs. “I often like to organize these huge three ring circus kind of shows. I figure it makes for a better, more interesting show for the audience when I ask a zillion people to appear. I know my own attention span is short, so when I’m sitting in the audience, I want variety.
“Among others, this show will include Earl Slick, who, in addition to playing guitar on John Lennon’s Double Fantasy album, has recorded and toured extensively with David Bowie and a number of other rock luminaries. Eric Troyer, who sang background vocals on Lennon’s Double Fantasy album. Mark Hudson, who’s written and produced for Ringo Starr, in addition to working with Burt Bacharach, Carole King, Ozzy Osbourne, Celine Dion, Bon Jovi, Alice Cooper, Leann Rimes, Wayne Newton, Cher, Alice Cooper, Aaron Neville, Harry Nilsson and Jars Of Clay. He also wrote Aerosmith’s Grammy Award-winning song ‘Livin’ On The Edge.’ Pat Dinizio, who is best known as the front man and primary singer/songwriter for The Smithereens. Talented recording artist Lisa Bouchelle. Powerhouse singer/songwriter Christine Martucci. Kim Pulsive, frontman, guitarist, and vocalist for the punk rock band The F Bombers. Singer/songwriter Bob Burger. John Merjave, who plays with, among others, Bubble, the band Liverpool at The Fest For Beatles Fans conventions, and has worked alongside Donovan, Denny Laine, Klaus Voorman and Gary Wright. A horn section, a string section, and a female choir consisting of other talented new singers and artists like Anjelia, Emily Grove, Taylor Hope, Jerzy Jung and Jo Wymer.”
Musically, the show will cover a vast variety of John Lennon’s material. “I’m planning on doing John’s first song, ‘Hello Little Girl,’ and his last, ‘Grow Old With Me,’ Glen says. “Most people don’t even know those two. We’ll also do some of the more familiar ones.”
Glen has another theme show coming up in March, which he calls The Summer Of Love Experience. So obviously music from the ‘60s has had an impact on him. “All my life I’ve lived under the influence of the music from the late ‘60s,” he explains. “I’ve always had a playlist on my iPod named ‘The Summer Of Love.’ I’m actually a hippie at heart. The music of that era is probably what moves me most.” His influences span many different eras, ranging from George Gershwin to Ben Folds, but it’s still Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles that have the biggest affect on him.
While he still spends his time working on new songs and collaborating with other writers, Glen’s focus is mainly on playing live these days. “I write songs all the time, but I kinda believe the era is over,” he relates. “Recorded music just isn’t as important in people’s lives. It’s been replaced, and devalued, by other things. So I usually don’t really feel like working on a new album. Who listens to albums all the way through? Who pays for records? Answer: no one. I’m enjoying this varied ‘live’ performance period of my life. It seems to me, ‘live’ is where the excitement is.”
In addition to the live theme shows he’s been putting together, Glen is also starting a new band project with his old friend, and former Beatlemania cohort, Marshall Crenshaw. Liberty DeVito, formerly of Billy Joel’s band, will also be involved.
For further information on what Glen is up to, and for details about the John Lennon 70th Birthday Celebration at the State Theatre Feb. 19, check out glenburtnik.com and statetheatrenj.org.