A Personal Look Inside the Journey
of One of Orleans’ Founders
An interview conducted by Sky Schrode
Conspicuously absent and tardy with any kind of bio submission for the new OrleansOnline website, I (Sky Schrode) contacted Lance Hoppen to see what might be the matter.
“Does this have to be that boring, press release, newspaper article, boiler-plate, rehash of this is all about ‘Still the One’ stuff? Or do I have some license and latitude here?” he asked.
It’s your website. What do YOU want to say about Lance Hoppen?
“A biography —the story of a life — changes based on the length of time one spends on the planet and the perspective from which it is viewed. How deep do you want to go?” he asks in his typically precise, matter-of-fact manner, almost with a challenge attached.
Lance’s first gig was a Halloween dance with some school buddies in a band they called “The Koloring Book”. “9 pieces, including 4 horn players. $5 a man and all the fun you could find as a 14 year-old.”
Throughout those school years, Lance played with his peers in different incarnations.
He also made occasional visits to hang with Larry in Ithaca, NY, or New York City, seeing him do HIS band things, most notably “Boffalongo”. Eventually, Lance caught a gig of a fledgling trio Larry had with guitarist John Hall and former Boff drummer Wells Kelly named “Orleans”. Cool band!
The summer after graduation found Lance playing clubs all over Long Island, 5 and 6 nights a week. Then, in October of ’72, he got the fateful call from brother Larry. “We need to expand. Would you like to come to Woodstock [NY] and see about playing with Orleans?” It was not necessary to ask twice. Lance passed the audition and moved to Woodstock, where he resided for the next 17 years.
“I hit the highway with Orleans, already a 9-month-old work in progress. The plan was simple: play as many bars and college shows as possible, write, practice, get a record deal, make hit records, become famous and wealthy Rock Stars!
“Parts of that plan worked well, or at least they SEEMED to. We played a lot of gigs, got the deals, made the records, even had a couple of hits and, to some degree, became ‘famous’. Much of that history is well documented, even on other parts of this website, so I’m not going to waste space being redundant with the obvious. Certainly, I was comfortable relative to my starving artist friends, but by no means wealthy. My mistake was naively expecting that there was somehow always going to be ‘more where that came from’. After all, we were on our way to the big-time, weren’t we?”
“Still, we had a second go-around on the radio and toured a bunch. But the label went under and we were acquired by MCA. The record (it was still vinyl back then) we subsequently made for them went nowhere.”
Lance, Larry and Wells continued. But the stress level was high. So much so that the brothers had a serious falling out with Wells. Faced with a “work or go bankrupt” situation, Lance and Larry put an Orleans band together which included youngest brother Lane.
“We worked every club in the northeast that would have us, as we spiraled down to zero. Shades of Spinal Tap! We actually did at least one military base dance gig, and others just as ridiculous. We DID get to make the “One of a Kind” album, but nobody noticed. Our accountant had botched our affairs and I became deeply in debt, as everything we could make went to pay some creditor. The good gigs got fewer and farther between, and the machine came to a screeching halt again. This crash was far worse than the first.
“By September of ’84, Larry had had it and so had I. We put Orleans to bed for what HAD to be the last time, right? May it rest in peace.
”For the first time in my life, I could not even eek out an existence as a musician. I did some ‘interesting’ jobs at that time. I was the assistant Nanny for Todd Rundgren’s young son, Rex (my first wife was the Nanny). I drove a van for Utopia. I played bass for acts like The Drifters and the Shirelles for $75/night.
“But what saved me was stumbling into Direct Sales work, which was the LAST thing I would have chosen. Somehow I managed to excel at it. I even became a Recruiter/Trainer/Sales Manager for the company I worked for. I even won awards at it. Remember me — the overachiever? So the bills got paid as I became this other guy.”
The serendipity was not lost on Lance. Once again, it was not necessary to ask twice. Lance toured as one of “the Boys” from ’89 through the spring of ’92. An opportunity to be bandleader for Suzy Bogguss took over for the next two years. Meanwhile, Lance did some session work and small production projects on the side, rubbing elbows with many of Nashville’s finest.
“Geez! Just when you think it can’t possibly rise again, the Orleans phoenix takes flight. We recorded and released ‘Analog Men’ for the Japanese market, did a 2nd Japanese tour and appeared at Woodstock ‘94, right in the backyard of my former stomping grounds. We were scheduled as the last of the ‘local’ acts AND the first of the national acts, playing to an audience of 150,000!”
Lance rekindled his relationship with the Nashville music community, tapping into a series of short-term gigs. He cites his favorites as Bob Halligan’s Celtic-American Pop band “Ceili Rain” (pronounced Kay-Lee) and a brief tour with famed singer/songwriter Matraca Berg. In the summer of ’99, he took a position as bandleader with newcomer Andy Griggs.
“I was ‘the old man’. Most of the guys in that band were half my age, Andy included. We lived on and off the tour bus, every week, just like ‘the old days’. It really put me back on my feet.”
“Then the MOST unlikely thing happened! Last summer (2001) John called Larry to see if he (and I) would be interested in doing the traditional Woodstock Labor Day gig (the one we had done last in ‘97). We said, ‘Sure. Why not?’ Well, it went SO well that we ‘fell in love’ with Orleans all over again! But this time, there is something very different about it.
“Like I said, the story of a life changes with the amount of time spent on the planet and the perspective from which it is viewed. If I have learned anything from this long, strange trip, it’s that the best is yet to come.”
ADDENDUM … presented at the church I attended at the time,
Center for Spiritual Living Nashville (circa 2006)
Today is a very special day for me and, seeing it coming, I didn’t want it to pass without at least trying to maximize its potentials, so I asked Rev. Mitch if I could have a little podium time. The long version of the story I have to tell you could fill a book and maybe it will someday, but I only have a few minutes here today, so I’ve written this Reader’s Digest version, to keep me on task.
Shortly I will have the pleasure of introducing you to the music of my dear friends Kathie Baillie, her husband Michael Bonagura, and their daughter Alyssa. Our history now spans nearly 30 years.
That history is a story of the power of intention at work — how there are no coincidences, just weird but meaningful twists and turns along the long and winding road of a life … a story of knowing “what” without having a clue as to “how”, yet seeing it show up as “demonstrations” of the Law of Mind … of how thoughts become reality and how that can completely change and sculpt the course of a life. There are even some angels at work in this story. And even though this is MY story, I hope to successfully relay this in a way that allows you to relate it to YOUR story.
The best way to tell this tale will be to stick to the timeline, which will allow me to establish the all-important context before we get to the punch line, so please bear with me. Here goes.
Some of you know that in the mid-70s I was in a rock and roll band that achieved a good measure of success … living in Woodstock, NY, hit records, big tours and all that. These were upswing years. I was living my dream! But, in 1977, after five years of hard work and just at the peak of that success, we did a really dumb thing — we broke up. Oh well …
A lot of things happened in the downturn that followed. One thing was that I got this phone call from a stranger named “Michael”. He said he was a fan of our defunct band and that he and his girlfriend, Kathie, had a trio … and that their singing bass player/partner, Alan, had quit to be in “Beatlemania” … and he asked if I would consider taking Alan’s place. Well, I declined that offer, but I did arrange to bring Kathie and Michael into the studio and produce some demos for them. We did a couple of projects that year (1978) and then, as it happens, we lost touch as they went on with their lives and I went on with mine.
My band managed to get back together, get another record deal, have another hit, do some more touring … I got married. Life was good again for a couple more years. Then the bottom really fell out, big time. By ’81 we had no deal, we were heavily in debt and everything I had acquired … all my guitars and amps and recording equipment, my piano, my Mercedes, you name it …everything was sold off to pay bills. Since I could no longer pay the rent, my wife and I had to move out of our nice big place with the pond in the back yard and into the tiniest of houses, where I learned the value of a cubic inch of space.
For the next three years, the band worked like dogs just to pay our creditors as I sunk deeper and deeper into personal debt and despair. In ’84, at the age of 30, I was a defeated and angry young man. A “has-been” in my own mind.
Finally, I admitted to myself that I would have to do something drastic just to survive, so I reluctantly took a position with a direct sales company with the promise of big commissions. Now, this was the LAST thing I wanted to do, since my entire sense of self and identity was built around being a musician, but it was my only real option at the time.
At first I was really awful at the job, but I was desperately hungry and determined not to fail. Soon I got the hang of it and became the top new salesman for the month … then for the quarter. And, since I really didn’t want to remain a salesman in the field any longer than absolutely necessary, I set my sights on becoming the sales RECRUITER for that branch of the company. Within a couple of months, I was hiring and training and, after two years, I had become the top trainer in the entire Northeast Division and the acting General Manager for one of the top-10 producing offices in the world. In the process and in order to achieve all this, I had become “that guy” — the suit and tie sales businessman — at the expense of the musician in me … and I was completely miserable.
Now, during the same time frame, my first wife had discovered her own career calling and was growing along her chosen path, while I was growing more and more off mine. So, it wasn’t a big surprise when, at the end of ’87, she announced that she wanted a divorce — although it WAS devastating. Anyone who’s ever been abandoned, especially when you’re already miserable, knows what that feels like.
That was my wake up call; my Cosmic 2×4. I spent the beginning of ’88 getting my bearings and became determined to reclaim my life. Now, I had already been exposed to the essence of the Science of Mind teachings through books like “The Magic of Thinking Big”, by Dr. David Schwartz, “Think and Grow Rich”, by Napoleon Hill … I had tape programs from Denis Waitley, Earl Nightingale, Wayne Dyer … I watched Dr. Norman Vincent Peale’s “Hour of Power” on TV … I listened to self-empowerment and guided visualization meditation audios … and I was doing the best I knew how to set intentions for my life and reprogram my subconscious for success … to somehow manifest this new life of mine.
My primary aim, my CORE desire was to once again be a full-time professional musician, and I thought about this every day.
OK … now stay with me, ‘cause we’re about to get to the good stuff … I promise!
So, I clearly knew “what” I wanted, but I had absolutely no idea as to “how” that could happen for me. I DID know that I was not going to get to some new future by holding on to my present and my past. So I announced to my employer that I would be leaving the company, not knowing what was next.
Well, “next” was a job selling pools in-home for the summer. I did OK, but I often had to drive long distances to appointments and, in general, I hated it. Just as I was ready to quit, I got a job offer selling replacement windows and water treatment systems on the floor of a home improvement center. At least now the appointments were coming to me. I did this for the fall and winter. Again, I did OK, but I hated it. I was again ready to quit, but I didn’t have anything to take its place.
Now remember: All along, I was doing my version of Spiritual Mind Treatment, using visualization and affirmation techniques … all geared towards manifesting a shift back to my musical calling and career.
I remember quite clearly driving home from another evening of work on January 10th of 1989. I had this thought; this wish; this hope; this prayer that there would be some kind of good message on my answering machine. When I got home, there WAS a message and it simply said, “This is Michael from Nashville. Please call me back right away.”
Well, I had no idea who “Michael from Nashville” was and it was late, but I did call back the next day to discover that “Michael from Nashville” was really Michael Bonagura from New Jersey. Now, keep in mind that we had not communicated at all for a full ten years. He proceeded to explain to me that he and Kathie were now “Baillie & the Boys”, had a deal with RCA, had already had a couple of top 10 Country hits with another on the charts as we spoke, and that they had a 40-city tour coming up, opening to George Strait, and that Alan (remember Alan?) had quit the band AGAIN! And, just to add to this weird non-coincidence, I need to point out that Alan had quit on my birthday! And now Michael wanted to know if I would be interested in taking his place.
Are you kidding me?!?!?!
Please understand here that there was absolutely NO WAY that I could have made that happen, other than through connection with God, allowing It to supply the “how” for my “what”. This is the “why” behind “Let go and let God.”
So, that’s how I moved to Nashville, for work and with work, and had my life transformed, just as I had been praying for. And if that’s not a clear demonstration of the power of intention, then I don’t know what is.
The rest of my life’s chapters to date have unfolded as a direct result of that one, fateful phone call. In another bizarre set of non-coincidences, I met Joanne — now my second ex-wife — through my involvement with Baillie & the Boys. She’s not only the mother of my two wonderful daughters — who are the greatest joy in my life — she’s also the one who introduced me to this spiritual community.
So, in closing, I’d like to acknowledge the various angels at work in this story. (You know, they come disguised as all kinds of people in your life.)
The first angel acknowledgement goes to Joanne, through whom I have been given so much … and have learned so much … even when, at certain times, I didn’t like the lesson, the classroom setting or the teacher very much. Still, it was all perfect. Thank you, Joanne, for everything.
The second angel in this story is Alan who, to this day, I have never met. Yet the space that he vacated … TWICE … was the very space I needed to occupy in this life. Thank you, Alan, for being a quitter. 🙂
Lastly, and mostly, I’d like to acknowledge my dear old and lasting friends, the angels Kathie Baillie and Michael Bonagura, for taking care of me by weaving my life into theirs. For that, I can’t thank them enough.
And thank you all for letting me tell this story. I hope it was as good for you as it was for me. Now on with some music!