Feb - Oct 1972
Oct 1972 - 1974
1976 - 1977
1978 - 1980
1983 - 1984
1985 -1987
1988 - 2004
2000 - 2006
2006 - July 2012
Aug 2012 - Apr 2018
May 2018 - July 2019
Aug 2019 - Feb 2020
March 2020 - Aug 2021
Sept 2021 - March 2022
March 2022 - Feb 2023
March/April 2023
May 2023 - Present

Lance's Story

A Personal Look Inside the Journey
of One of Orleans’ Founders

(as told to Sky Schrode by Lance Hoppen circa 2002)

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.

     Well, let’s start out with some basic, easy stuff first, I’m thinking. The third of four kids born to Jean and Irv Hoppen, Lance Hoppen grew up on Long Island, New York.
     “Mom and Dad were musicians. He was a trumpet player and she played piano. She was a GREAT singer, as well. They met on a gig. Dad later had to ‘get a real job’ (he was a partner in his own business) to provide for his family, but Mom gigged until she was 40 and then taught piano until she was about 60. What was VERY cool was that when they retired to Florida, my Dad picked up his trumpet again (at nearly 70), and they both gigged-out the remainder of their lives. Way to go, folks!”
     “There was ALWAYS music in the house, whether it was Dad’s big band records, family sing-alongs around the living room piano, Mom’s really bad piano students (it seemed all she ever had was beginners), the folks’ combo playing for the summer-time neighborhood barbeques, the sound of trumpets practicing (both my brothers played) or my sister’s singing … you name it.”
     Raised in this atmosphere, genetically predisposed, there was never really any question what Lance would be “when I ‘grew up’ (as if!). When I was in 4th grade, my Dad brought home a clarinet he had picked up in a pawnshop. I cried a lot that night and played clarinet for the next 9 years.”  
     Although hardly enthusiastic about it, Lance studied diligently. This provided him with much of the formal training and experiences in his background. 
     “That’s just how I was. Still am, I guess. Painfully shy and introverted as a kid (even into adulthood), I compensated by being an overachiever. You know; first chair in the school band (gets you the title of Concert Master), straight A student, etc. In fact, I would have been the Valedictorian of my 1200 student graduating High School class if I hadn’t ‘turned on, tuned in and dropped out’ at 16 (well, as much as a basically ‘good kid’ CAN ‘drop out’). It took ‘til final evaluation for my teen rebellion to catch up to me, when I finished in an ‘also-ran’ 4th place”.
     Lance recalls hearing You Ain’t Nothin’ but a Houndog in ’58 and ALL KINDS of pop music emanating from the radio and the “Victrola”… everything from the Beach Boys to Motown to Neil Sedaka to Peter, Paul and Mary. But it was the emergence of the Beatles in the early 60s that lit the fuse of his desire to become a professional musician.
     “I remember sitting in our living room when that Ed Sullivan Show aired. It was inexplicably mesmerizing to me. I was only 8, but I was hooked.”
     Meanwhile, brother Larry, older by 3 years, was already in his first band. With that role model so present, the seeds of things to come were already being sown. When Larry went off to college in ’67, leaving behind a funky, cheap guitar in his closet …
     “I discovered the bass at age 12. Actually, I played McCartney lines up and down the low E string of an electric guitar, ‘cause I had no idea how to incorporate the other strings. Eventually, I borrowed a neighbor’s Hagstrom bass and started to get self-taught, venturing over to the A string and beyond. I couldn’t put it down! I sometimes got in trouble for neglecting my chores and playing TOO MUCH! Dad bought me a Japanese copy of the famous violin-shaped Hofner for Christmas that year. From then on, it was all over!”

     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?” 

     Apparently so.’73 through ’77 were cliché in respect to “sex, drugs and Rock and Roll.” But all that came to a grinding halt when John suddenly announced he was quitting the band.
     “Still the One” had been our biggest victory. The ABC TV network picked it up for use as their theme song. John, as the co-writer, got a lucrative publishing deal and we didn’t. Other issues were in play with 5 young bulls in the China shop (including drummer Jerry Marotta). Boom! All the king’s horses and all that.
     “I’m thinkin’ in my fantasy world, ‘No problem. Just rise to the occasion.’ But other people had other ideas, like the record label and our producer and even my brother! So, for a while there, I was out of Orleans … and not by choice. At 24, I was a has-been!”
     Lance struggled through the next couple of years, finding work in odd places. On the plus side, he did a couple of projects as Producer. In that role, he met and worked with singer/songwriters Kathie Baillie and her husband Michael Bonagura. They would, 11 years later, be his ticket to Nashville. He also took a road gig with then cult-hero Garland Jeffreys, offered to him by buddy Jerry. Ironically, Lance got Larry on that gig and those Baillie sessions, as the brothers mended their broken alliance.
     “In ’78 we got a big break when this start-up MCA subsidiary label president heard the demos Larry had put together with Wells, Bob Leinbach and R.A. Martin. A living room 4 track recording of ‘Love Takes Time’ was in that batch. Turned out that this guy was the last of the big-time spenders so, when our lawyer asked him for a stupid amount of money, he said, “OK!” The problem was, we were so disorganized, we blew it all in short order.

     “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 untimely Rock ‘n Roll death of Wells Kelly occurred just one month after Lance and Larry had shut the coffin on Orleans. John and Larry, who had not communicated much for many years, found themselves on stage together at Wells’ memorial service in Ithaca, NY. The experience was catalytic to the healing process.
     At the same time, Nashville producer Tony Brown expressed an interest in Orleans. Another series of demos and John, Larry and Lance exhumed Orleans for another go around, this time venturing into the Nashville/Country scene. But neither Pop nor Country, the “Grownup Children” CD garnered little attention and, after 2 years of less than satisfying results, Orleans was again relegated to the coffin in ’87.
     “So this ‘other guy’ continued to dominate my life. My first marriage went downhill as I lost myself to this guy’s deal. Just around New Year’s Day of ’88, I moved out of my house. That year was REALLY tough, as I struggled to regain my identity. I quit my job and took sales gigs with lesser responsibilities. I was determined to somehow manifest my musical resurrection.
     “I remember this so clearly. On the day after my birthday (January 9th, 1989), I got a message on my answering machine from ‘Michael in Nashville’ inviting me to call him back. Not knowing what it was about, I did. Of course, I did! Turned out it was Michael Bonagura! He and Kathie Baillie had moved to Nashville and become the up and comingBaillie & the Boys’ on RCA. He told me that they had a Top 10 single and a 40 date tour with George Strait to do and that their singing bass-playing partner had quit — ON MY BIRTHDAY! He asked if I would like to come to Nashville and fill the position”

     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.

     In 1990, old friend and former Woodstock housemate Robbie Dupree arranged for Orleans to record a live CD for Japanese release. Lance made time for that project, as well as for a short tour of Japan in ‘91. When the band started getting more serious about itself again in ’94, Lance left the Nashville touring scene in favor of another go ‘round.

     “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!”

     Now on a mission again, Lance, Larry and John worked towards a CD of all new material for American release. They appeared as an acoustic trio opener for the summer of 1995 “Can’t Stop Rockin’ Tour” with REO Speedwagon, Fleetwood Mac and Pat Benatar, doing a year’s worth of gigs in that format. After an extended recording process, the “Ride” CD was nearing completion at the end of that year.
     “There were a lot of firsts in that CD. First time I co-wrote with John or Larry, first time I played guitar on an Orleans album. Having already come into my own outside of Orleans, this was a time of coming into my own inside the context of Orleans.”
     But the stresses of too much time away on top of continuing economic and personal problems grew too much for Lance’s second marriage to withstand. As he arrived home for Thanksgiving after the final month of the “Ride” project, the writing was on the wall. In a bizarre replay of the past, Lance moved out on New Year’s Day of ’96.
     “The good thing about a true ‘bottom’ is the only way out is up. As REALLY bad a time as it was, this was a real turning point for me. One day at a time, things SLOWLY started to improve. Still, it was a gut wrenching couple of years. Hard to describe.
     “On the upside, both Burger King and Toyota simultaneously used the original recordings of ‘Still the One’ and ‘Spring Fever’ for major ad campaigns. Suddenly, I was receiving money in the mail for things I had done 20 years prior. That afforded me some healing space, and I worked as a carpenter and a painter between gigs. At one time in ’97, I was as close to homeless as I have ever been. Trying to keep my head on straight, co-parent my two young girls, and move forward was a day to day, touch and go process.”
     In support of the release of “Ride”, Orleans did as much radio promo as they could, achieving a moderate chart hit with “I Am On Your Side”. But the label, aptly named Dinosaur Records, followed its namesakes into extinction. This “ride” was over for Orleans, as the phoenix crashed and burned AGAIN.
     “When we put Orleans to bed in the fall of ’97, I was SURE it was for the last time. Still, it was very satisfying to have finally released a CD of all new material in the U.S. AND gotten on the radio. It was exonerating, in a way. It said, ‘SEE! We TOLD you we could do it!’ It offered closure on the whole 25 year experience. Fittingly, John, Larry and I played what felt like our last show together in Woodstock, where it had all started, selling 25th Anniversary tee shirts to a very appreciative, sold-out crowd.”

     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.”

     At the same time, Lance developed his long-standing interest in direct marketing and networking into a viable home-based business. Utilizing the Internet, he applied the various skills he had honed over time — salesmanship, recruiting techniques, ad copywriting, communications, leadership, and a dogged persistence — to this modern medium. Although hardly a “guru”, he became a successful, recognized name in that arena.

     “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.

     “At this point, none of us NEED to do this. We have nothing left to prove to the world OR to each other. Personal jockeying for position has been replaced by truly pitching to the middle. Maturity has replaced impulsiveness. Respect has healed resentments. The band can’t play a bad show. A comfortable confidence rolls off the stage. If you had asked me a year ago if Orleans would EVER play again, I would have said, ‘Absolutely NO WAY!’ Yet, here in our 30th year, it is better than ever. Who could have predicted that?
     “As far as MY life goes, the same is true. Who knew that all the worst parts of it would lay the foundation of what’s best about it now? I have two GREAT kids, a beautiful home, and BOTH my exes are among my best friends. In all modesty, I am a better singer/writer/performer BY FAR than I ever was when we were ‘famous’. Most importantly, that ‘painfully shy, introverted, overachieving’ kid has grown up to become more comfortable in his own skin than I would have ever imagined possible.

     “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)

     Good morning!

     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!