Want to go?
WHAT: An evening with Richard Leigh
WHEN: 6 & 9 p.m. Friday & Saturday, Oct. 19 & 20
WHERE: The Listening Room (located inside the OurGuest Inn & Suites), 220 East Perry St., Port Clinton
COST: $10 (does not include drink tickets)
INFO: 419-734-7050 or thelisteningroompc.com.
In fact, in country music, no one was bigger during the ‘70s through the ‘90s at penning No. 1 songs than Leigh, whose resume includes chart-topping tracks such as Crystal Gayle’s “I’ll Get Over You” and “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue,” as well as Kathy Mattea’s “Come From The Heart” and more. Overall, Leigh has made 14 trips to the top ten and has written or co-written eight No. 1 singles. His most recent top 10 hit came in 2001 with “Cold Day In July” recorded by the Dixie Chicks.
Today, Leigh is touring around the country, which is what brings him to Northwest Ohio for shows Oct. 19 and 20 at The Listening Room in Port Clinton. Funcoast talked to Leigh about his interesting career, his current show and his love of baseball analogies.
Funcoast: First of all, what’s new with your career and songwriting?
Richard Leigh (RL): I’m just touring all the time, and I work a lot at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. I’m always writing but I’m pretty much retired as a music songwriter. I now dedicate my life to entertaining and doing a performance. It’s a piece of theater I do based on the songs that I had that were made famous by celebrities. I go around and tell the intimate stories behind how I came to write these songs and how I became a songwriter and why I became a songwriter. I lived the American dream. I went from being an orphan to being in the Hall of Fame, just like Babe Ruth.
Funcoast: Do you still think you have a song or two in you that could be a chart topper?
RL: No, I’m pretty much retired from that. I have an active catalog and people continue to record my songs. That’s not my focus. If it happens, it’ll be kind of like Arnold Palmer coming back to the Masters and winning it.
Funcoast: When it comes to your massive 1978 song “Don’t it Make My Brown Eyes Blue,” many younger folks may not understand just how popular and ubiquitous the tune was. For the younger folks who have no idea who Crystal Gayle is, it seems comparable to Celine Dion’s titanic hit “My Heart Will Go On.”
RL: Well, it was bigger than that. “Don’t it Make My Brown Eyes Blue” was the 10th most performed country song of the 20th century. Some people don’t know it but that’s part of my Listening Room show. That’s where I introduce my music to young people.
Funcoast: Naturally that song changed Crystal Gayle’s life. Did it change yours?
RL: No, the songwriter is not thrust into the spotlight. That’s a myth. We’re totally behind the scenes. My life went on totally normally except my nickname at the bars became Running Tab. It was a wonderful time. That was my second No. 1. In 36 months and I had won two different awards – Grammy and CMA. My life was changed by music, not that one song.
Funcoast: When you wrote “Don’t it Make My Brown Eyes Blue,” did you realize early on it was something special?
RL: I thought it was very good but it might be ignored by the industry because it was ‘40s sounding. I wasn’t surprised that it would get cut. I knew somebody would cut it. I felt it had some fairy dust sprinkled on it but I thought it might take a miracle to get it recorded in Nashville. I was wrong. But every big song I had was a left-field thing. In the industry that means nobody thought it had a chance. But it turns out in those days I was on the vanguard, the cutting edge, instead of the trailing edge of things.
Funcoast: Finally, Babe Ruth played right field and you’re more of a left field kind of guy.
RL: Oh, you’re good. Yes, I like it that way.