TThere is nothing esoteric about the success of singer-songwriter John Gorka. First of all, he is a multitalented performer who captivates audiences with his distinctive blend of intelligence, easygoing manner and sense of humor. People who know Gorka, like his longtime agent/manager, Dave Tamulevich, say he doesn't really have a separate stage persona: that he is the same onstage as off.
"John is very professional. He is a good craftsman and takes songwriting and performing very seriously," Tamulevich said. "But he also has a knack for doing a funny take on things. That's the kind of person he is."
Tamulevich continued, "John is always true to himself when he is onstage, and people respond to that.
"It isn't about fame or money for John," Tamulevich explained. "It's about the song and doing it well, and sharing his experiences. John has the way," Tamulevich added, "of finding the universal - things people relate to, which is a big reason why his music is so popular."
Gorka will bring his unique stage persona to Bryn Mawr Gazebo Park June 29 as part of the Bryn Mawr Twilight Concerts.
This local appearance will be just one of many stops Gorka has made over the last 30 years, during which he has traveled extensively - 15 tours of Europe alone - and produced 11 popular CDs, with most of the material coming from among the hundreds of songs Gorka has written himself.
Gorka started his musical odyssey in Colonia, N.J., where he grew up, with his first instrument being a banjo. Later he lived in the Lehigh Valley and attended Moravian College, by that time becoming a proficient songwriter, singer and guitar player.
"When I was 19 I got my first paid gig at the International Cafe in Allentown," Gorka said in a recent interview. "I played at lunchtime and got $5 and a free lunch."
During his college years, Gorka was part of a band called the Razzy Dazzy Spasm Band. During that time, Gorka also began experimenting with pursuing a solo career.
"I played in coffee houses, a lot of times on open mic nights, all over the Lehigh Valley," Gorka said.
After college, Gorka started expanding his horizons, even traveling to Philadelphia to appear at Cavanaugh's. Around that time, Gorka served as the house opening act at Godfrey Daniels Coffee House in Bethlehem, not only performing, but also, as he pointed out, honing his skills by watching headliners like Nanci Griffith, Bill Morrissey and Jack Hardy.
According to Gorka, what largely propelled him into more widespread recognition and popularity was when he won a contest.
"In 1984, I was encouraged to enter the folk festival at Kerrville, Texas," Gorka said. "It was the first time I traveled a long way from home to perform."
It worked out very well for the young Gorka, with the 26-year-old taking first place at the prestigious festival. Not surprisingly, Gorka has won many other accolades along the way, highlighted by his being named the "preeminent male singer/songwriter of the New Folk Movement" by Rolling Stone magazine in 1991.
Gorka, who now resides in Stillwater, Minn., with his wife and two young children, started writing songs about the age of 15. To date, according to Gorka, about 150 of his songs have been published.
He reports that he has had many musical influences.
"I was inspired by a lot of people," Gorka stated. "People I heard on the radio like Tim Hardin, Eric Anderson, Stan Rogers and John Prine and people I saw live at Godfrey Daniels."
"I try to mix it up," Gorka said in describing both his music in general and his live performances. "I do a variety of different kinds of songs and make it as easy on the audience as possible, with something to particularly please everyone.
"I try to bring the people into the songs, into the stories. I want the audience members," Gorka continued, "to see themselves in the songs.
"Some of the songs are based on my own experiences," Gorka pointed out. "But they can come from just about anywhere and can be about anything." Gorka said his main goal when he does a show is to have fun.
"I just hope the people will join in and have as much fun as I do," Gorka said. Gorka, who has appeared in this area in the past - he was at Sellersville Theater in the spring - said he still loves touring.
"I enjoy the recording sessions. I love the technical stuff involved with that, but I prefer to spend my time traveling and meeting people," Gorka stated. "I never get tired of touring and appearing on stage."
Gorka released his first CD, "I Know," in 1987. He is currently working on his 12th album, which will be out in January. Some of Gorka's popular singles include "Looking Forward," "Silence" and "When She Kisses Me."
IF YOU GO
John Gorka, with Lucy Kaplansky, will perform at Bryn Mawr's Twilight Concert at Bryn Mawr Gazebo, 9 S. Bryn Mawr Ave., Bryn Mawr, PA 19010, Saturday, June 29, 7 p.m.
Tickets: $12; 16 & under, free.
Info: 610-864-4303 or www.brynmawrtwilightconcerts.com
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