Gary James' Interview With Ted Moore Of
Bon Jovi Tribute Band
Blaze Of Glory
They are known as "North America's Premier Bon Jovi Tribute" and it's easy to see why! They've performed from New York to Los Angeles, from Canada to Mexico, for fans of all ages, at fairs, festivals and casinos throughout the world. They were the first Bon Jovi tribute ever invited to play in Bon Jovi's home state of New Jersey at The Stone Pony where Bon Jovi first started. At a 2010 show in the Las Vegas Convention Center, Blaze Of Glory was declared "The finest Bon Jovi tribute anywhere!" That's no small praise. and
www.DiscoverVancouver.com says "Ted Moore is brilliant as Bon Jovi."
It is Ted Moore we spoke with about Blaze Of Glory.
Q - I see you're playing your last show of the season at Turning Stone Casino on November 3rd, 2012. You mean you don't have a New Year's Eve gig?
A - This has been a long touring season for us. We compressed an awful lot of shows into a small period of time. I think everybody's lookin' forward to maybe a couple of months of just relaxing and re-grouping for 2013.
Q - Does that mean that everybody in Blaze Of Glory has something else going on in their life?
A - Well, yeah. The other guys play in original bands as well. They're all aspiring recording artists. For myself, I have a family and I want to spend some time with them. If something really exciting came along for New Years... We've had a couple of offers, but it was nothing that was really exciting, so we kind of let it go.
Q - What were you doing before Blaze Of Glory?
A - I was a school teacher for quite a few years.
Q - What did you teach?
A - Grade seven. I taught intermediate grades four to seven. I subbed in high school as well in Geography and English. I've been in the music business for quite awhile and things were not going as well. I had a couple of small record deals. I realized I was never going to be Bruce Springsteen or Bon Jovi. It kind of passed me by. So I figured I'd go back to the university, finish up my degree, get my under-grad and graduate in education. I came out and started teaching for awhile. I just starting getting the itch again. I guess this was about 2004, 2005, I saw all the tribute phenomenon that was going (on). It just seemed like something I wanted to do. I'd even bring my guitar to school sometimes and I'd play for the kids and they'd say "You kind of look like Bon Jovi and you kind of sound like him." I had a short list of tributes that I was interested in, things like Billy Idol, John Cougar, Bob Seger and Bruce. All the middle American kind of stuff. Tom Petty. And of course Bon Jovi was in there as well. It was a no-brainer for me at that point. I wanted to do something that appealed to a large demographic, from 5 year olds to 85 year olds. It was still Rock and I wanted to do something Rock and yet at the same time I wanted something that was palatable for a really large audience 'cause I wanted the tribute to work as much as possible and reach as many people as possible, but Bon Jovi sure works. Those who love him, really love him.
Q - How did you decide Bon Jovi over Bob Seger?
A - Bob Seger appeals more to the baby boomers. He was the '70s sort of guy, so his demographic was slightly older. I didn't know if a lot of the younger kids would know (him) besides some of the iconic singles perhaps that he has that have been canonized on TV commercials and also the physical resemblance. I looked more like Jon Bon Jovi then I did like Bob Seger. Although tributes can wear wigs, I wanted it to be as natural as I possibly could and also the sound. It wasn't a huge stretch for me to sing like Jon Bon Jovi.
Q - When you walk down the street, do people do double takes? Do they think you're actually Jon Bon Jovi?
A - You know, it happens to me in the grocery store, the corner store. Not always, but sometimes. Even more so now that I've cut my hair to reflect his hairstyle. "Did anyone ever tell you you look like Jon Bon Jovi?" (laughs) I kind of smile and say "yes as a matter fact I have heard that, thank you very much." I always thank them for it. I consider it a compliment. This is the guy People magazine called the sexiest rock star alive, so it's kind of intimidating a little bit. I don't think it's that close. Certainly I don't think so, to other people. I have high cheekbones. I've got an oval-shaped face. I've got the light-colored hair and it's cut and styled in the same manner as his. So, at a glance, certainly.
Q - Do you remember where your first gig was for Blaze Of Glory?
A - I actually wanted to test market the band in a small club away from the major centers. So, I took it into Canada, into the interior of British Columbia, the mountains. It was a small club, maybe 150 seats, called On The Rocks. I took it there for two nights and basically test marketed the group just to see what the response was. It was completely overwhelming. We had no idea what to expect. We were waiting outside the door, ready to walk into the club actually. All of a sudden our intro tape started up and we started walking in through the crowd and people stood up and started screaming and cheering. It was unusual. We were all taken aback from it. We thought, what is this? Are we on to something? Is it always going to be like this? Is it this outstanding? I think that's the first time where we got sense of just how much impact this group has on their loyal fans. It was funny and I've got to say this about the whole thing, when you start to experience this kind of success in a tribute band, it's an unusual place to be. You think you might get a swelled head about all those thousands of people, but it's actually humbling. It's extremely humbling. I didn't write the material. So it's a very strange place to be. You can only take so much credit for what you're doing. The best thing we can hope for is to try and do the best job we can. But there's also some interesting things about being in a tribute. I mean, for years when I was recording and doing albums and trying to get record deals and trying to fill seats with my own material. There's a lot of unknowns. How is this song going to work? We should try this one out on the crowd tonight. The nice thing about this material is, we already know they are hits. The music does all the work by itself. So really the yardstick, the benchmark for your performance, is already there. You have to imagine 100% complete authenticity. Well, you'll never reach that. You'll never be Bon Jovi, so you're working towards that. There's no way to go over it. If there was, you'd be in a way, you're starting to add your own things. But all the vocals are there. All the notes are there. All the songs are there. So, in some ways your work is laid out in front of you. It's a lot easier in some ways to do because there are not as many unknowns. All the stuff is right there in front of you. All you have to do is do the best job you can at trying to emulate it.
Q - Is it important that the guys in your band looked like the guys in the band Bon Jovi?
A - It was to me. That's one thing I set out (to be). I wanted the tribute to be as authentic as possible. So, when I first got the idea I started to put it together in my mind and I did the market demographics and I started looking at my competition, the thing I noticed in the other Bon Jovi tributes of which there are 56 at last count. I just went hunting again worldwide. They have a good Richie, maybe their Tico looks good, maybe there Jon kind of looks like him and maybe one guy kind of sounds like him, but as far as a whole package goes, where every guy looks like his character part, it wasn't out there. I thought this is one place where I might be able to grab a market share and where I'd be somewhat unique and that's with going with a full package of authenticity. But I went shopping for players and it was interesting. It wasn't just that they needed to look like their Bon Jovi counterparts, I needed them to be of a certain age. I wanted them to be old enough where I didn't have to deal with a lot of troubles that sometimes you have with younger players in bands, those that were not as experienced. I needed them to have clean passports so that they could move freely across the border and with musicians that haven't gotten in trouble, that narrows it down as well. And I needed guys that sang. I didn't want to run with any tracks. I didn't want to use any pre-recorded backgrounds or sequences or samples or anything like that. I needed a lot of things. They had to look like their Bon Jovi counterparts, they had to have a clean passport, a good attitude. They had to be in good shape and have kept themselves up over the years and they also had to be able to sing very well together. So, there's four lead vocalists in the group. It was a tall bill. So, what I did was I just went shopping for players. I started going to all the clubs around the area.
Q - You were raiding other bands in other words.
A - Well, I kind of was, but I was always careful to make sure... There's a thing about getting players from other bands because number one, if a guy is going to jump ship from where he is, then will he jump ship from you? So, I was trying to find people who were otherwise engaged in projects that they could come and go from, and original bands are the place to go to for that. Those indie bands that were building grassroots careers, those guys are not working an awful lot. So, a project that is going to make money can only augment what they're doing. That's enticing for them because they can use that as a source of revenue and they can still write and do indie showcases on the side. So what I did was, I went to guys who were playing in original bands. I know some people and I actually had a hot list of four guys that I wanted to put in behind me. And I ended up getting my first choices. I was surprised for a number of reasons, but not the least of which was I knew what I was up against. If I wanted high quality players, good singers and people that filled all of the criteria which I told you about, it was going to be difficult for me to go up to them and say "okay look, I want you to play in a tribute and not only do I want you to play in a tribute, I want you to play in a Bon Jovi tribute (laughs). Bon Jovi has taken a lot of bashing over the years. He was never the critics darling, right? So, there was always a phobia about that group as sort of a glossy, candy floss, Hollywood process thing during the '80s. Of course nowadays he's become more Rock Royalty and more of the guys have signed on, where it was mostly a girl's band for the longest time. But the guys were amazingly receptive and I ended up getting all my first choices.
Q - I take it that you had this group together in a very short time period.
A - The actual building of the group, I had the players within about three months. I had everybody that I needed and I went into rehearsals. I told the guys straight up front "I don't plan to play any dates live until this thing is built completely." I was looking at a year. I wanted to spend a year building the project so by the time it finally got to this stage, it was ready. So I spent 10 months and a lot of that 10 months is certainly a large amount of playing, but the most part of it was sitting around talking, discussing the philosophy of what we were going to do on stage and watching hundreds, thousands of hours of Bon Jovi concert footage. Just going "see how he moved? See what he did there? See how he looked over at that guy?" So we spent 10 months before we played the first show. When we came out of the gate, we came out screaming. Absolutely.
Q - Now, Bon Jovi still performs today, doesn't he?
A - Absolutely.
Q - So, when someone comes to see Blaze Of Glory, what are they seeing that you're doing that Bon Jovi isn't doing?
A - This is an interesting thing. To do an ersatz version of a band that is relevant, that is still out and happening. I mean, there's lots of bands that are covered like The Beatles that don't tour anymore, so it's more nostalgia memories of a group gone by sort of thing. So, when you're doing a group like that, that has relevance to it, there are definitely pros and cons because they could go and see Bon Jovi rather than see Blaze Of Glory. The whole idea behind tributes was to provide a version of the group and a smaller venue where they wouldn't see their favorite rock band. Bon Jovi isn't going to play in a 500 seater or a 1000 seater. It's unlikely. And there's a smaller ticket price. When you go and see them it could cost you thousands of dollars depending on the ticket you want. And here you can see Blaze Of Glory for $20 or $30. So, that was the whole idea. I think that's why tributes have caught on so well. The people who seem to be our most dedicated fans are those that have seen Bon Jovi live repeatedly. We are starting to gather a following on Facebook. We have thousands of people on Facebook, thousands of people who are on Twitter who are fans of ours. I would say hundreds and hundreds of them are the kinds of people that see Bon Jovi repeatedly throughout his tours. There's one girl, she spends $1000 - $2000 per concert to go and see them and she's seen them, she's just celebrated her 99th Bon Jovi concert. She's very close friends with us. She knows a lot of Bon Jovi tributes, but that's one place where the authenticity paid off for us. The spirit that that band endears to its fans, that band becomes very close to them. I suppose that's true of any group. They become very protective of Bon Jovi in anything they see. So, a lot of times people came out and I got these letters where people say "we came out expecting to be so pissed off or expecting something cheesy or to hate it or to be angry, and you guys absolutely blew us a way." The attention to detail is not lost on those, especially the hard-core Bon Jovi fans. It's kind of nice because most of the time, that first year when I was building the group, that was my intention. I said "look, if you build a show based on the fact that you want people who know Bon Jovi like the back of their hand to come in and be impressed and know that every move, every word, the stuff I say between the songs, the way you hold your guitar, that they can see without a doubt that you paid extreme attention to detail, then the rest of the people who may be fair weather fans or maybe not even truly Bon Jovi fans, they just end up getting a great Rock show. So, everybody wins. That's really deep, but you asked.
Q - Does Bon Jovi know about Blaze Of Glory?
A - Well, I didn't want to alert the group Bon Jovi in the first couple of years. I wanted to let the thing get out, get some feedback on it and see how it went. There was a story one time, and the only time I know of in my research, where Bon Jovi was unhappy with a tribute. It was a bunch of girls and they had named themselves Blonde Jovi. So he felt, Jon Bon Jovi, that the name was too close to their name, Bon Jovi, and would create some confusion. So he actually began a lawsuit. They changed their name to something else and have since disbanded. And that story just kind of faded away. I think at some point there was an acceptance on their part that tributes are here to stay. It's not going to change. He's very altruistic. He has The Soul Kitchen in New York of course and he's been building homes for Homes For Humanity. I don't think he wants to be personified as a vindictive character who's out to bash us. So I think if it's secretly just a tolerance perhaps, I don't know that then there's been no action against any of the tributes anyway. In order to answer your question, that's what I was mostly concerned about, is somehow irking them. We met just briefly a couple of times in Vancouver when they were up there recording albums. I was playing a club there and he walked in. I thought, well, he's going to recognize my face if he sees me. So, what I started doing over the last couple of years is instead of reaching the group directly, I've liked them on Facebook. I'd like them on Twitter. I've now contacted their management and just sort of let them know that we are there and open the door for them to say "we like what you're doing." The last count there were 57 Bon Jovi tributes worldwide with the majority of them being in Europe. If he was going to go after them (tribute bands) he have to go after a lot of people. I just don't think it's in his nature. I know it's a long way to answer that question. Do they know about us? I'm thinking, yes.
Q - When you met Jon Bon Jovi in that club, did he say anything about the fact you resembled him?
A - No, not at the time. This would be going back to the 1980s, late 1980s. I think the first time was in 1985 during the recording of "Slippery When Wet" and the early '90s during the recording of "Keep The Faith". So, the first time of course, everyone kind of looked like that. We all had the big hair and the poodle cuts and the feathered bangs and so on and so forth, so there was a whole culture of Bon Jovi's going around playing in these hair bands in the '80s. Then in the early '90s, when he had gotten his haircut, it was a big thing. He got his haircut for the "Keep The Faith" record. At that time there was still a lot of the '80s holdovers. I don't remember him saying anything like that. In fact, our conversation was very, very brief. Will he remember that today? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Something tells me if he looked and saw my name, Ted Moore, and saw my face, he'd go "okay, okay." He had been to see my band. We used to do an unusual version of Dobie Gray's "Drift Away", a long, long torchy version of that and it was interesting because I had some people come back about two months later, after he had come down to see the band and said "hey, you know what? Bon Jovi is doing that same version of 'Drift Away'. He did it on stage at the concert." I thought, well, that's really interesting. I was flattered by that. He must've been touched enough by the version I did that they did a version of that themselves. (Note: this happened before Ted Moore put together Blaze Of Glory.)
Q - Ted, you may be interested to know that I interviewed Jon Bon Jovi at the Carrier Circle Holiday Inn on March 17th (St. Patrick's Day), 1984. I went to see Jon and the group perform that night in a club in Syracuse New York called The Lost Horizon. 50 people were in attendance to see Bon Jovi that night.
A - Wow! '84. That was very early for them. They would've been just off of that first record going on to the second one.
Q - When you think about people paying thousands of dollars for a ticket to see Bon Jovi, I can't relate to that.
A - I think there was a misconception that the group came out of the hole just screaming. By 1983 they had this huge hit with "Runaway", a turntable hit that just ran away. Then they had the second album. But the truth of the matter was they had the sophomore jinx. There was not a lot of stuff that came off of that second album. In fact, a lot of people thought they were a one-hit wonder and they were still struggling. It's not like that group found instant fame. In fact, if they had not come back with "Slippery When Wet", I think that label would have dropped them.
Q - So, you put together Blaze Of Glory in what year? There were no Bon Jovi tribute bands in 1985, were there?
A - I had never even thought in terms of tribute until the early 2000s. For me, I started cooking the idea around 2003, 2004, but I really didn't act on it until a few years later. Officially, I say the group started in 2008. But really the germ of the idea came years earlier than that. But the very first time we played a date, 2008.
Q - Where do you think the future is for being in a Bon Jovi tribute band? Or do you not think about it? Just go out there, play, have a good time and make the money. Are you content with that?
A - As a business person I think about the future and the sustainability of my business all the time. I'm wondering exactly how far you can take something like this. What are the limitations for a tribute band? The most successful tribute band I can think of would be
Rain, the tribute to The Beatles. Those guys are quite celebrated. They are playing large venues, making great money and doing well. I don't know how far it can go and I don't know how long it can last. All I want to do is keep making the product better and better. I really like the idea of pleasing Bon Jovi fans, not that they need my help, but I'm hoping I'm selling more Bon Jovi albums as well. I've had this from people before, "I never really liked Bon Jovi that much, but you guys are great. I'm going to go out and get the Greatest Hits." So maybe I can turn a few fans around. He's becoming more acceptable. As a tribute phenomenon, I think that it's starting to become watered down a bit. There's an awful lot of tributes out there. But at the same time I think it's great for business. Competition is excellent. It keeps everybody's game up. Keeps you honest. Makes you increase the quality of your product and it also gives the buyer more choice. And yet at the same time it kind of muddies the waters a bit. It's difficult for a buyer now. They say okay I want a Bon Jovi tribute. They put that into a web browser and then all these listings show up and based on the strength of your online presence and your videos on YouTube, they have to determine what they believe is going to be appropriate for their venue and who the best one is and who they can afford. And so the business of it tells me that it will last for some time yet and yet the market has become a bit colluded. In Asbury Park, which has such a rich history of Rock 'n' Roll, we got an invitation last Christmas. They were having a thing of the return of the New Jersey Sons. They were bringing in a tribute to Bruce Springsteen, a tribute to Bon Jovi, any of the acts that were from around the area. They were literally searching the globe for the finest tributes to represent these artists. This was probably to date the highlight for me as a person who owns this Blaze Of Glory to be invited to come down and play in Asbury Park, New Jersey as the Bon Jovi tribute for Christmas time in Asbury Park. There is a Bon Jovi tribute right in New Jersey and there's another one in New York and yet we were the ones invited to come down and do that. It was absolutely humbling to me.
Q - That says a lot about your group, doesn't it?
A - You think you would be flattered to the point where you'd say "we're really good, aren't we?" Because of the nature of Bon Jovi, that's not where you go with that. You're touched. You are humbled and we were nervous. Were we ever! We're going into the Bon Jovi Holy Land to play Bon Jovi in Asbury Park, New Jersey, so that was quite a trip for us. It was amazing.
Q - I take it Blaze Of Glory went over and that's why you are saying it was amazing.
A - There were people there that know him. They had photographs of him. They were friends of him and his family and the band members. One of the ladies that ran the place, her husband had played in a band, he was the guitar player in Tico Torres' (the drummer's) band and wasn't there the night Jon came down to offer Tico the gig. Her husband said "don't go with that kid. He's not going anywhere. Stay in my band." But Tico ended up joining Bon Jovi and the rest is history. There were lots of little antecedents like that. There were pictures of them on the wall. Bruce Springsteen had played on the same stage that we played on four days earlier. And the Bon Jovi guys had just wandered into the club about a week earlier. So that night we thought, are they going to come down? But, it was Christmas time and of course they had gone off for vacations with their families. But that's not what it was about. It wasn't that I was hoping they were going to show up. It was just such a thrill to be there.
Q - I have to say, I would never have imagined, after having seen Bon Jovi back on that night in 1984, that he would've gone on to such popularity.
A - Same here. I remember first seeing that band, seeing the video for "Runaway". It was one of many long-haired bands wearing the spandex and ripped shorts. I thought, when is this bad going to pass? Here's another one clocking in on this. These guys will be here today, gone tomorrow. Who could have foreseen that they would've become a staple of the American Rock diet and less yet that he would nowadays be considered Rock Royalty and do the amazing things he's done? As much as his music has made such a huge impact on pop culture, the fact that he has given back; this was huge to me to show how you can give back to people after all these years and what he's doing. It's overwhelming to me to see the level of his commitment. He was there when 9-11 happened. He lent his hand. He can generate lots of money and he can also persuade other people to give money to causes. He's got the Soul Kitchen, building Homes For Humanity. He's gone out of his way to give back. He feels blessed by what he's done and I feel blessed to somehow communicate that same spirit he engenders to people and his fans.