“Baby lift your window high, do you hear that sound, it’s the troubadours, coming through town.”
— Van Morrison, “Troubadours”
Harry Gore is a walking encyclopedia of popular music.
I’ve seen him busking at a farmers market, on the street in Carytown and outside the Paramount Theater in Charlottesville. Every time I run into him, he happens to be playing a Lovin’ Spoonful song. It’s evident that he isn’t just retreading old hits. He genuinely loves the material.
For a performer who seems poised and confident on stage, Gore is soft-spoken, self-effacing and humble. Quiz him about music and his eyes begin to shine with a light from within, as if he’s found the holy grail or invented a cure for cancer.
He discovered his love for music early.
“I don’t know exactly how old I was,” he says, “but I started watching ‘American Bandstand,’ which was based in Philly. It was on five days a week. There has always been a great music scene there. Back then you could watch ‘Bandstand’ or ‘Shindig’ or ‘Hullabaloo.’”
Gore was born in Philadelphia in 1957 and moved to Richmond in the mid-’60s when his mother became ill.
“My folks were divorced. Mom got really sick with asthma, and we lived with our grandparents for a while,” he says. “When Mom got better we decided to pull up stakes and move to Richmond for good.”
The young Gore soaked up everything on the airwaves. He loved the Beatles and the Beach Boys, he says, but when the Monkees debuted he never missed a show.
When his elementary school had talent show, he signed up for “I’m a Believer,” a single he’d acquired. “I couldn’t play an instrument,” he says, “so I sang along with the record. It was early karaoke. I was trying to impress a girl, but I don’t know if I succeeded.”
Gore got his start on guitar through reading comic books. “There was an ad for a guitar chord book by a guy named Ed Sale, and it cost three dollars,” he says. He got his first guitar for Christmas in 1969, at age 12.
Ask him about almost any artist or group from the ’60s or ’70s and he knows the stories. Along with his early influences, he cites Christian rock from the likes of Larry Norman, Randy Stonehill and Phil Keaggy. A devout Christian, he’s been a regular at the Audiofeed Festival in Urbana, Illinois, since its inception in 2013. He says the offshoot of the Cornerstone Festival, Audiofeed, is a like home away from home: “When Audiofeed started up I was one of the first people they called.”
Gore expresses his faith through music as a member of the worship team at his church. When asked about his faith, he answers quietly: “I discovered that Jesus Christ was someone I could know. It changed my life.”
In 1994, Gore released a Christian rock record, “Subtlety Goes Out the Window,” by Harry Gore and the Measles, which he sold at gigs.
He gigs as a solo artist, and in varying combinations with other local players. He was an original member of the Good Guys, a band that nearly opened for the Clash.
“The Clash wanted an all African-American band as an opener,” Gore recalls, “and we had one white guy in the band at the time.” With lineup changes, the band morphed into the Big Guys. “I’m in my own tribute band,” he jokes. He’s also played with the Neatles, and is a founding member of the Hullabaloos, a ’60s cover band.
His last nonmusic job was in an assembly-line environment, until hand cramps and tendinitis left him with no choice but to resign. Today he supports himself through gigs and busking.
During the holiday season, his set is sprinkled with a few well-known Christmas songs, albeit with a twist. His version of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” features an intro that references the Byrds’ cover of “Turn, Turn, Turn (to Everything There Is a Season).” It seems only fitting, as Gore remains a man for all seasons. S
Harry Gore will perform at Aw Shucks Country Store in Glen Allen on Dec. 16, and at Sedona Taphouse in Midlothian on Dec. 17, from 6-9 p.m. Admission is free.