Editor's note: Before Boston – yes, they of the spaceship art and inescapable Q95 jam “More Than A Feeling” – pops by Klipsch on Sunday with Joan Jett and The Blackhearts, we rang up Tracy Ferrie. The bassist has logged road time with Boston for a number of years after a career with a pack of Christian metal bands like Stryper. Why did we want to speak with Tracy, specifically? A little birdie (named Gail, the band's PR guru; hi, Gail) tipped us off that Ferrie had a bunch of connections to the Hoosier state including his Northern Indiana competitive roller skating days. We'll let Tracy tell his tales from here. We started with the question fitting for a kid who grew up in the band instrument capital of the U.S.A., Elkhart: why play the tuba?
The tuba was the largest band instrument that the band director could pull out for this small little kid. I just wanted to do something different... [The band director] suggested the baritone, and I said, 'No, that's not big enough.' Ironically I wasn't a big kid, so maybe I wanted to bite off more than I could chew, so to speak.
What's funny is that the tuba, historically, was always kind of a geeky guy instrument to play. I'm doing these shows now with Boston and my old tuba-mates will show up at these shows. We still talk about how we made the tuba cool. We totally changed the image of tuba-playing. We were the rock stars of the marching band. We thought we were so cool.
I was born in Kokomo, and then my parents took a job with a roller rink up in Elkhart, Ind. It was the Holiday Roller Rink, and then we re-named it the Holiday Skate Center. They ended up owning it after a lease purchase over the years; during all that time my dad was my coach. His dream was to see his boys roller skate, figure skate, pairs, dance, the whole bit. So we spent a lot of time [on that]. I would get picked up from school, go straight to the skating rink, and be practicing until 7:30 in the evening, when the skating session would start. It was a long day [for] a kid. … I did try to get in some of the sports, and then of course the band program [came in]. So my childhood went by pretty quickly, as most do. …
[A rollerskating competition] was parallel to the ice skating. We would carry more weight on our feet than ice-skaters, but we were doing similar maneuvers and jumps and spins as the ice skaters. So, you skate to a routine with music. You have a three or four minute program. The person who does the best routine, cleanly, would get the higher score. Originally, it was all classical music [for the routines]. But as some of the other music got popular with John Williams, we skated to Jaws, to Star Wars, to the Superman soundtrack. All kinds of cool stuff.
When you’re talking to Gene Simmons, half the battle is getting him to stray from his talking points.
We traveled a lot. One thing I tell my friends, my coworkers, is that as a kid, we would have to travel in vehicles and be in different hotels every night all over the country. So we had friends all over the country. So that lifestyle, of traveling around, staying in different hotels every night, really translates well to what I do today in Boston, and [other bands] before that. I've been doing this for 30 years now. The crazy lifestyle of traveling around is very similar. It was almost like I was primed for this kind of life.
One of our stops happened to be a national championship that we happened to be at every year – because we would make it to the nationals – was in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. We showed up, checked into our hotel, saw some of our skating contacts. We started walking the halls and talking, and one of my friends said, 'Hey, the band KISS is here!' And so we wandered down one of the hallways and ended up in Gene Simmons' room. Just walked in, like a kid does, cause you don't have those boundaries like an adult. [You think] you've got the album, so they're family! That's what it's like with Boston – [fans] know more about your business than you do.
So we walked into Gene Simmons' room, and he politely asked me to shut the door behind me and leave the room, and it was very nice. The next day, I saw him in the dining area for breakfast. I came in for my skating event and had my silver KISS-like outfit that my mother had made. I was still in it, because we had just got back from one of my events. The KISS band and crew was at this very large table having breakfast, and noticed this kid in a sparkly silver suit. I ended up walking over and saying hi to them, and they invited me to sit down at their table and have breakfast. I ran up to my room and got my poster signed. I had attended the Destroyer tour kickoff that was the beginning of their tour. It was one of those things you never forget. … They were very nice. I got to swim in the pool with them. It was kind of like a weekend with KISS. Like a bunch of uncles.