face is hurting from smiling so much

Comments: 0

Chris Burchard. – his face is hurting from smiling so much

Born in Pittsburgh, PA, Chris Burchard spent time in California but his formative years were spent in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He began playing piano at six years old and received his first guitar in the 4th grade. Early in high school, he played in a rock bands with an affinity for Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. Around 1975, Chris was exposed to two phenomenal works of jazz guitar, George Benson’s Breezin and Pat Metheny’s Water Colors, and was hooked on jazz.  He explained, “I didn’t know you could do those things with a guitar”. He still liked playing rock but he had found a new home.

Chris Burchard with the Bubba System at Keystock 2013 opening for the Three Dog Night

He played the sole jazz guitar in the local award winning Chapel Hill High School Big Band that opened for a Buddy Rich concert. Ironically, and much later, Chris performed, for twenty years, as the sole jazz guitar for the Key West based Paradise Big Band. He attended the Berklee College of Music six-week summer program in 1978.

After graduating from high school in 1979, Chris moved to Boston and attended Berklee College of Music. He remembers the practice rooms were highly sought after and the sign ups started at some unholy morning hour so he and friends would take turns getting up early and reserving space. Chris studied hard but still played music in a band called Elbow. He graduated in 1985 with a degree in music composition and harmony.

While in Boston, Burchard had a job playing soundtracks for Public Television Documentary films which required a lot of original and very short compositions. It was great fun and very lucrative.

He got married but his wife was not crazy about his music career. She got him an office position at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute which lasted 12 years. Chris kept gigging with several friends and the Elbow band.

Chris and Adrienne Zolondick at Virgilio’s

The marriage ended and Chris wanted to give music his full-time attention again so he started making inquiries and searches for a clean start. He came down to Key West for a week and found music everywhere. He met Larry Smith and a couple of other musicians. It didn’t take much convincing, he packed up in Boston and moved to Key West in 1997.

Burchard hooked up with Larry Smith at the Pier House. Larry introduced him to Bubba Lownotes and others, and he was quickly absorbed into the Key West music scene. Harry Schroeder got him to join the original Paradise Big Band performing at Mangoes on Duval Street for New Year’s Eve 1999.

He started performing at several locations around town with Lisa Sato. He joined an alternate rock group called Strip Club with Ray Spence, Ronnie Carruthers, and another guitarist Ken Watson, specializing in the type music that was heard in clubs on the Las Vegas Strip. He also played with Captain Blues band and several other Key West groups

Chris has collaborated with a fair amount of Key West and Lower Keys musicians such as Bryan Roberts and the Prime Mover and Howard Livingston and the MM24 Band. He was an original member of the CRZBs (pronounced “crizbeezs”) along with Skipper Kripitz, Rob DiStasi, and Gary Rivenson. Sunday Jazz gigs at the Gardens Hotel with Scott Marischen’s jazz harp are some of his favorite and special performances. He also played with the Bubba System, performing at the KeyStock Music Festivals opening for Blood, Sweat & Tears in 2012, Three Dog Night in 2013, and The Doobie Brothers in 2014.

In March 2020 when covid hit, Chris had already shifted to full time performing for the past few years and now suddenly, there were no gigs. The house he was renting had been sold and he would need to move. Chris was almost out of money and was in a bit of a frenzy, selling a favorite guitar. He gave away a huge collection of vinyl music albums that he couldn’t pack. An aunt in Pittsburgh offered him a place to live and work. He quickly packed and moved. At first, the Pittsburgh winters were fun, and his dog Tucker loved it, but frosted nostrils soon changed things. Two and half years later, Chris received a call from Scott McCollum and Vasil Joley at the Key West Sign Company. They made him an offer he couldn’t refuse, and he returned to Key West in July 2023.

Seven months later, Chris is getting back into a groove with more music opportunities than he can accept. Much earlier, he got an important tip from Adrienne Zolondick. She told him that if he makes a mistake while performing, he should try to quit frowning and making odd faces. She told him no one knows but you, just keep on playing great music. Great advice. Nowadays, after a fun gig, his face is hurting the next day from smiling so much.


There are no comments yet, add one below.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *