Ambrosia — a Top 40 fixture in the ’70s and early ’80s with songs such as “How Much I Feel,” “Biggest Part of Me,” “You’re the Only Woman (You & I)” and “Holdin’ on to Yesterday” — still does about 60 concerts a year.
These include Yacht Rock package tours such as Rock the Yacht. Also featuring Denny Laine (of Wings and The Moody Blues), John Ford Coley, Looking Glass and Peter Beckett (of Player), Rock the Yacht comes to the Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown, Aug. 20 at 7:30 p.m., and the Music Box at Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa in Atlantic City, Aug. 24 at 9 p.m.
Ambrosia drummer Burleigh Drummond was there from the beginning and, along with fellow co-founders Joe Puerta (bass) and Christopher North (keyboards), continues to keep their music fresh in the minds of multiple generations.
Performing at festivals, Yacht Rock shows, corporate events and weekend gigs, the band has an opportunity to reach new fans while also staying in touch with their original fan base, who have remained loyal since the beginning.
“The older fans come, for sure, but now so do a lot of 30-year-olds with sailor hats on,” said Drummond. “They’re a little bit inebriated but they know every lyric to every song (laughs). Most of these kids come up and they’ll say, ‘That’s all my mom played when I was growing up, so it’s a big part of me.’ That’s really cool to see, that it had a lasting effect on them — let alone enough that they like to go out and see it.”
Asked if they have given any thought to making a new album, Drummond said “that remains to be seen. We have new songs but whether they’ll be recorded or not … we all have our personal things. I have a band with my wife called Tin Drum and we’re doing a new record and playing live, so I can’t really say that Ambrosia will be doing a new record.”
His wife, Mary Harris, is also a current member of Ambrosia, and has had a long career in music. She and Drummond have been married for 36 years.
“She played with Jimmy Buffett (and) Animal Logic and did sessions for Pink Floyd and Stanley Clarke, and during our early days of being married, I was touring with Jim Messina and people like that,” Drummond said. “We had a son and we were passing him off to each other in the airport. And finally we just said, we need to start playing together if we’re going to spend time together as a family.
“So we formed Tin Drum and we’ve done three CDs and we’ve had great indie response. So then Mary became involved as the keyboard player for Ambrosia, so that’s kind of eclipsed Tin Drum, because we were working so much as Ambrosia, and now we’ve been getting requests to play again, so we’re feeling like, ‘Why’d we ever stop?’ This is what we want to do, and our son is 32. He has his own band called The Everly Brothers Experience and they’re amazing.”
Drummond tactfully gave his opinion on why the music of today may not have the staying power or longevity of its predecessors.
“I think there is a lot more formulaic writing now that maybe doesn’t have the heart that the songs of my era had … the craftsmanship of the writing in the ’70s was … very high. You had people like Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins and a lot of great session players writing songs that were really stellar. They were very musical with great lyrics.
“I don’t want to put down the music of today, but I do want to say that the music of that era was at a very high level. I am still very honored and I never take it for granted that people respond to our music when we play.”
Drummond concedes that “amazing” music is still being made by young musicians. “My daughter and my son turn me on to stuff weekly that blows my mind,” he says. “I can’t say that it’s not out there. It may not be on the radio, but it is out there … and I’d hate to see that die. Taking music out of the schools and doing the things that we’ve done … we’re doing everything we can to kill it, but I think it’s going to survive.”
So what is the master plan as he and the band continue to revive their past successes every time they take to a stage?
“I am the drummer and, as you know, it’s like an endless pursuit,” he said. “You’re never going to be the master at it; you’ll always be the student. So as long as I can keep pursuing that, and my writing … I’m very excited about working with my wife more in the future … and Ambrosia will continue on because it’s fun. It’s like a reunion every time we play, even though we play a lot.”
The word ambrosia, to many, is a popular picnic staple or summer treat. But to Drummond and his bandmates, there was a different, mythology-based reason for the moniker.
“Originally, Ambrosia was the nectar of the Greek gods, the food of the Greek gods that kept them immortal,” he said. “So we thought, ‘Okay, then our music will be immortal.’ You know, when you’re 18, things are like that and, who knows, maybe it will be.
“Ambrosia became fruit salad and now it’s a mixture of fruit and nuts, so I don’t know what I am anymore (laughs). You know, it could be worse. God bless Toto but in Japan, Toto is the leading manufacturer of toilet seats. Ambrosia in England is rice pudding, so there you go. We’re all of those things (laughs).”
For more about Ambrosia, visitambrosialive.net.
For a chance to win two tickets to the Morristown show, send an email with the word “Yacht” in the subject line to email@example.com by 10 a.m. Aug. 18.
We need your help!
CONTRIBUTE TO NJARTS.NET
Since launching in September 2014, NJArts.net, a 501(c)(3) organization, has become one of the most important media outlets for the Garden State arts scene. And it has always offered its content without a subscription fee, or a paywall. Its continued existence depends on support from members of that scene, and the state’s arts lovers. Please consider making a contribution of $20, or any other amount, to NJArts.net via PayPal, or by sending a check made out to NJArts.net to 11 Skytop Terrace, Montclair, NJ 07043.