Does the name “Legwarmers” scream ‘80s? This is why singer and guitarist Gordon Gartrell chose this name for his successful Arlington-based, seven-member band, but is it a purposeful life to be part of a tribute band?
Being young musicians, “It all started back in May 2001 when Gordon Gartrell and Cru Jones had just seen yet another cover band butcher the decade that they loved, so they decided to do something about it. They assembled a group and vowed to give the world's most hedonistic decade the tribute it deserved. Joined by Chet Reno, Lavaar Huxtable, Roxanne Rio, Capt. Morgan Pondo and Clarence McFly, they locked themselves in the basement with a shoebox-full of dusty 45’s and an endless supply of Tab -- one year later, the Legwarmers emerged,” according to their website.
As you read the bios of the band members on their website, you will be introduced to characters with an element of tragedy. For example, this is Gartrell’s bio: “Gordon Gartrell was at the top of the world. A Wall Street tycoon during the bull market of the 1980's, he had it all...until his massive hubris caused him to throw all of his money into Cabbage Patch Kid futures. Plunging him into financial ruin and an even deeper depression, Gordon was on the verge of suicide when one word from the television caught his attention: "jitterbug." As if in a trance, he looked over the barrel of the gun in his mouth to see two colorful men prancing around onscreen, and on one of their shirts, young Gartrell noticed a slogan: Choose Life. Gordon burst into tears and threw down the gun, and he's been choosing life ever since as the pyrotechnic lead guitarist of The Legwarmers. Ladies flock to Gordon's side of the stage to bask in his flaming guitar licks and fancy finger work on the guitar neck... but would they be as turned on if they knew Gordon's secret? A secret that his pink stage ensembles, curiously high vocals, and inexplicable love of "Wham" only hint at - Gordon Gartrell is Canadian.”
“It is partly silly,” said Gartrell over the phone on a rainy Sunday, but also “maybe to get a little bit of that Cinderella story thing.”
The Legwarmers are busy performing at most of the local venues. Their audiences, who seem to always have a good time, singing along and dressing up, come from all ages; they can be grandparents or babysitters, shared Gartrell.
The ‘80s for me represents stability and Jacksonmania. How do The Legwarmers represent that era?
“We want the music to be good first and foremost. We want it to be fun and maybe with a little bit of romanticism … It is not 100 percent authentic. There are people who lived through the ‘80s who probably have a more realistic understanding. They like the nostalgic aspect of it. But then there are people who were not there and have a romanticized idea of what it must have been like. We try to represent everyone,” shares Gartrell, and explains how he keeps his audience interested, “We try to do the songs as they sound on the recording … we try not to stop in between songs. We want it to be almost like a DJ experience for the audience.”
Most requested covers by the fans are, “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey and Bon Jovi’s “Putting on Prayers,” said Gartrell. “Anthemic rock ones tend to be the big ones.”
This makes me wonder, is it purposeful to be part of a tribute band, keeping great songs alive instead of creating your own? “For me, I feel very fortunate with the band. Because it’s fun in itself. It allowed me to entertain people and see them have a good time,” reflects Gartrell and suggests that we have another interview to discuss the challenges of producing original songs.