Personal issues – universal problems fans can always tap into – have always been Rick Springfield’s muse.
And his devoted fans, who are the subject of a new documentary, will have a new album to connect with this fall.
Springfield will perform Friday, June 8, during a concert to celebrate the 65th anniversary of WBBQ-FM, an influential radio station that was one of many that helped bring Springfield up the charts when he broke onto the music scene in the 1980s.
The concert, at the Lady Antebellum Pavilion at the Evans Towne Center, features Springfield and local pop-rock act Impulse Ride.
Springfield’s concert comes after he’s just completed a new record that will be released in September.
“I think it’s going to be a great record,” the artist said during a telephone interview.
Springfield got his fans involved with the making of this album, having them send in their versions of a song he sang for a YouTube clip.
“A couple of thousand came to sing along with me on that song,” Springfield said.
His fans are featured in An Affair of the Heart, screened earlier this spring, in which they told their unique stories.
“We exist because of fans, and I think that artists get that,” Springfield said. “I’ve been fan-friendly for a long time. This is about them and some pretty unique stories that go very, very deep – not just the casual fan; they’re life-long fans. They relate to the music and how they get through their issues through it.”
Springfield’s 1981 album Working Class Dog included the hits I’ve Done Everything for You and Jessie’s Girl, for which he won a Grammy in 1982 for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance.
His follow-up release Success Hasn’t Spoiled Me Yet had a string of top-40 hits, including Don’t Talk To Strangers. In 1983, his album Living in Oz was his third to go platinum with the hits Human Touch and Affair of the Heart.
Springfield has sold more than 19 million records with 17 top-40 hits.
He returned recently to the soap opera General Hospital, where he was on America’s TV screens during the early ’80s as Dr. Noah Drake, and also played as a Rick Springfield impostor who’s trying to pick up women on TV Land’s Hot in Cleveland.
Impulse Ride lead vocalist Ruskin Yeargain said he’s honored to be opening for Springfield.
“He’s probably one of my top five artists of all time,” Yeargain said during a telephone interview. “I do a lot of solo stuff, and I’ve got a heavy Rick repertoire. It’s kind of a big deal for me, personally.”
The rocker, whose day gig is graphic design, is working with his bandmate, Bill Irwin, on new music after an 11-year absence.
“We’ve been on a hiatus but we’ve got about 12 songs we’re fleshing out,” Yeargain said. “It’s been way too long.”
For Yeargain and many other Augustans, WBBQ stands out as an influential radio station.
“When the alarm clock went off, that’s what we were listening to,” he said.
Radio stations such as WBBQ helped Springfield’s well-known single, Jessie’s Girl, reach the heights of the charts.
“A lot of DJs started hearing Jessie’s Girl, and the song started getting out,” Springfield said. “They contacted the record company, and it was really radio that picked Jessie’s Girl as a single.”
For decades, WBBQ was not only a dominant player in Augusta radio, but was also a trendsetter nationally and a diviner of top radio hits.
“I got into radio in 1977 and I remember in the early ’80s knowing about BBQ from the industry trade (publications),” said John Patrick, a co-host in the mornings who was a program director for the station.
“You would see a new record out and saw the stations that played it the first week, and WBBQ was always one of them. They were very instrumental in breaking new artists, and formed a name for themselves in not a very big town.”
When Springfield first burst on the charts in the ’80s, radio was a different world than today, the artist said. DJs had more independence in what they chose to play.
“That kind of strength and power I don’t think exists in radio anymore,” Springfield continued.
“That kind of magic in radio is gone now. You play what you’re told. The adventurism is certainly gone.”
Even with changes in radio, WBBQ, now under the ownership of Clear Channel, remains one of the area’s top stations, ranked third in the Augusta metro market in the fall 2011 Arbitron report.