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Bon Jovi rocker Bryan rolls 'Memphis' into Bay Area 23 January 2004
Alameda Times-Star article

Source: Alameda Times-Star

IT'S not that Bon Jovi keyboardist David Bryan was tired of making best-selling albums with his band or performing live in gargantuan arenas around the world.

He just wanted more people to sing his songs.

Believe it or not, the man who helped pen such Bon Jovi songs as "Love Lies" and "Breakout" is now writing musicals.

Bryan has composed music for "Memphis," which opens Saturday in Mountain View in a co-production from TheatreWorks and the Boston-based North Shore Music Theatre.

The 41-year-old rocker is in the Bay Area putting final touches on the show, a tribute to the disc jockeys who broke racial barriers in the late 1940s and early'50s by playing what was then called "race music" -- the African-American blues fusion that quickly evolved into what we know as rock 'n' roll.

As a creative businessman, Bryan was writing songs but having difficulty getting anyone to record them.

"My publisher suggested I try musical theater because then people would be singing my songs," Bryan says before heading into a "Memphis" rehearsal. "I figured that in the average musical, people sing about 23 of your songs in two hours. That sounded pretty good."

A first attempt at creating a musical based on the "Sweet Valley High" teen novels made some progress but hit a block. Then Bryan got hold of a script by Joe DiPietro ("Over the River and Through the Woods," "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change") based in part on real-life Memphis DJ Dewey Phillips.

"I read the script, called Joe and told him I heard every song in this show," Bryan recalls. "I could hear the songs in my head. I made a demo of the song 'Music of My Soul,' which really embodies the DJ's character. Joe heard it, called me up and told me I got the gig."

Bryan is used to creating music for a four-member rock band. Now he's crafting nearly two dozen songs for a cast of 20 singers and dancers.


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