The Two Faces of Bert with an “E”

| December 5, 2013 | 0 Comments

 

Bert strives to be a all-around performer. Photo courtesy of James Lightfoot Jr.

Bert strives to be a all-around performer. Photo courtesy of James Lightfoot Jr.

Every musician who makes a living with his or her talent knows that finding one’s niche is key – that particular style of music, or that type of venue where they can flourish and grow. For one songwriter/singer/piano player, that niche turned out to be in the middle of the ocean. Bert Stratton is a multitalented performer eerily reminiscent of a young Victor Borge, with a dash of Jim Carrey, especially when he breaks into his trademark wide grin that almost matches Carrey’s in “The Mask.” He’s the Smothers Brothers without a brother. But he also has a serious side, a phenomenal singer who has a style that is uniquely his own. He’s carved out a successful career aboard a host of cruise ships, currently with the Princess line, where he was one of only five nominees out of 5,000 for their Entertainer of the Year award. I saw Stratton perform four times over seven days recently and returned determined to share this funny and talented man with our readers.

Standing behind a grand piano, the top of which is littered with glasses filled with lemon wedges, bottles of water, songbooks, a towel and an inexplicable bottle of tabasco sauce is Stratton’s preferred way to play. (A habit picked up, he explains with a straight face, from playing piano in the school marching band.) He gives a high energy performance that draws his audience in, whether they like it or not. Bounding on stage like it’s his first show (when he’s actually done in excess of 10,000) Stratton immediately gets the audience involved, making them repeat his name “Bert, with an E,” and when he flashes his teeth, it looks like he’s trying to pick up some extra money from a toothpaste ad. “Floss first, then brush, then floss again,” he intones. Life lessons with the music at no extra charge.

Running through a 1950-1980 set of rock and roll, you see immediately that this is a very talented piano player, who can play rock and roll, show tunes, folk and standards, and can sing them all. But these are not serious attempts to sing properly, it’s a schtick. The serious side of
Stratton, though, is a trained and talented singer. It’s one thing to sing “Rawhide” and give your belt to an audience member to make the “whip crack” sounds in the song, or to get 100 people singing “Shake, Rattle and Roll,” and quite another to solo play and sing “The Music of the Night” from Phantom, and just kill it. “Michael Crawford’s got nothin’ on you” was one shout from the audience. After he plays a serious version of Glen Campbell’s “Gentle on my Mind,” Stratton takes the audience to school for a bit, with a bio of and a nod to John Hartford, the composer. It’s all about the song. Stratton is not only an accomplished singer, musician and performer; he is also a brilliant songwriter who shares his life experience through his original songs, many of which are recorded on his four CD’s and reprised on his CD “Best of Bert” which contains cuts from all four. He also has a DVD of his onboard performance that’s fun to watch with company, and it’s all family-friendly entertainment. Like Bill Cosby, Bert doesn’t do blue humor.

Stratton really does have “two faces,” one is the comic with his gapes and grins, the other is the serious singer, and that’s who you hear on his CD’s, a voice reminiscent of Paul Simon and James Taylor, and compositions that are insightful, poignant and tender. Stratton’s passion for music started at an early age. After learning how to read music, the young Bert discovered he had a natural gift for playing by ear and he has been self-taught ever since.

True to his roots, he transforms the lounge in which he plays into a magical living-room where the audience becomes a family. “I get back laughter from the audience, and we start throwing energy back and forth and the cycle starts, it’s a ‘we’re all in this together’ thing, like a perpetual motion machine.” Stratton has performed all over the world and lived in some of the most famous music centers such as Nashville and Austin. His career has taken an unexpected turn as of late. Pat Boone recently recorded Stratton’s song “Ready to Rock,” and Boone is a big fan.

His first major breakthrough came when Boone recorded one of Stratton’s songs and made it a title cut on his newest album. Stratton is also a writer member of ASCAP with a slew of credits. He wrote the very first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle rap for a cassette comic book put out by Random House before the movie ever hit the screen. Stratton is also a writer with Shadow Mountain Publishing, and his song “You Got Me,” co-written by CJ Watson is in the indie film “Halloween Party.” He’s also written and had published scores of Sacred Choral anthems and been published numerous times with Shawnee Press, Carl Fischer, Briley, Lorenz and Alfred.

“I strive to be an all-around entertainer,” he says. “That includes interpreting the music of well-known artists across genres as well as writing, arranging and performing my original compositions. I love songwriting. I’ve been doing it for a long time. The most important thing I’ve learned is to always remain flexible, open, and teachable. I enjoy collaboration. I feel it’s an experience that shouldn’t be missed. I’ve been fortunate to be able to work with some of the best.”

Stratton’s fans are legion and among the most dedicated you’ll find, he calls them “Bertified” fans. He’s amassed an army of them in 20 plus years of onboard performing and their praise is seemingly limitless. You can preview Stratton’s work on YouTube where you’ll find a whole column of videos, and you can order the DVD and his CD’s at www.bertstratton.com. While you’re at his site, read some of the comments left by fans. It will help when you draft yours

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Category: Entertainment, Life Style

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