Music News & Reviews

John Tesh always wanted fame

‘I’m the poster boy for “Quit your job and follow your dream.” ’
‘I’m the poster boy for “Quit your job and follow your dream.” ’ PHOTO BY PAUL HENNESSY

As long as he can remember, John Tesh has wanted to have a voice.

“We all want to be relevant on a certain level,” the Emmy Awardwinning entertainer said. “Everyone wants to be a broadcaster.”

Over the course of his show-business career, Tesh has found myriad ways to make his rich, warm baritone heard: as a radio and television host, pop music composer, New Age icon and self-help guru. Over the past decade, he’s served as the host of “The John Tesh Radio Show: Intelligence For Your Life,” dispensing friendly advice to more than 12 million listeners each week.

Tesh, who performs next month in San Luis Obispo, credits books such as Rick Warren’s “The Purpose-Driven Life” as his inspiration.

“The common thread of these books is ‘Find a purpose and a mission in your life and stay focused on it,’ ” he said.

A practical path

Tesh first discovered his purpose as a boy growing up on New York’s Long Island.

“It was pretty clear that what I wanted to do was become a rock ’n’ roll star,” said Tesh, who started studying piano and trumpet at age 6.

Unfortunately, his parents discouraged him from pursuing a career in music.

“They were convinced I would starve to death,” he recalled.

So Tesh followed a more practical career path, studying textile chemistry and communications at the University of North Carolina before becoming a television news anchor and reporter. He covered the Tour de France in the early 1980s as a CBS sportscaster and followed the 1992 and 1996 Summer Olympics for NBC.

Tesh also spent a decade co-hosting NBC’s “Entertainment Tonight,” a lucrative gig that failed to fulfill his true dreams.

“My real heart was not being the guy on television every night reporting on other people’s problems,” said Tesh, who was already writing, recording and performing music in his spare time.

In 1990, he won an international competition to find the new “NBA on NBC” theme song. “Roundball Rock,” which won an Emmy Award, eventually aired about 12,000 times over 12 seasons.

Tesh’s music career received another boost in 1994 when he appeared in the public television special “Live at Red Rocks,” performing alongside the Colorado Symphony. He left “Entertainment Tonight” two years later.

“I’m the poster boy for ‘Quit your job and follow your dream,’ ” Tesh said.

Over the years, Tesh has released more than 50 albums and six television specials, earning six Emmys and two Grammy Award nominations. He’s sold 7.2 million records in all.

Tesh’s latest album, “Big Band Christmas,” represents a return to his roots.

“It’s a tribute to the totally golden days of music,” the performer said, back when Tony Bennett, Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra ruled the airwaves.

“Big Band Christmas” features swinging versions of such holiday classics as “Sleigh Ride,” “Silver Bells” and “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” There are also a couple of original songs, including “It Wouldn’t Be Christmas (Without You),” which Tesh wrote for his wife, actress Connie Sellecca.

“This is a big-time jazz record,” Tesh said, describing the album’s vibe as upbeat. “It’s less ‘romantic Christmas’ and more ‘get up and swing dance Christmas.’ ”

Triple focus

Although Tesh’s life sounds relentlessly busy on paper, he said he’s concentrating on the things that really matter.

“My life is down to three focused areas: family, touring and my radio show,” said Tesh, who performs for more than 200,000 concertgoers each year. “We say ‘no’ to a lot of stuff — ‘Would you like to host a game show? Would you like to be on ‘Dancing with the Stars?’ ”

He even turned down an invitation to join the cast of “The Apprentice,” citing the sizable time commitment. Tesh, who turns 60 in July, would rather focus on his future.

“I want to be the healthiest 60-year-old out there,” he said. “My heroes are Tony Bennett and B.B. King, those guys who are still doing 300 dates a year.”

Reach Sarah Linn at 781-7907.