Rock ’n’ roll pioneer Bonds details his remarkable half-century career in popular music.
Gary U.S. Bonds—born Gary L. Anderson—was barely in his 20s when his performances of rollicking tunes like “New Orleans” (1960) and “Quarter to Three” (1961) allowed him to break into the upper echelons of rock ’n’ roll music. Just five years later, however, Bonds’ shooting star already began to fade. Despite widespread critical acclaim, the Norfolk, Va., resident would spend the next four decades trying to scrape by on the golden-oldies circuit, playing in hotel lounges and even shopping malls. But as this briskly-paced career retrospective demonstrates, he rarely dwelled on the negative, even when performing to largely empty ballrooms and reading starkly worded foreclosure notices. Bonds’ persistence and belief in his own talents paid off in the early 1980s when he defied industry expectations and reignited his career after meeting Bruce Springsteen. Together with the Boss’ E Street Band alums, Bonds appeared in front of sold-out crowds and started recording such hits as “This Little Girl” (1981). Sadly, this rejuvenation was short-lived, and Bonds was soon back to struggling to make ends meet. Undaunted, the distinctive singer picked up and continued on as before, buoyed by what had sustained him throughout his turbulent career—loyal friends and a loving family. Bonds wastes little energy sniping at Frank Guida, the late Legrand Records producer who helped give him his start in music and, according to the author, deprived him of many hard-earned dollars—an all-too-familiar story. However, this decades-spanning professional memoir contains strikingly little bitterness; instead, Bonds’ incredible devotion to music shines through. It took Bonds, now in his seventh decade, this long to write his story, but it just might signal another professional rebirth. He’s done it before.
A worthwhile rock ’n’ roll memoir, and an inspiring story about following one’s bliss.