John Tesh bring the holidays to the AFA's Arnold Hall on Friday
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Arnold Hall, the Air Force Academy, 2302 Cadet Drive
Tickets: $30-$48; 333-4497, ticketmaster.com
During his 10 years co-hosting the tabloid news show “Entertainment Tonight,” John Tesh never succumbed to the hype of Hollywood. He loved the gig, but mostly for its flexibility. Where else could he work fours a day and spend the rest of his time pursuing music, his true passion?
The 60-year old musician will perform a Big Band Christmas show Friday at Arnold Hall at the Air Force Academy. He's piggy-backing off his latest CD, "Big Band," released in April, a compilation of well-known songs like "The Way You Look Tonight" and "Blue Skies." The holiday show will be a night of holiday classics in big band style, with a full horn section.
"I've been on a big band jag here," he says. "It's a good fit for Christmas. A lot of the songs were written back in the 1920s and 1930s. This is the way they were intended to be played."
Tesh, mostly known for his piano playing, will also sing.
"I've sung these songs for so many years. I don't think 'John Tesh - pop singer' would work, but for these songs it does."
Not only did he make a living working short hours at "ET" back in the day, but Paramount Television, where the show was shot, built him a recording studio on the lot. In 1996, he finally took the plunge and said goodbye to a steady paycheck and hello to his calling.
“If I hadn’t left ‘ET,’ they probably would have fired me, like 'Lord of the Flies,’” he jokes. “Once you reach a certain age, you’re out.”
Tesh’s career brings to mind that age old question: Which came first: the chicken or the egg? But in his case: music or tv? The answer, of course, is music, much to the dismay of his World War II parents. They thought he’d starve to death pursuing a music career, but it was inevitable when, at the age of six, he was already proficient on the piano, organ and trumpet.
After studying music and communications in college, he filtered through several news anchor jobs in the United States, beginning in Durham, N.C., and at the age of 23, landing at WCBS-TV in New York as a sportscaster. From there, he moved to Europe and continued to work in TV sports, which eventually was the mallet that cracked his music career wide open.
It was the theme song, “Roundball Rock,” that made people sit up and begin to take his music seriously, he says. He came up with the tune in a hotel room while traveling, and was so afraid he’d forget it that he called home and sang it into his answering machine. The National Basketball Association on NBC used it from 1990-2002.
Along the way, he’s racked up more than 50 recordings, and earned multiple Emmy awards and Grammy nominations.
Ten years ago, he made a return to his journalistic roots: radio broadcasting. He and his wife, the actress Connie Sellecca, teased each other about their respective nightstands. His was piled with plastic trumpets, iPods and other music paraphernalia. Hers was cluttered with magazines, like “Prevention,” peppered with sticky notes on articles to read when she had time.
Tesh had the idea to do a radio program focused on short newsy pieces, two minutes in length, surrounded by music - a listener-friendly way to get some guidance without a huge time commitment. He now hosts the popular show “Intelligence for Your Life,” showcasing bite-sized chunks of information on health and wellness, relationships and career success.
“A lot of people call it life coaching on the radio, or Oprah on the radio. It’s a nice bit of praise,” he says. “But I’m not an expert, I’m a quarterback. Here’s a piece of intelligence I’ve found, and here’s how I’ve applied it.”
Even a short glance at the numerous and successful endeavors of Tesh’s career reflects a man who seems to thrive on new projects.
“Risking is not a problem for me anymore,” he says. “As you get older, you realize you have nothing to lose.”
What is your pre-show ritual?
Trying to sit in every seat in the audience. I might not get every single one, but like five in each balcony and each row. It gives the feeling that it’s your house, that people are visitors in your house.
Most memorable interview on “ET?“
It sounds weird, but Telly Savalas. He was a guy I grew up watching on "Kojack." He portrayed such a tough guy, but I was floored at what a gentle, thoughtful human he was. He wasn’t as how he was billed on TV. The craziest interview I ever had was Bette Davis. She wouldn’t let me sit close to her, I had to sit across the room and shout questions at her. I never found out why.
What is your most challenging personality quirk?
My Achilles heel is my attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. At the same time, it’s my greatest strength. It makes you very creative. Everything is interesting and you think that should be a new business for you, but it’s a great way to destroy everything.
Best advice to help mend a broken heart.
There is evidence that when your heart is broken, it actually is damaging to your health. Your heart rate goes up, your blood pressure goes up. You eat less or more. No. 1 best thing to do is exercise. No. 2 is fellowship, hanging out with others. The worst is to drink or overeat.
The best way you get out of a bad mood?
Exercise. Interval exercise where it’s a minute and half of intense exercise, then rest. I don’t run anymore. I had back surgery a few years ago, so no pounding. I work that P90X thing 45 minutes a day.
My wife’s (actress Connie Sellecca) pasta with hot sausage and filet mignon.
Guilty music pleasure?
I’m from the 1960s, so it would be Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood live from Madison Square Garden.