Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Jon Lindstrom Reveals His "High" Ride In Music and Soaps, Part One

When hearing the name "Jon Lindstrom," most soap fans immediately think of his critically acclaimed role as Craig Montgomery on AS THE WORLD TURNS, rational and tortured Kevin Collins on GENERAL HOSPITAL and PORT CHARLES, or even scary sociopath Mark McCormick on SANTA BARBARA.  What most soap fans don't know is that this Emmy-nominated actor has been rocking out on his drums since age seven, and was an integral part of the Billboard chart-topping band The High Lonesome in the '80s and '90s.  In this new interview, Lindstrom will trace the origins of his musical passion, as well as recollect some of his most memorable moments on his numerous shows.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV:  Jon, it is so wonderful to speak with you.  One of the things that has been hard about covering soaps the last few years has been seeing so many people on and off screen lose their jobs due to cancellations.  At the same time, we have seen these losses propel people forward creatively, and in some cases people have returned to an artistic expression that they gave up when they started working on daytime.  I know that for you, music has been a passion in your life that preceded your interest in acting.
Jon Lindstrom: It has been an interest as far back as I can remember.  I got my first drum kit when I was in the fifth grade.  I was already starting to pound on things.  My parents have a picture of me in the backyard with wooden spoons and my mother’s pots and pans spread out like an array of drums.  Hitting things was always part of my life.  Things, not people!

Music was important in my family’s home.  My father was always playing guitar, my mother was always singing.  I was always spinning her Andy Williams records, or her great jazz collection.  She finally stopped letting me play them because I would break them.  They were these really old fragile acetate LPs.  If you dropped in two inches the whole thing would shatter.  She put a stop to that so I figured I’d better learn to play music instead of just listening.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV:  How did you start to channel this passion into something that sounded like music?
Jon Lindstrom: Once I got the drum kit I had some lessons.  I joined the school band.  I just kind of learned as I went along.  I didn’t really like the lessons, I’m a more of a self-taught musician.  You're forcing me to look back here.  I remember getting together with a couple of guys in the sixth grade and playing our first song for a school assembly.  It was a song called “Pipeline” and it was probably the easiest song in the rock and roll cannon you could learn.  It was all of two notes and one beat.  That just came flashing back to me!

WE LOVE SOAPS TV:  Do you remember how that felt?
Jon Lindstrom: It felt great. I remember just getting through it and being happy that we could make it happen.  We could go from the beginning of the song to the end without stopping, that was a big deal to me. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV:  How did The High Lonesome come about?
Jon Lindstrom: Larry Poindexter and I were on SANTA BARBARA at the same time.  We put together this band of actors, stand-up comedians, and improv guys. None of us were professional musicians, we were all actors or performers who loved to play music.  We just got together to kill time between acting jobs.  Then Larry started bringing in songs, and we played a couple of birthday parties. And then somebody asked to play a private party at a club that was then called The Central, which is now The Viper Room on Sunset Boulevard.  I don’t even remember what the event was but I do remember that a lot of young beautiful actresses in Hollywood showed up.  Along with that comes a lot of guys, and a lot of guys drink a lot of beer.  Since the bar was open that night, we wound up selling a lot of beer and had a lot of hot chicks there, like Lisa Rinna (DAYS; MELROSE PLACE) and Lisa Kudrow (FRIENDS).

We were all just a bunch of wannabees in the late 1980s trying to work our way up.   About a week or so later we got a call from the club offering us an open slot.  We took it and filled it up with all of our young hot actress friends and all of their boyfriends.  They sold a lot of beer and they asked us back again for a weekly gig.  We started touring around Southern California.

Along the way I got GENERAL HOSPITAL and we broke up for awhile.  A woman who had seen us live in L.A. happened to run into me at the Farmer’s Market.  She said, “Hey, I’m starting a label, is your band still together?” I said, “We can be.” We got back together, signed a record deal, and cut a record.   There was a Japanese children’s show called, JOHNNY SOCKO AND HIS FLYING ROBOT. We thought it would be cool to be called “Johnny Socko!”, with the explanation point.  It turned out there was a band in Indianapolis that had already signed a record deal with that name before we signed ours so they had the rights.  We had to come up with something else, so it was “The High Lonesome.” It’s like an acting career, one thing just leads to another and to another.  As a result we did get a record deal.  We had two hits on Billboard’s Hot 100.  We had “Most Added Status” for a week in 1996. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV:  It’s very interesting that soap audiences never saw this musical side of you.
Jon Lindstrom: For me the drums were a separate kind of creative expression that were just mine.  It wasn’t part of my on-camera persona or part of my on-camera ambition.  I just loved to play the drums with that band.  So I would do it under almost any circumstances that I could.  I heard Charlie Watts of The Rolling Stones once say, “There’s not much I want to do in life except play drums in this band.” There are times I have felt that.  There is nothing else I want to do for the fun of it, for the passion of it, except play drums with The High Lonesome.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV:  When your part of Ryan and then Kevin expanded on GENERAL HOSPITAL, did it force you to choose between the show and the band?
Jon Lindstrom: It did.  My life was changing, I was getting married, I was buying a couple of houses, my life had changed.  And frankly we were growing older. The business of the music business wasn’t as much fun as playing music for music’s sake.  So I had to make the decision to drop out.  They did replace me with Doug Stanny, who is on our new record we just released.  His drum mark is on the last five songs, not mine.  The guys kept it going as long as they could.  But there was something about it becoming a business that took some of the fun out of it for us.  Strangely enough, now that we are reunited, we find ourselves with much better business heads on our shoulders and a much more realistic view of the world.  We have been able to put the music where it belongs and remember that we just love to play music together. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV:  I imagine you guys being rockers in Hollywood in the late '80s had some pretty wild times.
Jon Lindstrom: We were princes of the city [laughs].

WE LOVE SOAPS TV:  Any stories you can share?
Jon Lindstrom: [Laughs] There's a lot I remember, but none I can share.  Not a one.  All you have to know is that it was rock & roll, it was the late '80s, and we were all single.  It was a great time.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV:  Who else came to see the show back then?
Jon Lindstrom: Mariska Hargitay (LAW & ORDER: SVU) would show up.  Andrew Stevens (ex-DALLAS), who went on to become a movie producer after that.  Kyle Secor (HOMICIDE: LIFE ON THE STREET), James LeGros (MERCY, ALLY McBEAL),  Darby Hinton (ex-DAYS OF OUR LIVES).  Matt LeBlanc, Matt Perry and virtually everyone who ended up on FRIENDS was there except David Schwimmer.  Nicolette Sheridan (ex-KNOTS LANDING, ex-DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES), Appolonia Kotero was there.  Everybody who was young and struggling would come and see us.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV:  How about your SANTA BARBARA cast mates?
Jon Lindstrom: I don’t remember if Harley Kozak ever came out, I don’t think she did.  I think Lane Davies did once.  I didn’t keep in touch with the SANTA BARBARA cast as much as I did with GH.  SANTA BARBARA was a tough show.  Great people, not a great environment.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV:  What was the environment like?
Jon Lindstrom: There always seemed to be a battle between the creative company and the money company, which was New World. There was always a battle between the two of them.  It was not a happy set at all.  Wonderful people though. Marcy Walker was great, A Martinez was great, Jed Allan became a very good friend for a long time.  I got certified in scuba diving through Nic Coster. There were some really lovely incredibly talented people on SANTA BARBARA, one of the best casts I ever worked with.  But it was not a happy place.  A lot of stress, a lot of under appreciation.  There was a lot of tension between the network and New World.  New World took the foreign money that was making hand over fist.  The network took all the domestic revenue which was nil if anything.  It never had the domestic ratings to justify the money that was being spent on the show.  There were a lot of inherent problems.  When someone doesn’t want to spend money and some are happy to spend money, there is going to be tension. 

EDITOR'S NOTE: Come back tomorrow for Part Two in which Lindstrom recalls the Big "C" falling on SANTA BARBARA, as well as his dual roles as Ryan and Kevin on GH and PC.  What famous soap actor almost got the role of Ryan instead of Lindstrom? Find out in Part Two!

The High Lonesome's “Collectors’ Album 1995-2010” can be downloaded at the following online retailers:
- iTunes
- Amazon MP3
It may be streamed at Napster.
Hard copies can only be purchased through CDBaby, which also offers download service.

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Therapist now accepting new clients in New York City.  He is also the author of the popular book "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve." For more information about scheduling an appointment, please email him at [email protected].

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