Glen Burtnik should have always known that he would forge a career in music. His parents tell him that even as an infant in Irvington, New Jersey, before he could talk (when he was Learning To Crawl), that he had a very emotional reaction to music. Born Glenn Burtnick, April 8, 1955, the youngest of three brothers, he was "forced" at an early age by his brothers into singing harmonies with them. Glen says his brothers would terrorize him if he didn't sing his part correctly. When Glen was in the second grade, his family decided to move to the New Brunswick area of New Jersey, and by the time he was twelve, Glen already had ideas about his future. He was undecided as to whether to pursue art, music, or film as a career, but he knew that he needed to be 'creating.' He was leaning towards film at the time, but sometime in junior high, he realized that he had been writing songs in his head, and music became topmost in his heart. In late 1967 or early 1968, he attended a "Be-In" in Johnson's Park, where he played his guitar and sang his one song to anyone who would listen. This was his first gig ever. He later played at the New Jersey Teen Arts Festival at the N.J. State Museum Auditorium. At 15, "I was certain I was the next Bob Dylan," says Glen. After high school, Glen wrote and performed a rock opera called "The Walls Of Walden" with his band, Albatross.
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He then answered a classified ad in the Village Voice seeking Beatle sound-alikes and look-alikes for the show Beatlemania. He became a part of the west coast cast of the show, playing Paul McCartney. During his tenure in Beatlemania, he forged a lasting friendship with Marshall Crenshaw, who played John Lennon. Glen and Marshall recorded a single, "I HATE DISCO MUSIC," as The Sides. This friendship has endured through the years, with the two still working together whenever time allows. Glen sometimes appears with Marshall during his live shows, and Marshall regularly appears in Glen's Christmas Extravaganza.
While still appearing in Beatlemania, Glen answered another ad in the Village Voice and was hired by Jan Hammer to be the singer for his band, Hammer. They recorded an album, and toured in support of it. Through his involvement with Jan Hammer, Glen also formed a friendship with Neal Schon, later of Santana and Journey. The song, "NO MORE LIES," was a collaboration written by Burtnick, Schon, and Hammer.
"That trip to California really made up my mind! I turned around and headed home to Exit Number Nine.."
One of the other Beatlemania cast members then was given a record deal by Elektra Records for his band, Helmet Boy, and asked Glen to join the band. He did so, and the album, Helmet Boy, was released. After the album was basically ignored by the music industry, Glen returned to New Brunswick and married his high school sweetheart, RoseMary Giglio. Glen then began playing with local bands in the Asbury Park music scene. One of the bands, Cats On A Smooth Surface, was the house band for the famed Stone Pony club. Almost every Sunday night, Bruce Springsteen would come to the Pony and perform with the band. This band had a lot of talent even without the appearances of The Boss. The band consisted of Glen, Fran Smith (The Hooters), Bobby Bandiera (The Asbury Jukes), and Ray Anderson (Blue Van Gogh), so it is interesting to speculate what this lineup could've accomplished with a bit more exposure.
During this time, Glen also became acquainted with another New Jersey musician named Jon Bongiovi (later to become Jon Bon Jovi). When Jon decided to form a band, he asked Glen to join. Glen declined, but the two have remained good friends throughout the years, and have appeared together from time to time. It was about this time that he decided to drop his first letter, shortening Glenn to Glen.
"It seemed like the perfect arrangement..."
In 1984, a demo that Glen had recorded, "HERE COMES SALLY" came to the attention of an executive at A&M Records, and he was offered a recording contract with that record company. He recorded two albums for A&M, 1986's "Talking In Code" and 1987's "Heroes and Zeros," which featured the charted single "FOLLOW YOU." About this time, the philosophy at A&M began to change, and Glen found himself unable to submit any music that the A&R people wanted him to record. After a couple of frustrating years dealing with A&M Records to no avail, Glen was surprised to get a message from Dennis DeYoung one day on his answering machine, asking him if he would like to audition for the band Styx. Since Tommy Shaw was out touring with Damn Yankees, they needed a second guitarist and an additional songwriter. It seemed that this role was tailor-made for Glen, and he flew to Chicago to audition. Once there, he met with Dennis, James Young, and the Panozzo brothers, and the five played and sang some of the Styx standards. The auditions were then closed, as far as the band was concerned.
"And I HEARD IT ON THE RADIO...."
Styx fans were excited to hear that 'their' band was regrouping, but were perplexed as to who the fifth member would be. It was known that Tommy Shaw was not available, so there had to be a new member, and for a long while, no one knew his identity. On an interesting side note, after the identity of the mysterious "Number Five" had been learned, the ladies who published the Styx newsletter at that time, 976-STYX, made a couple of trips to New Jersey to see Glen perform. On the second trip that they made, when they arrived at the Stone Pony, the marquee simply read "Glen." No additional information was neccessary to his New Jersey fans.
Styx, with Glen, did go on to record "Edge Of The Century", which was released in 1990, and a tour followed in 1991. There were five Burtnik-penned tunes on the album, "LOVE IS THE RITUAL," "WORLD TONITE," "LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT," "ALL IN A DAY'S WORK," and the title track, "EDGE OF THE CENTURY." The album was certified Gold, but Styx realized that A&M just wasn't interested in promoting them any longer, and the band went on hiatus for a period of time.
While working on the recording of "Edge Of The Century," a slightly homesick Glen found himself writing songs about New Brunswick. After the completion of the 1991 tour, he and sixty of his closest friends recorded the album "Slaves Of New Brunswick," a collection of songs about the New Jersey city. Although this album was only marketed in the New York/New Jersey area, the general buzz about it was extremely favorable, and copies have managed to make their way all across the country.
"There are no folk singers from New Brunswick, so I figured that was kinda my job." -GB
"On the street below, we see life as a show, where everyone's playing a part..."
Glen continued with his songwriting, and in 1992, a song that he and Patty Smyth had co-written, "SOMETIMES LOVE JUST AIN'T ENOUGH," recorded by Patty and Don Henley, reached number one on the pop charts. Glen made several promotional appearances with Patty, which prompted some Styx fans to question whether or not there was still a Styx. Glen answered these questions by direct responses to the 976-STYX newsletter.
During this time, Glen continued to write for other artists, but he chiefly confined his own performing to appearances with the Slaves Of New Brunswick, or with good friends like Marshall Crenshaw or John Waite. In 1994, tracks were recorded for the "Live Christmas Extravaganza" CD at Glen's annual Christmas show, which benefits the New York and New Jersey food banks. This Christmas tradition has a cast of characters which changes from year to year, but has included such luminaries as Patty Smyth, Phoebe Snow, Marshall Crenshaw, Patti Smith, as well as many of Glen's fellow "Slaves." This show has its roots in the late 80s J.A.M. (Jersey Artists for Mankind) recordings. It has grown from one show on one night to four shows over two nights, and all shows have been sold out for the past five years running.
Finally, in 1996, Glen released another album of solo work, "Palookaville," on Deko Records. A brilliant collection of tunes, it is the artist's favorite of his works thus far. The cover features the Burtnik's youngest daughter, Sally, who was born during the tour for "Edge Of The Century." Although this is another work that has not been marketed nationwide, it has garnered critical acclaim from all across the globe, as well as right here in the United States. The same year, MTM Records, a German record company, convinced Glen to release some of his older work (including those that had been rejected by A&M) on the album "Retrospectacle." Another gem, this work includes his original version of "LOVE IS THE RITUAL," and all Styx fans can certainly listen to this song and see that VERY little was changed from the Styx album version. "Retrospecacle" also includes some very Beatle-esque work, and some songs that were written for other artists. All in all, another Burtnik triumph.
In 1998, Glen had his second chart-topper when Randy Travis took his song "SPIRIT OF A BOY, WISDOM OF A MAN" to number one on the Country Singles chart. It was actually the third release of the song, having been previously recorded by Mark Collie, and by Glen himself on his "Palookaville" album.
"Well, I've been around the world, and I've seen it all before...."
In 1999, with Glen at work on a new solo album, he received yet another cryptic phone call from a Styx member, James Young this time. Setting aside his personal work in order to do a favor for an old friend, Glen accepted the offer to tour with Styx. Together, along with James Young, Tommy Shaw, Todd Sucherman, and Lawrence Gowan, have now completed hundreds of dates in their never-ending quest to bring live Styx music to every corner of the globe. They have released a live double CD (along with REO Speedwagon) called "Arch Allies," and in 2003 released their newest studio album "Cyclorama", which features Glen on lead vocals, backing vocals, bass, and 12-string acoustic guitar.
And early 2004 should see the release of Glen's newest solo album, to be titled "Welcome To Hollywood."
The beat does indeed go on....
"And God made man to sing...."
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