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The Herald-Palladium

Guitarist honors a personal hero

Tim Velez performs expanse of Dan Fogelberg's career at Box Factory show

By JEREMY D. BONFIGLIO - H-P Features Writer
Published: Thursday, April 29, 2010 1:07 PM EDT

ST. JOSEPH - Tim Velez had a friend on the inside.

The guitarist and singer-songwriter had long idolized Dan Fogelberg and this was the night where he would finally get to meet him. That's what his friend, a stage manager for what was then known as the Holiday Star Plaza in Merrillville, Ind., had promised, anyway.

"He tried to get me backstage," Velez says of the 1993 concert, "but Dan's manager didn't allow anyone backstage."

So after the show, Velez's friend directed him to the parking lot where he might at least get to say a quick hello to the singer-songwriter best known for the hits "Longer," "Leader of the Band" and "Run for the Roses." On Fogelberg's brief walk from the stage door to the limousine, Velez got a whole lot more than that.

"Not only did I get to meet him, but we stood there in the parking lot talking for a couple hours," Velez says. "He just stood there, answering all my questions, telling me the stories behind his songs. It was just incredible."

Since Fogelberg's death to prostate cancer in 2007, Velez has paid tribute to his musical hero by performing "The Dan Fogelberg Review: Leader of the Band," a one-man acoustic show that stops Saturday at the Box Factory for the Arts in St. Joseph.

"When he died I just wanted to do something," Velez says. "So I thought, 'Well, I can be the first person to do a Dan Fogelberg show.'"

Velez, a Niles native who now lives in LaPorte, Ind., picked up the guitar at age 13 and was heavily influenced by two uncles who played in the flamenco style. Two years later, Velez was performing solo shows, and later went on to study at the Front Porch Music School in Valparaiso, Ind.

He became a fan of Fogelberg's music in 1972 after listening to "Home Free," an album that contained the single "To The Morning." Velez has been a student of Fogelberg and other singer-songwriters such as James Taylor and Jim Croce ever since.

"(Fogelberg) may not have been as popular as some of the other singer-songwriters coming out of the '70s," Velez says, "but he was every bit as talented. In concert, the man was just extraordinary, especially when he was on his own with a guitar."

Velez's show will cover the expanse of Fogelberg's career with a set list that includes "Part of the Plan," "Morning Sky" and "Illinois," off Fogelberg's 1974 album "Souvenirs"; "Old Tennessee" and "Crow" off 1975's "Captured Angel"; "Longer" off 1980's "Phoenix"; "Leader of the Band," "Nexus," "The Reach" and "Same Old Lang Syne" off 1981's "Innocent Age"; "Bones In The Sky" off 1990's "The Wild Places"; "Mountains To The Sea" off 1997's "Portrait"; and even an original tune that expands on Fogelberg's instrumental "Half Moon Bay" off 2003's "Full Circle" album to include Velez's own lyrics.

The only thing missing, he admits, is "Run for the Roses," Fogelberg's popular ode to the Kentucky Derby.

"My mom passed away last year, and it's still a little raw," Velez says. "She was from Kentucky, and that was her favorite song."

In between songs, Velez will also share the backstory of some of Fogelberg's most popular tunes, including "Leader of the Band," which was written in honor of Fogelberg's father, Lawrence Peter Fogelberg, a classically trained pianist and high school band director.

"He told me that of all the songs he wrote, that was his favorite because of what it meant to his father," Velez says.

Velez says Fogelberg also was forthcoming about "Same Old Lang Syne," an autobiographical tale of a chance meeting with his first love.

"I actually asked him if that was really true," Velez says. "And it was. His father had recently died, and he needed a break. So he stepped out on Christmas Eve to go to the store, and he ran into his first love. The next day, after the presents were opened, he played this song. His mother insisted that he put it on his next album."

Ironically, it was Velez's own chance meeting with Fogelberg that in some small way is helping to keep these songs alive. It's a fact not lost on Velez.

"He was just a kind-hearted man and an extraordinary songwriter," Velez says. "I'm reminded of that every time I do one of these shows."

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