BHS alum Storey rebuilding a music career sidelined by MS
June 21, 2003
One of Linda Storey's favorite pictures is a faded color photograph of the younger version of herself, standing in front of her house in Bandon, Ore., near where the Coquille River meets the Pacific Ocean.
Her long blond hair is blowing in the cold, salty breeze as a fishing boat chugs along in the background. The year was 1975 and the possibilities for the talented 20-year-old singer/songwriter were as endless as the sea.
But in just three short years, all of that promise would come crashing down. The blow of the diagnosis was crushing — multiple sclerosis.
She tried to put the disease — this invisible, uninvited guest sneaking around in her body with hostile intentions — behind her. And so she played on, continuing to tour. Slowly, though, it began to take its inevitable toll.
She had to sit down while playing at first. Then she had to walk with a cane. Then came the wheelchair. The loss of the use of her hands. No more guitar. No more bass. Eventually, she had to take a break.
And that's when the darkness came.
"It's a scary thing," said Storey, a 1971 graduate of Broomfield High School. "You almost lose it. What am I going to do? What am I really worth? I thought about that."
Those thoughts persisted as Storey gave up her musical dream, got married and had children. Life was about as good as could be expected under the circumstances, but something was missing.
And so with the support of her husband Ken and her children and the help of former manager Chuck Morris and a loose collective of local female musicians known as the Women From Mars, Storey began slowly reassembling her career.
"When you lose control of your body, you shouldn't lose control of your life," Storey said. "No matter what happens, your life is still important."
And with that as her mantra, she began performing and recording.
She released the self-produced "Willow Tree" in 1998 and performed at the Fox Theatre in Boulder for the "Women From Mars" CD release party in 1999. She followed that up with "Live At The Castle" in 2001, recorded at the Castle of Springfield in Springfield, Mo., and backed by country music stalwart Tommy Overstreet.
But despite those successes, Storey wasn't ready to call it a victory.
The sound on the first two CDs wasn't the sound Storey was hearing in her head and so she enlisted the help of keyboardist Bruce Waring and tenor saxist Phillip "Fly" McClard, formerly of the Chris Daniels band. Along with brothers Kent and Jimmy Richardson, also BHS graduates, and a few others, backing band The Alleluia Blues was formed.
Kent Richardson, a 1972 graduate, and Storey had met at a high school reunion a few years earlier and had begun playing together.
"You never lose that thing that makes you want to play music," Richardson said.
Storey's career has taken off from there. While her latest CD, "Don't Let It Stop You," is still self-produced, Storey and her band have performed everywhere from the Denver Performing Arts Center to the Soiled Dove in Denver to The Opreyland Resort Nashville. She's also the subject of an upcoming episode of the PBS documentary series "Broken Wings," hosted by Pat Morita.
The big horn and keyboard sound on the new disc and its niche as a crossover Christian record have helped put Storey on the verge of every artist's dream — "making it."
But the journey has certainly been a long and unconventional one. Not many artists approaching the age of 50 get a second chance. And not many artists in a wheelchair with hands that are essentially useless get a chance at all.
"I've put 10 years into this since the time I decided to go back," said Storey, who admits she's still losing money on the proposition. "It just doesn't happen overnight. But if this hadn't happened to me, I wouldn't understand that."
But even fellow music veterans like Waring are excited about the buzz the record has been getting on local radio stations like KEZW and KGNU. The group is getting nibbles from song publisher Iowa Homegrown Music in Nashville and their recent CD release party was held at the Gothic Theater in Englewood.
"I love the music and that's all it takes for me," Waring said. "It's a hard business. It's hard to make that decision to drop everything and try to make a living out of this. I have a lot of respect for what Linda is doing."
Storey will be performing with Waring and daughter Jessica Storey, who joins the group on the latest CD, at Borders Books and Music in Broomfield today . The CD is being stocked there as well as at Twist & Shout, Bart's CD Cellar and Mile High Coffee. A recently inked distribution deal with Harvest Media, however, should have the record in CD shops across the country.
"I'd like to see something happen for her," Richardson said. "We're getting more exposure, that's for sure."
"Don't Let It Stop You" certainly features McClard's sax and Waring's keys on several numbers, including the leadoff title track. But there two other things driving the success of this record — Storey's harmonies with her 19-year-old daughter and the Christian and inspirational themes of many of the tracks.
Songs like "Black Hole" deal with walking that fine line between success and failure, between hope and despair. It's one of the songs fans of Christian music can easily gravitate to.
But Storey isn't really a Christian artist. She says her songs just represent who she is — a Christian woman trying to make sense of a confusing and sometimes lonely world. Nowhere is that more evident than on the song "Bluer Today," a mournful number showing off the mother and daughter's harmonies that is principally about needing someone to kiss their blues away.
"That's one reason people can't relate to some Christian artists," Storey said. "I am Christian and that's some of what I sing about. But it's not the only thing I sing about."
And being able to relate with Storey is a big part of her formula for success. Being on stage in a wheelchair can be hard for a singer who wants badly to grab a guitar and jump around. But it's equally difficult for an audience looking to connect with person on stage.
That's why Storey, who has also become an activist for the disabled and has testified in front of the Colorado Senate, tries to reach out through her lyrics, singing songs about overcoming fear and finding hope in the darkest of corners. Of course, she's also doing it with her actions — persisting in a difficult business, hoping every day for that happy ending.
"I've got the same problems as everybody else," Storey said. "I think I'm kind of that underdog artist for people who have lost hope. Most of us kind of think of ourselves as underdogs and I think that's why a lot of people can relate."
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: Linda Storey with The Alleluia Blues
WHEN: Saturday at 2 p.m.
WHERE: Borders Books and Music, 1 W. FlatIron Crossing
INFORMATION: (303) 466-4044 or www.lindastorey.com
What is MS?
MS is thought to be an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system (CNS). The CNS consists of the brain, spinal cord, and the optic nerves. Surrounding and protecting the nerve fibers of the CNS is a fatty tissue called myelin, which helps nerve fibers conduct electrical impulses.
In MS, myelin is lost in multiple areas, leaving scar tissue called sclerosis. These damaged areas are also known as plaques or lesions. Sometimes the nerve fiber itself is damaged or broken. Myelin not only protects nerve fibers, but makes their job possible. When myelin or the nerve fiber is destroyed or damaged, the ability of the nerves to conduct electrical impulses to and from the brain is disrupted, and this produces the various symptoms of MS.
— Courtesy of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (www.nmss.org.)
Copyright © 2003, The Daily Camera and the E.W. Scripps Company