British balladeer Roger Whittaker is definitely on the move these days. He's recently completed an 85-concert tour in the United States, which meant an endless string of one-nighters from coast to coast. He's very interested in introducing his homespun brand of crooning to American audiences, which are already responding wiht enthusiasm.
"It's quite a concentrated tour this time," commented Whittaker when his show was here recently. "It's only the second major tour we've done ine the United States. You have to work at establishing a market, so people know they can rely on you to do a reasonable performance."
Whittaker is tall, imposing man with a salt-and-pepper beard and a warm, friendly smile. He's been working at his craft for many years with considerable success, particularly in England and West Germany. And, along with his heavy touring schedule, he has managed to marry and raise a family of five. His wife, Natalie, is his right arm, taking great interest in his career and helping out in practical ways. She recently began publishing the new Roger Whittaker fan club magazine.
Whittaker doesn't see himself as a pop superstar who appeals to the masses of listeners. Instead, he describes his audience as the "silent majority.'
"You know, the everyday person who buys maybe two or three records a year." Whittaker's records are widely available in the United States by mail, and he feels that these listeners are more than happy to send away for them.
Whittaker loves American audiences, which he find to be "terribly warm. I've just finished an English tour -- everyone enjoyed the concerts, and applauded more than politely at the end, but nobodym gets a standing ovation in the United Kingdom. They're very cool. They enjoy it and that's it. But the Americans are a delight to play to. But love to show it when they're enjoying themselves. I like to play to audiences like that because they get the best out of the artist . . . ," so the "silent majority" can become quite audible at times!
Whittacker, who is not only a singer but songwriter and lyricist as well, has a number of albums out covering a wide variety of subjects. His latest, "Roger Whittaker With Love," is about a subject very close to his heart: human relationships.
"This particular album is a love album," he says. "I didn't want to talk only about the normal run-of-the-mill love between men and women. That's a common experience we all have. I wanted to talk about the wider aspects of love: the importance of love as a relationship cementer between parents and children, children and children, men and women, men and their environment, women and their environment.
He spoke of a song he wrote for this album entitled "A Man Without Love in His Heart." He described the message of the song:
"If there's no love in your heart, there's no joy in your life. Unless your're thinking of others you cannot be happy -- that's the truth. Society tends to make us terribly selfish. We fight to survive and in the end we can lose our perspective and become terribly unhappy. The time when I'm happiest is when I can relax and talk and let the gentleness come out, rather than the defensiveness. If you can love enough no one can hurt you. I think this is an important topic to write about, and this is why I wrote that song particualarly."
The love of material things crops up in another Whittaker lyric:
Don't fight for gold, Don't fight for silver, Don't fight to live a life of ease, Donht fight to fill your house with treasures, They will not bring a moment's peace.m
"Materials things?" he says. I've been through all that. I've had everything I could want in life, honestly. And it brought me not joy whatsoever. I was a collector, I am a collector still. But a lot of it I've discarded. I thought, why, why am I collecting cars? I must be out of my brain! So I got rid of them all. And I wrote this little song, 'Don't Fight.'"
Asked what is the most important thing to him, Whittaker answers without hesitation, "Human relationships, definitely. It's us in relation to each other. That's life to me. Treat each other right, and really that's what it's all about."
Whittaker family, undoubtedly with the help of this philosophy, has remained a tight unit.
"We've been through our traumatic things," he admits. "We've been through our moments when we've been miles apart and we've wondered if we'd ever get together again."
But they work it out by spending time together, "rediscovering each other," Roger says.
His wife and children join him on tour whenever they can. But he's home for about half the year; when he's not his wife is there with the children. How does he manage?
"I've got a hundred concerts on the average per annum and I do them in very tight groups. I do 20 in three weeks. It's exhausting, but it's the best way."
For the man who never intended to be a performer ("I was going to be a scientist"), music has become a moving force in Roger Whittaker's life, and he has brought and continues to bring much pleasure to his "silent majority."