When did you first hear Bruce Hornsby?

This question remains open – feel free to add your story below!

Si Twining:

Despite our hideous pop market these days, the UK can at least claim to have had Bruce first!! The Way It Is actually broke here first, having been used previously be the BBC as backing music for their sports headlines. I still can’t listen to it without thinking of Mike Tyson pounding seven shades out of Trevor Berbick. I bought the album, but didn’t actually pay much more attention until a couple of years later when Scenes from the Southside came out. Several records, bootlegs, concerts and a website later, I don’t see myself changing my mind…

David Ryshpan:

My first encounter with Bruce’s music was whenever the radio would play “The Way It Is.” I liked it enough, seeing as I’d grown up on Billy Joel, Elton John and all that. But in 1998 is when I really became a fan of Bruce’s.

I saw that MuchMoreMusic (the Canadian version of VH-1) was running a feature on him. Of course, I hadn’t heard much from him past “The Way It Is,” so I thought it would all be in that pop vein. Boy, was I wrong. The last tune of the half-hour interview was a solo piano version of “King of the Hill,” and being a pianist myself, I was in awe of what he was doing. I ran out, bought Spirit Trail and found bruuuce.com, and I’ve been a Bruce addict ever since.


I would have to say when “The Way It Is” came out. I was hearing it on the radio and I LOVED it. I got really curious about the guy’s music then. I got the album and I really liked it and I saw him on a couple of TV shows and then I was hooked. Then my girlfriend told me he was gonna be coming here in concert. that was about a year or 2 later. She made me get tickets for it and boy am I glad she did!!

Elyce Turner:

I am sure I first HEARD Bruce on the radio – when The Way It Is came out. In fact, I recall that it came out at the same time as Robert Cray’s Smoking Gun came out. It’s funny – while it was easy to tell that these two artists were NOT the same person, I kept mixing up which name went with which song. I always think about that when I think of when I first heard Bruce. I didn’t really get into his music until a little bit later. He did some work with Stevie Nicks… on her Other Side of the Mirror album – and I really liked that…. Then he had Jerry play on NOTT….. and I liked that a whole lot…. By that time, I’d go see him when ever he was in town, but never thought to travel to see him. Then Brent died, and he toured with the Dead a bunch… saw him a lot then, but still didn’t travel to see him perform on his own… but looked MORE forward to his visits…. THEN…. August 1998….. I saw a show at the Portsmouth Music Hall in Portsmouth, NH…. THAT was the magic show when I realized I was completely addicted. The rest is history….

Tony “Big Rumble” Merriman:

Like many others on here, it was hearing The Way It Is on the radio wondering who is this guy? I can remember getting the CD, just listening to it for hours with the headphones on. Fast forward to a few years later, summer 1991 Jazzoo Peacock Pavilion Cincinnati, OH Cincinnati Zoo “It alawys rains there” – I see Bruce live for the first time at my friend Kip’s suggestion. Bruce did a incredible show that night! Fresh off the tour with the Grateful Dead and wearing a Leon Russell black & white baseball jersey with a picture of Leon Russell on the front of it. How did I remember that? Got a pic of us with Bruce from that night on my wall here looking at it now hehehe. But we will be forever grateful to John Molo – we were standing around waiting to see if we could meet Bruce after the show. Then Molo comes up says, “Hi guys, how’d you like the show?”. Then he says, “Are you guys waiting to see Bruce?” We said yes, he says, “Wait here a minute, I’ll go get him for ya!” Can’t remember what we talked about that night maybe Bruce can hehehe.


Every Little Kiss from the way it is back in ’86. Then my first Bruce show solidified me as a fan. Bruce doesnt “phone it in” like a lot of other acts, he is out there playing and taking requests, many people freakout at their first show because they just dont expect it…

John Melillo:

“The Way It Is” playing on wnew.fm in NY is what got me interested.

Buying and listening to the rest of the album is what made me a fan for life. Songs like “The River Runs Low” and “Mandolin Rain” were love at first listen.

Bruce was one of those people that I found I liked but nobody I knew had ever heard of him. I’ve always loved turning people on to new music and Bruce was an easy sell.

I first saw Bruce in concert at the Ritz in NYC (venue is long gone) with The Range in 1986 (first tour). This was a large rectangular room in a classic old downtown NY building. There was a centered staircase on the back wall that lead to the balcony. The place probably held 2-2500 people. There were No seats (nobody complained about the dancers!).

I stood center stage and leaned on the stage for the entire show. Bruce even stepped on my girlfriends purse that she placed near the edge of the stage and he apologized!

The show was excellent, pretty much the entire album, but I do remember the encore. They came out and played I Know You Rider. Now being a big Dead fan I was familiar with the song and impressed by their rendition, they really had a groove going. Who knew it was a small sign of the great things to come.

I recall seeing a wnew.fm radio van parked outside the Ritz when we left. I don’t know if the show was recorded, but I’d love to get a copy if it was. When I got back to my car I found one of the rear windows was broken and someone had stolen 80 of my tapes. I usually don’t park on the street in Manhattan, but we got a spot a few feet from the front door so we took it. Never again.

Since then I’ve seen Bruce over 50 times, and even traveled to Williamsburg to see the solo shows, Favorite venue to see him is probably the Count Basie Theatre in NJ (excepting my living room of course!)

The car is gone, the girlfriend is long gone, but Bruce remains…Not a bad deal.

Ryan Wrobleski:

A relative of mine bought the 45 of Mandolin Rain and I thought it was good at the time. I never would have realized just how much of a Bruce fan I would soon become.


The first song I remember being aware of was Mandolin Rain, which I liked quite a bit. I was just getting the Dead when Brent died, and it became known that Bruce was going to fill in. I was living in a tiny college town in western NY state that had a hugely disproportionate population of Deadheads, hippies, and sundry freaks, so when Bruce and the Range were coming to town to play the college basketball arena, it was big news, as most of us didn’t know too much about him. I can still picture being in that gym, the people standing around me, the gym full, the bleachers packed. I remember Bruce standing on the piano playing the accordion, I think he had a special set of steps on the stage just for getting up there. I remember that Bruce himself played for about three hours non-stop, even though the band took about a twenty minute break in the middle. During that twenty minutes of just Bruce at the piano was what really did it for me. I rememer someone shouting out “Sugaree” and I wish to this day I had a tape of that version. The next I saw of Bruce was three shows on that summer east coast tour with the Dead, and the playing and connection and musical conversation between him and Jerry really forever changed what I expect from a live musical performance.


This is something I think about a lot. It was 1986. I was living in Colorado Springs Colorado and driving to Denver a lot to spend time with family. I’d listen to KBCO radio station (Boulder Colorado) and they started playing this song called “The Way It Is” by some band called Bruce Hornsby and the Range. Well I was enthralled. One of the stations in Colorado Springs was playing Bruce a lot them too. I listened and KBCO started playing the other tracks from the cd as well. It got to the point were they were playing something like 7 of the songs on a regular basis. I had to have the album, yes I bought it on vinyl. I have both the vinyl albums in fact in my vinyl collection. There was no turning back, I heard he was to play at McNichols arena in Denver that spring. I bought tickets. The concert cancelled. I was bummed. Turns out he cancelled the show to make some TV appearance. The concert was rescheduled for Red Rocks arena… better place to see a show anyway. Called Ticketmaster to get my new tickets, I had seats to start in the 37th row, I asked what kinda tickets I could get and the person said I could get seats 3rd row, dead center… done!!!!!!! It was a tremendous show. Wish I had written down the setlist, but what I can remember, it was pretty much the same setlist as all the other shows early on in 1986 that I have seen posted at Si’s site. I knew all the songs that night from his album, except there was some Dead song he played that was great but I didn’t really know it. I caught some of his shows on the radio in Denver early on and have seen him appear for E-Town. Wish I lived near a major city now so I could see him again. He appeared live on the radio at KBCO’s Studio C as well over the years and I heard those too. What a great artist, legacy and memories. Thanks Bruce, it’s been great fun.

Rich Diakun:

There was this real nice woman with the thickest southern accent that I worked with at a hotel front desk job in Williamsburg when I was taking the requisite “year off from college to find myself” that was in vogue back in the late 70s, and she kept going on and on about this band that her husband played guitar in. After getting over the disappointment that she was married, I turned to my other driving interest at the time… music. Turns out, Sue’s hubby, Steve, met Bruce in Miami and was playing guitar in his band while they were busy trying to conquer Virginia and get the elusive “showcase” from a record company. The memory is a bit dim now (heh, the 70s.. if you remember them, you probably weren’t there, right?), but there seems to be something about them playing gigs in Norfolk, Va. Beach, Hampton (even opening a show for someone at the Hampton Coliseum), something called “African” that Jeff Baxter gave Steve and Sue, and the summer ending with me going to back to college, and this band that my co-worker’s husband was in going to California. According to Cookie, the front desk manager at the hotel, the odds were that we’d never hear from or of them again, and that Sue had better keep an eye on her husband because, although he was a great guy, she was up against stiff competition from those California girls. To make a long story (or sentence) short, I hear that Sue and her husband eventually went back to South Carolina, where they’re supposedly doing great, and the guy whose band they were in had a cute little novelty single (all sarcasm intended) whose title sounded kinda like “The Way We Were”.

Claus Barfoed:

My first Bruce tune was On the western skyline. The first track of the record. A friend from highscool said this is a “sweet” record, listen to it. I was in my “jazz funk period”, so I expected some thumb bass and some tower of power horns, my first reaction was hhmmmm….it sound ok, let me hear some more. Then (as you know!) I heard Every Little Kiss. That was even better and then…..Mandolin Rain. In the middle of that I surrendered!!! I’ve loved Bruce’s music since that day in 1987. Now I am tired of the funk but Bruce is still my absolute favorite, so much that I now play 14 of his songs in my tribute band: The Way It Is!!

Stefan Nottmeier:

my first listenings of Bruce were in 1986, when every radio station in germany was playing “The Way It Is”. I heard the song at home for breakfast time, I heard it at work, I heard it in supermarkets, in bars and restaurants, I heard it on and on and on. But, the thing is: I don’t like hits, I don’t like to hear songs that often, cause that’s killing them. But, to my surprise, with “The Way It Is” it went the other way. First I didn’t it like it much, then I tried not to take notice. But everytime I heard it, it kept me thinking: “what the hell, there must be something special with this song!”. So after the radio stations played it about half a year, finally I bought the record and I noticed: the two piano solos in it, that’s the special thing about it. I loved them!!! I’m a real big bruce-fan since “Night On The Town”. I only saw him once in a gig. That was in december 1995, the year, that Garcia died, and also the year, I was in hospital because of cancer. With that show in Cologne, I was back in life. Really! Thanks for that, Bruce!!!

Beverly Coney:

In September 1986, while traveling along an interstate in Illinois, I heard this fantastic song. Well, let’s say, I heard most of the song since it kept fading in and out as I’d cross under overpasses, etc. I remember really liking the piano playing, the singer’s voice, the unique lyrics, and the way the band jammed together. I knew right away that I had to get a copy of this record. As the song ended, I listened for the name of the artist. All I could make out, due to the intense static on the radio, was “Bruce” followed by a bunch of static, and then “Ange.” I looked through a number of music stores the next day for an artist named Bruce Ange, but had no luck. Finally a resourceful clerk asked me to sing or hum some of the music, and I remembered “that’s just the way it is”. Luckily, he was able to cross reference the song to find one of my all-time favorite albums, “The Way It Is” by Bruce Hornsby and The Range. Later that year, Bruce and the band did a great show in Chicago and I have been hooked ever since!! I once told Bruce this story about discovering his music and he had a big laugh. Thanks for all the great years of music, Bruce!!! Please come back on the road soon; we have missed you!

Dean Osborn:

The first time I heard Bruce was back in 1987, when my sister’s boyfriend at the time had the album and gave to my sister. I listened to it and was immediately hooked. The mesmerising piano playing and intelligent lyrics blew me away, and Bruce is such a good storyteller. I could quite literally listen to Bruce’s albums all day.

Jim Cougar:

Although I can’t pinpoint the exact moment, I’m sure it was WXRT in Chicago playing “The Way It Is” and other cuts off the first album. It took until 1993 when I saw Bruce at the Arie Crown Theatre (a show where I passed then-Bulls coach Phil Jackson and his wife in the lobby at intermission!) and I was hooked! In fairness, I have to say that there were a few reasons why I was bound to love Bruce’s music. First, generally speaking, there was so much more depth to his music than 95 percent of the other stuff that’s out there. Second, I am a Deadhead and I appreciate his contribution to their history (regretfully, I only saw Bruce with the Dead once, 1991 at Soldier Field). Third, and I’m not ashamed to admit this, while I have a bit of a keyboard background myself, I grew up playing the accordion! Thanks, Bruce, for making the accordion cool (even though many people, to this day, still won’t admit it!).

Jim Singleton:

I first heard Bruce while I was on a temporary work assignment in the LA area during the summer of 1986. At that time, he appeared out of nowhere. I heard both Mandolin Rain and The Way It Is on the radio several times down there before returning to Seattle.

Upon returning, I picked up the CD and found that everything on it was absolutely fabulous. Soon thereafter, I heard that he was coming to a small club in the Seattle area. I immediately got a ticket to the show, but could not convince my roommate at the time to come with me. The day of the show a local radio station put up a pair of tickets to the 8th caller. Figuring I had nothing to lose, I started dialing and was the right caller. When presented with a free ticket, my roommate and another friend decided to come along. Since the show was the same night as the ticket giveaway, we had to meet the representative from the radio station at the venue to get the tickets. The time of the show was rapidly approaching and we were getting frantic. I already had my purchased ticket, but could just stiff my friends without tickets. Fortunately, the rep arrived with the tickets and we got in. Just after getting into the venue, we found out that it was a restaurant and showplace. There was reserved seating right up by the stage for those that purchased a dinner/show combo. After some other patrons rudely cut us off to get a table in the back, a passing waitress saw what happened and promptly escorted us to seats in the dinner section right next to the stage. It was a great show and I’ve been going to most every show he does in the Northwest US since.

On the 2002 tour, Bruce asked if anyone remembered seeing him at the original club performance back in 1986. I think I was one of maybe a dozen or so that had done so. As usual, I’m looking forward to the next tour through my area.

Jonathan Orr:

In Dec of 86′, I was unemployed, low on money, heading for California on I-70 to pound nails for my brother. Driving up the great divide, just west of Denver, I put in a tape someone in Ft. Wayne gave me for the trip out west. As I climbed up the rocks in my Chevy Citation, “The Western Skyline” was literally right in my face, as well as cranked on my Kenwood stereo. The most perfect album ever written for driving across America.

Greg Sturgill:

The first time I really heard Bruce’s music was in March of 1987. While I was familiar with “The Way It Is” and “Jacob’s Ladder” being a big Huey Lewis fan, the night I first kissed my first real girlfriend, “Mandolin Rain” was playing. Not Bon Jovi, not Whitney Houston or any of the other balladeers of the time, but Bruuuce.

As is normal (I guess), the tape was purchased and listened to until it had to be replaced. I was hooked immediately. Maybe because it was different than the metal I normally listened to, maybe it was the storytelling in his songs. Who cares, I was hooked.

I was 17 at the time, and it was a good 7 years before I ever got to see Bruce live (first of now 12 times). But to better the happy ending, the first time I saw him live I took this old girlfriend with me! Cincinnati, July of ’94. The encore . . . “Mandolin Rain”!

I love the new stuff too, don’t get me wrong. I think as fans though, maybe it takes some of them a bit longer to get on board with the new stuff. While it is a departure from the older music, the storytelling combined with the sense of humor we’ve grown to enjoy from the live shows makes the new stuff great!

Tim Gelder:

Had to be in the mid 80s, just after high school. I remember because “the way it is” album came out, I liked it and had tickets to hear bruce at Clarkson college in the upper part of New York. A friend of mine had the tickets and how I looked forward to the trip. Unfortunately, the concert was cancelled. I joked that it was because Bruce made it big and didn’t want to make the trip to this cold tundra in January. I guess I don’t blame in, and I don’t hold it against him, I hope my kids can enjoy an artists like Bruce as much as I have over the years.

Daylan Thompson:

I remember it like yesterday the first time I heard Bruce 1987. I worked in a record store and as I worked someone pulled “The Way It Is” out of the playstack and started playing the record I just stopped what I was doing at the time and stood there and listened to it just taking in the notes and the voice. Right then and there I was a fan forever. I bought the tape that day and within a week I had wore it out and had to get another (cd’s werent that common yet). I went to play the record at work one day and noticed that the album cover was not the same as the one for sale on the shelves it was white and had a blured picture of Bruce on it. I knew I had to have it I asked my boss if he would sell it he did but I had to pay full price for it even though it was used. I bought it right then and there I would have paid double if I had to. I can’t wait to see Bruce in concert if he makes it out my way up here in the midwest.

Teresa Richardson (MVF):

My first time hearing The Man was at a couple of clubs in Virginia Beach back in the mid-eighties. I’m pretty sure one actually WAS the Cave, and another one was probably Mother’s. I KNOW I saw Huey Lewis and the News at Mother’s about that time. This was also when I got to see Pat Benetar and Juice Newton, too. I also remember this tall, gangly-looking assisstant manager at the Hilltop Rose’s Discount Store. Also remember catching Bruce playing piano with Sting at a Police concert.

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1 comment

Hailey Kaufman August 22, 2011 at 12:27 am

My first encounter with Bruce was when I was sixteen (in 2009), talking to my mom about my favorite music during a car ride. I was really into Billy Joel at the time, and I commented on his rhythmic and melodic piano style. Mom suggested Bruce to me and said we had one of his albums at home. Luckily I took her advice and pulled “The Way It Is” out from its buried position in a pile of old CDs. Everything is a bit of an acquired taste, but I remember getting pretty into “Every Little Kiss” first. It left my radar for a while, but a few months later I came back to it and decided to delve into the world of Hornsby a bit more.

Still, the morning I first stumbled upon “The Show Goes On” is the most memorable moment. It was the first time I had used Pandora, and I naturally set up a Hornsby station first. I had never heard the song before and was not looking at the screen when it began, but during those beautiful sixty seconds of opening, I knew intrinsically that is was Bruce. I returned to the Pandora screen and saw the “Scenes from the Southside” album cover, and with my predictions confirmed as correct, I sat there and melted. Later I bought the song on iTunes, ran to my car and played it on my stereo system. I blocked everything out of my mind, listened with all my being, and I cried.

Those two songs remain my favorites. Bruce has always had the ability to reach deep within me and pull out sounds and emotions that seem to have been buried in there for most of my life. In a way, when I hear his music, I feel like I am a child again. It is an odd sensation, that whenever I hear Bruce after not listening for a while, I feel like I’ve gone home.

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