In a perfect world, Richmond Hill businessman Larry Barker might find himself on a stage in Las Vegas or Nashville singing about the joys of living in Coastal Georgia.
But Barker, who just released his third CD, titled "Genesis," realizes the entertainment business won’t likely pay the bills like his insurance business does.
Barker, a guitar player and singer, has been an entertainer longer than he’s been entertaining people at various venues in Richmond Hill and surrounding areas.
"When I was in the Army in 1975, I was playing with a nine-piece band. All the guys in the band were active duty Army band musicians," he said. "We formed a band called ‘Friends’ and we played Top 40 songs.
"Some guy from Las Vegas heard us and told us he wanted to book us into the MGM Grand," Barker continued. "So we had this meeting. All of us were at a point where we were deciding whether or not to stay in the Army. Two the guys opted not to go to Las Vegas. In retrospect, it was a wise decision because when you get to Vegas you are surrounded by top talent. That’s when I realized that music is more of a passion and a hobby than it is a career."
Though the idea of a professional music career slipped through his fingers as easily as a guitarist changes chords, Barker says the passion by then was full blown and something that would last forever.
"I have no regrets about not going into music fulltime," he said. "It’s a bit like being a musical carny in that you are somewhere different every night and you seldom get home. Sometimes you don’t even know where you are."
He opted instead to "just play music."
Barker came to Richmond Hill in 1987 to take advantage of a new district in southeast Georgia for Cotton States Insurance Company. He now represents Southern Trust Insurance and several others through Barker & Associates on Constitution Way.
When the part-time entertainer/insurance broker has free time, he likes to involve himself in Richmond Hill activities.
"Back in 1999, my wife, Linda, and I helped to re-establish the seafood festival," he recalls. "Mayor Davis wanted to get it going and wanted to get some local entertainment to bring people in. We tried to get the Swinging Medallions but they weren’t available. So we got The Tams.
"That was the beginning of the new seafood festival," Barker added. "It seemed to stick. People wanted to hear The Tams and it’s just grown from there."
The Barkers, parents of Jason and Brian, also have grandkids Charlotte and Jack.
"I love Richmond Hill," he said. "It has grown a great deal since I got here and I hope it continues to grow in a controlled way with a longterm vision of where the city is going. I like the hometown flavor here. I like the ambiance a small town like Richmond Hill has."
Although Barker said he’ll never leave Richmond Hill, any discussion with him never strays far from his passion for music.
His latest CD, "Genesis," was preceded by "Savannah Delight, In the Key of Me" and "31 81 Cruising." All the songs on the three CDs were written by Barker, who also plays the piano.
"I finally got serious about songwriting in 1995," he recalls. "I rehearsed with Buddy Livingston from Savannah and he asked if I had any original material. I told him yes. I played some and he liked it.
"He called a friend of his in Atlanta, so I went and auditioned for him," Barker added. "He liked the music. Halfway through it he told me to stop. He signed me to a BMI music contract on the spot."
Barker decided to do his first CD in 2004. He said when he writes a song, the music comes first and then he writes the lyrics.
"I had all these songs, 14 of them," he said. "Those became the ‘Savannah Delight’ compact disc. The ‘Cruising’ CD was done in 2013. They’re all available online from places like Amazon, Rhapsody and iTunes."
Barker said sales of his compact discs have been steady, although he’d be very happy to see them grow.
"These are a reflection of who I am and my passion for music."
Barker said he is currently in discussion with an attorney in New York to review his lyrics and music and is cautiously optimistic about the direction those discussions are going.
He hopes his songwriting efforts will one day pay off and a national artist will find him or herself with a Larry Barker-written Top 10 hit. Even if that happens, he said, his daytime job will remain in the insurance business until he retires someday.
Another passion of his is traveling. Recent trips have included Italy and France and he and Linda will be in Germany in December. While traveling is great, he said, it is always greater to get back home.
Barker said the lyrics to one of his songs, "Cycle of Life," tell of his feelings for Richmond Hill.
"As for me I found a place on the coast, near the marsh, the sea and the sky. No matter how far I roam, this will always be home and I’ll be here until the day that I die."