Meet Larry Barker - insurance agent, musician, husband and father.
How long have you lived in Richmond Hill?
We’ve lived here since 1986, so that’s 22 years now.
Do you think it’s a good place to live?
I think Richmond Hill is a good location and a great place to raise kids. I remember when the only thing down here was the old Shore’s IGA and about a half a shopping center next to it. Then the Brogdons built the Food Lion shopping center and it has continued to progress from there. I see Richmond Hill as the next Alpharetta or Duluth. I think it’s eventually going to become, or maybe we already are, a white collar suburb for Savannah. Is that a bit of a yuppie thing? Yeah, maybe, but that’s where the money is. We have two great marinas here, we are steeped in history, we have a great state park and we have tremendous recreational potential here. And I think we’ve got some good people in leadership. I think guys like Toby Roberts, Jimmy Burnsed and Carlton Gill have done a great job. They’ve kept their eye on the ball here in Richmond Hill and have done the right things. The city of Richmond Hill has done a great job. Richard (Mayor Davis) had great vision with J.F. Gregory Park, but we need to make sure it doesn’t get too cramped in there.
What brought you here?
I moved here from Athens with my job at Cotton States Insurance. I was the southeastern sales manager for Georgia. I grew up in Pensacola, Florida, but took a job in the insurance business with Nationwide in Atlanta when I was discharged from the military. Then a friend of mine who worked for Cotton States said they were looking for sales managers, which my background as a military officer helped me get into. I stayed with them for 17 years.
How did you end up starting up your own independent agency here in Richmond Hill?
I went to Jimmy Burnsed (Bryan Bank CEO/county commission chair), and I said ‘what would you think of having a hometown general agent that does all lines of insurance?’ He said that would certainly be unique and that the bank would back me seeing how I’d been a good customer. I took that jump in 2000 and started from scratch, but the agency has grown leaps and bounds in those eight years.
Do you enjoy your work?
Yes, I love my business because I actually have the ability to tailor someone’s insurance needs because I represent half a dozen different companies. It takes a combination of customer service and creativity. I love the challenge of it all, and that is to find the market for the customer at the competitive price the customer wants to pay.
I know music is a favorite pastime of yours.
Insurance is my vocation, but music is my passion. I love music. I play guitars, vocals, piano and harmonica. I’ve been playing music since I was 16. I’ve played in high school rock bands, garage bands; I played in bands while in college and when I was in the Army. One of the best bands I was in was the band "Friends" when I was stationed in St. Louis. It was a 12-piece show band, and we stayed booked every weekend.
You’ve released one album and your second album is slated to be released in January. When did you decide to record an album of your own material?
It just sort of evolved. I guess it really started back in the late nineties when I started jotting down all the ideas I had for songs, but I never consciously thought I’d do a full-fledged Larry Barker CD until 2004. That’s when I had the pleasure of bumping into and sitting down with Robert Willis, who took interest in me and said my stuff was good enough to record. Robert, who lives in Jesup, had just finished recording an album for Marie Osmond out in California. With my vision and his production talents, we released "Savannah Delight" in 2006 and are about to release "3181 Cruising".
Was the first album successful?
Moderately so, yes. For a guy nobody knows from Adam, I sold about 300 CDs. I’ve also sold about 300 individual songs online. I’m on about 20 music download sites, like Napster, Rhapsody and iTunes.
How would you describe your music?
I call it country block – country-rock with a touch of the blues. I started out in the sixties and seventies doing a lot of top 40 stuff, so I’m influenced by a lot of artists - anywhere from Dan Fogelberg to the Allman Brothers to Van Morrison. In the country arena, Willie Nelson is an influence. I’ve never said I’m going to stick to one thing, so I’m a bit eclectic in that regard. My next CD is going to reflect that because every song has a little bit of a different style to it.
How did you come up with the title of the new album?
3181 is the longitude and latitude of Richmond Hill. The focus of the CD is this area.
Who is your all-time favorite artist?
Van Morrison. I think the guy writes great songs and has the ability to transcend. Van is the man. He could do a country song, and it would be killer. I just don’t get tired of listening to Van Morrison. Another great artist that I think the world of is Steve Winwood. He’s a tremendous writer and an incredible performer.
What about your favorite song?
I’ll tell you a great song that you don’t hear much is "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" - if I could be as lucky to write a song like that. "Moon River" is a great song - Johnny Mercer’s songwriting combined with the musical genius of Henry Mancini.
I know your wife is involved in politics, such as being the campaign manager for Senator Eric Johnson. Does that make you a political guy?
No. Musicians make lousy politicians. To be a politician, you have to constantly be weighing what you do. It’s like a chess game - ‘What if I do this or what will happen if I do that?’ I’m just too straight forward for that. I’m a terrible politician – just ask my wife.
How many kids do you have?
Two sons – Jason is 32 and Brian just turned 30. Brian just graduated from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and Jason attended UGA and Brewton Parker, served in Iraq and is now working for Verizon.