It wasn’t pretty.
From the midst of that awkward phase came Loggins & Messina.
Drawing on diverse rock, country and pop influences and prodded into an unlikely partnership by a savvy music industry executive, the collaboration of Kenny Loggins and Jim Messina caught a wave in the rock mainstream in 1971 and rode it all over the musical map until their breakup in 1976.
Now, a full 30 years since their last tour together, Loggins & Messina have buddied up again. Their summer reunion tour brings them to Biloxi’s Beau Rivage Resort & Casino on Saturday.
During their heyday, Loggins & Messina’s songs were all over the radio — their biggest hits were “Your Mama Don’t Dance (And Your Daddy Don’t Rock ‘N’ Roll), ” “Thinking of You” and “My Music, ” and Canadian songbird Anne Murray took two more of their tunes (“Danny’s Song” and “A Love Song”) to the bank.
Their middle-of-the-road Top 40 ditties belied the complexity of their albums, which were layered with country and Caribbean textures, flat-out rockers and extended suites in signature works such as “Angry Eyes, ” “Vahevala” and “Be Free.” Their concerts were rousing affairs that put two bold exclamation points on the pair’s reputation as dynamic musicians.
Critics couldn’t decide what to make of them, but their fans surely did. They sold 16 million records and were the most successful duo of the early ’70s, surpassed later in the decade only by Hall & Oates.
Messina, as the act’s producer, masterminded much of their success, but he faded from the spotlight after the breakup, while Loggins went on to a solo career, replete with movie anthems and Grammy awards. Still, the promise of reunion always hung in the air.
“Every couple of years we’d talk about it, but I was having too much fun as a solo artist, ” Loggins said in a telephone interview from California. “It was very rewarding for me, and I wasn’t ready to share the reins. I still had a lot of stuff to do on my own, to prove myself and to express myself, in a way that wouldn’t have fit in with Loggins & Messina.”
That changed in the past year after the pair teamed up for a few benefit concerts. The vibe was there, and as Messina helped Loggins on a personal level through the emotional minefield of a recent divorce, that opened the door to the musical reunion.
“It’s been nice, ” Messina said in a separate interview. “In the old days, I was the one getting everything organized for Kenny, and this time Kenny has brought to this project a lot of his resources and people. I can enjoy the ride and be a performer and do what I like to do.”
“The old days” got their start when Messina was working as a producer for Columbia Records and auditioned Loggins, a budding singer-songwriter, for a possible solo album. They were both 23 years old, but Messina was already an industry veteran, having been a member of the legendary Buffalo Springfield with Stephen Stills and Neil Young and having founded the country-rock group Poco with Richie Furay.
The resulting album, “Kenny Loggins with Jim Messina Sittin’ In, ” was supposed to be a one-time collaboration.
“When our first album, ‘Sittin’ In, ‘ came out, we started receiving a lot of excitement about the music and good sales, ” Messina recalled. “We had a choice. It was either I now go on and continue to produce him and we do the solo career or we stay together and let this work. For me, I did not desire to go back out on the road. I had had enough of that, and I wanted to produce records.
“But Clive Davis (then president of the record company) intervened and said, ‘You know, I think you’d be making a mistake if you guys didn’t take this opportunity. Things like this only happen once in a lifetime. It may merit you sleeping on it overnight and making a decision that will be in your best interest.’ He was absolutely correct.
“Kenny made the decision as well. It delayed his solo career, but it gave him an opportunity, I think, to have one.”
A new 18-track anthology CD, entitled “The Best: Loggins & Messina Sittin’ In Again, ” was released in May to coincide with this summer’s reunion, and an early stop on the tour was filmed for eventual release as a DVD.
After all this time, Messina said, he remains as surprised as he is grateful about the staying power of their music.
“I began to feel like it might have started to wane around 1979 or 1980 when all the new music kind of made Loggins & Messina seem very much in the past, ” he said. “But then over the years the stuff would just keep coming around or people would record our material or the music would show up on some new format and people would be reunited with it. It’s amazing.”
While Messina trots out a few Buffalo Springfield and Poco favorites on the current tour, Loggins fans hoping to hear his hits “I’m Alright, ” “Footloose” or “Danger Zone” will be disappointed. Loggins was adamant about steering clear of his solo work on the set list, except for “Alive ‘N’ Kickin’,” an homage to the Loggins & Messina years that he penned recently with Clint Black.
“Like most relationships, we were a moment in time, ” Loggins said. “It’s just really fun to be able to go back and celebrate that and just sort of really honor each other as grown men, in a way we never really did back then. We were young and competitive and didn’t realize that it wasn’t necessarily all about getting your way, but you learn that if you grow up.”
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Originally published in The Times-Picayune, July 29, 2005