Issue date: January 26, 2001
Bruce Kerr (a.k.a. 'Loose Bruce'), a Mountain View resident and attorney for Sun Microsystems, bases his parodies on news headlines.
'Loose Bruce' pokes fun at politics through parodies
'Loose Bruce' pokes fun at politics through parodies
(January 26, 2001)
By Jaime Bloss
Mountain View resident and parody writer Bruce Kerr lives for turning serious situations into comedy.
Professionally known as "Loose Bruce," Kerr, who was born in Wauksesha, Wis., has been surrounded by music all his life. His father, who grew up with guitarist Les Paul, taught Kerr how to play the ukulele at age 8. In the seventh grade, Kerr saw Paul perform, loved his sound, and learned how to play the guitar from his father, as well as from records and radio.
Music has always been an important part of Kerr's life. As a teen, he enjoyed listening to artists Ray Charles, Peter Paul and Mary, Elvis Presley, and the Kingston Trio, to name a few.
During high school, Kerr performed in a folk group and was also a member of the swim team. Kerr's swim coach told him he had to choose between the folk group and his place on the team, because he didn't have time to do both. Kerr promptly mailed the coach his guitar pick to let him know that the folk group had won out.
Kerr attended the University of Michigan, where he performed in a band called Five Bucks, later renamed the Byzantine Empire. Through a friend who worked at the William Morris Agency in Chicago, the band was able perform as the opening act for major talents between 1965 and 1969, including the Animals, the Turtles, the Kingsmen, and the Hollies.
In 1969, Kerr gave up music to go to law school at the University of Wisconsin. After graduating, he worked at Milwaukee Legal Services, an inner-city legal services office, for 1-1/2 years. Then, in 1973, he decided to take six months off to perform music.
"That six months became 20 years," Kerr laughed.
Kerr toured the country and beyond as a performer, mainly playing at bars, restaurants, and resorts. Some of the places he visited included Venice Beach, Cape Cod, Sun Valley, and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., as well as St. Croix and St. Thomas. Kerr toured for 10 years before settling in 1983 in the Bay Area, where he continued his career.
The recession hit in 1993, and many of the Bay Area bars on Kerr's circuit closed. He started working as an attorney for a bankruptcy firm in 1993, and then moved to intellectual property firms, he said. Then, in 1997, he took a job as a lawyer at Sun Microsystems.
Kerr takes the topics of his parodies mainly from daily news headlines. Then he thinks of a song that fits the situation and adapts the lyrics, always retaining a "few nuggets" of the original song, he said.
"You try and twist things as much as you can," he explained. "If I'm lucky, the song almost writes itself."
Political parodies seem to be Kerr's specialty. In 1987, he received airplay in California for his spoof of then-Governor George Deukmejian; Kerr's tune "Walk Like a Deukmejian" parodied the Bangles' "Walk Like an Egyptian."
Dan Quayle was a subject of one of Kerr's parodies in the late '80s, made using Kenny Rogers' "You Picked a Fine Time to Leave Me, Lucille" to create "You Picked a Fine Time to Lead Us, Dan Quayle."
According to Kerr, the song was "reflecting the country's lack of confidence in Dan Quayle as a possible president if something had happened to George Bush."
Kerr's parody of Bill Clinton ("The 12 Days of Clinton" to the tune of "The 12 Days of Christmas") received airplay on Rush Limbaugh's radio program in December 1992. The song was written because "everyone thought that (Clinton) was making far too many pledges," Kerr explained.
Last November's presidential election was a prime parody-making opportunity for Kerr. In December, when there still wasn't a president-elect in sight, Kerr recorded "The Battle of Florida" to the music of "The Battle of New Orleans" (see sidebar). Kerr's song received airplay on National Public Radio's program "All Things Considered."
Kerr doesn't always focus on political situations. When the fear of Y2K loomed in 1999, Kerr wrote the parody of Y2K to the tune of "YMCA." Sun decided that it wanted to use Kerr's song to raise awareness of the situation in a light-hearted way, so a video of the song was made and played internally worldwide. "It was a humorous, tongue-in-cheek" song that was used as an icebreaker at meetings, Kerr explained. The song was also posted on the Web and received "monstrous" play, registered as tens of thousands of hits, Kerr estimated.
For Sun Microsystems' international legal conference held in October 2000 at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas,
he performed "The Day the Data Died" to the tune of Don McLean's "American Pie," which described the systemwide loss of all content at a hypothetical company.
When the O.J. Simpson trial took place six years ago, Kerr concocted "O.J.-Oh" to the tune of Harry Belafonte's "Day-O," which made fun of Simpson's set of "Dream Team" lawyers, he said.
Kerr has had the opportunity to perform with several well-known parody artists. He opened for Weird Al Yankovic during Dr. Demento's 20th anniversary tour in 1991 at the Warfield in San Francisco, he said.
The main reason that Kerr enjoys parody writing and performing is because of the audience; to Kerr, parodies allow one to "release the frustrations of the daily grind" and give some comic relief to otherwise serious situations, he explained.
Kerr is not sure what he will tackle next. He will definitely record "The Day the Data Died" for Web play and is considering a parody on Baha Men's "Who Let the Dogs Out," but he's not sure if his idea will pan out. And, of course, Kerr is looking forward to Bush's presidency to see what major issues arise, so that he may pen another song on politics.
To download "The Battle of Florida" on the Web, visit http:cereus7.comkerr.