Fynsworth Alley: Guy Haines

Originally published on Fynsworth Alley.

The enigmatic Guy Haines has finally burst forth from simply being one of our repertory singers, finally releasing his very own solo album, Haines His Way. For more information on Guy’s history and background, you can read this interview from last June.

Guy HainesDL: How did you first meet Bruce Kimmel?

GH: Well, let’s see… How does anyone first meet Bruce Kimmel? He just sort of shows up and insinuates himself into your life and then he never leaves. We’ve been friends for as long as I can remember, ever since we were young boys. We used to sing show tunes together and do performances for our parents. One of our great successes was the two of us doing the entire “Dance At The Gym” from West Side Story. Amazing, really, as neither one of us can dance a whit.

DL: Bruce Kimmel has mentioned that your first appearance on one of his albums [Unsung Musicals] was a happy turn of fate involving another singer’s inability to record. How did Bruce approach you for the album? Did you have any time to learn the song? Do you have any idea why he asked you to step in rather than someone with Broadway credits?

GH: Well, that is an interesting story. I guess the original singer of “Her Laughter In My Life” was not feeling well during the sessions and was having vocal problems. I know that Bruce tried to put together a usable vocal out of the ten takes he did, but it just wasn’t working. I happened to be visiting the studio when all this was happening and finally, in desperation, he turned to me and asked me if I’d do a new vocal. Since the song only has a range of about five or six notes I felt comfortable doing it and besides I’d been hearing the thing for three hours in a row and it was already in my head. I’m sure he would have preferred someone with Broadway credits, but frankly I was the only game in town.

DL: Had you recorded previous to Unsung Musicals?

GH: Well, in a way. My parents had a record player that actually recorded records. You’d put on a blank piece of vinyl, the special needle would actually start at the inside of the record and work its way to the outside. Then you would change the needle and play it back the normal way like a normal record. Unfortunately, all those discs have gone missing, so there’s no way to hear my versions of “Heartbreak Hotel” and “Honeycomb” (the latter was especially good).

DL: You are best known as a tennis player. Can you compare your strategy on the court to your strategy in interpreting a song?

GH: Sure. It’s all style. Swinging in the studio, swinging on the courts – what’s the difference. I also have a pretty good backhand and I frequently take a backhanded approach to a lyric.

DL: How did you make the transition from athlete to artist?

GH: Well, “artist” is a little strong, don’t you think? Boy singer is fine, but I don’t know from “artist”. The transition was an easy one. As you get older you can no longer be as spry and nimble as you once were. Frankly, I’m surprised more athletes haven’t become singers, it’s such a natural transition.

DL: Your album features four duets. Why so many? Or perhaps the question should be “why so few,” since for years there was rumor of a Guy And Dolls album of ALL duets.

GH: Yes, Guy and Dolls was in the works for years but then someone else somewhere else basically did the same thing so we scratched that idea. Four duets seemed like a good number to me (although one of them, with Natalie Toro, will only be available on the copies purchased via the internet) and I was blessed to get to sing with Alice Ripley, Susan Egan, Brent Barrett and Natalie. Not exactly chopped liver.

DL: How did you choose the songs for your album? In particular, what drew you to the pop songs “Marie,” “Terminal” and “Here You Come Again”? Where did you discover the new songs, “Getting Nowhere Fast,” “The Sweetest of Nights and the Finest of Days,” and “I’d Love To Sing A Love Song”?

GH: Have you noticed that every question you ask is really three questions? Just asking. I tried to choose songs that I love to sing, songs which have a limited range and songs that have meant something to me in one way or another. For example, I wanted to do something by Rupert Holmes, because I feel I was the first person to buy his first album and discover him – and “Terminal” is just great Rupert. I fell in love with “Marie” the first time I heard it on Randy Newman’s Good Old Boys album. Such a beautiful melody. I always respond to a beautiful melody first. I heard “The Sweetest of Nights and the Finest of Days” at a party and thought it would close the album nicely, plus I was looking for a song with a really long title. “I’d Love To Sing a Love Song” I found when I saw the show Everything’s Ducky. I thought the song was ducky and asked the authors (Bill Russell and Henry Krieger) if I could do it. Then I got the star of the show (Natalie) to sing it with me.

DL: What’s the early feedback been on your album? Who were the lucky few to hear it before the release date?

GH: Feedback? I don’t think we had any feedback but you’d have to ask the engineer, Vinnie. The only people who got it early were Rupert, Harvey Schmidt and Tony Walton, who all seemed to like it, thank heaven.

DL: What was the biggest challenge in putting this album together?

GH: Narrowing my huge list of songs down to sixteen. Very difficult indeed. It was also a challenge to get over the flu which I got not once but twice.

DL: Which song was the most fun to record?

GH: “She Likes Basketball” was fun, although it has a few too many notes for my taste. But it’s impossible to sing that song and not have fun. It’s so joyful and infectious and has such spirit.

DL: Can you describe your working relationship with Bruce Kimmel? What about with Vinnie Cirilli?

GH: Well, Bruce and I have a real shorthand. If he doesn’t like a take he vomits. And I know how to read that, and can make adjustments. Vinnie just sits there and tries to figure out what he’s going to eat for lunch.

DL: Jason Graae has alluded to a special relationship with you. Would you care to elaborate?

GH: Oh, Jason alludes to special relationships with everyone. We are very close friends, though, and he has actually said hello to me on at least five occasions.

DL: You made a rare live appearance at the STAGE benefit Lerner, Loewe, Lane and Friends. How did that come about? How did you deal with being seen while singing?

GH: I think there was some blackmail involved between Bruce, who was going to record the show, and David Galligan, the director. I was thrilled to be making my STAGE debut and it was going to be the first time, really, that people could get a good look at me, and then David and the choreographer, Kay Cole, kept adding feathers and balloons and I kept getting obscured by chorines and it was just madness for all concerned.

DL: Are there more live performances in your future? Will Haines His Way inspire a tour?

GH: Well, we’re going to do a mini-tour for aging tennis pros – it’s going to be very exciting. We called the Cinegrill, but the only way they’ll book me is if J.D. Kessler gets a solo album.

DL: Your name appears in tiny print on the album You Never Know. What was your involvement in that album? Were you in the show?

GH: Yes, what’s up with that tiny print? Apparently, there’s a co-starring character in the show, but he only sings one line. Rather than track down the actor who did it, they asked me. I did it for free which might have something to do with their decision.

DL: Who are your favorite musical theatre writers?

GH: Oh, I love the all the usual suspects and I’ve been lucky enough to sing a wide variety of different writers. But, among my all-time favorite musical theatre writers are Stephen Sondheim, Kander & Ebb, Stephen Schwartz, Irving Berlin, Gene DePaul and Johnny Mercer, Jule Styne, Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields and Carolyn Leigh – you know, all those people.

DL: What do you think of the state of musical theatre today?

GH:I find some of it interesting, and some of it a bore. I have said for years that the first person to write a totally fun musical will have a huge hit. Apparently that person is Mel Brooks.

DL: Who are your favorite tennis players?

GH: Billie Jean King, Bjorn Bjorg (or is it Bjorg Bjorn), Agassi, and Guy Haines.

DL: What do you think of the state of tennis today?

GH: It seemed to have more style back when I was playing. Now everyone plays for the camera and marries tv actors.

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