Lawyers Who Rock

first_imgLawyers Who Rock Lawyers Who Rock Musicians with good day jobs Associate EditorBack in the wild ’60s, Bobby Cox grew his hair to his shoulders, wore a wide-lapel jacket embroidered with roses over a chest-revealing unbuttoned shirt, and rocked out on keyboards with jazz-rock band Mandela and Tampa-based cover band Southern Comfort.Playing in rock-and-roll bands since he was 14, Cox made a deal with himself: If I am not a big rock star by 1975, I will go to law school.Reality hit with a discordant thud.He played his last concert and walked off stage. Afraid he’d be too tempted to stick to his rocker ways, he gave his keyboards away.Between hitting the law books, he doctored musical withdrawals by retreating to a lonely practice room at Florida State University’s music school and playing his heart out on a battered upright, a one-man show with a one-man audience.Today, nearly three decades later, he’s the respectable Robert Scott Cox, of Cox & Burns, P.A., a Tallahassee law firm specializing in serious personal injury cases.And he’s got his keyboards back.“Frankly, you have to have another outlet,” says Cox. “Otherwise, the only thing at the end of the rainbow of being a lawyer is Volvos and anti-depressants. Playing music gives you some balance. Think of the level of unhappiness in those charts about lawyers in the Bar News. ”Playing gigs for fun, he likes to call himself “a musician with a good day job.”With King Ed and the Family Jewels, featuring progressive blues a la Stevie Ray Vaughn and Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Cox plays piano, Hammond organ, and synthesizer.With the Big Kahunas, Cox dons a Hawaiian shirt and plays bass with fellow lawyers Steve Metz, drummer and chief legislative counsel for The Florida Bar, and John Lovett, guitarist, Harvard-educated lawyer, and managing partner at the Katz Kutter law firm.Describing the Big Kahunas as “the British Invasion meets the Beach Boys,” Metz says: “The biggest thing for me is the reaction of people when they find out I’m a drummer in a band. ‘What?!’ I’m a fairly conservative lawyer during the day.”Cox ribs Metz by saying: “It’s pretty hard to screw up ‘Louie, Louie,’ but somehow he did it.”And Metz flings back at Cox: “Don’t believe a thing he tells you. He is a lying dog and is really Robin Williams as a lawyer.”This trio of serious lawyers by day and jamming fools by night agree that playing in a band helps take the edge off being lawyers, helps balance their lives, and forces them not to take themselves too seriously.“The word fun keeps coming to mind,” says Metz, who once played in a band in the style of the Swinging Medallions, with a Herb Alpert wannabe friend on trumpet, when he attended Choctawatchee High School, Class of ’67.“It energizes you. It makes you feel young again,” said Metz, who also drank Jolt cola when practicing in his garage with the Jolt Band and is billed in the Big Kahunas promo as a lobbyist with Metz Hauser and Husband who “misspent his youth playing drums in surf and rock bands in Daytona Beach.”Lovett — who plays a five-string banjo he bought from Earl Scruggs in a bluegrass band called South Georgia Grass, as well as in an Irish band called the Wild Rovers — put it this way: “In all candor, I’m not reliving my younger days. I’m living these days right now. This is life right now.”At 57, Lovett claims being a musician for 40 years, inspired in his youth by the Kingston Trio.“I heard them and said, ‘That’s what I want to do.’ I got a banjo and taught myself to play it. And the same with guitar. But I’m not good enough to only be a professional musician. My kids would starve on what a musician makes.”What Lovett gets out of his gigs is pure delight.“There is a joy I get from entertaining people and knowing I am helping people enjoy themselves. There’s a certain amount of ego involved in being able to play music: ‘Look at me and let me show you what I can do,’” Lovett says.Back at the serious law office, in the high-rise building with the only revolving door in downtown Tallahassee, Lovett says: “They all pretend they don’t know me. They’re all terribly embarrassed by the whole thing.”Not fellow Katz Kutter lawyer Kathi Giddings, who belts out vocals in her husband’s band, “The Diehards,” whose motto is: “Live Hard, Love Hard, Play Hard, Die Hard.”“My mother majored in voice in college, and I took piano for most of my youth. But I didn’t play music for a while,” said Giddings, chair of the Bar’s Appellate Court Rules Committee when she is her serious legal-eagle self and goes by Katherine Eastmoore Giddings.Then she met her husband, Travis “T.D.” Giddings, who worked his way through school playing in bands and forming his own, and nudged her to the mike, front and center, to sing lead vocals, harmony, and secondary percussion.“My mother had this gorgeous Julie Andrews voice, and I sound more like Janis Joplin,” Giddings says with a hearty laugh. “Had it not been for my husband, I wouldn’t sing. It’s an activity we do together.”They play gigs in North Florida, like Wicked Willie’s in coastal village Carrabelle.“It’s a wonderful stress release and keeps me grounded in the real world,” said Giddings.Jon H. Gutmacher placed this ad in the Orange County Bar Association newsletter, The Briefs : “Were you a rock musician in a former life? If you were, and you’d like to be one again, send in your name, address, instrument and experience, and we’ll see if we can put together one or more legal rock groups for bar gigs and charity.”The tentative name of the group that has gathered so far is Lawyers Rock, featuring Stephen Shaw on lead guitar, James Willingham and Mary Kogut on vocals, Gutmacher on drums, and Jim Basque on keyboards.For Gutmacher, a self-described high school band nerd, his main thrill is composing, and playing in the band is a chance to hear his compositions come alive. Asked if he would like to share a few of his lyrics for this story, Gutmacher turned very serious and said, “Absolutely not! The songs I write, in my opinion, are capable of being No. 1 hits.”Who else thinks that?“My family does,” he answers.As for Lawyers Rock, well, they’ve played once and, Gutmacher admits the band “needs work.”“Oh, yeah, it does need work, but it has promise,” says keyboardist Basque, 49, who has been a working musician for 30 years.“I come from a musical family and started tickling the piano at an early age,” says Basque, who was influenced by the Beatles, and now has his own trio, Spectrum, and freelances in a blues band, The Touch.“It’s a good release from lawyer work, and I have gigs primarily on weekends. I do gigs from black-tie parties to biker bars. And some of the black-tie people get as crazy as the bikers,” Basque laughs.“Most of my career I have been a corporate big firm lawyer. And there have been a couple of instances where I showed up at a function to play in the band, and there’s a client or two in the audience. ‘What are you doing here?’ That’s usually how the conversations start,” Basque says.“My clients get a kick out of it. They think, ‘he’s a lawyer and he’s human, too.’”Music keeps that very important human side alive in lawyers who fear they would be very dull boys and girls, otherwise.That’s why Cox starts his day playing jazz for an hour on his piano. That’s why he invites Metz and Lovett to take over the front porch of his house to practice for their upcoming October 19 gig at Tallahassee’s Paradise Grill to benefit the local animal shelter.“The music is worse, but the wine and accommodations are infinitely better” than his young rocker days, Cox says.Before, Cox admits, he tried not to let people know about his musical past.“I didn’t think people would take me seriously,” Cox says. “At this point, I’m old and rich, and I don’t care.”Rock on. September 15, 2002 Jan Pudlow Associate Editor Regular Newslast_img

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