June 4th, 2009

Leslie’s Story

My dad’s steadfast commitment to writing amazes me. He sometimes endures years without having anything cut, but he continues to make writing dates. He contributes to demos, and he waits to hear from labels that put his songs on hold. The music business can be cold to newcomers and experienced professionals alike. But my dad keeps writing! My family and I have witnessed all his achievements and shared in his hard times. We continue to ask him about his co-writers, pray to the Music Row sculpture when an artist puts a song on hold, and listen with adoring ears to his demos. Our stories may shed some light on what it is like having Rory Bourke, songwriter extraordinaire, as a father.

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Just last night someone asked me, “So what was it like growing up with your dad?” Well…it was fun! Throughout grade school, I felt like there was something special about me; my dad was famous except not in an over-obvious or ostentatious way. Just every now and then, you’d hear one of his songs on the radio. That kind of famous.

In fourth grade, my class completed a unit on songwriting. As part of this unit, my dad traveled to Oak Hill one day to teach us how to write songs. He began by asking us for topics. Some little boy raised his hand. “Well today is teddy bear day – everyone brought their teddy bears.” Hmm…I wasn’t so sure about the topic, but my dad approved.

“That’s a good idea. Now how will we start it?” He began pulling ideas from the fourth grade audience. Some lines he would reject after a thoughtful moment; others he would accept. He’d write them down on his yellow memo pad.

I now wonder if this is how Ms. Hasselbring wanted him to teach this lesson. He wasn’t telling us anything directly. He hadn’t given us instructions on rhyming. Instead, he was showing us by example. I think he did a great job. He showed us how to come up with ideas, and he showed us how to treat co-writers with respect.

* * *

During my junior year at Harpeth Hall, I again remembered how proud I was to be Rory Bourke’s daughter. One morning, all the students gathered into the auditorium. After noticing several guitars, a keyboard, and drums on stage, we realized we wouldn’t have to sit through a lecture that day.

The principal, Ann Teaff, thanked all the students for their hard work that year, and a band walked onto stage. The girls immediately reacted to the up-tempo pop songs. Some ladies jumped out of their seats and ran to the foot of the stage. They cheered and sang along, while others stood up from their seats and clapped. Though I was a bit wary of cover bands, I appreciated the break from droning voices. The band obviously chose songs which would please the crowd, so there was nothing slow, nothing old. Nothing frumpy. When the group broke into the opening of “Bye Bye,” my mouth dropped open. I couldn’t believe they were singing a song my dad wrote. I stood there in amazement for a while, and then I started to look around. Did anyone know my dad wrote this? Nobody was looking at me, so apparently not. I began to inform the people around me. “Really?” they asked. I had thought that nobody in my class listened to country music, but everyone was singing along. Yeah my dad’s a star, I thought to myself. Of course I already knew that, but it was a thrill to receive some reinforcement from my peers.

I was smiling for the rest of the day. Word of the song’s importance spread around the school. In French class, Mackenzie McCracken confided to me, “I can’t believe your Dad wrote ‘Bye Bye.’ I love that song! I sing it so loud while I’m driving!” She had just broken up with her boyfriend. “Bye Bye” was the perfect mantra.

The very next year, a similar event occurred. A band performed “Fly” while we were in another assembly. I couldn’t believe it. Two years in a row. And yet, why not? My dad provides singers and bands with excellent material. Unexpectedly hearing his songs reminds me of his amazing talent. I am so proud of him and everything he does!

* * *

As I’ve collected the various materials that make up this site, I’ve come across a unique side of my dad. The video footage has in particular surprised me. Besides his appearance (wow, that beard), he seems a bit more hesitant than I know him to be today. Perhaps it is the nervousness that accompanies a performance. What strikes me even more is his charisma. He seems genuinely happy and eager to make a connection with his interviewers and comrades. He is quick to laugh at himself. If somebody insulted my singing voice as in the Ralph Emery clip, I wouldn’t be able to immediately laugh it off. I imagine that this quality has helped my dad in many situations. He brightens a room with his humor and makes everyone feel at ease.

While watching all these videos, I pondered the beginning of my dad’s career. The music business is indeed hard for anyone, but it must be especially hard for those without any experience. I believe that because of my dad’s work-ethic, consistency, and solid self-esteem, he was able to write songs every day. He wasn’t going to give up, and he had my mom’s enduring support. I also know he had some important mentors along the way. And awesome co-writers! Because of all these factors, my dad has become a musical success. This website is my tribute to him.