Whenever former pro football player turned acclaimed songwriter and performer Mike Reid gets the chance to stop back to Altoona, he does.
Despite living in Nashville, he regularly comes back to his hometown to visit family and friends, or will purposefully drive himself up in order to stop by on his way to New Jersey, where he is a resident composer for a small theater.
"When I drive, the closer I get to Altoona, as I get to the outskirts and 17th Street, I just get a great feeling," Reid said during a recent phone interview. "Sometimes, that stuff is in the biology and it's beyond explanation."
Mirror file photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Mike Reid performs during Penn State Altoona commencement exercises this May.
Reid will step into the Mishler Theatre and let more than just those closest to him know he's in town when he plays a public performance at 7:30 p.m on Sept. 29. Proceeds from the already popular ticket sales will benefit CONTACT Altoona.
Reid played a similar concert in 2008 to a sold-out crowd. This concert will commemorate CONTACT Altoona's 30th anniversary.
"I've always loved my hometown," Reid said. "If you're gifted with years and you get to live, your port of entry, the place you came into this world, becomes increasingly important."
If you go
What: Mike Reid benefit concert for CONTACT Altoona
When: 7:30 p.m. Sept. 29
Where: Mishler Theatre, 1208 12th Ave., Altoona
Details: Tickets are $35 and $50 plus processing fees. They can be ordered online at https://pk772gp914.boxpro.net/C23bownet.ASP or by calling the box office at 944-9434 after Sept. 4.
Reid "came into this world" in Altoona in 1947, and growing up in the city outskirts provided him with what he called a "wonderful childhood." After attending Penn State and playing college football, he was a first round draft pick by the Cincinnati Bengals in 1970.
Leaving behind his successful pro career, Reid performed with touring bands and as a pianist with several well-known orchestras. He went on to sign a songwriting deal with a small publishing company for $100 a week, and moved to Nashville in 1980.
"That's when, really, the hard, fast pursuit of the life of a songwriter began," Reid said.
He has become known for co-writing tunes like Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me" and for winning a Grammy for Best Country Song with "Stranger in My House," recorded by Ronnie Milsap.
But Reid said he wasn't raised on country music, and was initially inspired and influenced by the church hymns he heard growing up.
"I loved those hymns," he said. "They were songs of comfort, songs of surrender and comfort. I loved that and I think it reflects in a lot of songs that I've written."
Reid's love for his hometown also reflects in his songs, some of which he said he'll perform during the Sept. 29 show. He also enjoys telling stories and engaging the audience, especially his hometown audience.
"Often, people like to hear how something was written, why it was written and what it's about," he said.
The way he engages the audience is just one reason why Donna Gority, former Blair County Commissioner and CONTACT Altoona board member, enjoyed Reid's performance in 2008 and became a fan of his music.
"He is very easy to listen to," she said. "It's a concert almost anybody can enjoy."
Gority will introduce Reid and act as MC for this year's benefit concert. She said it's wonderful that Reid would once again volunteer his talents to raise money and awareness about CONTACT Altoona.
"I expect that we will sell out the Mishler again this time," she said.
Terriann Grove, executive director for CONTACT Altoona, hopes for the same result so that the organization can continue to boast its overall support programs and reassurance helpline. CONTACT Altoona's staff of 85 volunteers answered almost 23,000 helpline calls just last year, Grove added.
"The helpline is a place for folks to turn when they have nowhere else to turn and need someone to talk to," she said. "It's confidential, anonymous and free."
Grove also enjoys how Reid shares personal stories onstage, and that he has written songs specifically about the local area.
"His music creates a beautiful picture of where he grew up and where we live," she said.
Because songwriting is such a solitary endeavor, Reid said he relishes the opportunity to assist others. He added that he hopes to provide a quality performance locally.
"I'll work very hard to put something that I hope is worth people's time together," he said. "When they come, they're going to give their hard-earned money and a little bit of their time, so I want it to be worth their time."
Reid's most recent work has been writing for musical theater, an interest he's grown ever since he was involved with a musical production in college while out of football with an injury. He has had shows produced in London and New Jersey, and a four-character piece he wrote is currently "fighting for an off-Broadway life," Reid added.
He said he's found writing for theater to be a tricky business, but enjoys how it's opened up a "whole other musical palette" for him.
"The creative life is always pushing off the dock into the fog, in a sense, and not being really sure what you're doing next, but looking for something you hope will be of some value," he said.
Mirror Staff Writer Beth Ann Downey is at 946-7520.