Peter Mayer, contributed photo.
He’s perhaps best known as vocalist and lead guitarist for Jimmy Buffett’s Coral Reefers, but Peter Mayer has quietly and steadily built a fervent following across the country as the frontman of his own band.
The Peter Mayer Group will bring its annual Christmas tour, “Stars & Promises: Follow the Star,” to Bristol’s Paramount Center for the Arts on Friday, Dec. 20. Curtains up is 7:30 p.m.
Tickets to the show, sponsored by Laurel Marina and Yacht Club, are $20 in advance or $25 at the door. VIP tickets are $50 and can only be purchased by calling the Paramount ticket office at (423) 274-8920. Proceeds benefit children’s programming at the Paramount.
Mayer’s life began in Tamilnadu, the far southern region of India, where his parents served as missionaries for 17 years before returning to their Missouri roots.
“I can remember Indian musicians coming to our house on Christmas Eve to sing and play into the evening,” Mayer recalls. “They would play their drums and flutes, shakers and bells, and sing their Tamil carols. It was a sound I’ll never forget.”
After the family’s move back to the U.S., Mayer went on to study formal theory and composition, and to teach jazz guitar as a faculty member of Webster University.
Teaming up with his brother Jim on bass and drummer Roger Guth, the trio quickly realized they shared a unique musical bond and rare songwriting chemistry. They joined forces, formed the group PM, and in 1987 signed to Warner Brothers Records. Working with producer Elliott Scheiner (Steely Dan, Aretha Franklin, Bruce Hornsby) the group released its debut album in 1988. This album produced the single “Piece of Paradise,” which rose to No. 8 on the Billboard adult contemporary chart.
Following his work with PM, Scheiner was hired to produce Jimmy Buffett’s “Off to See the Lizard” album. He suggested that Buffett use PM as rhythm section for the recording sessions. Buffett was impressed with the trio’s versatility as musicians and performers and quickly hired PM for the following summer to be part of his own Coral Reefer Band. It is a successful relationship that continues to date.
In 1999, Mayer and his brother began work on their first Christmas album, “Stars and Promises.” They took original carols such as “What Child is This,” “Joy to the World” and “Little Drummer Boy,” penned their own original Christmas compositions such as “Sing Joy” and “This Christmas,” and placed them all in musical settings that traced their upbringing and musical influences from their childhood in India to their journeys since then into jazz, rock, folk and classical directions.
From that first December, a trial run in a van that took them to a few locations has evolved into the present nationwide tour, a striking visual and sound production.
This year’s 13th annual “Stars and Promises” tour will feature music for the Christmas journey — “songs that call us to follow the light of the star of Bethlehem, to travel roads old and new to the peace and joy that only Christmas brings and share a song of hope to lead us on.”
Joining Mayer on this year’s tour are R. Scott Bryan on percussion and vocals; Zeb Briskovich on bass; Mark Holland on native flutes; Chris Walters on keyboard; Maggie Estes on violin and mandolin; and Mayer’s son, Brendan Mayer, on guitar and vocals.
In years past, the Peter Mayer Group has performed more than 15 Christmas shows each season, but this year, because of scheduling commitments with Jimmy Buffett, the group is only available for six shows, and the Paramount was selected as one of those stops.
For tickets or more information, call the Paramount box office or visit www.theparamountcenter.com.
For more information about Mayer, log onto his website at www.petermayer.com.