Interview with Gary Burbank from Play It Forward

gary burbank
Gary Burbank

Interview by Scott Preston

The mission of Play it Forward is to help and support musicians, particularly those in situations of extreme need or emergency. Radio celebrity and musician Gary Burbank founded Play it Forward in 2007 and describes their mission: “The dedication of musicians to their craft and to the enjoyment of so many sometimes comes at the expense of their financial security and well being, occasionally leaving them in very dire straits. We seek to educate the public about those cases and to create and manage an investment fund whose annual profits will be used to assist Greater Cincinnati musicians and their families in times of catastrophic need.”

Cincy Groove: What brought about you wanting to start Play It Forward?

Gary Burbank: Its built up over the years with me, I would look around and wonder why when you see a program that is dedicated to building funds for the arts, why the money only goes to someone in a cumber bun or a tutu. I then thought maybe jazz musicians should wear tutu’s (laughing). I really just started thinking there has to be a better way. I wondered why there wasn’t a group out there for the musician who goes out and plays local gigs and who is just as dedicated as someone who is running a huge arts program, who wears a suit everyday. I thought maybe I could help, I don’t consider myself a great organizer or leader but I know I can pull the right people together and have it take off from there. We are trying to get to the position where say you smash your fingers in a door and your a guitar player, you can come to Play It Forward for help. Our motto is “Musicians helping Musicians” and that’s what our gig on March 12 is all about.

We can’t advertise the major rock star that’s going to be there performing, but I’ll just say this, its a major Grammy award winning musician who lives in Cincinnati. When he was contacted and was asked to help out with Play It Forward, he said “I’m There.” He understands the cause and really doesn’t have to help anyone but knows its the right thing to do. He said “Show Me The Way to the Madison Theater!” (okay the last sentence was a hint to who the performer is by the writer). For $12 bucks you get 10-12 great bands and a major rock star who you would normally pay much much more to see perform. Its great because you’ll get to see him in a smaller setting than he normally plays in.

Cincy Groove: Who were some of the first people you contacted when you were putting the pieces together for Play It Forward?

Gary Burbank: A lot of them are still there, Norma Rashid, Jim Tarbell, Dave Irick, Bill White from WUBE, Marcos, Larry Goshorn, Johnny Schott, I apologize if I forgot anyone. It was Bill White’s idea to call it Play It Forward.

Cincy Groove: Where did you come up with your radio character Earl Pitts?

Gary Burbank: Earl has been with me almost from day one. My father was a little like Earl Pitts. Earl Pitts is like Archie Bunker with a southern accent. However Earl is really goofing with you and trying to get a rise out of you. Its more than just straight up ha ha blue collar jokes. There is more of a sinister side of this prankster who is saying things just to make you mad. My father was just like that. He was just a great put on artist and that’s where I learned it. I didn’t name the character Earl Pitts right away. I just had him as a character calling into the show. 22 years ago we syndicated Earl and its now the longest running comedy syndication in the history of radio. I didn’t realize that until there was an article in a magazine a couple years ago. Earl is on anywhere from 150 – 200 stations, Earl used to be on a lot more stations, but corporate radio is really consolidating so its getting harder to get local programming on some of these stations.

Cincy Groove: How long have you had your restaurant Burbanks Real Bar B Q?

Gary Burbank: I believe we started it in about 1987 or 88. We wanted to be a barbeque and blues room and that’s what we did right away. Burbank’s is a great place, the food is dynamite. A lot of people really don’t know what a great place it is for real barbeque. A guy from Georgia was in a couple weeks ago and walked up to me and said “How do I tell people back home that my favorite barbeque place is in Cincinnati, OH?” (laughing). You’ll find a lot of southerners in the restaurant because they really know barbeque.


Concert For A Cause – Thursday March 12, 2009
The occasion for the all-star lineup is a compilation CD for which dozens of local artists submitted original tracks. The two-disk, thirty-track CD will be used to raise funds for the organization, and represents the support of all the musicians featured. Several of these artists have chosen to show their solidarity by also performing live, giving listeners an opportunity to hear some of the songs on the compilation performed in person.

Madison Theater
730 Madison Ave, Covington, KY
$12 adv / $15 dos All ages
doors at 7pm, shows starts at 8pm

Artists performing: Gary Burbank & Blue Run, The Bluebirds, Tracy Walker, Scotty Anderson, Ricky Nye, Sonny Moorman, Noah Hunt, Keith Little, Thhe Turkeys and a major Grammy award winning rock star!


Tickets are also available at: Everybody’s Records, Shake It Records, Clifton Natural Foods
Burbanks Real BBQ, Buddy Rogers Music (Anderson),
Susan’s Natural World

Visit Play It Forward’s website at