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Living The Dream: Longtime Chicago Cubs Organist Gary Pressy Reflects On His Career

Chicago Cubs Organist Gary Pressy

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Living The Dream: Longtime Chicago Cubs Organist Gary Pressy Reflects On His Career

"I am very lucky and very blessed that I get to do a job that I wanted to do since I was five years old. I kid you not."

GRAMMYs/Jul 2, 2019 - 10:47 pm

Legendary organist Gary Pressy has already had a busy day. After a congested drive in from the suburbs of Chicago, Pressy has already partaken in an important meeting with the iconic muppet Cookie Monster, who on this particular day will serve as the featured vocalist for this afternoon’s seventh inning stretch of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" at the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field.

Pressy quickly apologizes for being a few minutes late for our interview and walks briskly through the hallways of the somewhat dated press area that sit atop of the renovated ballpark.

"I have played in 2,653 straight games," he says with a sly smile, trying his best not to brag. "I got the job in 1987 and I haven’t missed a game since."

The 62-year-old gingerly walks into his office, or rather a small and somewhat cramped press box, and sets down his lunch plate of sloppy joes and the sheet music he had been holding under his arm. He looks down onto the field where die-hard fans are beginning to gather before the game to catch batting practice and then glances at his trusty Lowrey organ that sits just a few feet away.

It’s the calm before the sweet chaos of a ball game.

Pressy seems to welcome the excuse to to enjoy a little down time before he starts his job of providing a portion of the background music to not only the Chicago Cubs baseball team, but to all of their fans who travel to the ballpark to hear it.

"There are a lot of people who work for a living and its absolute drudgery for them every single day," he says as a DJ plays Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band’s hit "Old Time Rock and Roll" in the background. "I am very lucky and very blessed that I get to do a job that I wanted to do since I was five years old. I kid you not."

Indeed, the longtime organist is one of the many pieces of tradition and nostalgia that fills Wrigley Field on a daily basis. From the ivy to the scoreboard to a kid that grew up wanting to play the organ for a sports team, Pressy is the first to admit that this gig is a dream come true. 

Pressy started playing the organ when he was just a youngster growing up in the suburbs of Chicago. He would spend his afternoons trying to imitate the organist he would hear during the radio broadcasts of the games in an attempt to name the music they were playing.

Heck, the garage of his childhood home even had vine on its walls.

Pressy would continue playing the organ while attending St. Laurence High School, from which he graduated in 1975. When it was time for college, he instead decided to take private organ lessons from a teacher named Russ Caifano. And when it was time to get a job, he sent his resumes out to various sports teams in Chicago that possibly needed an organist.

As fate would have it, the Chicago Sting soccer club needed one, and a man by the name of John McDonough hired him. And when the well-known executive moved over to take a front office job within the Chicago Cubs organization, he brought Pressy along with him.

And the rest is history.

"When I first started playing here in 1987, I would say it was strictly 90% organ music, both in terms of the pregame and during the game," recalls Pressy, who ranks the Chicago Cubs World Series run back in 2016 as one of the highlights of his career. "But then we put the new screens up in the outfield in 2015 and then we added the DJ…"

His voice begins to trail off, but that’s not to assume that he has been against change.

"The players love hearing their music play for batting practice and for their walkup songs, and that’s good," he says quickly. "If it gets them going and they get a base hit out of it, that’s what we want."

Pressy lets out a laugh as he looks down on the crowd once again that is beginning to gather on this sunny and warm day in Chicago. And then he continues speaking, further stating the importance of him evolving with the times a bit in terms of the music he plays.

"You don’t want to sound like a broken record, you know?" he says. "You have to update your music, so I will listen to the top 40 and such. I mean, I still have to go back to the forties for some of the music, but I know play Lady Gaga songs and Katy Perry songs. Nobody wants to get stale. The challenge is always to improve yourself if you can and improve your work. Hopefully, I’ve done that."

In recent years, he does this in perfect harmony with the disc jockey and continues to become more accustomed to working with someone else to provide the music for the ballpark.

"We switch back and forth throughout the game and I think it pleases everyone who comes to the park,” he says. “We kind of know what the other one is going to do and when I’m going to jump in. But yeah, I think it’s a good thing. I mean, you have 3-year-olds and 85-year-olds out in that crowd. It’s a good blend."

And whether he's collaborating with a DJ or not, Pressy says he has reached that sweet stage of his career when things have become somewhat spontaneous when he sits down at that organ and plays.

"I do use the music sheets sometimes since I have to keep the sheet company in business," he laughs. “But yes, a lot of the music is spontaneous and it comes based on something that is happening on the field, especially if there is a song connected to it.”

Because yes, he not only plays the organ, but has to keep his eye on what’s happening on the field.

“It really helps that I have always been a baseball fan,” he says. “I’ll know when a batter has three balls on him and the next pitch could be a walk, so you are going to need to play a walking song. And you have to just know things like how you don’t play when the pitcher is about to throw the ball. There are a lot of rules that you have to follow.”

It makes one wonder if anyone will ever be able to truly take Pressy’s place.

“On a sunny day, there is nothing better than being at Wrigley Field,” he says as he stands up, looking as if he is ready to get this game rolling. “You have to be a fan and you have to care because if you’re not, the music will fall flat. Whether you are playing the piano or organ, I truly believe that the instrument reflects how you feel. I love it here and I hope I’m coming across like that.”

So, how long will he be doing this? How long will he remain the Chicago Cubs organist, the player of the music that serves as the soundtrack to one of the most major teams in one of the greatest metropolises in the entire country?

“We will see,” he says, taking a long deep breath of the humid air that begins to fill his haven above the seats. “I would love to be around for another [World Series] parade... I guess I’m going to do it till I get it right.”

Mission accomplished, sir.

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Pearl Jam Named Record Store Day 2019 Ambassadors

Pearl Jam

Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage.com

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Pearl Jam Named Record Store Day 2019 Ambassadors

Pearl Jam's Mike McCready says "if you love music," record stores are the place to find it

GRAMMYs/Feb 13, 2019 - 04:05 am

Record Store Day 2019 will arrive on April 13 and this year's RSD Ambassadors are Pearl Jam. Past ambassadors include Dave Grohl, Metallica, Run The Jewels (Killer Mike and El-P), and 61st GRAMMY Awards winner for Best Rock Song St. Vincent.

McCready was also the 2018 recipient of MusiCares' Stevie Ray Vaughan Award

The band was formed in 1990 by McCready, Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard, and Eddie Vedder, and they have played with drummer Matt Cameron since 2002. They have had five albums reach No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and four albums reach No. 2.

"Pearl Jam is honored to be Record Store Day's Ambassador for 2019. Independent record stores are hugely important to me," Pearl Jam's Mike McCready said in a statement publicizing the peak-vinyl event. "Support every independent record store that you can. They're really a good part of society. Know if you love music, this is the place to find it."

With a dozen GRAMMY nominations to date, Pearl Jam's sole win so far was at the 38th GRAMMY Awards for "Spin The Black Circle" for Best Hard Rock Performance.

Pearl Jam will be performing on March 3 in Tempe, Ariz. at the Innings festival, on June 15 in Florence, Italy at the Firenze Rocks Festival and at another festival in Barolo, Italy on June 17. On July 6 Pearl Jam will headline London's Wembley Stadium.

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Find Out Who's Nominated For Best Rap Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards

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Find Out Who's Nominated For Best Rap Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards

Dreamville, Meek Mill, 21 Savage, Tyler, The Creator, and YBN Cordae all earn nominations in the category

GRAMMYs/Nov 20, 2019 - 06:28 pm

The 2020 GRAMMYs are just around the corner, and now the nominations are in for the coveted honor of Best Rap Album. While we'll have to wait until the 62nd GRAMMY Awards air on CBS on Jan. 26 to find out who will win, let's take a look at which albums have been nominated for Best Rap Album.

Revenge of the Dreamers III – Dreamville                                                                        

 
This star-studded compilation album from 11-time GRAMMY nominee J. Cole and his Dreamville Records imprint features appearances from some of the leading and fastest-rising artists in hip-hop today, including label artists EARTHGANG, J.I.D, and Ari Lennox, plus rappers T.I, DaBaby, and Young Nudy, among many others. Recorded in Atlanta across a 10-day recording session, Revenge of the Dreamers III is an ambitious project that saw more than 300 artists and producers contribute to the album, resulting in 142 recorded tracks. Of those recordings, 18 songs made the final album, which ultimately featured contributions from 34 artists and 27 producers.

Dreamers III, the third installment in the label’s Revenge of the Dreamers compilation series, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and achieved gold status this past July. In addition to a Best Rap Album nod, Dreamers III is also nominated for Best Rap Performance next year for album track “Down Bad,” featuring J.I.D, Bas, J. Cole, EARTHGANG, and Young Nudy.

Championships – Meek Mill

In many ways, Championships represents a literal and metaphorical homecoming for Meek Mill. Released in November 2018, Championships is the Philadelphia rapper’s first artist album following a two-year prison sentence he served after violating his parole in 2017. Championships, naturally, sees Meek tackling social justice issues stemming from his prison experience, including criminal justice reform. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, his second chart-topper following 2015’s Dreams Worth More Than Money, and reached platinum status in June 2019. Meek Mill's 2020 Best Rap Album nod marks his first-ever GRAMMY nomination.

i am > i was – 21 Savage

Breakout rapper and four-time GRAMMY nominee 21 Savage dropped i am > i was, his second solo artist album, at the end of 2018. The guest-heavy album, which features contributions from Post Malone, Childish Gambino, J. Cole, and many others, has since charted around the world, topped the Billboard 200 – a first for the artist – in the beginning of 2019, and achieved gold status in the U.S. As well, nine songs out of the album’s 15 original tracks landed on the Hot 100 chart, including multi-platinum lead single “A Lot,” which is also nominated for Best Rap Song next year. 21 Savage’s 2020 Best Rap Album nomination, which follows Record of the Year and Best Rap/Sung Performance nods for his 2017 Post Malone collaboration, "Rockstar,” marks his first solo recognition in the top rap category.

IGOR – Tyler, The Creator

The eccentric Tyler, The Creator kicked off a massive 2019 with his mid-year album, IGOR. Released this past May, IGOR, Tyler’s fifth solo artist album, is his most commercially successful project to date. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, marking his first time topping the coveted chart, while its lead single, "Earfquake,” peaked at No. 13, his highest entry on the Hot 100. Produced in full by Tyler and featuring guest spots from fellow rap and R&B stars Kanye West, Lil Uzi Vert, Solange, and Playboi Carti, among many others, IGOR follows the rapper’s 2017 album, Flower Boy, which received the Best Rap Album nod that same year.

The Lost Boy – YBN Cordae

Emerging rapper YBN Cordae, a member of the breakout YBN rap collective, released his debut album, The Lost Boy, to widespread critical acclaim this past July. The 15-track release is stacked with major collaborations with hip-hop heavyweights, including Anderson .Paak, Pusha T, Meek Mill, and others, plus production work from J. Cole and vocals from Quincy Jones. After peaking at No. 13 on the Billboard 200, The Lost Boy now notches two 2020 GRAMMY nominations: Best Rap Album and Best Rap Song for album track “Bad Idea,” featuring Chance the Rapper.

Rosalía Announces First Solo North American Tour

Rosalía 

Photo: Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images

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Rosalía Announces First Solo North American Tour

El Mal Querer Tour, named after the Spanish pop star's latest album, will come to Los Angeles on April 17 in between her Coachella performances

GRAMMYs/Mar 20, 2019 - 12:25 am

Rosalía is set to perform at some of the most popular music festivals around the globe, including Primavera Sound in Spain, Lollapalooza (Argentina and Chile) and Coachella, but the Spanish pop star isn't stopping there when she gets to the States. Now, she has announced her first solo North American Tour with a string of dates that will bring her to select cities in the U.S. and Canada.

El Mal Querer Tour, named after her latest album, will come to Los Angeles on April 17 in between her Coachella performances. Then she'll play San Francisco on April 22, New York on April 30 and close out in Toronto on May 2.

 

RELATED: How Rosalia Is Reinventing What It Means To Be A Global Pop Star

"I’m so happy to announce my first solo North American tour dates," the singer tweeted.

Rosalía won Best Alternative Song and Best Fusion/ Urban Interpretation at the 19th Latin GRAMMY Awards in November and has been praised for bringing flamenco to the limelight with her hip-hop and pop beats. During her acceptance speech she gave a special shout-out to female artists who came before her, including Lauryn Hill and Bjork. 

Rosalía has been getting some love herself lately, most notably from Alicia Keys, who gave the Spanish star a shout-out during an acceptance speech, and Madonna, who featured her on her Spotify International Women's Day Playlist. 

Tickets for the tour go on sale March 22. For more tour dates, visit Rosalía's website.

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Taylor Swift Plots 2020 World Tour With U.S. Dates For Lover Fest East & West

Taylor Swift

Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/VMN19/Getty Images

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Taylor Swift Plots 2020 World Tour With U.S. Dates For Lover Fest East & West

Following dates in Europe and South America, Swift will land in the U.S. for Lover Fest East and West, where the pop star will open Los Angeles' brand new stadium

GRAMMYs/Sep 18, 2019 - 02:38 am

Taylor Swift  will be spreading the love in support of her hit album Lover.in 2020, but it may or may not be in a city near you. The GRAMMY winner announced plans for her summer 2020 tour in support of her seventh studio album, including two shows each in Foxborough, Mass. and Los Angeles for Lover Fest East and West respectively as the only four U.S. dates announced so far.

The tour kicks off in Belgium on June 20 and hits festivals in seven European countries before heading to Sao Paulo, Brazil on July 18 then heading to U.S. Swift will then present Lover Fest West with back-to-back Los Angeles July 25 and 26 at the newly named SoFi Stadium. The concerts will serve as the grand opening of the much-anticipated NFL venue. The tour will wrap a double header at Gillette Stadiuim in Foxborough July 31 and Aug 1

"The Lover album is open fields, sunsets, + SUMMER. I want to perform it in a way that feels authentic," she tweeted. "I want to go to some places I haven’t been and play festivals. Where we didn’t have festivals, we made some. Introducing, Lover Fest East + West!" 

Lover was released Aug. 23 and debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. Her sold-out tour for her previous album, 2017's Reputation, was the highest grossing U.S. tour ever, breaking her own record.

Tickets for the new dates go on sale to the general public via Ticketmaster on Oct. 17.