Call him Mr. Nice Guy: John Tesh comes to Reno

Before you make jokes about him, consider: John Tesh is probably happier and more successful than you are.

Before you make jokes about him, consider: John Tesh is probably happier and more successful than you are.

John Tesh is somewhere in Branson, Mo., telling me about his various musical influences, when the phone line suddenly goes dead. Four minutes later, he calls back. Tesh’s voice, slightly but noticeably shaking, apologizes for the interruption.

“I was just almost struck by lightning,” he says. Then, after a pause, he starts laughing. “And the thing is, I am the tallest thing around.”

Had the 6-foot-6-inch musician/TV personality met his maker on that day, a number of Tesh’s fans would have been beside themselves with grief—and many others, who have made Tesh the butt of cruel jokes for being “uncool,” would have had a nagging feeling of guilt.

That’s the John Tesh paradox. The Garden City, N.Y., native has fame from his decade-long stint as a co-host of Entertainment Tonight, six Emmys, three gold albums, three PBS specials, a weekly syndicated radio show and the ability to draw tens of thousands of fans to his performances. He’s one of the nicest people around by all accounts, and he is married to beautiful actress Connie Sellecca. Yet, because of his style of music—new age-style instrumentals—and his Christian beliefs, he is the poster child for dorkiness in some circles.

The people who make fun of him don’t even realize they’ve heard—and probably enjoyed—Tesh’s music before. The NBC theme music from the 1992 Barcelona Olympics? He wrote that. The catchy theme for NBC’s basketball broadcasts? His work, too.

Those are just two of the songs that he’ll be performing July 14 at the Silver Legacy. But Tesh says that his show is more than just an instrumental concert; he promises an interactive “experience” for his fans, with stories, characters and crowd involvement.

“It’s different every time,” he says. “It’s about taking the pulse of a room. … A casino crowd usually wants things to move faster.”

As for those musical influences he was talking about when that bolt of lightning came a bit too close for comfort, Tesh cites bands who all had strong keyboard beats: Yes, Jethro Tull and Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Tesh also lists Jimi Hendrix, even though he isn’t a guitar player.

“He was a chance-taker, a risk-taker,” Tesh says.

Tesh is a risk-taker in the sense that he is moving in a more Christian direction with his music, although there may not be that much of it, if any, in his Silver Legacy show. Tesh says he dreams about doing convention-like events that focus on “powerful living,” with music and speakers focusing on health, spirituality and longevity issues. He recently launched two Web sites focusing on those issues. He stresses, however, that he’s not talking about dogma; he’s talking about inspiration.

“These are things that are important to me in my life right now," he says. "It’s what’s been inside of me for years, and it’s coming out … I am a Baby Boomer, and I want to leave something behind."