The Wind Blew Some Luck in My Direction

Certain songs have a magical power that captures the distilled essence of a moment. To me, the whole summer of 1976 lives in “Moonlight Feels Right” by Starbuck. Watch the video below, and pay attention to the keyboard player, whose rings are more easily (and frequently) seen than his face.

The keyboard player is David Shaver. He and I spent some time on a Facebook chat the other night talking about “Moonlight Feels Right” and his experience in Starbuck. “I was not a member when the record was [made],” David told me. “There were so many Mini-Moog overdubs on the album that when ‘Moonlight’ started up the charts, they realized they needed to hire another keyboard player in order to reproduce the sounds live. I also played an ARP String Ensemble to reproduce all the string parts.”

“Moonlight Feels Right” had been released to in the fall of 1975 to a resounding chorus of who-cares. Early in 1976, a DJ in Birmingham, Alabama, started playing it, and it caught fire, eventually rising to Number 3 on the Hot 100, where it spent the weeks of July 31 and August 7, 1976.

Once the record hit the charts (in April 1976), things began to move fast for Shaver and Starbuck. “Opening for Hall and Oates in Macon, Georgia, was the first show I played. They were huge at the time.” Other shows followed. “The biggest show we did was opening for Boston at the Hollywood Sportatorium in Florida. I heard the sound of 16,000 screaming vocal cords and at that moment I knew what Beatlemania felt like. We played with Styx at the Atlanta Omni for Toys for Tots.” (Based on information at a Styx fansite, that show was on December 5, 1976, and also featured Boston, the Manhattans, and Dr. Hook, which is a pretty damn good concert bill in any decade.)

David says, “It was certainly one of the most exciting times of my life. We were being treated like rock stars, where two months prior we were playing night clubs! I met Mike Douglas, Merv Griffin, Don Kirshner, Dinah Shore, Dick Clark, Peter Marshall. Once on American Bandstand, some girls in the audience made a big fuss over me and the cameras zoomed in on me in my blue Hawaiian shirt. My one and only closeup. My big 15 minutes. I’d give anything for a copy of that video!”

Although “Moonlight Feels Right” is the only Starbuck song most people can name, the band actually charted five times in all: “I Got to Know” and “Lucky Man” from the Moonlight Feels Right album missed the Top 40 in the fall of 1976; “Everybody Be Dancin’” from the group’s second album, Rock and Roll Rocket, squeaked into the Top 40 in the spring of 1977. And in the fall of 1978, the title track from Searchin’ for a Thrill—a balls-out rocker far removed in style and spirit from “Moonlight”—spent six weeks in the lower reaches of the Hot 100. The 70s edition of the band split in 1979, although co-founders Bo Wagner and Bruce Blackmon continued to release records under the Starbuck name for a few years thereafter. Somewhere in my archives I have a single they made in the early 80s called “The Full Cleveland.”

David Shaver is still playing today, 30-plus years after his rock-star adventures. “I am very happy to be performing in a show band called Glow. We’re based out of Atlanta and have some of the best vocalists in the Southeast. We play every weekend! Concerts, weddings, corporate parties, and a few select dance clubs. We just opened for the Little River Band a few months back.” Because Glow is a show band, David says, “Our song choices are focused 100 percent on the dance floor,” so “Moonlight Feels Right” is not part of their regular repertoire. But he also says, “Back in 2004/2005 I played in a wedding band and we did a great version of “Moonlight.” I did my best at imitating the marimba solo on the keyboard. Not an easy task!”

In 1976, I was an adolescent boy in Wisconsin, waiting for my life to begin. David Shaver was a slightly older guy whose life had not only begun, but was taking off like it was strapped to a rocket. (I am still waiting for my rocket.) Thirty-five years later, what we share is this: no matter how far 1976 recedes into the rearview mirror, “Moonlight Feels Right” will always bring it back.

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15 responses

  1. “Moonlight Feels Right” is arguably one of the THE best Top 40 songs on the radio in the 70s…at least in 1976.

  2. WOW! Thanks a lot! I’d forgotten both that song and Starbuck! It’s indeed a good song.

  3. Jim,
    Just a great piece of pop from summer 76! You are right. Can not remember that summer without that song! Weird how music does that.

  4. Summer of 76…what a great time to be young. I wrote a litle piece about the song this past April: http://70spop.wordpress.com/2011/04/01/moonlight-feels-right-by-starbuck/

  5. I once read that “Moonlight Feels Right” is a vivid picture of a date on a balmy Southern evening (Paul Grein wrote it in the liner notes of Rhino’s Have a Nice Day series). I’ve simply attributed the “Southern” part to the fact that the band was based in Atlanta and the singer was from Mississippi. Great song, which I never really appreciated until i got old enough to understand what was going on in the lyrics.

    I still feel that “Everybody Be Dancin’” is a sorely overlooked song. Like Wet Willie’s “Weekends” — another song worth tracking down — it isn’t a disco song as much as a song about having fun when the work week is over.

    And Adrian…nice blog! I’ve added it to the Blogroll on my own blog.

  6. I cannot hear “Moonlight Feels Right” and not think of being at the public pool in my hometown that summer. It seemed to be playing constantly which was fine by me as – even though I was too young to be an avid music listener – I totally dug it.

  7. Not much I can add about how much “MFR” instantly brings back summer 1976. It certainly does for me, just as “The Boys are Back in Town” and “More, More, More” do. But I’ll put in a plug for one of the Starbuck follow-ups, “I Got to Know.” It got some airplay in Southern California later that year, and I bought the single. It’s clearly modeled after “Moonlight,” but it bounces along nicely nonetheless with a great hook.

  8. I’m afraid it may be a while before he sees that Bandstand clip. Dick Clark will pass away and all of his great footage will get tangled up in some legal mess. Upon Rob Grill’s death a couple of weeks ago I found an odd youtube channel that was interviews ONLY of artists that appeared on Bandstand (Grill was in one of those). Big deal. “You guys touring a lot these days? What makes you do it?” etc etc.

  9. “MFR” puts me at a party on the north side of town celebrating the end of a TV news workshop at St. Cloud State. Probably drinking Cold Spring Beer, a raw local product. Nice combination, a great single and bad beer. A fine summer, indeed. Thanks!

  10. All I can contribute: I bought the 45 at Kmart for 96 cents.

    Happiness was easy to come by in those days.

  11. I remember listening to MFR right before I became the lucky seventh caller on 96 Kicks FM. I think I won a “Bull Shirt” t-shirt.

  12. Mini-Moog? I was wondering. huge looking thing for a mini. :)
    Playing it on IPAD now.

  13. Moonlight Feels Right memories, 1976-77: Worked at Walt Disney World in the large Tomorrow Land restaurant where the stage floor rose up on a hydraulic platform. Starbuck played there several times. We used to go visit them outside the stage door in the tunnels on break time. I had a crush on keyboard player, David Shaver. I felt like a dork waiting for the band to emerge from the stage in our hideous “costumes” complete with the required hair nets which squashed down my Farrah Fawcett-style hairdo. Lol! But hey, I was only 16. A year later, when I transferred to Guest Relations and wore a “much cooler/cuter” tour guide costume, I had to be sure to stop by when Starbuck performed in front of Cinderella Castle to say “hello” to David. One day, we sneaked up a small elevator from the tunnels under Cinderella Castle which led to one of the balconies. What a great view overlooking the park! Well it didn’t occur to me for over 35 years that we could be seen up there! After all, how many pairs of eyes could be looking at Cinderella Castle at any given time? Oh, I would have been so fired had we been caught! But that was such fun. That part of the castle is no longer accessible and is blocked off by a gorgeous suite that was built and used as a promotional prize in 2009 when WDW gave away an overnight stay to a lucky guest and their family. I wonder whether David still remembers the dorky little Disney tour guide who sneaked him up to the castle balcony?

  14. Hi Cindy. David Shaver here. Yes I remember you!! You were very cute, no matter which uniform you had to wear. I have incredibly happy memories of performing at the Tomorrowland Terrace. What are you up to theses days?

    David

  15. Oh my goodness, David! What a nice surprise to hear from you! What am I up to? Nothing as terribly exciting as being a rock star, but doing very well. If you want to drop me an email, contact jb for my email address. I have been discovering old Disney photos from former coworkers and enjoying the trips down memory lane.

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