In her 33-plus years as a musician, Lisa Guyer has done a lot of benefit shows.
“I’m a big-mouthed emcee who’s really good at getting people to give money — when it’s not for me,” she said. But on April 27, the former Mama Kicks singer will be in a strange place: watching others perform for her.
Led by superstar band Godsmack, members of the regional music scene will take the stage to help Guyer return to what she does best: singing her heart out. It’s something of a miracle that she even has a chance to do that.
When Guyer noticed trouble with her voice developing over the past five years, she blamed age, or an occasional cold. But problems persisted; her four-octave range dropped to three, and a crisis came in mid-2013.
“I was down to half my voice, not that the crowd would know — I’m pretty good at faking it,” she said. “But I knew I had to make a decision.”
A scope exam confirmed the worst: an aneurysm on her vocal cord further complicated by a cyst growth. Her doctor was baffled that she’d kept singing for so long. Usually when this happens, he told her, you’re rendered voiceless.
“There it was, in my face,” Guyer said. “I freaked a little bit.”
Beyond the looming physical challenges was the question of work.
“One of the hard things that people don’t get is that singing is your passion, your life — but it’s also your living,” said Guyer.
Fortunately, the new health care law made it easier to get insurance — albeit with a hefty deductible. Plus, she had great care: Dr. David Opperman of the Colorado Voice Clinic, recommended to her by an even better friend, Godsmack front man Sully Erna.
Erna and Guyer have been close for over two decades, most recently working together on his solo Avalon album and touring for over a year after. When he asked her how she was dealing with the diagnosis, Guyer told him she was mainly concerned about making a living after.
“Sully said, ‘Don’t worry about money, we’re gonna do a concert and Godsmack is gonna play.’”
At the same time, her assistant launched a Facebook fundraising campaign, an idea Guyer was initially leery about. But money came from all over the world, helping her fund a February trip to Denver for surgery. The fan support did even more for the singer’s spirits.
“It gave me the vision to believe I can totally do this.”
Godsmack hasn’t played a venue this small in over a decade, so tickets for the Palace show are going fast. The rest of the night will include a solo set from Erna, rocker Charlie Farren, Brian Maes, Chad La Marsh and Led Zeppelin tribute band Four Sticks. The latter features all three of Guyer’s Mama Kicks band mates.
Kicks keyboard player Gardner Berry will host the event and arranged the undercard, with help from Guyer.
“We were working out the eight acts, and I realized there was no female energy,” she said. “Because I’m usually it.”
So Kim Riley and Alli Beaudry were recruited for a duet performance.
Riley, host of the Monday’s Muse youth open mike at Whippersnappers in Guyer’s absence, is excited to contribute.
“I am so grateful for having Lisa’s support,” she said. “This amazing collective of artists coming together for this benefit is a testament of … the huge respect we all have for her.”
Said Beaudry, “This benefit represents why we do what we do as musicians. … I am honored to support Mama Lisa and to sing on her behalf. Lisa is a staple in our community and has changed so many people’s lives with her gift of music. It’s going to be a magical night.”
Guyer is still adjusting to the largesse coming her way and said she’ll miss being onstage.
“To sit and just receive at 50 years old, I’m not going to lie, your first instinct is good Lord, I’m such a loser,” she said. “But a huge part of life is receiving, and I’m forced to sit and say, ‘Thank you,’ in a humbling space with all these beautiful people.”
As seen in the April 17, 2014 issue of the Hippo.