So Young

Thanks to a bright invention, Valley favorite Jerry Riopelle is finally on the verge of becoming cool

"That's one of the reasons I run the business here," says Riopelle, who, along with his wife of 31 years, Naomi, still shuttles between his home in Kona and the leased McCormick Ranch digs. "All of the jobbers and manufacturers we work with, as soon as they hear the name, they go, 'Oh yeah, Jerry Riopelle. "Walking on Water," right?' You'd be surprised how many doors that opens."

When they're not doing business with him, Riopelle's Valley fans still get to hear favorite tracks like "Blues on My Table," "Easy Driver" and "Naomi's Song" on Radio Free Phoenix, the Internet streaming audio outlet run by local radio vet Andy Olson that, Olson insists, still gets plenty of Riopelle requests.

Recording a career retrospective at Olson's home studio one recent Friday, set to air as a pre-concert special on New Year's Eve, Riopelle tells an anecdote leading into his 1977 song "So Young" (sample lyric: "I'll make everything matter, and I'll believe that everything lasts"), which many fans consider his most anthemic work.

As a recording artist, Jerry Riopelle admits he was "always behind the curve on the latest trends. All of a sudden now, it looks like I'm ahead of one."
Peter Scanlon
As a recording artist, Jerry Riopelle admits he was "always behind the curve on the latest trends. All of a sudden now, it looks like I'm ahead of one."
Riopelle tries out Beatmania IIDX at Mesa's Golfland arcade. "You've got to be able to play it with feeling," he says.
Peter Scanlon
Riopelle tries out Beatmania IIDX at Mesa's Golfland arcade. "You've got to be able to play it with feeling," he says.

"'So Young' I wrote on my 31st birthday, ostensibly as a present to myself," he says. "Because I felt so old, and I thought I had seen pretty much everything. Which sounds so stupid today!"

Riopelle admits it can sometimes sound stupid singing "I'm so young!" today, at age 64.

But those who've been working with Riopelle lately -- even whippersnappers exactly half his age, like Jason Asbahr -- attest the song still suits him.

"Jerry's been around the block," Asbahr says. "But it's almost like it doesn't matter what age he is. He's got this sort of childlike wonder with the world. And that's what he brings to his invention.

"He thinks young," Asbahr adds. "That's the important thing."

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