By Seamus Gallivan/photo from George Dennehy Music
This story is absolutely amazing, inspiring, and entirely unlikely.
Buffalo’s card-carrying Good Neighbors the Goo Goo Dolls found themselves in a viral video today, as word spread of a most amazing guest appearance at their show this past Tuesday at Musikfest in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania – after seeing an already viral YouTube video of Virginia teen George Dennehy, who was born in Romania without arms, performing their song “Iris” by playing an acoustic guitar with only his feet (see below), the Goo’s invited the 18-year-old to open for them at the 29th annual multi-day festival and join them on “Iris” to close out their own set.
Upon learning of this via Buffalo.com today, I reached out to Goo’s bassist/vocalist and Music is Art founder Robby Takac to get the scoop on how it all went down, and sat down with him this evening at his GCR Audio recording studios in Allentown (that’s Buffalo’s historic Allentown district, in case anyone from Bethlehem’s neighboring city of Allentown happens upon this). Still beaming about the moment that has now been covered by outlets as far-reaching as CBS News and Huffington Post, Takac revealed the modern means by which he first learned about Dennehy.
“I first got it through a Google Alert,” said Takac, referring to the various national websites that featured a video of Dennehy’s scholarship-winning performance of “Iris” at the 2012 Strawberry Faire in Ashland, Virginia, near his hometown of Hanover, both just north of Richmond. “I opened it up, and it was so inspiring, just crazy. I mean, just to do it is amazing, but he’s doing a really damn good job playing guitar – it’s jaw-droppingly inspiring. With the Musikfest show just about five hours away from where he lives, [Goo’s drummer] Mike [Malinin] reached out and arranged for him to come make some music with us.
“We were only with him a couple hours,” Takac continued, “but you could see he’s pretty proficient with his feet. His father said it all started when they went to see Lord of the Rings, and after they got home, George went to the cello they had in the house and started playing the melody from the theme, and [his dad] goes, ‘Oh my God, there’s something here.’”
As the band prepared backstage with Dennehy, the young wonder who also plays bass and piano quickly proved his ability beyond the point of novelty. “He took a guitar pick, stuck it between his toes, and started playing chords on the guitar!” marveled Takac. “It was crazy to watch. But after I got over the initial shock of, ‘Wow, he’s actually doing this, and doing it well,’ it became just like anytime someone comes up – you see the satisfaction and enjoyment they’re getting, and it’s a great thing to share the experience.
“It was a special moment for everybody, and a special, special thing he does…I told him, ‘Man, you’ve got a half-million hits on YouTube, we should be thanking you for comin’ to play with us!”
Watch these videos, they ought to hit deep if you have a heart; likewise, this story hits the depths of the heart and humility that transcend the hits and glitz to reveal the true biggest reasons Buffalonians so proudly boast of the Goo Goo Dolls as our own.