An open bottle of Miller Lite wobbles in his shirt pocket. He takes a few swigs between songs and pockets the bottle again. Two more rattle in water bottle holders secured to his microphone stand with duct tape. They go down slow, sipped only during millisecond breaks.
"Ghost Riders in the Sky" barely finishes vibrating on his guitar strings before he pulls his red bandana over his mouth like a bandit and thumps out a hyperactive beat, like a rock band does to introduce its members.
But the man doesn't stop. He thumps and slaps and taps, contorting his face all the while, until the howling laughter from the crowd in the Poor Boy's Steakhouse Pump Room is louder than his beat.
It's introduction enough. Chad Lore is the only man in his band, anyway.
Armed with harmonica, guitar, tap shoes, accordion, duct tape, a massive repertoire of songs and some fierce wit, Lore has become a regular in Casper's music scene. He plays the Wonder Bar Wednesdays, Poor Boy's Thursdays, All That Jazz monthly, Elixirs randomly and dozens of other venues as requested.
If it seems like he's everywhere in town, he is.
If it seems like he plays everything, he pretty much does. A ukulele while riding a unicycle? Yep. An accordion and a harmonica at the same time? Only if he feels the crowd can handle it. Slide guitar with a beer bottle, a tap dance accompaniment and a few jokes? It's an almost nightly ritual.
"The playing's the easy part," he says. But it's not the only part. Lore is one of those rare musicians who does music full-time, 50, 60 hours a week. Before he hits any of his several stages in town, he networks, markets and books himself and side bands, learns new songs, strings guitars and ukes, records in his studio and sets up amps, microphones and accessories for his show. Then he entertains for three or four hours and heads home in the early morning hours to fill his number one role: husband and father of three.
"Is it glamorous? No. Fun? Yes. The second you get people dancing and having fun, that's when it's worth it," he says.
"You get addicted to having people smile."
Back at Poor Boy's, he blows a few notes from his harmonica and hoists an accordion onto his shoulder.
"There's a few dirty words in this German beer song, so if anyone here speaks German and I offend them, I'm sorry," he says. "Of course, just playing the accordion is kind of offensive anyway."
Lore got the accordion as a Christmas gift shortly after marrying his wife, Guadalupe, in her native Spain 11 years ago. They met when he was home from Europe for a summer and she was in Casper on a foreign exchange. Their children are 6, 2 1/2 and 4-months, the youngest being born on the Fourth of July. When Lore "jokes" about speaking only Spanish at home and having, like, 400 Spanish relatives, he is only slightly stretching the truth. (He doesn't have 400 Spanish kin.)
Lore isn't quite sure where he got the humor that entertains people as much as his music.
"I don't tell jokes. I just tell the truth and people can't believe it," he says.
He really was a street musician in Europe for a decade. He worked at a worm farm when he was 16 to save money for the trip and landed in Germany when he was 17. He traveled Holland, France, England, Sweden and Germany on a mountain bike, carrying only a guitar and a blue tarp for sleeping in the forests that surrounded each town.
At first, he just played guitar on the street corners. Actually, he just played "Can't Always Get What You Want" by the Rolling Stones over and over. But other street bums taught him more songs, and he eventually saved enough money to buy a harmonica. Problem was, every other street musician played harmonica and guitar too. So, in a desperate attempt to set himself apart, he taped a couple European coins to the bottom of his shoes and started tapping. He threw in some wit in the people's tongue, and Chad Lore, the one man band, was born.
"He's an entertainer," says Jason Beck, friend and co-owner of Poor Boy's, the Wonder Bar and All That Jazz. "He's got a list of songs in his head that will blow you away. I don't even know where they're coming from. I never see a show turn out the same as any before. He just goes with the crowd."
Poor Boy's is mellow. The Wonder Bar gets wild. His band, Free Bier, is like Lore triplets. And the singing telegrams with fellow musician Tom Price as part of The Valentiners are just silly.
"It was one of those crazy ideas, but people love it," he says. "We sat around wondering what does Casper not have and thought, 'Well, they don't have singing telegrams.'"
And that's pretty much how Lore works. He sees a need for things to be better and fixes them however he can, be it with duct tape, singing telegrams or love.
In Europe he would take his coins and exchange them for bills and store them in his shoes.
"By the end of the summer I was walking on like $500," he says.
Here in Casper, which, he says, is the best place on earth, he walks through a life that is beyond his expectations.
"I wake up in the morn and it's like a dream. I have a beautiful wife, three kids and I play music full time," he says.
"I'll be rich in the next life. I just want to have fun in this one."
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