“Gloria,” As You’ve Never Heard It Before

In 2008, the wife of Chris Bousquet’s friend died suddenly. He realized how quickly someone’s world can fall apart, and wondered how anyone can move on after such a tragedy.

Chris Bousquet

Chris Bousquet

The singer-songwriter — he led High Lonesome Plains, and has performed with Roger McGuinn, John Sebastian, Asleep at the Wheel, the Nields, the Turtles and J. Geils — started to write a song about all that.

It didn’t go anywhere. “I was maybe too close to it,” he says. “Or maybe it was not really my song to write.”

A couple of months later, he read about Westport oysterman Alan Sterling, and his boat Gloria (named for an old girlfriend). Bousquet calls it “a profoundly moving story of grief, continual struggle, and the simple triumph of carrying on.”

Having grown up in Clinton, Connecticut, Bousquet always found the sea to be “ethereal and transcendent.” Staring out at the water, he believes in the interconnectedness of all things. So when Sterling noted in the story that a gull might be Gloria watching over him, Bousquet understood.

Gloria (Photo/John Kantor)

Gloria (Photo/John Kantor)

The sea can be warm and caressing, but also brutal. “Alan was well aware of the cold and raw, but it didn’t blind him to the beauty,” Bousquet says. Inspired, he reworked his old song into a new one: “Gloria.”

Bousquet never met Sterling in person. He thought about sharing the song with him, but felt it was presumptuous. Sterling died last July 4. Now, Bousquet wishes he had told the oysterman what an inspiration he’d been.

“He made me appreciate my life — and my wife! — even more,” Bousquet says. “I don’t mean to sound trite. But he reminded me to head out on my proverbial boat, and sail on each day.”

Alan Sterling culling his oysters.

Alan Sterling culling his oysters.

The song was supposed to be part of a compilation CD a few years back. It didn’t happen. But it’s one of his most popular songs during his live performances. Bousquet cherishes the connections “Gloria” allows him to make with audiences.

Now, Bousquet has re-recorded it. It will be on an EP to be released this spring.

But, he says, if any of Alan’s friends want to do something with it, he’ll be glad to help.

“The best songs are the ones that feel like they came from some place outside myself,” Bousquet says. “Like in some sense that gull came down to guide me too — and lead me home.”

(Click here to listen to Chris Bousquet’s haunting song “Gloria.”)


10 responses to ““Gloria,” As You’ve Never Heard It Before

  1. 'Gloria' The Song - Just Perfect

    You know what it so wonderful and ironic is that Gloria and Al were very, very about music, and I don’t mean that in a cliché way. Gloria was an opera singer. They loved music together because it was what brought them together initially, and it was when he spoke about her and her music that he literally went back to deep weeping tears over her.

    So I don’t know if Bosquet knew this or not, but for that reason alone a song about Gloria, couldn’t be more perfect.

    I can’t thank Dan Woog and Skip Lane enough for helping Alan out towards the end. His last several years were made much easier because of their special support.

  2. Song For Gloria

    This song really, really captured Al’s feelings for Gloria and for his vocation, clearly he had 3 loves, being a real fisherman, Gloria and Westport. This song assures that those loves weren’t a mistake. I hope this song goes where Chris Bousquet wants it to. I also hope Alan’s brother, wherever he is, is aware of it, just really beautiful and really accurate capture of Alan’s spirit until the end.

  3. Beautiful song.

  4. Ellen Greenberg

    The oyster boat Gloria has reappeared in Grey’s Creek where Alan used to keep it during storms. Does anyone know who owns it now and what they are using it for?

  5. Cheryl McKenna

    What a touching story. My boat was near his dingy and we always chatted. I missed him very much this past summer and will be looking for that gull and where Chis will be performing.
    Thank you Dan for letting us know these wonderful Westport people better.

  6. Jennifer Rankine

    Thanks for sharing this story and song. I only knew Alan to share a hello at the marina, or a discussion about the incoming weather which he could read like only a true mariner can. My son used to wander over to Gloria when Alan had her tied at the dock to talk to Mr. Sterling about his boat and working the beds. Alan always made the time to share his knowledge and stories with him. We will miss Alan and Gloria at the harbor — truly both one-of-a-kind. As noted above, do you know who Gloria is with now?

  7. Gloria is presently grounded in Gray’s Creek on the Owenoke side. It appears abandoned. It is plainly visible from the exit road at Longshore. It has been there for several months. It is difficult to tell whether it was moved there intentionally or if it simply washed up.

  8. Dale Eyerly Colson

    This song is so lovely that it brings tears to my eyes.

  9. Bruce Mcfadden

    Thank you Dan & Chris ! What a shame Alan never heard this beautiful tribute. It also brought tears to my eyes. I spoke with Alan a number of times about his days at Staples and his oystering.

  10. Thanks to all of you for the kind words, and for sharing your experiences. And thanks to Dan for the wonderful article and allowing me to share my song with those who knew and loved Alan, as well as the community in general. So much of what I love about music (and all art, really) is that it gives us the opportunity to share our human experiences. Alan sounds like an amazing man, and I do wish I had the chance to meet him. In reading various pieces Dan’s site, and your comments, I feel like I’ve gotten to know him a little bit.