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“Gloria”: Singer’s Ode To An Oyster Boat

Chris Bousquet is a 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.

A decade or so ago, 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.”

Gloria (Photo/Bruce McFadden)

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.

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 an 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 on July 4, 2014. 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.”

Bousquet calls the song “my plywood skiff version of Alan’s oyster boat.”

Alan Sterling culling his oysters.

Gloria remained in Gray’s Creek after her owner’s death. For years it served as a memorial to Westporters: of a rugged individual, a centuries-old tradition, and our ties to the sea.

But over the past year, Gloria deteriorated. The old oyster boat is near collapse.

“Gloria, ” this spring. (Photo/Bruce McFadden)

Yet she — and Alan Sterling –live on.

Connecticut Public Television and PBS have produced a documentary called “Oyster Heaven.” It documents the history of oystering in our state’s waters, from Native American times through the industry’s collapse, and on to its current renaissance.

Screenshot from “Oyster Heaven.”

Much of the documentary focuses on Norm Bloom, and his Norwalk-based Copps Island Oysters.

The song “Gloria,” though, serves as the film’s theme. It’s the perfect choice.

Chris says, “I give this song with love and gratitude to the people of Westport — and Alan and Gloria.”

(To view “Oyster Heaven” — and hear “Gloria” — click here.) 

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