The Ron Paul campaign turns a new Page
When organizers want a dynamite opening act, they call on the Eastern Shore's rock troubadour, Jordan Page
Jordan Page performs for an audience at Killarney House. Page grew up on the Eastern Shore and supports presidential candidate Ron Paul by opening Paul's rallies. (Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore Sun / December 29, 2011)
Two decades later, in the middle of an odyssey that began on Maryland's Eastern Shore, he's starring in a real-life rock tour with lyrics a lot more volatile than "Shall We Dance" or "Getting to Know You."
As a singer and writer of protest songs that decry big government, big business and the military-industrial complex, Page has become the go-to entertainer for supporters of Ron Paul, the libertarian Republican who seems to be drawing in young Republican and independent voters.
Page, 32, has proved his ability to ignite Paul's crowds before the candidate comes on as the main attraction. The singer-songwriter has done it nine times so far, and he says he's available "whenever they need me to rock out and melt faces." He was headed for a rally in New Hampshire this weekend.
"Dr. Paul has said that a revolution needs two things: young people and music," Page says. The anti-federal, anti-war message of the 76-year-old 10-term Texas congressman, and his consistent opposition to the status quo, roused the fervor of young people in Iowa last week and may do the same in New Hampshire's primary on Tuesday.
The American musical landscape is full of rock-star activists — but they usually support liberal causes. Bruce Springsteen and John Mellencamp endorsed Barack Obama and opened for some of his campaign appearances during the 2008 campaign. But Page has woven Paul's platform into his own musical agenda with extraordinary commitment. He doesn't arrive at events just in time for his number, and he doesn't leave right afterward.
"At every event I've ever seen him play at, like, in New Hampshire at the Porcupine Freedom Festival, he gets there early," says Nathan Cox, a Virginia coordinator of the Campaign for Liberty who's now active in Veterans for Ron Paul. "He wants to talk to people and share his ideas and his music. And he hangs for several hours after he plays. People just love him."
What transformed Page from a budding thespian to a rocker who plays industrial-strength guitar, scribbles heavy-duty lyrics and calls for revolution?
It started with a family calamity. After his father suffered major injuries in a car crash, the family moved from Agawam, Mass., where Page had gone through grade school, to the Eastern Shore — first to Tilghman Island, then to St. Michaels — where his dad had a support network of relatives.
In Agawam, "I thought my life was realized," he says, but on Tilghman Island, Page didn't know who he was or what he wanted to do. He even stopped acting. Rock music often emerges from teen angst; Page spun his first works out of preteen angst.
"I was wondering, 'What am I doing here?'" he says.
His father, a Vietnam vet who had been director of shipping at a large company before his accident, and his mother, an early-education specialist who ran a preschool in Agawam and became the director of The Kinder Garden in Easton, raised him in a solid liberal environment.
He first got his hands on a guitar two days before he left Massachusetts. It became, he says, his salvation.
"I was able to express what I was feeling as a displaced young person through music," he says. "A lot of my friends had similar feelings, but I had the ability to express them through song."
Older friends and his elder sister (he also has a younger one) turned him on to some of their favorite bands. Long before he entered high school, the ecstatic doominess of the Doors got to him, along with the operatic albums of Pink Floyd.
Words and music became Page's anchor, but some funky things happened on his way to becoming a versifying troubadour. His ambition didn't waver as he entered Washington College (where he studied anthropology), but it did become transformed. In his junior year, he went to Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa.
He says he'd already had experiences that made him feel guided by an "invisible hand." But epiphanies in South Africa set him on the straight and narrow, and gave him a higher and more specific purpose than merely going on the road with his guitar.
"In Grahamstown, there'd be hundreds of beggars on one side of the street, and on the other side coffee shops and milkshake shops with rich whites sipping their drinks. I'd never seen anything like that with my own eyes."
After graduation, he repaired guitars and drum sets at a music shop and also taught guitar —- which made him learn his instrument in a way he'd never done before. He started getting gigs at clubs, especially after he met his wife and they moved to Annapolis, halfway between St. Michaels and Washington, where she worked. (They have three kids, with a fourth on the way.)