Making A Racket For A Good Cause

By Brad Gilbert, New York Times, September 3, 1990

Thirty tennis pros and 30 rock musicians pair up by draw and play a doubles tournament over the first two days. That creates the possibility of matches like Andres Gomez, the French Open winner, and Geddy Lee of Rush against eighth-ranked Brad Gilbert and Lou Gramm, former lead singer for Foreigner, or the former tennis star Roscoe Tanner and Kevin Cronin of REO Speedwagon versus the top-ranked doubles player Jim Pugh and Jimi Jamison of Survivor.

"It's pretty serious tennis; well, the musicians take it seriously," said Cathy Austin, the event's producer and Dave's wife.

At night, the musicians practice for a concert held Saturday evening, which includes a few songs with the tennis players. The final day of the festival features a tennis exhibition with singles matches between the pros.

Ehart and Austin met at a tournament in Nashville in 1981, when Austin noticed he had attracted a somewhat unusual following: a group of long-haired young men who sat in the front row at all of his matches. It was the rock group Kansas.

Austin and Ehart, the drummer and founder of the group, quickly became friends, and the idea for the festival came soon after. Ehart called his friends in the music business, Austin called his in tennis, and the first festival was held in Atlanta in 1982.

Four years and five festivals later, they tried to call it quits - organizing the festival took too much time - but found it was not that easy.

"The participants wouldn't let it end," said Ehart. "They kept asking, 'When's the Music-Tennis?' "

It may be all for the best, as Austin has a few debts to pay off from 1987, when a number of his musician friends from the festival helped him with a single he released that year.

"I owe everybody tennis lessons for life now," he said.