Gordon Baird ’68 Shares Stories of Andover in the 1960s

 “People tell you ‘No, you can’t do that,’ and ‘that’s not done.’ That’s where things changed by ’68. The world was saying, ‘Yes, it can be done.’ Just because it had never been done before, doesn’t mean it can’t be,” said Gordon Baird ’68, a competitive sailor, column-writer for the “Gloucester Times,” co-founder of the “Musician” magazine, and Andover’s 1968 Class Secretary, when describing how the world was changing when he was a student at Andover.

Baird recalled that back in 1965 when he was a Junior at Andover, the school was very different from nowadays: everything was very strict and old-fashioned, and sports were of utmost importance. Yet since Andover didn’t offer sailing, Baird was unable to find his place at the school as a non-athlete.

“1965 was more like the 1940s, everything was just a certain way. Everything in the school was ruled by sports. It was a very different system then, it was all about sports and who was the most popular. We had a lot of really good sports people there, so I never made a Varsity team,” said Baird.

However, as the Beatles gradually became famous in the next few years, people’s interest shifted away from solely sports, and Baird was able to find his place in Andover as a singer and drummer in a Rock and Roll band of five people, where they learned the hit songs from the radio and performed them for their peers.

“The Beatles changed everything. All of a sudden, I got in a band, and I was a pretty good singer and I didn’t know it. But so suddenly, there was something outside of sports, and of course, the girls at Abbot and everywhere loved Rock and Roll bands. And so even though I was young and I was just starting, we were really good Beatles singers. […] I didn’t have to be a jock to be popular,” said Baird.

According to Baird, a guitar player of the Rock and Roll band later got to perform with Billy Joel as well as large bands such as the Orleans, and Baird had learned a lot from playing with him at Andover. In fact, this player continued to influence Baird even after Baird graduated when he decided to participate in competitive sailing.

“I sailed every day because when I was in Rock and Roll, the guy who played with Billy Joel, he practiced every day, even when he was a big-time star, and he went touring across the country every day, practice, practice, practice, practice. And I said, if I’m going to be a really competitive sailor, I got to practice, I gotta go every day,” said Baird.

Another story that made Baird’s time at Andover memorable was his trip with a day student to the “Impossible Dream Game,” the historic game between the Boston Red Sox and the Minnesota Twins that marked the first league winning season of the Boston Red Sox since 1958 and allowed the team to enter the [American] League [Championship Series], which the team hadn’t won since 1918, breaking the longest losing streak in sports at the time. And although Baird was an Orioles fan, he was also excited by the game. 

Baird said, “I remember we were about to leave because I said, ‘I gotta get back by six.’ And he said, ‘We can’t leave.’ The score was tied in the last inning and we won in the last inning on a home run and I remember everybody screaming and yelling.”

According to Baird, history class was particularly hard at Andover, and he did not enjoy the focus on memorization. Nowadays, however, Baird is profoundly interested in history and appreciates what he learned at Andover. 

“But today, I love history. And I realize that’s probably what Andover courses had exposed to me. First of all, it was so high a degree of difficulty that you really had to concentrate to do the work. Because at Andover, if you don’t do the work, you can’t fake it for long. And that means reading. So sometimes you just sit there and start reading, get that book out. And every night, that’s all you did, homework. It was a lot of homework. But it obviously made us better scholars, better students.” said Baird.

Overall, Baird thought his time at Andover had taught him a lot, not only knowledge but also the method of learning and attitude required to succeed. He learned the importance of work and practice, which he later demonstrated in his sailing experience as well.

“What I learned was a method to learn and a method to think. And I also learned that there was no sneaking around. You have to go right at the thing and do the work… The world sort of works not by mystery, it works by science, logic, and work, and ability, and especially work… Anything can go wrong, you could tip over. You gotta be ready for the day you do tip over and Andover kind of taught me that, it taught me a method of solving problems and also rely on my instinct to solve problems.” said Baird.

But more importantly, the experience of studying at Andover also polished Baird’s skills and taught him to believe in his own efforts and not anyone else’s. These ideas played a big role when Baird later founded the “Musician” magazine, which was then bought by Billboard.

Baird said, “I learned at Andover to believe in myself because if you can stay afloat at Andover, it’s like drown proofing. If you could pass that, you could swim anywhere. And so I believed in myself, but I also knew the work was the key. And when we did the magazine, I would work a lot of hours. Yet I did it because I loved it. I was working for me, not some boss, and so you were [working] ten times harder. When you mow your own lawn, you work harder and do a better job than when you’re mowing someone else’s lawn.”