Gerry Rafferty is an enjoying personality. He has suffered through the past three years caught in a musical and professional limbo waiting for the legal dust to settle after the demise of Steeler's Wheel, a popular band he cofounded.
They recorded one smash hit, "Stuck in the Middle With You." Shortly thereafter they were stuck in the middle of a long and arduous litigation between the company they had been recording with and the company that had been managing them before it went bankrupt.
At 30, he is now back on top with a hit single, "Baker Street," and his first platinum album, "City to City." The album is the first in 26 weeks to knock "Saturday Night Fever" out of first place.
Gerry Rafferty can't understand why anyone would want to talk to him. He goes out of his way to show that there is nothing unusual about him. He's just a low-key lad from Scotland. The straightforward slightly cynical lyrics to his songs say it all, and off the record he claims to be just Everyman - with a hot musical career.
There is a noticeable lack of fawning in the air as the other members of the "Jolly Tones" (the band's nick-name for itself) and company wait for Rafferty to come down off the Plaza Hotel roof where he has spent the past 45 minutes casually posing for a Rolling Stone photographer.
He returns, eyes to the ground, an unlikely candidate for rock stardom. No shang haircut, no French-cut slacks or shirt opened to the top of his fly, not even a single silver or gold chain on his neck. In blue jeans, a light blue work shirt worn with the tail out, and white suede track shoes, he could be a hip young college professor. He's almost nondescript looking, with a beard, wire-framed glasses and collar-length reddish brown hair.
Rafferty is sensitive about labelling the merchandise. He'll rattle of something about "big beat boogie woogie" and how he was influenced by Bill Withers' mother, Georgia. His only concession: "I write pop music."
His first solo album recorded in 1972, "I Want My Money Back," was characterized by a sharp cynicism directed at the music biz.
He grew up in Glasgow, a town "very much like Liverpool, with the shipyards and all. It's still my favorite city. "It's just like anyplace else. People drive cars and listen to records."
He spent his share of time listening to American '50s rock 'n' roll, which he considers to be basically "recycled Celtic." Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran, the Everly Brothers, Elvis Presley, "all of them. I love American country music as well, it's been a big influence. The thing is American country music originally comes from Scotland and Ireland, anyway, our traditionally folk music. That's why you have fiddle players and all that stuff, you know."
The incident that shaped his career "must have been in 1956. I was 9 years old. I was in a fish and chip shop in Paisley, just next door to Glasgow. There I was ordering haddock and chips, and just as I was about to put the vinegar on, it came on the juke-box. 'Heartbreak Hotel,' by Elvis Presley. Suddenly, I was illuminated and transformed. I thought, "This is rock and roll.'"
He had his first professional band at the age of 20, and yes, of course, his share of heartaches and trouble - playing the dives, scrounging the streets.
Oh yes, he did get discouraged, though he can't remember exactly when and where. "You mustn't over-dramatize. Everybody gets depressed about how their career is going.
"I never really thought much about anything apart from my music since I was very small. It's all been very enjoyable so far."