“Laguna nestled by the sea, is softly calling you and me…”
So go the first few bars of “Laguna Song,” one composed by 80-year Laguna Beach resident Mike McCaffrey as an ode to the town he loves.
Even so, he has not created a sentimental melody to evoke nostalgia but written lyrics to reflect the voice of a contemporary teenage girl discovering a connection between herself, her hometown and love.
He turned to Laguna Beach High School theater director Mark Dressler to recommend a young singer to bring that sentiment to life.
He recommended Marlena Becker, Marlie to her friends, who at age 15 felt moved by “….Laguna, won’t you hear my prayer? I’m dreaming of love in the air…”
“The song came by accident, while just humming a melody and strumming a few guitar chords,” said McCaffrey, who recently resumed playing. “I wanted to create something romantic and tried to think like a teenager.”
While he first penned, “We could go dancing and romancing, would that not be grand,” he realized the lyric more reflected his teen years than today’s high schooler. Instead, “Am I too daring, showing my caring for your company…” emerged.
He recorded “Laguna Song” at the local studio of Steve Wood, member of the surf band Honk and scorer for filmmaker Greg MacGillivray.
“I enjoy working with Mike. He is filled with the spirit that made Laguna an artist’s haven. He creates things that move him and then he puts them out there in hopes that others will enjoy them,” wrote Wood via email.
Songstress Marlie, a junior who plays guitar and piano and is in love with dancing, envisions a segue into screen acting. She has taken singing lessons for three years from Lynn Semmel. She will appear next as Sister Sarah Brown in the high school production of “Guys and Dolls.”
“Doing the song with Mike was a good experience; we fit together musically,” she said, adding that recording in the Wood studio was her first professional experience.
Born in 1933, McCaffrey says he began playing piano as soon as he could reach the keyboard as a toddler, but never learned to read music. “I just started to play and when I hear a song, I can sing it or play it,” he said.
His career path led away from music. After high school in Pasadena and majoring in business at UCLA, “I did not have anything to do with music; I was too busy making a living,” he recalled, moving from corporate trainer to motivational speaker to co-authoring a self-help book and writing “Life Flavors: Why Merely Endure When You Can Savor.”
He and his wife of 54 years, Sharon, have raised two daughters and two sons. His grandchildren Tatum and Coleman Moore share his musical DNA. Tatum performed recently in a high school theater production and Coleman Moore, a Columbia University graduate, shares a credit on the “Laguna Song.”
McCaffrey returned to music 15 years ago and leads a piano trio with guitarist Gill Orr and bass player Frank Schatz. “I don’t care to play bars, dances or weddings but prefer a concert-like setting,” he said.
Stylistically, he gravitates toward Broadway tunes, Frank Sinatra, George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and Nat King Cole.
A skier and surfer, he meets up by the “bamboo room” at San Onofre State Beach with a few equally seasoned buddies to play a little ukulele, guitar and bucket bass. “Just a few guys making music at old man’s wave every Wednesday in the summer,” he said.
As for “Laguna Song,” Marlie says that by changing a few lines, McCaffrey captured the essence of a teenager. “It was really sweet.”
Listen for yourself. McCaffrey posted a version on youtube.