Randy Berry of Lewistown is looking forward to having a childhood friend come back to town this weekend – Kostas Lazarides, a Billings native of Greek descent who is known for writing several chart-topping country songs, including “Timber, I’m Falling In Love,” “The Lonely Side of Love,” “Blame It On Your Heart” and “Ain’t That Lonely Yet.”
The two became friends in the late 1950s during their childhood on the north side of Billings.
“We must have been all of 10 years old, maybe, “Kostas said. “A lot of kids had those butch haircuts back then. Randy had that goin’ on.”
Randy and Kostas were part of what Kostas called a “little rat pack of single digits.”
“We used to get together on a daily basis,” he said. “We each had elaborate forts and we’d battle each other, destroying the forts with dirt wads…then we’d do the same thing all over again.”
“We also sold newspapers together back then,” Randy added. “We had this bar we’d go to and Kostas would sing along to the jukebox. He’d do that every day to make some extra money. He was always trying to make some money. He’d shine shoes and – around St. Patrick’s Day – he’d sell little shamrock pins. I don’t even know where he got those things.”
Through the years, the two kept in touch, meeting up here and there as they went through adolescence.
“I can tell you Randy was much better at playing spin the bottle than I was,” Kostas joked.
In the high school days, music became more and more a central focus.
“We were both in rock and roll bands in high school,” Randy said. “Everybody had a band. Kostas was really good. I remember everybody couldn’t wait to go hear him.”
Kostas started writing his own songs, a craft that would soon become his livelihood. Randy knew his friend was talented, but he didn’t realize the extent of it until Kostas shared a few songs with him while they were living side-by-side on the Bozeman Pass
“Kostas picked up his old Martin guitar that looked like it was about to fall apart and played me two songs: ‘Timber, I’m Falling In Love’ and ‘The Lonely Side of Love,’” Randy said. “He told me one of those songs would be a number-one hit some day. And about 15 years later, that’s exactly what happened.”
Kostas remembers those days well. Although there was much inspiration, it was also a challenging time, and he appreciated having a friend like Randy around.
“I wrote a lot of songs in that cabin back there,” he said. “We were all suffering through what we were suffering through. The good came with the bad. We all shared with what we had.”
Better times were ahead. In the 1980s and 1990s, Kostas struck solid country gold, as his songs were picked up by Patty Loveless, Dwight Yoakam, Travis Tritt, Martina McBride, the Mavericks, the Dixie Chicks and many more.
“The stars lined up for him,” Randy said.
Randy’s had good years, as well, doing what he loves: fishing, hunting, cooking and playing guitar.
“I’m glad to hear he’s still cooking, hunting and fishing,” Kostas said. “We had a lot of fun fishing and hunting. I remember one time Randy was outfitting in Lima. There are a lot of big, bald mountains back there and we chased more elk down there and once in a while we got one…maybe that’s why my knees hurt today.”
Despite becoming one of the most popular, successful Nashville songwriters of the era, Randy said Kostas hasn’t changed much.
“I remember a few years back I was headed to Virginia City with my girlfriend, and I called him up to see what he was doing. Since he lives in Belgrade I thought we’d stop by,” Randy said. “When we got there he was sitting on a corner doing a garage sale.”
Kostas remembers this garage sale well and remembers Randy stopping by.
“Randy needs to come back,” Kostas said. “He forgot to buy something…there’s all sorts of stuff here.”
Although Kostas and Randy don’t see each other regularly, they remain good friends, and Berry said he is greatly looking forward to seeing Kostas perform on the second floor of Central Feed Grilling Co. Friday, Dec. 1 with special guests Sean Devine, Kevin Toll and Groove Creek.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever played in Lewistown,” Kostas said. “I played in Winifred once with Wade Montgomery, but never Lewistown, so I’m looking forward to coming out to make a joyful noise. And I’m looking forward to seeing Randy. It’s always a pleasure to see him.”
The show starts at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are available at Central Feed Grilling Co.
(as published in the Lewistown News-Argus and Judith Basin Press)