This was my first feature article in a major newspaper. I was 24 years old, but I felt like I had been in the business forever. I had been playing guitar since I was ten, played in high school bands, garage bands, at jam sessions and campfires, and had already amassed a huge music collection. The only thing I thought about and read about was music. I had been playing in Calgary and on the road for three years and thought I was ready to hit the big time! The interview seemed to go well but when the article was published, it was a bit of a shock. What I thought was a few remarks trying to distinguish my style from Jeff Healy’s and Colin James ( and George Thorogood) seemed to make up the bulk of the article. I felt like I had been blind-sided and was a lot more guarded in later interviews. Still you’ve got to dig the hair!
Willie Mac Calder was the piano player for The Powder Blues for 20 years, after and early career as a teen idol with Willie and the Walkers in the late 60’s. He moved to Calgary to be with his ailing parents, and I was privileged to play guitar in his band. Michael Kaeshammer cites Willie and Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne as the two top pianists in Vancouver, and as his chief mentors. Willie is a master of two fisted boogie boogie piano, blues and Doo Wop. One of the best bands I have ever played in was composed of willie, Brian Pollock, Scott Anderson and myself, but every band Willie put together was strong. He’s a very easy leader to play behind. About 15 years ago, Willie did me the favour of letting me play at the Yale with the Lavin brothers and Chris Norquist, sharing a bill with Charlie Musselwhite.
“Canadian Man” is both a comedy song and a novelty song, but not in the same way as “My Bologna” by Weird Al Yankovic. I loved the way that John Prine could crack you up with “Illegal Smile” and then break your heart with “Hello in There”. Kinky Friedman could make you laugh uncomfortably with “Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in the Bed” and bring you right back down with “Sold American”. Bob Dylan recorded “It’s Alright, I’m Only Bleeding” and “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream”(where he stared the song by cracking up) on the same slab of wax. Dylan, for all his darkness, is one of the funniest songwriters I’ve ever heard. Barenaked Ladies have made a career of balancing silliness with pathos.