Willie MacCalder's Blues Revue
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.
Speaking of mentors, I played my first show with Amos Garrett on The Vinyl Cafe at the Jubilee Auditorium in 1992. Amos took me under his wing in the early 2000’s as a replacement for mandolinist David Wilkie. I played with Amos and bassist Greg Carrol at folk festivals and music clubs all over western Canada. I have learned to imitate his patented 3 string bends, but no one can do ‘em like Amos. He played guitar and arranged vocals on my recording of Lonnie Johnson’s “Tomorrow Night” from my “Hindsight” CD. Thanks Amos!
If you want to go way back, I got some of my first musical mentorship from Back Alley John. We performed as an acoustic duo in the early 90’s. Uncle Back Alley taught me about musical integrity. He also indirectly taught me about hard drugs, and what it means to be an addict. He was a pretty peaceful intellectual guy who was always deep into a book. He loved music but valued silence. I remember that he always wanted no music in the car at the end of the night.
I also did a few gigs with Harpdog Brown. I recall particularly going to Fort MacMurray with Harpdog, Gary Latimar and Grant Stovall. Harpdog wanted me to play constant lead guitar (which is how they used to do it). It’s tougher than you think! Harpdog recorded a nice version of “Canadian Man”