He does it his way


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! 

My original band, Steve Pineo and the Groovemakers, consisted of: my buddy Rob Allen (whom I’d been playing with since grade 6 and had just moved back to town after a stint in post-secondary), Mike Clark (who had been in town for a week after quitting his teaching job in Ashcroft B.C., bassist John Gray (who was way older than us and didn’t quite fit in, but got us gigs) and drummer Don “Donald Ray” Johnson (who played in the disco group “A Taste of Honey” that beat Elvis Costello for the best new artist Grammy in 1978). Don, who I had met at the King Eddy) had met someone while on tour with Phillip Walker, and had moved to Calgary. I drove with him down to Sweetgrass Montana to get his citizenship. Other bassists that played with us included Ben Harries, Tom Knowles, Peter Clarke, Jeremy Coates and Rob Allen(he switched over). Other drummers included Andy Ericson, Ray Garroway, Ross Watson and Thom Moon. I’m sure there were others too! This was a time in my life when I was learning about balancing friendships and leading the leading the band. You had to know how much you could ask out of a player. Someone said directing is 90% casting. I wanted the best players I could get, but I definitely didn’t always share their musical tastes!

If you want to go way back to the very beginning of my professional musical life in Calgary, the first band I played in for money was a country rock Legion Band called “Klipper”(yes, with a K). I had just dropped out of university and was getting into country music(as well as an unhealthy huge dose of blues) so I answered an ad in the paper. They had a guy who just sang Waylon Jennings, another guy who did almost nothing but Merle Haggard and me, who was atlas 20 years younger than anybody else in the band. We got fired from the Shamrock Hotel where the manager told me I had no talent and should get out of the music business. We also played at the Tradesman’s Club, which is now The Blues Can. It was a seedy dump where the bouncer was a stingy little guy who used Kung Fu grips to subdue trouble makers.

The next band I was in was called Blues Incorporated(which, I was later to discover, was the name of the seminal British Blues band where Mick Jagger got his start. We were a three piece, with a drummer and notorious hustler named Andy (last time I saw him, he was playing poker professionally) and a bassist named Fazi (He later did time for fraud). I had written my first two songs when one of the band members accused me of not crediting him as a co-writer and got his lawyer friend to slap an injunction on me so that I couldn’t play it any more. Welcome to show-biz, kid. So by the time I put the Groovemakers together and this article came out, I felt like I had already seen a lot!