Category Archives: Revolution Blog
Leave a comment | tags: Christopher Adeney, CJ's, concerts, DOA, folk, Fort.St.James, Jack O Clubs, Joey Onley, Joey Only, Joey Only Outlaw Band, live music, MoM, MoM festival, MoMfest, Music On The Mountain, outlaw country, Prince George, punk, Robson Valley Music Festival, roots, upcoming shows, Wax Mannequin, Wells, Westwood Pub, Williams Lake | posted in Canada, creative writing, folk music, Joey Only Outlaw Band, Music Reviews, Outlaw Band Blog, press release, radical folk, Revolution Blog, Shows, Social Commentary
March 3rd 2016 will mark 10 years since the first Outlaw Band pilot show at Spartacus Books in Vancouver BC. Today’s blog is about how Rick came to be our bassist for the first 2.5 years.
MEETING RICHMOND RICK
For a couple years Rick was the most dedicated and most important member of the band. We generally rehearsed at his place, he updated web pages, made sure other members had cheat sheets and owned the fleet of Dodge Caravans that we ran into the ground. Like everyone else involved it seems to me a real coincidence I got to know Rick so well while its an unlikelyhood that he would have become a bass player in our band. After all, he wasn’t even a musician when I first met him.
It was during a long rainy spell in February 2003 that I ended up down
in Richmond BC to see about this house sitting gig. I had only been in Vancouver a few months at this point but had already been through a lot settling into life on the coast. I had been a homeless squatter with pnuemonia, a member of the legendary Woodwards occupation and had basically couched surfed/house sat through three different places afterward. By this point I was actually sleeping on a bed made of my own clothes in a heatless appartment my friend had which was only made more bearable by my -20 rated down sleeping bag.
I had no idea what I was going to do with myself, or where I was going to go in life so depression was quickly taking over my thoughts. The weather was so dreary and the dampness seemed colder than I ever could have imagined. My health wasn’t well and I barely had a dollar to my name. I had dreams that I felt I was impossibly far away from. I was still organizing with the Anti-Poverty Committee in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside but I found myself missing the Tenant Action Group comrades back in Belleville Ontario. I didn’t feel like I had any friends on the coast and in some ways I can say those feelings were justified.
However there were people who I seemed to have affinity with. One of them was this sorta strange and gentle character I can only describe as a modern day monk. His name was Sean and he sported a bald head and a long beard. He was then and still is a perceptive character with very convincing ideas about the nature of government. I met Sean at Woodsquat and then other left wing events I happened to be at in the city, he was keen to get involved with things as he could.
One way or another Sean knew I had nowhere to go, and was suffering for it, so he told me he might be able to help. His housemate Rick was going to go to Gautemala for a project that involved computers, coffee and chocolate so the house would have no one in it for several months. Sean didn’t actually live in the house as he and another fella named Bob lived in vans parked around the property.
I went out and met Rick one night and we instantly got along. Without
further adieu I was able to stay at Rick’s through most of the spring of 2003. The property was on the edge of a forested section outside of Richmond directly under the flight path of the big jets coming into YVR which would often rattle the windows on their way overhead.
The living room was great for songwriting and I made good use of it those months I was there. I’m not sure how many songs I wrote there, or which ones, but I do recall making some progress on my fledgling act. Rick also had an amazing collection of original 1970’s psychadelic rock albums which I spent a lot of time listening to and learning about. At one point I made sure to record all my favorite records he had on to cassette tapes for further study, in some ways these bands are still a big influence on me. Knowing what kind of music Rick was into as well played a role in the Outlaws becoming a band that pushed our shows to a psychadelic level. All this seems fitting seeing as Rick’s living room would become the place where the band became the band just three years later.
Once Rick came back from South America I moved into a Strathcona single room occupancy place called the Bad Manors – which is famous for how many down and out or upcoming musicians had lived there. My stay there was but a few months before moving around to a number of other places and going through a few years of relative stability in Vancouver. Besides all that moving around I did Rick and I still kept in touch.
TREE SITS AND WILDERNESS TRIPS
Rick is a genuine environmentalist which is something we held in common. We had a number of adventures together in the years leading up to the formation of the band. One July weekend we went up to the Elaho Valley, camped out and hiked around while Rick recounted many of the stories from the big forest protests he had been a part of there. We ended that weekend by roping up and scaling down a cliff to get my cat Buddy who had decided to sleep on a ledge below our picnic site that seemed to have enough sunlight for him. That’s right, my cat came camping.
On another occasion in August 2003 we drove out to the Anderson River somewhere outside of Boston Bar and took bicycles over to where Cattermole Timber Company planned to cut an old growth forest stand known to have spotted owls in it. We biked more than 20km to get to the lookout and biked back spending a great deal of the return trip flying down steep switchbacks and never having to pedal. For all our efforts we found his car to be sabotaged when we got back to it making our journey back to the city interesting to say the least.
Later in 2003 word got around that Cattermole Timber out of Chilliwack had been granted permission to log an old growth stand on Elk Mountain just outside of Chilliwack. The next few months became very interesting as we got involved in the only forest action I was ever part of. First we made friends with native allies from Cheam First Nation such as June and Fred Quipp and later became active in the protest camp itself as supporters. We brought up provisions and often would go out just to visit, play songs and raise morale.
One day late in December Rick and I roped up and climbed to the platform at the top of a very large tree. Swaying around in this giant tree was an amazing experience leaving me feeling so alive afterward. However that very next day loggers wisely used a distraction tactic to make the activists think they were going to take a new road in, when the activists went there to intercept some other fallers came in and ended the tree sit camp once and for all. They fell the very tree were in the day before.
As a last ditch effort to stop the logging operation one of the youth at the camp anonymously claimed the trees were spiked. Although it was never proven to be true, and I have no knowledge that they actually did do this, it didn’t stop Joe Foy and the Western Canada Wilderness Committee from offering a reward for information leading to the arrest of the tree spikers. I never forgave Joe Foy for this personally, most of the kids at the camp were barely over 20. Another spotted owl habitat was destroyed as was my remaining faith in liberal environmentalist movements.
So as the next two years passed Rick and I stayed buddies, one whom I knew I could trust. Everything I had seen and experienced at the Elk Creek forest defence camp was because I was there with Rick.
RICK JOINS THE BAND
This brings me to February 2006, that month leading up to the formation of the band. I had returned from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, fresh from my experience of having a real band playing behind me and decided I was going to build my own once and for all. I’m not entirely sure how it all came about but somehow or another Rick and I got to jamming at his place semi-regularly. Our friend Luka also joined us frequently and we were starting to visualize the possibilities of a band.
I had set up the Outlaw Band pilot show at Spartacus Books which would happen on March 3rd. I already had the services of a professional double bass player handy to me in the name of James Forrest. When it came time to do the gig I did one set with Rick and two with James backing me up. Rick had only just started to play bass and quite limited with what he could do, being new to music he especially struggled with song structure which he compensated for by having detailed cheat sheets.
However it was pretty obvious after this first show that James Forrest is the kind of bass player every aspiring country-folk singer would want to have behind him. I also knew that bass players like him in Vancouver aren’t all that loyal to one particular band, they are hired ringers and if the gig pays well they will be there. Of course our Spartacus gig paid squat but James was keen to make a try-out of it. Of course having to commit to a bass player who is a professional and is busy with a number of other acts would make touring as a unit nearly impossible.
Knowing that Rick was going to be more willing I quickly started to think that maybe he was the way to go. Up to that point I don’t think Rick expected that he had the chops to keep up with the project but I knew something about the electric bass guitar. When I was a 15 and got my first bass Mike Rose and I immediately started working towards starting a punk band, in six months I went from having no skill on the instrument to being pretty good on the thing. Maybe Rick wasn’t all that great in March 2006 but I correctly assumed he would be a lot better by the time March 2007 rolled around.
He made some immense improvements over the next year becoming a reliable ‘hold the fort’ bass player. Picking a player who would be dedicated to the concept of a band…a family…a crew…was one of those smart things I did. I wanted a democratic band of willing participants invested in our success, not hired musicians that you couldn’t rely on from week to week.
Not only did having our own bass player allow us to tour western Canada but I’m not sure we ever could have done so much of that without Rick’s driving efforts. He also had a handy hippy living on his property named Bob who could fix just about anything wrong with our tour vans. Rick really brought a lot to the table and is one of the biggest reasons the Outlaws had our first string of successes.
So in the weeks after the very first Outlaw pilot show I knew that I would somehow try to work with Rick while I had this amazing cello player named Zippy Zaenker who I also knew without a doubt I was going to work with. I wasn’t sure how to mesh the two sounds together of a bass and a cello. At this point I figured I was actually building two seperate bands and would figure out how to reconcile this problem later. What I was doing with Zippy was essentially a continuation of the folk-punk act I had been doing the last few years…whereas what I wanted to do with Rick more represented the direction I wanted to take my music.
I wanted to be a real deal outlaw country singer.
If anyone has ever heard the Joey Only Outlaw Band EP (2006) they will understand what I mean by having two distinct sounds…part of that recording is the trio of Rowan Lipkovits, Zippy and I…while part of it is an example of what the Outlaw Band was going to try to do. Often I would play one gig with one lineup and another gig with the other lineup depending on what made more sense for the room…and sometimes I’d play with both at the same time. But by the time 2006 ended both lineups were integrated into one giant band and it pretty much stayed that way for the next two years.
So now I had a cello player…and a dedicated bassist. I needed someone who could play with a cellist and I needed a drummer to play with the bassist. I was in luck, a month later (April 2006) I met accordionist Rowan Lipkovits and drummer Kenan Sungur. Almost all of the principle players would soon be involved. When all the peices came together we were able to put together an ass-kicking road troupe that never backed down from a chance to go hard….but that’s a blog for another day.
Rick played gigs in four provinces with us during multiple tours until the end of the summer of 2008. I believe he most likely was on stage with me for somewhere around 150-200 shows. Rick became one of the principle people who helped me get through my recovery from tuberculosis. He was our tech expert
We worked him hard through stressful trips and if we weren’t getting along at the end his time in the band it didn’t take long for us to admit our parts and stay friends (as we are to this day). After surviving a few health scares and moving out of the city Rick continues to play music with a number of friends where he now resides on the coast.
Thank you Rick for helping make the band happen…happy anniversary old friend.
Leave a comment | tags: Anti-Poverty Committee, Cheam, Cheam First Nation, Elk Creek, Joe Foy, Joey Only, Joey Only Outlaw Band, Kenan Sungur, Quipp, Rick McCallion, Rowan Lipkovits, Spartacus Books, Spotted Owls, Western Canada Wilderness Committee, Woodsquat, Woodwards, Zaenker, Zippy | posted in Canada, creative writing, Direct Action, folk music, history, Joey Only Outlaw Band, Music Reviews, Outlaw Band Blog, Politics, radical folk, Revolution Blog, Shows, Social Commentary, Uncategorized
A personal review of our Vanouver concert at the WISE Hall. Plus details of my upcoming shows with Malcolm Maclean, Troll Telemark Festival and Canada Winter Games:
Thurs.Jan22: MALCOLM MACLEAN BAND with Joey Only, Rileys Pub, Prince George BC.
Fri.Jan23: MALCOM MACLEAN BAND – ROBBIE BURNS DAY, The Legion, Fort St.James
Sat.Jan24: MALCOLM MACLEAN, the Occidental, Quesnel BC
Sun.Jan25: MALCOLM MACLEAN, the Hotel Pub, Wells BC
Sat.Jan31: TROLL TELEMARK FESTIVAL, with the Joey Only Outlaw Band, Troll Ski Resort, Quesnel BC.
Sun.Feb22: CANADA WINTER GAMES, Mainstage/Civic Centre, Prince George BC
So the Vancouver show was a success. The best part for me was a lot about who I got to play with while so many old friends were able to come and say howdy. We partied like bastards at the WISE Hall and the crowd danced like time was short. My friend and mentor David Roy Parsons opened the show with top notch guitarist Paul Doherty and steel guitarist Steven Drake playing behind him. Steve Drake produced some pretty big albums including a few stints working with the likes of the Tragically Hip. Now figure that was just the opening act.
From there on in it was all a mish mash of the same players who would later make up the Outlaw Band that night. First Jeff Andrew played a wicked 30 minute set backed by Brin and Kenan. Then the Party On High Street kicked into action with 45 minutes of kickin hard funk. Because it was all the same players in the three final acts there was nothing to move on stage, everything changed over very quickly and the crowd was always engaged.
Next thing you knew the Outlaw Band was up with Mike Zinger, Kenan Sungur, Brin Porter, Travis Charuk, Adam Farnsworth, Jeff Andrew, Steve Drake, Leah Martin, Rowan Lipkovits and myself. Talk about an ensemble of mandolins, accordions, steel guitars, stratocasters, drum kits, keyboards, fiddles, tambourines and me. We played for more than 90 minutes and kept our shit together though the drinking was trying to interfere. What a pleasure to play with so many players who have all given their skills to my band in the past.
We had Chris Leuchte, who I think is one of the best stage managers I ever seen, running the show so he pulled the plug at last call, made sure we had beers, made sure the change overs were smooth and kept us all laughing. Mean while the best emcee in BC, Doug the Hug Koyama, did all the talking for us between sets. This was how we were able to keep the show running so smoothly. There were so many old friends in the WISE Hall that night. It was a real overwhelming musical homecoming of sorts!
Just as an example of what kind of week it was…At one point I was sitting in the dressing room talking with Donny Ducharme who plays bass with Buffy St.Marie and has his own band Whisky Jane. Next to Donny and his girlfriend Mardine is Travis Challord from the Rebel Spell, a band who has played with many of the greatest punk bands on earth. On my right was Steve Drake while Mike Zinger walked by just back from four years of working for Fred Eaglesmith. That was just one example of the amazing people in the music game we got to spend some time with that week. Even our soundman that night was Brian Else who himself has produced many of the best albums DOA, Hanson Brothers, Nomeanso and Dayglo Abortions did.
The after party was even crazier than the show!
It was a star studded week like that which included chit chats with folks like Gerry Useless, CR Avery and Chris Walter while witnessing Joe Keithley, John Wright, Jon Card, Mike Graham and more perform. That all took place at another special night we attended which I am hesitate to say to much about as it was a memorial for a fallen comrade. It was a real special night for us all though to say the least as we came together to remember Brian Goble.
We ate top quality sushi and got to party on a yacht with my semi-famous gold mining friend. I did two radio shows, rehearsed in the WISE Hall all night, caught up with a friend who works at the Safe Injection Site and head a whole bunch of his stories over numerous drinks. I got to see so many special friends and was even able to go to lunches and dinners with so many of them. I’d call that an interesting trip.
Fortunately the bad weather didn’t kill us on our trip to the city…and the speeding ticket on the way back won’t set us back too far. One thing that helped was the visits with our friends in Tax Free Liqour and Genghis Ghandis to break up the long drive to Vancouver. The weather was so terrible that driving for more than a couple hours at a time was very stressful and dangerous. We felt lucky to have safe havens to weather the storm at.
After all that travelling there’s hardly a moment to pause cause up next is a trip around the BC interior with my good friend Malcolm Maclean. We spent a few months up in the Peace Region building fences and doing cowboy sorta things together, it turned out he’s a real good songwriter. So we’re finally gonna get him some recognition in BC by bringing him down through Prince George, Fort St.James, Quesnel and Wells…with the chance that we’ll add some more shows to the trip. I’ll be his drummer and we’ll have a good old time of it, people in BC will be shocked to see I’m not the only outlaw out there. I can’t say enough about the kind of person he is, he’s a real deal Alberta cowboy who knows how to put a show on too.
The month ends with a party at my favorite place to snowboard on earth, Troll Ski Resort for the annual Troll Telemark Festival. Details can be found online at http://www.trollskiresort.com. We’ll probably start playing shortly after 4pm, so come ski for a day and then dance your snowboots silly.
As soon as we’re done playing at Troll the band is gonna have one thing in mind, getting ready for our big show at the Canada Winter Games.
Leave a comment | tags: Joey Only, Jeff Andrew, The Rebel Spell, Tax Free Liqour, Mike Zinger, Malcolm Maclean, Chris Walter, Gerry Useless, Joe Keithley, CR Avery, Steve Drake, Donne Ducharme, DOA, the Party on High Street, Rowan Lipkovis, Robbie Burns, Genghis Ghandis | posted in Revolution Blog, Outlaw Band Blog, Music Reviews, Joey Only Outlaw Band, creative writing, Social Commentary, Shows, radical folk
Still looking for a full time bass player to replace Joel and his finished fingers. There are some prospects but the job is still available to anyone with time and skill.
In the meantime I am looking for paying solo shows, I don’t even care if they are house shows or if they pay all that well. I got no band and no job at the moment, so this is the right time to get out and work on some different material in front of more personal sized audiences.
Just had a marvellous birthday show at Nancy O’s in Prince George then caught Black Spruce Bog the next night. They are a band that worries me cause if I don’t find a new bass player soon they will easily dethrone me for coolest country band in northern BC.
I been working with a Shaw Cable show in Quesnel called Tracey’s Traxx. We got a new episode featuring my interview with the fabulous Linda McRae coming out soon. But we’ve also been invited to appear live on a Williams Lake radio station next week which will also be filmed by Shaw Cable and shown on cable around the north here.
I am also stoked that in May I get to do some sound work for the big Corb Lund show happening in Quesnel. The very next night I’ll be opening for Ben Rogers at the Occidental. That’s May 10th and 11th, hopefully I have a voice in the my throat after the Corb show.
Also just put Joey Only music for sale up on CD Baby. Go find us, more details to come….cheers…joe
Perhaps that is the wrong title for this blog. After all Robert Zimmerman was a middle class boy to begin with. He left Minnesota, went to New York, met Woody Guthrie at the State Hospital, stole his shtick, went down town, changed his name to Dylan and became a famous folk singer. I must confess that I was raised to regard Bob Dylan’s song writing as the purest and most poetic folk music ever conceived of. In an attempt to encourage me to follow the folk singer road my step dad bought me a black and white Bob Dylan movie.
It was in this movie where I first started to get the hint that this guy is a real prick. It shows him in the movie giving arrogant and stupid answers to the reporters. He would twist and answer their questions in a way as to try and make them feel stupid for even being there, as though he was god’s gift to folk music intelligencia. As I watched his behaviour I realized quickly that this was a man obsessed with himself, in love with how cool he was and self interested to the max. He dwarfed Joan Baez and despite her quality she followed him around like a puppy. Any notion that he was a radical and political folk singer went out my window. People who are truly invested in changing the world would have to at some point question themselves and their behaviour. Bob loved being a star, he didn’t care from day 1 if you thought he was a good person.
Of course I have to admit that even though Dylan sounds like shit he was a great wordsmith. I am no longer convinced that his reluctantly political persona was genuine. Perhaps he did genuinely feel for the ‘Hurricane’ but he even admitted that he was not out to change the world. His political songs were a tool to create an image and sell a record, he may have believed in some of the things he said but he wasn’t trying to be a part of any movement. He was in it for Bob Dylan’s own interests. I would be fine with that if every one out there didn’t scream bloody murder every time I argue that Bob Dylan is no political folk singer.
What drives me the most crazy though is how Bob Dylan has become the definition of folk music. Every kid who picks up a guitar and decides they want to be a folk singer quickly starts to immitate Bob Dylan…and every time they do the critics say what a fresh and Dylanesque song writer he is.
There I was at the otherwise amazing Brandon Folk Festival to witness an hour of the mainstages time used up by a Bob Dylan In-The-Round. Jeff Andrew impressed me by singing his own song anyway. 5pm in the afternoon with several thousand people in lawn chairs and once again they were given Bob Dylan’s music. First of all I would have preferred to hear any one of those songwriters original material or Canadiana content first. I have a real problem with the lowest common denominator in folk music being what we are still trying to sell to the public at large. Secondly it must be understood that even people who don’t like folk music already know about Bob Dylan, we as folk singers no longer need to use this mans image or songs to further our own careers. We missed a chance to further teach people the history of our craft. We do not progress the traditions of folk by coming back to this one vampirical man. We could have taught them about Woody Guthrie or Pete Seeger. We could have shown them more about Utah Philips or Stompin Tom or even Buffy St.Marie who happened to be the headlining act that weekend. Buffy is the artist out of the early 60’s NY folk scene I have the most respect for….I followed her around all weekend like a love struck puppy.
Pete Seeger was a political folk singer, he was nearly jailed during the McCarthy era witch hunts for his politics. He then spent 15 years black listed by the government and unable to garner work in the music establishment. At what point in Dylan’s career did he ever sacrifice ANYTHING for his beliefs?
If I were to call Bob Dylan a vampire it wouldn’t be all that far from the truth. He certainly sounds like the risen undead and he continues to feed himself on the lifeblood of others. Hence the article I read yesterday which inspired me to rally against Dylan today – How Bob Dylan Jumped From Counter Culture Icon to Car Salesman. He was in two seperate Super Bowl commercials, the one for FIAT cars apparently two minutes long. My only problem with the article was the fact that I believe Dylan was always a salesman giving the audience what he wanted them to see, making them believe what he wanted to them believe. Anything to turn a buck. He thinks he’s so smart for it too.
He was a counter culture icon yet I don’t believe he was ever part of the counter culture. He never was part of a 1960’s rally for peace or justice. People took his songs and used them as they saw fit, he didn’t care either way cause the records were selling. Now people have deified Bob to positions of mythology only reserved for Jesus and Ghandi. People actually get angry with me when I say that Pete Seeger was a genuine folk music hero and Dylan is a corporate music industry parasite. People are insenced by my assertions that the most famous folk singer of all time has done much to damage what folk music is really about.
To be a real folk singer you need to believe in something. You have to be part of a community. You have to tell the stories of your people. You have to be part of the people. You don’t just pick up a guitar, make up a bunch of crazy shit and get to be called the greatest folk singer of all time. I have accused Bob of being a great songwriter, but no one will ever accuse him of being a good man. The essence of folk music is lost when your self centeredness forgets what your actual responsibilities as a folk singer are. The folk singer who honors himself first is out of line with the tradition.
Finally I will say that Bob Dylan didn’t sell out recently, it was his goal from the very start. A rich man like him does not need to be in FIAT commercials, he didn’t need the money. A smarter person would have protected their image by turning down such opportunities, but Bob isn’t actually as smart as you think he is. When you boil him down he isn’t that much different than Miley Cyrus or Justin Beiber. Turn around then and look at Tom Petty and look at Neil Young, they never sold their songs to commercials. They are opposed to that sort of artistic blasphemy. They are among the few left out there I consider outlaws in the music industry. They are smart men and they are beyond the control of others, they can not be used by others and they are sure to speak the truth as they believe it when pressed to do so.
Maybe you say I would think differently if I were a successful musician with the opportunity to sell out to a car commercial….but I would rebut by saying I have never chased stardom or juno’s or wrote grants or tried to get to the upper echelons of the Canadian music industry. That was never my goal. I wanted to be a great folk singer and a renowned country artist and I do it living in the mountains and not kissing people’s asses. All I ever wanted was to play good shows, get drunk and get my friends dancing. The more often the better. If thirty years from now you can call me a legend for all the great shows I have done and all the things I have stood for it would be good enough for me. It’s with a clean record I, an outlaw singer, can call Bob Dylan a class traitor.
2 Comments | tags: Bob Dylan, Robert Zimmerman, class traitor, FIAT commercial, Superbowl, 1960's, counter culture | posted in creative writing, folk music, history, Joey Only Outlaw Band, Music Reviews, Outlaw Band Blog, Politics, radical folk, Revolution Blog, Social Commentary
When you are perpetually jaded and cynical it’s hard to have heroes. The only heroes now left standing for me now are Willie Nelson and Buffy St.Marie, in the last ten years many of my folk and country music heroes have become old and died. Johnny Cash, June Carter and Waylon Jennings departed while I sat in the north heartbroken I would never get to meet them, I yearned to show them that I am a new generation doing what they did in my own original way. I drove by Stompin Tom Connors house, slowing down, fighting myself until I decided not to stop and kept driving till my last chance to meet him was in the rearview mirror. Again he died and I felt empty inside for it, much the way I feel today.
I should count myself lucky that I been able to meet a couple of my heroes. I spent several days with Buffy St.Marie in 2010 and got to spend some time with Utah Philips a number of months before he died. There are other people I can’t put in the category of hero such as Corb Lund. These are my peers who I respect beyond words for their abilities with their craft such as Geoff Berner Washboard Hank, Andrew Neville and Tim Hus. When it comes to actual heroes there are only so many in my mind. As of January 27th 2014 I will never get that chance to sit and talk with Pete Seeger and see him as a real person before me. I have lost one of the few heroes I had left on this earth.
The songs of Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie have been with me for as long as I can remember and likely before that. I recall Pete from Sesame Street and I recall being very young singing the Pete and Woody hits in school. I remember sitting in a school assembly in grade 2 with everyone singing a Canadianized version of This Land Is Your Land as though Woody Guthrie’s politics were exactly what school children needed to be exposed to.
In the year 2000 I decided once and for all that my future was not in punk rock, even if I continued to love and listen to it for the rest of my life. I decided to start my own solo show not because I thought I was any good but because I didn’t want to have to rebuild bands all the time….if it was my project nobody but me could quit it. I wanted to play a kind of music that could be accepted in any small prairie town I ended up in. I wanted to play folk music so that when the appocolypse came and there were no more amplifiers I still had songs to sing. I wanted to play folk music so that I could tell stories and say something meaningful. I thought I could make a difference in the movement with my voice. It was a deliberate and conscious choice to put punk rock and my pentatonic blues style to rest and become a folk singer once and for all.
So I dove back into the stories of all those past folk singers. I spent many nights reading about Woody and Pete and Ledbelly. I romanticized them and tried to fathom what it must have been like in the days of Joe Hill. I listened to Pete’s smooth voice and told myself that it might be okay to actually try singing as opposed to my raspy thing I did out of fear of showing my true voice. Pete’s positive message and gentle sounds soothed me to sleep. Soon I was busking on the streets of Vancouver singing Pete and Woody songs while I scoured through the cassette tapes Co-op Radio was tossing to secure every copy of a Pete or Weavers record I could find. I sang Follow The Drinking Gourd everywhere I went for three years as a regular part of my show, after that I finished many shows with We Shall Overcome.
My stepdad would buy me a Woody Guthrie book every year for my birthday and mom sent it out to me. They were proud of me because they figured I was in the tradition of real folk singers and that it was not a phase. We argued about Pete as my step-dad said he was a musical thief but I rebutted that the very essence of three chord folk songs is copying off of the greats who came before us. My wifes dad recorded a Pete Seeger documentary and sent it to me. I would be lying if I didn’t say Pete Seeger was one of the top folk music influences on me despite the fact that I have much more in common with Woody personally than Pete. I am much more abraissive then Pete Seeger was, nonetheless his kindness and love affected me from afar.
When I think of the folk music posers of my time, like Bob Dylan, I shake my head and turn to a Pete Seeger album. He was never in it for personal glory. Dylan was a middle class city boy who stole Woody’s radical redneck shtick and used it to serve his own desires and fuel his own arrogance. Watch a Bob Dylan interview from the 1960’s and watch a Pete Seeger one right after. I have found Bob’s ego and attitude more than repulsive while Pete’s voice is like a warm fire you wish to cuddle up to for security, it’s obvious when you hear Pete talk that he believed in something. Pete wasn’t out there to look as cool as he possibly could, he wanted nothing to get in the way of his message.
Pete Seeger maintained his politcs and radical edge until the point of being blacklisted and called a communist by the American government. He did not waver in his beliefs, he was clear that his politics and message were more important than himself and his financial gain…that he stood for principals that transcended fame and glory. He didn’t write political songs to ride the social trends that made Dylan a superstar, he did it even at a time that extreme repression came back upon those who dared to voice the truth. He sang those songs because he believed in their meaning, Bob sang them because he had a vision for his own glory.
When I think of folk singers, like Pete and Utah Philips, I think of people who never got the easy glory…they wrestled through forty and fifty and sixty years of playing music and telling stories. They didn’t produce one hit for the radio to survive off for the rest of their lives. They slowly built their alliances and friendships, inspired people, changed people’s attitudes, encouraged others, put on brilliant shows, played brilliant songs, stood for brilliant principals, made time for children and never backed down. They didn’t become instant celebrities, they slowly built their reputation and fanbases until one day people looked at them and called them legends.
I don’t see that I’ll have a day when suddenly I can say I have had success. I know that like these people I will be an old man before I ever get the limited appreciation that’s coming to me. That’s what they taught me, that by staying steadfast in my beliefs and approach and keeping at it for a lifetime I will achieve something in music…perhaps I’ll never get a grammy or a juno but by following their examples I will know that it wasn’t all for nothing. In fact I know that I can never chase fame because it is morally repugnant in the tradition of the folk singers I follow, we still believe in touching hearts more than we believe in getting rich.
The folk and country singers these days that fight to get to the very top are often self absorbed arseholes more interested in cocaine, hookers, parties, money and glory. They have nothing in common with the gentle voice and wisdom of Pete Seeger. They are made by a cookie cutter and their songs are devoid of meaning. We are quickly losing our radical folk and outlaw country legends. It breaks my heart that I never was in a position to get to know these people. I could have learned so much more yet. 94 years on earth was not long enough for a man like Pete Seeger.
Rest in Peace Pete, i love you…joey
Leave a comment | tags: Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Buffy St.Marie, folk music, history | posted in creative writing, Direct Action, folk music, Music Reviews, obituary, Outlaw Band Blog, Politics, radical folk, Revolution Blog, Shows, Social Commentary
My anarchist friend turned down a possible double bill with me because he didn’t want to sell his talents at the rate we could have expected to make that night. I was really proud of him for knowing his worth to the bar scene of his city despite wanting to do a show with me.
This is juxtaposed to the way I’ve been criticized by radicals a few times over the years when I stopped doing all their free shows for them. They said ‘we can’t pay you, but you’ll get exposure’ so I replied back ‘I’m dying from exposure.’
I found until I demanded a bottom line price I didn’t get respect from promoters, the kinds of opportunities I got never seemed to improve and I wasn’t being taken seriously enough. It was depressing because I was busy as hell but going nowhere while I got to hear people say I was selling out. They are wrong, in order to sell out you have to have success and I’ve never even been offered a chance to be on a record label of any kind. I didn’t sell out, I just refused to sell cheap anymore. I just got tired of getting poorer to keep playing music while knowing I put on a professional show.
To quote Brandon Isaak:
Calling all musicians for equal rights revolution. Stand up and fight ! We can not play for less than $100.00 per person. If we all stand together and stop delivering music to these cheap f*#K$ we might even be able to do this for a living. I have been honing my craft for more than 25 years. I’m still practising 2 to 3 hours a day. I have a family to feed and bills to pay. I demand better treatment and higher pay scale for these folks who work as hard as doctors and lawyers. If you call a plumber, what will you pay him an hour? NO MORE CHEEP ASS GIGS FOLKS, PLEASE ! If you will join this new revolution click the LIKE button to confirm your pledge of no less than a $100.00 for your musical services, otherwise, walk. I have not played for that little money in a long time, so you can count on me.
My only fear is that if we stand up for ourselves we will be replaced by IPods everywhere. I say, turn off your computer, put on your boots, spend a few dollars to get into a show and keep good live bands playing! Support your local songwriters!!
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