I was blessed with great mentors and wonderful experiences in the early years of my career. I became friends with a bunch of musicians who were into jugband music, which Jim Kweskin and John Sebastian were making popular at the time. It was an organic and funky style of acoustic playing that celebrated a lot of what is now called Americana. Many a fun evening was spent at the Deadwood Stage band house in Kitsilano, soaking up a lot of guitar technique and making lifelong friends like my Winnipeg soul brother Bob Purves (a.k.a. Bobby Stahr).
While hanging out in Gastown in Vancouver, I met Tim Williams, a fine country-blues singer/songwriter from California, who took me under his wing and taught me all kinds of cool licks. Tim was one of the first people I ever met who had a major label record deal, which was kind of thrilling, and he had a vast repertoire of old blues standards, which was instructive.
I also had the great good fortune of learning some chops from one of Canada’s finest blues players, Morgan Davis, before he wrote Colin James’ big hit “Why’d You Lie.” Morgan turned me on to the blues harp, which I’d been playing around with for awhile. Everyone should have one!
One of the five people in the audience at my first open mic appearance was Ottawa singer/songwriter Thom Roberts. He had brought along his friend Alan Katowitz, a professional photographer who captured that first gig in black and white.
Poster courtesy of Neptoon Records
Thom invited me to open for him and sat in on a few tunes at the Gastown Saloon a few weeks later, and Alan brought his camera to our rehearsals and the gig.
Stage fright was a thing… I eventually learned to play with my eyes open!
We lost touch after he moved back east, and Thom passed away in 2008, but not before recording a wonderful album “Big Road Blues” with Carlos del Junco on harmonica. I was so glad to find it on ITunes, it captures Thom’s voice and wonderful guitar style, and really takes me back to a very special time.