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PICKIN’ & SINGIN’ OUR WAY THROUGH THE YEARS

Just to prove what a rural rube I can be, here’s the entry  “Country Music” in my book ABCs of Farming:

“Country Music: A type of song originally associated with rural regions, with lyrics mostly about ridin’, truckin’, hurtin’, cheatin’, losin’, boozin‘, bleedin’, leavin’, lyin’, cryin’ and dyin’. If you are the bizarre and perverse kind of person who can listen to that kind of downer and actually feel good about it, then you are, like me, a country music fan. But if you are the type who gets depressed easily, stay away from it; it’ll push you over then edge.” (Not really true, many country songs are very uptempo and many are humorous.)

My dad was a banjo plucker and a good singer who did a lot of Al Jolson and other songsters of the 1920s and ‘30s. He encouraged my brothers and I to sing as well. The first song I ever sang at age three or four was White Cliffs of Dover, this was during the war when the song was written. Somewhat later my brothers and I stood at the front of the Bedard Creek School classroom, almost scared enough to wet our pants, singing Side By Side--my first public performance.

Somehow Dad and another parent got about eight of us Bedard Creek kids  to play banjos, violins and accordions and, along with singers, we took part in at least two amateur shows, where we were popular enough to consider ourselves pretty classy crowd pleasers.

Then in and around 1960 I joined the Satellites with brother Jim and Grant and Irwin Carson, all in our twenties. We had one microphone and a small amplifier-speaker and  played  many dances in an area some 50-mile radius around our Snowden home. We did all kinds of dance tunes,  but also a few early rock and roll songs, enough to fancy we were quite the cool cats. I played saxophone and did some of the vocals, pretending I was Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and --of course--Elvis.

Well, my path to becoming a rockabilly star came to an end with the arrival of a horde of responsibilities: university, marriage, family, teaching and farming. But Beula, my first wife was pretty good on piano; she and I often played and sang together at home and occasionally for relatives.   

By the time I retired from teaching I had learned to play guitar and occasionally, along with a couple of others fellows, afflicted customers at the Snowden Hotel with our whanging and howling. Some patrons complained, some praised us, likely depending on the amount of alcohol consumed.

I was widowed in 1990 and remarried in 1994. Esther loves to sing in church. She persuaded me to accompany her there and soon we were singing at the Smeaton care home and other local events, some gospel, some early rock,  mostly classic country. For a time we did programs at a number of senior citizen clubs, combining our songs with presentations of our books, which we brought along for sale.

About four years ago Don Friesen, a former teacher, and my son Doug, who with wife Ingrid own and operate the Snowden Star Hotel, started  jam sessions  there, one every month. We’ve continued that ever since with singers and players from Shipman, Smeaton, Snowden, Choiceland, Nipawin, Torch River and Saskatoon (my bother’s home).Esther and I lived in Smeaton then but have since moved to Saskatoon. We drove back for jams until Covid hit. We hope to see the jams revive some day, they were loads of fun.

And, always searching for a crowd that hasn’t heard us, Esther and I have begun a little program about every two weeks from the deck of our ground floor condo. A few listeners bring  folding chairs and sit on our lawn. We really enjoy it, but the cold weather of fall will (mercifully?) put an end to that.

Both Esther and I write songs, and, having composed dozens of them in my head--often in a tractor on the field--without ever writing them down, we had a CD made. It has 14 of my songs and five of Esther’s. It hasn’t hit number one yet--or number 76, it’s not for release.

 

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