Tuesday, December 9, 2003

Los Straightjackets come to town

Hello Grandfather. You would not believe the show I just came from at the Horseshoe Tavern. This was a surf band playing instrumental versions of the corniest Christmas songs. They are called Los Staightjackets and they were hillarious! Surf music is this loud, twangy sound that wasn't invented till long after you had passed from this mortal coil. The fellow introducing the songs spoke an unrecognizable, vaguely spanish, dialect ...except when he came to the English words, they would sound completely normal.

The band wore rubber masks like some professional wrestlers do these days (wrestling, also, has changed considerably from what you may remember). Then, as the band plays the surf version of "Frosty The Snowman," three scantily-clad dancers strut onto the stage and feign a snowball fight then pull out a cardboard cut-out of a big saw and cut down a Christmas tree and take it home to decorate. They come back with the tree wrapped in tinsel and they re-appear every few songs with increasingly revealing outfits. As the girls began to bare all you noticed that a couple of them had gotten really carried away at the tattoo parlour (yes, women get tattoos nowadays).

I figured you would enjoy hearing about some of the great bands that pass through Toronto, but things have changed a lot since you arrived in Sherbrooke, Quebec in 1918 as a musician, bandleader and then theatre-owner. I wish I had known you in those days, but all I remember is a frail old man, dying of prostate cancer and suffering considerably. Do you know the medical establishment has come to the conclusion that anything they do to treat this disease will not prolong your life much longer than it would take to die from the disease. All the various treatments did was put you through a lot of unnecessary misery in your final days. Best to just let it take its course. I can only imagine what kind of surgery and/or treatments you went through.

One of my loyal readers has asked why I've started with the "grandfather thing." I used to just write the occasional journal entry about my struggles in the music scene, trying to make a record, etc. But I was rambling on and on, showing off all the important people I knew or saw - sometimes passing along some good tips for people that might be on the same journey as me, but mostly blowing my own horn. I needed to be a bit more *serious* (not my nature). Then I came upon a great photo of you lately and want to scan it and make a nice big print and give it to my sister for Christmas. The photo shows you in a very jovial mood - I'm very anxious to show it to the rest of the family, too. Then, right around the same time, I was at the Aboriginal Music Awards. It took place in a big fancy theatre and they began the evening with a prayer...and the prayer was directed to "Grandfather". It was a very moving prayer and it made a big impression on me. I needed to have a little more respect for my elders. And you certainly commanded respect - if not fear. Amazing how things come together like that. I think adressing my late-night ramblings to you will force a little clarity and brevity. I know you did not suffer fools gladly. This will be a good thing to keep me focused.

So what else have I done lately. Well, on Saturday night I went to see Duke Robillard. He is a guitar player's guitar player. And his band was so tight! You only get this tight when you rehearse a lot or you play all the time (and I don't know anybody over 20 who rehearses a lot). These guys are just continuously on the road. I was introduced to Duke on the break but he was not very talkative. I found out tonight that he was not happy about the booming bass that was leaking through the floor from the club downstairs. Still, he played great and I was making mental notes about how he had worked out the intros to some songs and other arrangement ideas. He'll be back in town as our special guest at the Maple Blues Awards. He's won a couple already and he's once again nominated for "International Artist of the Year". Doug James played some amazing sax, though I still miss Duke's other sax player, Gordon Beadle (Sax Gordon) who is one of those musicians that when he starts into a solo, it's a comittment - his promise to you, the listener, that this solo is going to go someplace. And it always does, usually building to a high sustained climax that brings an audience to their feet.

Hey I promised in my last post that I was going to do some music everyday between now and December 22 (which is when I'm supposed to be finished this album). But not tonight. Time for some zzzzzzzzzzz's. Goodnight, Granpa