Tuesday, November 27, 1990

My first gig in Toronto

Finally, after all these months in Toronto, my first paying gig. And it’s at the Black Swan, a veritable shrine to the Blues in Toronto. How did I come to be in this place? I was just hanging out in the backroom office/studio in the rear of my wife’s T-Shirt shop/studio in Sutton, Quebec. One afternoon Linda came back with a client who had mentioned she was a singer in Toronto. I welcomed her in and even played her a tune I had just written. She asked for a tape of it and I made one on the spot. Her name was Dawn DuVall and she was just starting to play around Toronto with a group called Blue Willow. The song was called “Dump That Lump”. As it turns out, a few months later when I found myself living in Toronto (was that song prophetic or what?) and was invited to sit in with the band. We played around the beaches a few times and now we were stepping into the blues circuit.

The gig went fine, and in the process, I made the acquaintance of a couple of the heavy hitters on the Toronto Blues Scene. After we had finished the first set, I was changing a string and worrying about breaking more because every time I broke a string I had to switch over to my Strat and my little Cube amp was not loud enough. So when I saw this fellow rolling in a Fender Super Reverb amp I thought it was my prayers being answered. I had barely been introduced to Michael Pickett when I asked him if I could use the amp. I got a rather surly look that seemed to go on forever at which point I said “Hey forget it . . .” but I guess he felt sorry for me when he looked down at my little 20-watt Cube amp. “That’s not an amp,” he kept saying, pointing at it. He didn’t exactly laugh, but he did lighten up a bit. Finally he said I could use the amp (I didn’t realize until later that this was his harp amp and he sure didn’t want some heavy metal guitarist blasting through it). After the first tune of the set, he walked across the dance floor to the edge of the stage and signaled me to come closer. Then he said quietly in my ear: “First of all, take your beer of my amp.” Oooops! Then he told me where to put the amp when I was through and walked out. That was not my only encounter with a walking, talking Toronto blues legend during our gig at the Swan. At one point in the middle of the set, Donny Walsh, “Mr. Downchild” of the Downchild Blues Band walked right up on the stage, asked what key the song was in then sat in on a couple of more tunes (One of the was “Dump The Lump”). I actually didn’t think he’d remember very much about that evening except for the startling resemblance between pianist Lorraine Ingle and the late Jane Vasey, Donnie’s former keyboard player and significant other who died of leukemia a few years back.

The gig came of very well, considering we were playing a rather large room without the benefit of bass and drums. Anyway, the doorman said he liked it and I gather that means a lot.