27 May About My Dad
Dad and I are going to do a show together. He’s going to be a guest on the show. There will be other guests. But when your Dad is standing waiting, to come onstage and be interviewed, it’s going to be hard to not focus on that.
Mom and Dad raised 10 kids – Ken, Me, Phil, Gord, Grant, Rob, Julie, Theresa, Ann and Joan.
For most of his adult life he was a construction worker – a plasterer. (He still is, in fact, if you need an 82-year-old to come fix the drywall in your house. He’s not as fast as he was, but he still works a few days a week.) So all of us kids know Dad as the guy who left early with a lunch pail and came home in time for supper. His face was always dark by mid summer from all the stucco work, and he went through buckets of hand lotion because the dry Alberta weather and the wet plaster was cracked his rough hands.
But he had a secret dream.
He always wanted to play the guitar and sing for people. He had a cheap guitar and he taught himself the songs of the popular singers of the day – Hank Snow, Wilf Carter, Hank Williams.
Dad would tell stories of seeing pictures of these guys, singing to a packed house, dressed up in their fancy clothes, and all of them playing Martin guitars, the cadillac of guitars. A guitar that a kid from the farm could only dream of.
But he could learn their songs. And he did. And when he moved to the city he’d play at house parties and chord along for fiddle players when he could.
And then he got married to Mom, started the family and put the dream away. He learned a trade to pay for his growing family.
Now and then, when we were kids, he’d bring out his guitar and play old Wilf Carter songs, maybe yodel a bit. Like a lot of amateur guitar players, he knew a handful of songs and tended to play them over and over.
But 40 years later, when everyone finally moved out and he wasn’t working as much, he decided he wanted to give his dream another shot.
So he started practicing every day, working on his voice, he started writing and learning songs. Suddenly, he knew 20 songs, then 30, then 50. He started playing for seniors homes around Edmonton. And now he has three gigs a week, on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Most of the people he plays for are in their 70s, which he likes for a couple of reasons. One, they are younger than him and that makes him feel good. Two, “most of them are deaf, so they can’t tell if I’m off key,” he says.
When I was younger, we used to talk about construction a lot, how he’d set up jobs, how he’d figure out mixes and scaffolding and getting enough material. But now we talk about performing – how to tell stories, how to rehearse, and what great performers do.
With Father’s Day on the horizon, I figured we’d talked about performing long enough – we should do a show together.
So, on June 15th at the Grand – we’re going to do that.
Dad is excited and nervous to come on the show “with all these young people who can hear.” I’m excited and nervous too.
I’m excited for everyone to meet my Dad. To hear him tell a story and to hear him sing a song. I’m nervous that he will good, and that he will do well. I’m really nervous that I will do well.
But there’s one thing I want more than anything. I want to give him something when it’s all over. I want to give him a picture.
It will be a picture of my Dad, playing to a packed house at the Grand, playing his Martin guitar.