Archive for the ‘Music’ category

Cum Hear the Band – April Wine – Part I

February 10, 2010

It was good to learn yesterday that classic Canadian rockers, April Wine are scheduled to be inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame on during the telecast of the Juno Awards to be held in St. John Newfoundland on April 18th.

* Before you learn of the entertaining events leading up to my introduction to April Wine as a kid under the ” Growing Up With April Wine” and “Cum Hear The Band” headers, I think a prologue may be in order for those not familiar with the band.

PROLOGUE

In my opinion, it’s been long overdue. For me, April Wine has been a big part of my life in my formative years as a musician. So much so, I’ve decided to write this blog in recognition of that. Now perhaps, some will argue, there have been better bands with more sophistication and world renown. Moreover, if pressed, I may be compelled to admit to admiring other Canadian bands with bigger hits and bigger hair that might cause me embarassment. But this blog isn’t about that. This is just a simple recognition of a band that has been there, for going on forty years, and have consistently contributed to the Cancon airways in a manner that would make Pierre Juneau proud. Juneau, after which the Juno Awards are named, was the architect who implemented Canadian content rules that would see a domestic music industry grow in Canada from the early 70’s on. Many bands and artist today can be thankful for that to be sure! Now some have argued that Juneau’s vision may have subjected us Canadians to mediocrity over the years, however, I beg to differ and stand in defense of that thinking, because Canada now has an established industry second to none. And the one band that has been there since day one? Yes, April Wine! From their first release in 1971, and as they set to release their 17th studio compilation of new tunes later this year, I can think of no other band that is more deserved to have their name inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. Moreover, you would be hard pressed to find a household in Canada that does not have an they have an album or CD in their abode. Furthermore, I can say with great probability, somewhere right now an April Wine tune is being cued right now on a – or maybe many – radio station playlist right now. April Wine, like a indelible “vino” aural stain has been stamped into our collective consciousness. And of course, just like Pierre Juneau was an architect, I’d be remiss at this point not to mention the architect of the sound that is April Wine – Myles Goodwyn!

In a recent article on a blogspot I often visit fyimusic dot ca, the author better summarized Myles than I could ever do.

“Goodwyn is one of Canada’s under-rated, often-times overlooked songwriters. At times charismatic, he is also a stage performer who has never really felt comfortable in the spotlight,while his songs have often spoken of troubled romances, loneliness and vulnerability. Over the years his wit and lyricism, matched by his knack for memorable melodies, have become part of the Canada’s cultural fabric. April Wine has endured as a band in name, but it is Myles Goodwyn that has largest charted its course and written its musical legacy.”

* You can read the entire press release at fymusic here.

GROWING UP WITH APRIL WINE

I heard it said that “an alcoholic remembers his first drink.” I can’t say for sure I remember my first drink but I do remember my first taste of April Wine! Okay, I promise to desist from any further terrible puns, just so long as you engage me in entertaining you about the events leading up to the first time I heard an April Wine tune. Promise!

I was eleven at the time and just five weeks away from birthday number twelve. It was the long weekend in May. Traditionally “Victoria Day Wekend” ,as we knew it, was the weekend the local provincial park officially opened. For those not camping at the park, and lucky enough to have a cottage at any one of the nearby lakes, this was the weekend they attended to the chore of opening their summer homes. Basically, the folks of my little Northwestern Ontario town made an exodus that weekend to all directions. Anywhere but town!

In any event, that particular weekend I was allowed to accompany my boyhood chums, some who were a little older than I, to set up camp in the park. After being let off by our folks, we were free to do as we pleased. Well not right away, because we had to attend to setting up our canvas “Woods” tents. You remember the ones? They had those four steel poles that you pieced together and eventually they all conjoined together with a four-way universal joint at the top. Then you basically hung the tent off of a hook in the middle. No? You don’t remember that? Geez, I may be older that I thought. Anyways, once we were established, we set out for adventure. That basically meant, a chilly dip in the lake, if one was brave enough and racing our bikes daringly all day on the local “Nature Trails”. After a day of rambunctious play, we were pretty well exhausted and were set to return to our campsite. Ahh the freedom of youth. Thereafter, as dusk descended upon us, we partook in another typical Canadian camping tradition – roasting wieners and telling ghost stories. That usually evolved into escaped convict -murdering werewolf tales. The aforementioned, by the way, were never two different entities! It was always an escaped convict – murdering werewolf! As the evening waned and the conversation diminished, we were left only with the sound of a crackling of the fire that seemed to beg for more conversation. Not knowing what to say, I remember us tossing dried orange cedar needles into the embers and watching the sparks rise into the darkness. Whilst watching this DIY ariel display in silence, I think we were all contemplating in our silence a late night visit by a “werewolf” with a nefarious agenda. Anyways, as it happens when you assemble a bunch of fellas around a campfire, free from any estrogen presence – or Mom as we knew it in the day – it is inevitable things will eventually go south when the silence gets to be too much to bear. At that point, all that paranormal tale telling stuff seemed like ancient history as the stories now turned to a barrage of our “best of” compilation of fart and tittie jokes, usually led up by the older fellas who had comped them from their Dad or memorized them from stolen Playboy magazines. (Apparently, this never gets tired. Happened last year too!) So, there we are! A bunch of prepubescent, and reportedly pubescent youth about to retire to our sleeping bags. We all did our duty beforehand by taking turns peeing on the fire to douse the last embers of the day before filing into our respective tents with our flashlights. After settling in, we traded a bit more of banter between the tents reminding each other of ghosts and convicts. I think at that time, just as everything fell silent, a loud “train warning bell” filled the crisp night air which evidently echoed loudly from across the lagoon. And that my friends was my first introduction to April Wine! (The tune, I was to learn later, was “Oowatanite’ from the Stand Back Album). Of course being curious, it wasn’t too long before all of us – with door zipped up – were peaking our heads out to investigate the origin of this strange “noise”. Albeit, strange at first, it wasn’t too long we all agreed ” this is pretty cool!” As we peered out and across the lagoon, we had noted the music was blasting from a Ford F150 parked across the bay that obviously had a system upward of about 200 watts. It appeared a party was in the process and about to start on the property adjacent to the “Fish and Game” clubhouse. As we emerged from our tents to further investigate we sat there near the shore and contemplated how cool it might be to be teenagers. Furthermore, the older fellas brought up the subject of what it might be like to be rock stars. I think it was that evening we made the connection how music might provide a gateway in the exciting world of adolescence. Across the way we could see the teenagers dancing away and it looked as though beer was flowing freely. I think we even detected boys necking and dancing with girls! Gasp! Maybe it was that evening we realized that life did have more to offer than just fart and tittie jokes? Maybe it was that evening we all grew up a wee bit and actually thought of a future with girls in it? Maybe it was that evening that a smidgen of our innocence floated away and burnt out like the embers of that recently doused fire into the abyss of a Northwestern Ontario late spring clouded night sky?

April Wine - Stand Back - Back Album Cover

01. Oowatanite.
02. Don’t Push Me Around
03. Cum Hear The Band
04. Slow Poke
05. Victim For Your Love
06. Baby Done Got Some Soul
07. I Wouldn’t Want To Lose Your Love
08. Highway Hard Run
09. Not For You, Not For Rock & Roll
10. Wouldn’t Want Your Love (Any Other Way)
11. Tonite Is A Wonderful Time To Fall In Love

Well that’s enough about me for the moment. I just wanted to interject here a word about the diversity of the music of April Wine. Although the band could certainly bring the ballads that almost always got immediate airplay. Like a Lover, Like a Song, I Wouldn’t Want to Lose Your Love, You Won’t Dance with Me and their highest topping hit single, Just Between You and Me all attest to that ability. Conversely, they also possessed the ability to bring the rockers too! I Like to Rock, Roller, Don’t Push Me Around, Sign of A Gypsy Queen, the aformentioned and bassist penned Oowatanite, and even the cover of dinosaur rockers King Crimson’s 21st Century Schizoid Man clearly show the spectrum of their rock ability that could tip the scales at either end. One only has to listen to the aforementioned to know of which I speak.

CUM HEAR THE BAND

Billy’s called, he’s got the van
And Dean’s got a set of drums
And I borrowed this old guitar
We’re hoping someday we’ll all go far
And maybe we’ll write a tune
And drive in a limousine
See our picture in a magazine
So, wontcha be there
Cum hear the band on Friday night
Cum hear the band and it’ll be alright

The preceding lyrics are from the April Wine song ‘Cum Here The Band’. By the way, I think they can be forgiven for their spelling of the word “come” given that every other song by the Slade, a band of the same era, utilized and popularized that spelling. As in “Cum On Feel The Noize”. . In any event, I think the lyrics of Cum Hear the Band best summarizes the dreams of adolescent boys who dreamed of rock stardom. In essence, the story is not only of teenage boys conspiring to be rock stars but, also it speaks to getting the attention of girls.

With that I’ll conclude Part I of this story. In Part II tomorrow, I will write of my High School years of how I took up with a couple of immigrant Finnish boys and started our own band. Moreover, I’ll write about borrowing an old guitar, about learning that first April Wine song, and a battle royale with a local competing band also looking to get the attention of the girls! In the meantime you can read more about the history of April Wine here. I hope you enjoyed your read thus far! Stay tuned…

Cum hear the band on Friday night
Cum hear the band and it’ll be alright
And baby it’s you that’s got me burning inside
So cum hear the band it’ll be alright, It’ll be alright
’cause baby it’s you that keeps me so turned on
’cause baby it’s you that see me right when I’m wrong
And I can’t keep it inside,’Cause I won’t know ’til I’ve tried
So baby whatch want me to do

We practice hard to get it on
Working to get it strong
Now, I just want you to hear
But it wont work if you’re not there
So please don’t take too long
I’m waiting with a song
So wontcha please be there wontch be there
Cum hear the band on Friday night
Cum hear the band and it’ll be alright
And baby it’s you that’s got me burning inside
So cum hear the band it’ll be alright
It’ll be alright
It’ll be alright
It’ll be alright

Hey! I’ve Heard That Somewhere Before!

February 4, 2010

We’ve probably all have done this. Perhaps you may have just heard a new song you really liked and then at the end of the tune you found yourself asking ” Hey, I’ve heard that somewhere before!”

Well it’s probably not news, but musicians and composers have likely been doing this since they learned to bang two rocks together as cavemen. Whether musicians do this intentionally or subconsciously could be up for debate – or in some cases – it actually goes to litigation. It’s called plagiarism!

So, what prompted me to write this blog? Well I’m listening this morning to an interview with the great Americana songwriter, Kris Kristofferson on CBC Radio this morning on their Arts and Entertainment flagship show, “Q” with Jian Gomeshi. Anyways, Kris and Jian get to talking about songwriting back in Kris’ early years. So, Kris gets to talking about hanging out with fellow songwriters of the day, learning their craft and the camaraderie that existed amongst these budding young tune-smiths. Well, it just so happens this one time Kris is hanging at some hippie convention/ festival type thingy with someone? Not important who it was, but there they are listening to Canada’s own Leonard Cohen backstage. Apparently, Leonard in debuting his newest composition “Bird on a Wire”. Now, I’ve listened to that song all my life and even played it on many occasions at coffeehouse jams and whatnot and never suspected anything peculiar about it. Well my bubble was burst this morning when Kris disclosed that his fellow songwriter, upon hearing it, blurted out, ” Hey, Leonard just stole that melody from Lefty Frizell’s “Mom and Dad Waltz!” So, with that I present to you the supposed evidence. You be the judge!

BTW. You may want to listen to this audio clip before viewing the following videos regarding this debate. This is Kris Kristofferson talking on CBC Radio “Q” about approaching Leonard back in the day at a different gathering than the aforementioned. It was there he told Leonard what his friend told him about “Bird on A Wire” being the same melody as Lefty Frizell’s “Mom and Dad Waltz”. And Cohen’s response? Listen here.

Lefty Frizell – Mom and Dad Waltz

Leonard Cohen – Bird on A Wire

Well with that freshly in mind, and on a lighter note, I’d just like to bring to attention the recent hoopla surrounding the unlikely hit “Pants on the Ground” by General Larry Platt of American Idol fame. Well as of recent it has become an internet viral hit and garnered the good General some notoriety, however, is he entirely deserved of this fame? Apparently, two elder gentlemen, known as the Green Brothers, in Detroit think not. The Green Brothers, in fact, have alleged that Larry Platt’s hit “Pants on the Ground” is a take off of their 1996 hit “Back Pockets off the Floor”. Again you be the judge! Videos and article here.

As mentioned before this has been going on forever. I as a songwriter, have even caught myself singing a familiar melody for a new composition. Whilst in the process, I too have said to myself ” Hey! I’ve heard that somewhere before!”. Thereafter, on occasion, I have found myself banging my head against the wall trying to recall its source. However, these days I just tend to move on and try something new because my noggin has a tendency to swell easily! LOL!

Anyways, here are some great videos that contend that many contemporary artist from the 50’s on to Avril Lavigne and Green Day may very well be guilty of this “plagiarism” of which we speak. I know for one Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen” is definitely the Beach Boys’ ” Surfin’ USA”. On another note, I read that the Chiffons 60’s hit ” He’s So Fine” successfully won in litigation against George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord”. Also, kd Lang was able to get a co-writing credit for the Rolling Stone’s “Anybody Seen My Baby” based on her tune ” Constant Craving”.

Moreover, you will find by watching the following videos that maybe Green Day stole from Bryan Adams – Sum 41 from Coldplay – Chili Peppers from Tom Petty – Lee Ann Rimes from Aqua – Usher from the Beatles – Avril from Rubinoos – and the list goes on and on and on…

Songs With Similar Melodies – Exhibit “A”

Songs With Similar Melodies – Exhibit “B”

In conclusion, “borrowing” inevitably happens whether intentional or by osmosis. I think as musicians with limited chords, it probably will happen at some point. Obviously, as a songwriter, I am not advocating stealing, but I’d like to point out in other art forms stealing is encouraged. I’ve heard it said that Jim Jaramush – or was it Tarintino – when asked where they get their ideas. Their answer? ” Just steal from everyone, but make it your own!”. Moreover, in my other incarnation as a documentary filmmaker, it is always touted around folk of my ilk that “plagarism” is when you steal from one source – versus – stealing from many sources is regarded as “research”. In any event, it seems “imitation is indeed the highest form of flattery” as the old adage goes. Moreover, I suppose it has all been done before, but it is commendable that we always strive to find new ways of doing it and presenting it.

Happy writing or whatever creative art you may endeavor in. Thanks for your visit. Comments welcomed. I hope you enjoyed the read!

Clarence Michon – The Songwriter!

April 5, 2009

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WILL THE REAL CLARENCE MICHON PLEASE STAND UP?

I am a proficient songwriter who has been working toward refining my craft for a period that is approaching 30 years! I recall having written my first song entitled What Love Can Do For You which I wrote at the tender age of fourteen. This was my first real song anyways, complete with verses, a bridge and a chorus.

I my early years, I guess you can say I was strongly influenced by the rock and roll of the early 70’s to which I was introduced to by my older brother. Today, however, I can probably attribute a lot of what I am now writing to the songwriters and storytellers of classic country era. This music was imparted to me by my musician father. Furthermore, I have great affinity toward the smooth sounds of Motown and R&B which I first heard nightly on my old tube Radio blasted to my northern home from far away places like Chicago and Detroit. I specifically recall WLS out of Chicago in its heyday! I remember many late nights as a teenager lying in my bed watching the glow of the vacuum tubes lighting up to the beat of the music. Sure wish I had held onto that radio!

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I was born in Nipigon Ontario and raised in the small fishing hamlet of Rocky Bay First Nation for the first two years of my life. Thereafter, I spent my formative years growing up in the small Northern Ontario gold mining town of Geraldton, Ontario. Like Neil Young wrote ” there is a town in North Ontario…all my changes were there” Hell, I sure wish I wrote that, because I can certainly relate to it. So, those were my formative years as a musician. I have to mention also about the time when I was 12, and I responded to an ad in the back of a comic book that read “Play Guitar in 7 Days!” I so wanted to play guitar, that I saved money from my golf club washing venture to pay for the mail delivery. I think that was probably a defining moment when I thought to myself, ” I’m gonna be a musician!”

After having taught myself the theory and technical intricacies of the guitar, I was fortunate to play in a garage band with my childhood friends. Like every other garage band of the day we played Top 40 hits made popular by bands like Boston, Foreigner, Grand Funk and Journey to name a few. In a mellower tradition, I also played as a featured guitarist in the local high school ensemble named Deep Shadows. While in that particular band I learned to play the FM hits of the day along with hits derived from soundtracks from movies such as Grease, Saturday Night Fever and that ilk. In retrospect, I can honestly say that I was grateful for both of these opportunities because it improved my guitar playing abilities significantly in just a couple of years. So, much for the 7 day thing eh? Thereafter, when high school was completed, I went to work in the local pulpmill, but all the while I had bigger aspirations. I wanted to be a songwriter! I think I figured at that point I would go out and get some recording gear and learn to use it to meet my objectives. However, only thing was I had no credit and that proved to be an obstacle with the banks. Ahh, but that’s what big brothers are for ain’t it? I managed to convince my older brother, who also worked at the mill, to cosign for a three thousand dollar loan. With the loan I purchased a Fostex X15 four track recorder, a Casio keyboard, a cheap bass guitar and an RX7 Yamaha Drum machine to compliment my ever growing collection of guitars.

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Only thing was, I needed a space to set up my gear now! Fortunately, a neighbor had just retired one of his vehicles that he utilized to deliver vegetables locally and my dad bought it. We were able to take of the box off of the frame of the vehicle and park it in the backyard of my parents place. This became my first ever recording studio! Needless to say, but thereafter, many a late night recording marathon took place. Today many of those songs are still in the vaults and remain as a testament to the sounds of the day that I was trying to emulate. Although not yet a seasoned vocalist at that time, in my opinion, I became somewhat of a wordsmith singing songs with insightful lyrics that made it at least interesting to listen to for my friends. I think I spent two summers in that setting before I decided I would make the move to the Big Smoke – better known as Toronto. It was there I sought out formal training as a Recording Engineer and Producer at a now defunct audio visual training institute.

The BIG Smoke!

The BIG Smoke!

While in Toronto, I learned to write with classmates and we were able to workshop and record our songs in both home studios and professional 24-track studios throughout the city. In addition to my attendance at school, I also sought out seminars dedicated to teaching the craft of songwriting. The Toronto stint lasted for a period of 7 years where I worked a good deal of that time in the Marketing Department of Sam the Record Man during the day while attending evening courses in Radio Documentary Production and Marketing Broadcasting Advertising at Ryerson University in the evenings. All in all, my experience in the Big Smoke proved to be very beneficial and steered me into a new direction that soon eclipsed my music endeavors. Although I never entirely gave up my pursuit as a songwriter, I found my focus changed as I started to excel and enjoy a time-consuming career as a Television Producer, Director and Broadcaster administrator dude. The best thing about this time was that I learned other instruments and became more proficient as an acoustic guitar player. However, given the opportunity these days, I still like to plug in an electric guitar, crank up the amp and riff out and solo like a barbarian. Bring it on!

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It is only recently that I am now concentrating my efforts in having my dreams realized as a performing and successful songwriter. At the expense of my broadcasting endeavors, my hiatus from the media has afforded me more time to revitalize my passion to write new compositions. With that said, I haven’t entirely abandoned my film ambitions, it’s just that I am trying to strike a balance between these two careers such that one does not have to suffer at the expense of the other. It’s it quite the balancing act I tell ya! I guess as a testament to my goals, I can proudly say that in 2008 I released a 10 song CD. This compilation of tunes were selected songs from my 60 plus song catalog of original songs I have written over the years. Admittedly, there is nothing fancy in terms of production, but that was a conscious decision on my part to offer a pared down version of my “babies”. Should you take the opportunity to listen, you will find the all the songs feature just myself singing and playing acoustic guitar. You may be interested to know that all tracks were recorded live off the floor, and for the most part, in one or two takes. Yep! No fancy studio setting for me these days. In fact, the songs were done in my parents living room while on vacation with only two mics! Thereafter, I did a little sweetening with effects thanks to a simple computer software program. In the end, I feel this approach yielded the best representation of my music and lets the listener imagine greater arrangements that might include full orchestration. Furthermore, upon listening, I hope one will also note the fingerstyle picking I’ve come to adopt as of late. You may in fact detect a little influence from a fella named Bruce Cockburn. Moreover, someone also once mentioned my writing reminded him of John Hiatt. Huh? Well who am I to argue? Hell, I’ll take any compliment wherever and whenever I can get it. BTW, my Mom thinks I’m good!

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If you have already visited my MySpace page, you will note I have an extensive amount of singer/ songwriters I do enjoy. Here are a few dudes you might recognize! Tom Cochrane, Steve Earle, Blue Rodeo, John Hiatt, Elliot Smith, Don Henley, David Baerwald, Jackson Browne, Ray LaMontagne, Elton John, Neil Finn, Bob Seger, Gordon Lightfoot, Jim Croce, Burton Cummings, Townes Van Zandt, Mike Scott, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Hank Williams Sr. just to name a few! And, of course, we can’t forget the ladies! Joni Mitchell, Jewel, Lucinda Williams, Mae Moore. Sarah McLachlan, Carole King, Stevie Nicks, Melissa Etheridge, Ani Defranco, Gillian Welch…well you get the picture. I am sure there are many omissions, but I guess I’ve been pretty much influenced by anyone who’s ever taken up an instrument throughout the ages and put words to their music to express themselves. Considering that, my thoughts turn to all the great songwriters back in the day who kept the Motown engine running and the Nashville Tin Pan Alley humming. Well I could go on, but I’ll save that for a future blog.

With regards to my publishing pursuits, I am currently in the midst of recording a slew of new songs to be released mid-May 2009. Also, in the works is a trip to Nashville to take up an invitation to visit with friends who currently reside and work there as songwriters and performing/ studio musicians. Oughta be fun y’all!

In closing, I’m enjoying a respectable amount of visits to my MySpace profile with a compliment of an equal amount of plays. In addition, I’m also promoting my music on facebook and reverbnation. And if that weren’t enough, I look forward to the summer when I am able to perform more often and sell discs out of my backpack. I have a heckuva lot of fun personalizing each an every CD I sells to my growing legion of fans. Umm, can you say”sarcastic”? No, but really, I did spend last summer hitting up folk festivals and promoting my music locally to the transient worker in the region. This included; firefighters, tree planters, tourists and other vagabonds not unlike me!

Well them’s the short term plans! As for long term plans? Well I do look forward to maybe going into a “real” studio to produce some polished demos for the purpose of promoting them to other artists to record. Time will tell I guess huh?

* More about my songwriting at myspace.com/clarencemichon

* Other instruments I play include; mandolin, bass, harmonica, piano and hell, I even know a thing or two about programming drums and fiddling with my Korg Musicstation.

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Nils and Me

April 3, 2009

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As a guitarist I am often asked who my favorite guitarist is. To be quite honest I can’t say who my favorite one is, but I can certainly list many whom I find to be inspiring, and each in their own way. So, this has prompted me to begin a series of blogs regarding this topic. After a little thought about the matter, I thought I would start this “strand” by writing about one of my earliest recollection of  a particular guitarist who stood out for me. As it was for many players of my age ,when we were young, we were all riffing out to “Smoke on the Water” and singing praises of Jimmy Page. However, it was thanks to my older brother that I was introduced to the styling of Nils Lofgren! The album my brother brought home was “Cry Tough”. cry-tough-front-600px

Upon first hearing the album, I was hooked! Probably needless to say to all Nils converts, but I do believe I wore out the grooves on that album as much as anyone could. Fortunately, to this day, I have probably 3 or 4 copies, thanks to garage sales and thrift shop hunting. In any event, if you are a guitarist and really want to hear a guitar player who utilizes great melodic structure and finesse, then do yourself a favor and explore some Nils Lofgren at your leisure. Now many of you, both casual listeners and avid converts, will know of Nils gig with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band! However, with the wonders of the internet, their is definitely no shortage of information and videos that stand as a testament to this matter of which I speak. With that said, here is a sample of some of Nils fine playing in the early days with a song called “Keith Don’t Go“. 
It’s a bit long, but he really starts to tear it up at around 1:35. Enjoy!

If you have chosen to  read this far, then be sure to visit Nils’ official website Incidentally, he gives lessons here too! Furthermore, I found excellent information regarding Nils at Wikipedia.
I hope you found this interesting!

Clarence Goes to the JUNOS

April 3, 2009

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This is the amusingly funny story about the first time I went to the Juno Awards in Hamilton at Copps Coliseum in March of 1994. For those of my non- Canadian friends, the Junos are the equivalent of the Grammy Awards in the US. For me this promised to be a great event for me to attend as a budding young videographer. This was a grand chance to hobnob with Canada’s elite musicians and songwriters. Moreover, this was the first year the Junos were to introduce ” The Best Music of Aboriginal Canada” category. So herein lay my dilemma. The Junos were taking place in the southern Ontario city of Hamilton, however, I was in the remote northern community of Moose Factory, Ontario working as a Producer for a network called Wawatay Television. For those who do not know where Moose Factory is, let’s just say it is a mere 1400 kilometre jaunt from Hamilton and the only access to it is by train via Cochrane. No small feat…believe me..as you will soon see! Now you must remember that Moose Factory is an Island in the middle of the Moose River that flows into James Bay. The nearest community is the town of Moosonee on the mainland. To traverse the expanse of the Moose River take about ten minutes. The only exception is the freeze up and break up of the river when locals resort to a short helicopter ride. In any event, during the summer Moosonee is only accessible by freighter canoes that serve as taxis in the summer..and..in the winter, the locals adopt a local invention known as the skidoo taxi to get them across the river.

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To further explain. The skidoo taxi, as the name implies, is a snowmobile with a wooden box towed behind, in which the passengers sit. However, if you are fortunate enough to have a vehicle, one can utilize the seasonal “winter road”. I use the term “road” loosely, for you see, the road is actually the frozen expanse of the river that is plowed in the winter to allow passage by car, truck or this trusty skidoo taxi thingamajig of which I speak. So I’m thinking at this point, I would get to the Junos by skidoo taxi to Moosonee, catch the train to Cochrane and transfer onto the bus that would take me to Toronto..and then finally…onto Hamilton. Pretty straight forward don’t you think? Ahh, but hold up, did I mention this was late March and the “winter road” has a nasty habit of flooding on mild days as the tide makes it way on top of the ice. “That could come into play.” I thought, but soon dismissed the thought. Well, in any event, all things considered, the taxi, train and bus plan seemed a good option. Besides, not having a great budget, a plane out of Moosonee to Toronto was a bit too expensive! Also, one minor detail I should mention was that the Executive Director of Wawatay Television, my “boss”, was nominated for this first ever Juno award to be presented to in the category of ” Best Music of Aboriginal Canada” So needless to say, it was imperative that I document this important event, given my boss had a good chance of winning! Yikes! You gotta do what you gotta do to appease everyone eh?

So as planned, I needed to get to Hamilton by Sunday for the Junos, but I needed to leave via train Friday morning. Also, did I mention that there was still a program that needed to be edited and packaged Thursday evening so I could deliver it personally to Toronto on Sunday afternoon? No? Well that was precisely the case, because at that time we delivered our program to the Ontario legislature in Toronto, whom in turn broadcast my program on their satellite feed. So, needless to say, I was obligated to finish editing my program by the time I left Friday morning. With Thursday now upon me, and my deadline fast approaching, I worked like an Editor possessed. I worked into the evening, then into Friday, and soon found myself still editing only an hour before departure. But remember, I was on a mission! With just a bit of packaging of the program remaining, I timed it so I would call a car taxi to pick me at about 8:15 a.m. to make the train across the river in Mosoonee at 9 a.m. Certainly that would give me plenty of time huh? But as it goes with the best laid plans, things started to go awry. First off, there were no taxis to be found despite my persistent calling. I guess everyone had the same plans. Go figure? It was now half past the hour and I was getting edgy and desperate, but alas! There upon the cork bulletin board were the keys to the company van. I felt the weight of those desperate moments suddenly lift of my shoulders and dissipate. I grabbed the keys and headed out the door, got in the van, fired it up and I was now off the the races like a bat out of hell! In moments I was approaching the river, ready to make the trek on the “road”. At this moment, I took note of the car ahead of me. “Most likely a parent, no doubt, taking their kid to the High School in Moosonee” I thought to myself. Suddenly, I seen a car taxi coming up the embankment from the other direction. The taxi stopped momentarily and rolled down his window to speak to the driver of the car in front of me. I could see their breaths hit the air as they engaged in a brief exchange. With a bit of hesitation, the driver in front proceeded to proceed onto the “winter road”. I followed and I soon clued in what the two must have been discussing. Remember I said that the tide waters had a nasty habit of making its way on top of the ice in March. Well, it turns out this was one of those days. However, I continued to follow those brave souls in front, but that soon came to an abrupt end when the car in front stopped at a place on the winter road that traditionally seems to dip. Of course, that meant the water was a little deeper there. It was at this point, the car in front did a 180 and opted to drive back toward the Island. As the drive went by, she shrugged her shoulders. “Now what?” I thought to myself, but abandoned that thought, only to remind myself, ” I…WAS…ON…A..MISSION!”

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Besides, what would my boss think if I were not to show up with my camera to capture this very important event. Just what kinda journalist would I be? Humph! “Time to soldier on.” I commanded myself. Now with the van stopped, I opened the door and noted the water was up to the center of my wheels. “Not a problem! I’ll just take it slow” I reasoned. Knowing now the ice was covered with about a foot of water, I was aware the tires were more apt to slip, so I put it in low gear and proceeded. When I reached the place where the ice dipped, I approached it with extreme caution. “Ahh” I convinced myself, ” but you have a plan.” I was thinking that I would simply take it easy…and just moments before hitting the dip…I would gun it and gracefully transverse this “wee” impediment. ” Task at hand Clarence. Task at hand” I repeated to myself. It was time..and so I now tromped the gas! I felt the initial thrust as my vehicle lurched forward. “All is well” I exclaimed “look at me go!” Suddenly, the vehicle went sluggish. Then.. more so…then as NOT anticipated, I stopped. “Arghh!” I yelled and slammed my fist on the steering wheel. Feeling a bit distraught, I rested my head upon the wheel and listened to the sound of my own heartbeat quicken as I realized my gallant attempt to get to Moosonee was thwarted by the elements. After what seemed to be an eternity, I lifted my head and shut the engine as I resigned myself to the fact that I was now stranded…in a van..on a river..surrounded by water. Surely enough, after opening my door and looking out, I observed that the water was right up to me wheel wells. “What’s a fella to do?” I sighed to myself. The first thought that occurred to me was to take stock of situation and soon realized…here I was dressed in a flimsy jacket not fit for this weather, given I had anticipated my outerwear was appropriate for the southern climes. Moreover, I had my bag of luggage, a tripod case, a brand new video camera, and another heavy case containing all my accessories like tapes and batteries, microphones etc. Wow! What a predicament! In a moment though…my spirits lifted…because off in the distance I could hear the sound of a skidoo taxi. I never thought the distant hum of an Elan engine could sound so pleasant to the ear. I positioned myself and slid over to the passenger side… opened the door…and began to yelling and waving my arms frantically to get the attention of the driver of the skidoo taxi. (It might be important here to mention the skidoo taxis ride high on the snow part of the river that has not been carved out by the heavy vehicle traffic.) “Maybe, just maybe” I thought to myself, ” The game may still be on.” I was relieved to see the approaching driver of the taxi wave back. Then it occurred to me, “Well that’s a good thing, but hell, I still have to make the trek across the water covered icy surface with about a hundred pounds of expensive video equipment and luggage in tow in order to reach the taxi! Yikes!” However, in a moment that became a long bygone concern as I concentrated on the task at hand. I immediately went to the back of the van to gather up my gear and much to my surprise! There, hidden right under my tripod case, materialized a pair of hip waders.

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To this day, I have no idea where they came from, because I did in fact investigate and inquire long after this dismal story elapsed as to who owned those waders? No one knows eh? Anyways, I digress. So, on went the hip waders and I was now in business once more. I slowly stepped out of the van, slung my tripod case over one shoulder and my camera and luggage over the other. All the while, I was holding tight to the van, making sure not to fall. Tentatively, I let go my grip and took baby steps while trying not to entertain thought of the consequence should I fall. Every step..inch by inch..carefully marked…I soldiered on. All the while, in my head, I thought I heard the the Henry Mancini composed theme song “Baby Elephant Walk”

As I made my way, occasionally I would glance up to see a very nervous snowmobile driver gritting his teeth in silence. Moreover, I thought I could telepathically detect through the howling wind his clairvoyant whispers of encouragement. Not a word was said, but I knew he was routing for my pathetic ass. As I took those final last steps onto the higher part of the road and out of the water, I threw my gear forward to safety and lurched myself onto the small embankment. Just I was about to slip back into the icy water, I seen the the drivers moose mittened hand grab my paw to save me. “Whew, that was close!” I thought. After getting up and uprighting myself, I brushed the snow off of myself and I explained to the driver that I absolutely needed to get to the train. Reluctantly, after hemming and hawing about it, he said he would try, but not after saying it was in my best interest to just go home to the Island. However, with a little bit of coaxing, I found myself stepping in the box behind the skidoo taxi. I place my gear and made myself comfortable for the remainder of the ride to Moosonee. “This was gonna be a breeze now!” I boasted to myself. However, at this time, I could now see the dark clouds blowing in off of James Bay. In a matter of minutes I knew we were in for one of legendary hail storm that descend upon travelers on James Bay this time of year. The drive was now obviously concerned as he more frequently glanced back and then pointed to the imminent storm. I gave him the thumbs up, and he proceeded onwards.. We were now only about 50 yards from the bank of the river where the road led up to Moosonee. In moments, I thought to myself, we would be home free! In that same moment, everything changed! The storm, it seemed, had pushed the spring tide water higher than usual on top of the ice. This was especially devastating now, because the driver stopped. He turned to me, shook his head, and turned the skidoo around. Again, my trip was now off! To make matters worse, the storm was now directly upon us ready to heap its unruly wrath upon us. Suddenly, hailstones, the size of ping pong balls, began to pelt us. (Now remember I said I was only wearing a flimsy windbreaker?) Well, needless to say, a thin nylon windbreaker is inappropriate dress for an early James Bay storm. Coupled together with the fact that we were now speeding back to the island, wind chill also became a factor. It’s suffice to say, it didn’t take long for me to duck into a fetal position to furhter protect myself from the sting of the hail. With each passing moment, I could feel ice building up upon my face despite my efforts to hide. Without a lie, there were icicles now forming on my eyebrows, eyelids, and to add to my misery, I was touqueless! Lets, just say, my hair was a mess! What seemed like an eternity, we finally ascended up the embankment off the river into the community of Moose Factory. At this point, I don’t believe I could feel any of my extremities as we pulled up to the drivers cabin. The skidoo came to a stop. I slowly made my way out of what I thought might have been my final resting place in that “damn frozen coffin of a box”. I don’t know if y’all know what its like to walk in frozen pants, but let’s just say… it ain’t easy, nor is it pleasant. I eventually made it to his cabin and climbed the stairs all robot-like to the door. I was relieved as the driver opened the door and I felt that first warm waft of air out of the cabin caress my ice lacquered face. I don’t know if a face can literally crack, but I swear I heard something. Perhaps it was the crackling of the nice warm fire that burned in his iron wrought fireplace. In moments, I began to thaw and leaving a nice little puddle at my feet I might add. His wife, seeing my condition, was now patting me down with her dish towel like a dog they had just pulled out of the river. Once dried, tea and a healthy slice of bannock smothered with jam was presented to me.

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If you can be in hell one moment and heaven the next, this was it! All the frantic chewing must have cause some friction in my jaw, because I felt the feeling in my face slowly returning. It was at this point my thoughts suddenly turned to the abandoned company van on the river. “Yikes!” I exclaimed. I guess my brain was now thawing too. I then asked the driver to direct me to the phone. It was now a little past nine Friday morning and my supervisor would be in the office. I thought, I should probably let him in on my little secret eh? The phone rang a couple of times before the “man” answered. Before I could say anything beyond “hello”, my bossed chimed in quite pleasantly…and I say this sarcastically..” Clarence, what the hell is our van doing in the middle of the river?” In my ever evasive tone, I attempted to temper his harsh inquiry with a nonchalant reply ” Ohh that? Hey listen I have perfectly good explanation… ” And I went on, all the while profusely apologizing for my momentary lapse of judgment. After all was said and done, luckily, I still had a job. We agreed we would send a tow truck out to retrieve the van and that I should probably go home to get some rest after working all night. (Good supervisor eh?) Furthermore, he had heard helicopters would be deployed around one o’clock to transport people to the Moosonee airport and he further expounded that maybe I should get on the next flight out at two to Timmins.

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Thereafter I would be able to take the Greyhound bus at 2:45 as originally planned to Toronto. “Huh?” I hesitated a moment, thinking that airport/ bus connection was kind of iffy, but then piped in enthusiastically “Ah yeah, Andrew…that sounds like an excellent idea to me!” Game on! So I headed off home after thanking my gracious hosts for thawing me out. I kinda felt like Timothy Hutton in the Fred Shepisi directed movie “Iceman”. Upon arriving home, I plopped myself into bed. It was nice to start feeling the chill leave my bones. I do believe I seen a misty fog forming above me near the ceiling as the moisture hit the warmth of my room. Before nodding off to sleep, I strategically mapped out my connection from the Timmins airport to the Greyhound in town. For those not familiar with the Timmins airport locale, it is a good half hour out of town! But, ” Alas, luckily there are always taxis at the airport!” I reminded myself ” So…no worries!” And off to sleep I went. After that bit of shut eye, I picked up where I left off on my adventure. First, off to the helicopter pad to get across the the river to the Moosonee airport. “That went pretty well” I said to myself.

TIMMINS HERE I COME!

The plane was on time and then it was off to Timmins via the fabulous Air Creebec! “That went well” I said to myself. “After that hellish morning, things were certainly looking up.” I announced to myself ” After touching down, I remember screaming inside, “Yes! I am on my way! I’m on my way?” So there I am at the Timmins airport. I had just deplaned and there I was dashing off to the conveyor to retrieve my gear. Everything was going as planned. “Finally!” I sighed. Upon reaching the conveyor, I scooped up my gear and sprinted to grab a cab downtown to the Greyhound. “This is going to be a breeze now!” I quipped, and out the door I went to grab a cab. The automatic doors of the airport opened with a pleasant “whoosh” I was pretty well assured that the gateway to the Junos were opened! “Hooray!” I exclaimed as stepped outside and punched the sky. Then suddenly, after that glorious moment, anxiety overwhelmed me in my wonderment. “Was this really the Timmins airport? Or am I still in bed having some sort of bad nightmare?” I asked myself, because at that moment I did not see a single taxi in sight. I glanced around and nada, not a one. “There are ALWAYS taxis at the Timmins airport!” I reminded myself, but yet none were to be seen. It was then I heard a voice in my head that sounded much like the monolith in 2001-A Space Odyssey “Where are the cabs Clarence?” the voice asked, “Clarence?” the voice continued the taunt me, ” You said there would be cabs Clarence!” Now disappointed the patronizing voice added. “Clarence, I am very disappointed in you!” Hell so was I! Upon snapping out of my reverie, I pinched myself. I inspected myself and noted I wasn’t naked, nor flying, nor doing any of those odd things you experience in dreams. “Hell!. Now in my real voice I screamed, ” Where the hell are the damn cabs!” It was then that I felt a gust of cold Timmins airport air slap me in the face. Now fully aware of my predicament, I realized my plans were once again going to hell. I looked…I waited…I waited…I looked, but not a cab to be seen anywhere near. If you have ever been to the Timmins airport, you know then that you can see a long way out past the airport. Now I was started thinking silly thoughts like renting a car, then thought about cost. As mentioned before, there was only about a 45 minute window to make my connection to the bus and maybe ten had already elapsed, and furthermore, I needed 20 minutes to get downtown. I thought certainly this was the end of the line for Clarence’s great Juno adventure! But,…there lurking by the rental lot was an individual who looked a little overdressed for this blue collar town. In a moment I realized just who this gentleman was as he made his way to a stretch limo parked there amongst the rentals. It was one of them there typical long white ones. You know the type? Like the ones “rock stars” ride in. ” Hey buddy!” I yelled, getting his attention. “Hey buddy, come here, I need a favor of you!” I don’t know what his thoughts at that moment were, but generally when a Native starts a sentence with “hey buddy”, it is most often followed by, “can you spare me some change Chum?” 😉

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Anyways, probably against his better judgment he meandered his way through the lot tentatively, all the while asking me what I wanted. I seen his concern. What did I do at this moment to alleviate his tentativeness? Well, I reached into my pocket and dug out all the cash I had on hand and waved it at him and gestured with my other hand that I was headed to town. In a moment he was in the limo and pulling up loading up my equipment. So, picture this! Here I was now, some guy with a load of strange cargo telling this stranger I’m off to the Juno awards and I needed his limo to get me to the Greyhound. Hmm… I bet you he still ponders that story? Hmm.. I still ponder that story! Anyways, I tinkered in the back of the limo. I was flipping dials on the entertainment centre, checking out the bar, caressing the leather, and pushing buttons to try to get the sun roof to open. Needless to say that thirty minutes in the limo went by quick and sooner than expected we were pulling up to the Greyhound bus depot. I snapped back into action, realizing I had to yet get my ticket for the “DOG”. I jumped out of the limo and waved the driver of the bus down just as he was about to depart the depot parking lot. I quickly explained my situation and he complied to let me on after causing much commotion among the anxious travelers. In moments, I was in and out of the depot with ticket in hand. The driver had loaded my gear and directed me onto the bus.

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As I stepped up into the bus and made my way down the aisle looking for an empty seat, I felt every eye on that piercing me, though I tried to avert their glances . I can only imagine what they were thinking. I could hear murmurs at the back, but they soon faded as I made my way down the aisle to settle into a seat near the washroom. Once settled, I donned my headphones and played my Sony cassette walkman and took a well deserved rest. ( Yes walkman..no mp3 player yet.) My only thought as I dozed off was ” Game on!”. When I awoke, we were approaching the Greyhound bus depot at Bay and Dundas in Toronto. You can imagine my relief. However, despite all that, I had yet to deliver my tape to the Ontario Legislature, find a suit for the gala, and attend to videotaping some pre-Juno celebrations in Toronto that day. Everything went swimmingly. I went to the Legislature, delivered the tape and got a hotel. The next day I videotaped the celebrations hosted by the persons responsible for getting the “Best Music of Aboriginal Canada” included at the Junos along with the nominees, record company exec types and fans. It was a great celebration to say the least and I manage to get it all on tape. ( Just an honorable mention is in order here and forgive me if I forget some names, but a few of the people responsible for this category were; Eliane Bomberry, Buffy Sainte Marie and Curtis Johnnie/ Shingoose and the nominees were J. Hubert Francis and Eagle Feather, Stoney Park Singers, Sazacha Red Sky a.k.a Nancy Nash and Wapistan a.k.a Lawrence Martin a.k.a “my boss”.) In any event, I had a great day and that evening I was off to get a suit. After resting up a bit in my hotel, my next task was to get a suit. So, I called a cab and told him to take me to the nearest suit store.

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Here’s a bit of a kicker! The cab dropped me off at a Moore’s on Younge south of Queen. I got out of the cab, walked into Moore’s with all my gear and proceed to look for a salesman. Now get this! Who should happen to show up and serve me is a former supervisor that I had while working at Syd Silver’s tuxedo rentals while attending Ryerson for broadcasting. Well, you can imagine both our surprise! In any event, I got five star treatment as I entertained him with my stories of my brilliant career in broadcasting. Up to that point anyways. Needless to say, he was amused, probably more so that I had a career, than my undertakings at that moment. In any event, we engaged in some delightful conversation, reminisced a bit and shared a few laughs. When all was said and done, I was a sharp dressed man baby! GAME ON! The next day it was of to the JUNOS. So, with all me gear in tow, it was off to Union Station via taxi. Upon arrival I made my way to hop on a Go Train to Hamilton.

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Upon arrival in Hamilton, it was yet another cab to get me to my final destination, the Copps Coliseum. Upon arrival I got my Media pass and hung out with the local journalist and entertained them about my misadventure. I am sure this story has reached mythical proportions among the ilk of my kind by now, because I am often asked to tell this tale of woe. So having told you my story now, lets review. A van, a skidoo taxi, a helicopter, a plane, a limo, a Greyhound bus, numerous cabs, a Go Train and yet another cab! A story sure to make Steve Martin and John…rest his soul… Candy proud! P.S. After an exhausting evening of taping the gala, I was finally able to breath a great sigh of relief. My boss won by the way. No raise however! Well in any event I finished the evening by chilling in a quiet corner of the buffet room talking to some “up and comer”, who I didn’t know at the time was Sarah MacLachlan. She made it clear she was trying to avoid all the pesky media types. “Damn journalists!” I touted. “Oh and what do you do?” asked Sarah. “Oh me, I’m just helping out with the caterers.” I responded, whilst inconspicuously trying to stuff the microphone trying to peek out of my suit jacket back in. She gave me a sly grin as her piercing beautiful brown eyes gave me the once over. It was shortly after, I was summoned by some First Nations gals who saw it fit to “abduct” me and whisk me off to the Rez for a a party. Hey! I was young and impressionable back then. So, for now I’ll save that misadventure No need to expose the innocent. And, as you probably already surmised, I did have a bit of a time explaining that MIA to my supervisor. In the end I blamed it on aliens. I think he bought it! Only after explaining all the things leading up to my Juno visit first, of course!