Date: Saturday, Nov. 17/2007
Dateline: Hamilton, ON
My day starts with a surprise. As I leave the hotel room to go in search of breakfast, I run smack-dab into Garth and Maud Hudson, just arriving at the hotel after driving in from their home near Woodstock, NY. Garth and Maud are here because Garth will be receiving the Hamilton Music Awards Lifetime Achievement prize, representing The Band. For the tribute, Maud will be singing two numbers with their pals Blackie and the Rodeo Kings at the show, with Garth on organ. Also, Garth is one of Daniel Lanois’s special guests at his feature show Saturday night, joining on piano.
I met Garth and Maud during the interview stage of the Top 100 Canadian Albums, first via email and then through the phone, enjoying several hours of conversation with both. They greet me as a friend, which is humbling to say the least. It’s also my chance to hand-deliver their copy of the book, which they’ve been waiting for. Both are tickled over the back cover quotation from Garth, in bold letters: “I just want people to know that I’m Canadian. This is what The Band was founded on.” This was certainly the message that Garth was determined to get across in his lengthy interview for the book. It means so much to him for people to remember that he, and three other members of the group were Canadian, and he deeply cherishes his roots here, born in London. Levon and the Hawks was actually formed in Hamilton, after they left the employ of Ronnie Hawkins. Garth loves to chat about his forefathers and their roots in music, showing me an old handbill from 1899 advertising his grandfather’s musical vaudeville-type revue, from Th. Hudson. Maud, well, Maud is the life of the party everywhere, quizzing everyone on who they are, what they do, taking great delight in the slightest detail of your life, making you feel as if you’re family. In fact, she used that phrase, “Bob’s family”. I’m sure, as any fan of the their music could guess, this is quite a special feeling for me. But they need sleep more than chat, and I excuse myself after an hour, although certainly they never would have asked me to leave.
I spend some free time exploring a little more of Hamilton, and doing some serious record shopping. There are some great stores in the downtown, including Cheapies, Dr. Disc, and the Sonic Unyon store. I leave poorer, but happier, with about 25 Canadian singles from Dr. Disc among the highlights. I even find one for Garth, a present from a New Brunswick musician he loves, an original copy of Don Messer and his Islanders, doing Don Messer’s Breakdown among its four tracks. Collectors, it’s Apex 26222, so tell me if I just gave him a rare one. It cost me a whopping 20 cents.
The evening features the Industry Awards, for best club, best sound, best photography, etc. It’s a bunch of fun, since I’d met many of these people in the past view days. My new friend Kyle Weir won for best photographer, and hopefully we’ll be uploading some of his photos from the event very shortly. I got to hand out some trophies, and Hamiltonians never seem to tire of my mentioning how many of their musicians made the Top 100 book.
Then it was back to my MC duties. First, as I tried to scarf down a meal between the awards and the shows, I got the word that Daniel Lanois would like me to introduce his special show that night! In fifteen minutes! I beat a hasty retreat back to the theatre, leaving one piece of fish and many chips on the plate. It was the third time I’d had the honour to introduce Daniel this weekend, and I was told he usually doesn’t use an opening introduction, so I take his request as another in a string of highlights. I watched a bit of the show from the wings, including an amazing solo piano piece from Garth, which featured him weaving in bits of O Canada into a composition that smoothly moved from jazz to classical to Gershwinesque flourishes.
But duty called, and soon I was off across the hall to the other theatre, to introduce more artists from The Top 100 Canadian Albums. I finally got to see Simply Saucer in action, and they were just great, full of real energy and excitement. They played a set that included songs from their 1974 Bob Lanois-produced demos, right up to new material for the album coming out in January. Can’t wait. Also on the bill, sharing a stage with the Saucer for the first time in over 30 years, were Hamilton’s legends, Teenage Head. They were just as blistering and dynamic as the first time I saw them in 1980 or so.
As I moved away from the backstage to go into the front, who’s coming down the hall, but Garth and Maud! They wanted to see Teenage Head too, and we caught the last of their show. Maud asked if I could find the band after to meet them, so we all had a great chat in the venue for another hour. Then, it was decided Garth and Maud needed to eat for the first time in 24 hours, so a suitable bar-b-q joint was found. That’s how a whirlwind day ended, back at the hotel at 4 AM, Garth and Maud with their take-out, me wishing them some rest finally, and the knowledge that we had to get up soon for Sunday’s rehearsals for the award show. Read all about it next blog.