I’m over the Super Moon

I stared out my window last night to see the super moon. There it was, climbing above Big Chief -  the mountain face looming over us in this quiet little neighbourhood in Squamish BC.
The air is very still here. There are no bugs. There is great party happening two houses down.
I can hear Amy Winehouse blaring out of the speakers and young revelers laughing and dancing.
The last time I witnessed a super moon I was in Golden BC around a campfire at 1am  two years ago.
Our little patio holds a small Mac with external speakers playing the same song over and over again. It’s a song with Caribbean flavour I’ve never heard before. I’ve counted sixteen repeat plays and have not mentioned anything as I’ve been dissecting the rhythm and structure of the song. Twenty people surround me – mostly rock climbers – discussing the routes on Big Chief in the distance.
Someone points out the super moon and then we notice a few flickers of light from the side of the mountain face.
“Those are some dedicated climbers up there. They’ll sleep on the mountain tonight!”
“That’s unbelievable” I respond. “That’s dedication!”

I realize that this endeavour is unlike many others in this world. Scaling a mountain. Dangling by by a rope. My vertigo would not allow for this. My fear of heights would cripple me.

All conversation moves toward The Legend: Fred Beckey (google him please) . The 93 year old they met on the mountain earlier in the day.
“He has more routes named after him then anyone in the world. He was the first up most of the routes.”
They passed around the iphone and showed us a picture of the legend. Ninety-three and still willing himself up Big Chief. It’s ludicrous and beautiful.

Sahra Featherstone (violin and harp) has been accompanying me on this tour and has recently taken up this noble pursuit under the tutelage of her boyfriend Dale Sood who is an advanced climber. We were offered the opportunity to hang in Squamish for a few days and I thought it would be a great break from this relentless tour. I worry about her fingers but she assures me it’s therapeutic and safe.

This is the perfect day. It’s sunny and comfortable. I feel songs coming on. I just received a nice email from Ian Tyson. Sometimes life feels like a super moon.

I’m thinking about so many things today. My publicist is backing away from the workaday grind of his duties. Mom and dad are at home waiting for the family to arrive en masse for the big reunion.
I need to finish this book. Five songs are totally complete and seven more are showing signs of life. My calendar after October looks empty. That scares me. I’ve been contacted by someone in the UK about a min-tour and that encourages me.
I have four distinct producers to choose from for this project. I still can’t decide which one to choose.  Both Sahra and Tamara are convinced I should seek out Chris Bartos. I love it when people feel strongly about things.

So now we have to pack up and hit the trail. Vancouver tonight. The islands this week. Homeward bound next week. Well…it will take two more weeks to arrive safely home. Just fifteen more gigs to go and I’ll be home again. Still overtime. Not out of tune. You gave me a sign….
I’m over the super moon.

WESTERN CANADA SUMMER TOUR DATES

Hi friends,
this is a few weeks late in coming but I’ve attached our Western Canada Summer Tour dates.

The TUNE OUT, TURN OFF, DROP BY tour (we have t-shirts to prove it!) will be rolling through Alberta and BC over the next four weeks. Please pass this along to your friends. It helps.

I’ll be accompanied by Sahra Featherston on fiddle and harp.  Check her out here: http://vimeo.com/83997164 Cool eh?

We still have a few dates open (not many) but if you or a friend would like to host a house concert we might be into it. It requires gathering about 50 of your friends and folk music enthusiasts, have them throw $20 in the hat (or pwyc) etc…and we come in and give you concert right in your home. It’s generally great for us and I must admit – I beginning to like them a lot.

Hope your summer is amazing. Our has started with great concert attendances a lot of singing and merriment. (I’ll blog about it all soon when I have some proper time).

Here you go. Please spread the word.
Jay Aymar Western Canada Tour  2014

YOU TELL ME: Episode 3 w/ Paul Mills (20/04/14)

I sat down with Paul Mills ‘The man on the other side of  the glass’.

We discussed his engineering days, his lifelong commitment to music as an accomplished ‘Travis Style’ guitar picker,  producer, engineer and overall champion of the Canadian folk music scene. Beneath his humble nature and soft-spoken demenour lies a fierce passion for his craft and personal relationships.

The conversation covers such varying topics as:
Lemon Fresh Joy, Ian Thomas, CBC Toronto, Jazz Canadiana, Moe Kaufman, Oscar Peterson, Phil Nimmons, Guido Basso,
Stan Rogers, Fraser and Debolt, Laura Smith, CBC Radio program: Touch the Earth with Sylvia Tyson, Leon Redbone, Pete Seeger, Valdy, CBC show: Scales of Justice, Peter Paul and Mary (Take Me in Your Car Car), Stan Rogers, Willie P. Bennett, Danny Lanois, Mitch Podolak, Garnet Rogers, Grit Laskin, Ron Hynes, Sharon Lois and Bram, Eric Nagler, Bill Garret, The Mama’s and Papa’s, Commander Chris Hadfield, Jowi Taylor, (The Wire, The Nerve), ISS, Music Mondays, Ed Robertson, BNL, The Coalition for Music Education (Music Monday) and even the Wexford Collegiate Choir!

Unfortunately, we were out of time before I was able to discuss his latest project with Joanne Crabtree entitled Crabtree and Mills.
You can often find them playing live around Ontario and I strongly suggest you check them out.

Paul shows no sign of slowing down and I’m sure we can expect many more years of creative output from his soon to be home studio in London, ON.

As for my fledgling podcasting career, I have to stop saying “RIGHT” “UH HUH” “WOW” “THAT’S INTERESTING” after every interesting line. There’s got to be a better way!

Check it out: http://www.spreaker.com/user/7217165/you-tell-me-w-paul-mills-02-04-20

 

 

YOU TELL ME: EPISODE #2 w/ Richard Flohil (02/04/2014)

Welcome to the second installment of “YOU TELL ME”. I assured you some interesting stories and this one really delivers.
My friend and publicist Richard Flohil graciously agreed to discuss his life in the Canadian music industry. We sat down for a few hours in his Toronto home and discussed everything from early trad jazz to the power of folk festivals to the current state of the music industry.
If you’re interested in any of the following topics you should really free up some time and give this a listen.
Topics covered include:
Muddy Waters, Chicago, Howlin Wolf, English boarding schools, Peter Sellers, The International Concatenated Order of Hoo-Hoo (yeah…that’s right!), Buddy Guy, BB King, Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland (and how to quit smoking), Sleepy John Estes, Bobo Jenkins, Jimmy Reed, Phil Ochs (Changes), Guy Clark (Driskill Hotel), John Prine (The Missing Years), Leon Redbone (card shark), Townes Van Zandt (miserable), Murray Mclauchlan, Gordon Lightfoot, Leonard Cohen, Solomon Burke (The King of Rock and Soul), Amos Garrett, Mitch Podolak, Koko Taylor, The Rolling Stones, Downchild Blues Band, Dan Aykroyd, The Blues Brothers, KD Lang, Loreena Mckennitt, The Matador…
and a few stories left on the cutting room floor. Why leave those stories out? Well, there’s a forthcoming book and I wouldn’t want to be accused of spoiling you! You’ll just have to wait for it’s arrival. (For some of you that will mean buying it directly from my merch table in a year or so).
The tentative title:
“Louis Armstrong’s Laxative and A Hundred Other (Mostly) True Stories from a Life in the Music Business.”What can I say about a guy who’s still rocking after all these years. When I asked him what he thought about this years Juno Awards show he replied “I was at the Dakota watching a band. I missed them!”
I should have known.
Rock On Flo.

YOU TELL ME – Podcast #1: Jay Aymar interviewed by Andy Frank

Hello friends,
last year I had a wave of inspiration as I did the twelve hour drive eastbound along the north shore of Lake Superior, likely humming Homeward Bound. I realized that we were in danger of losing so many stories I’d heard on my recent tour. Your stories. You: the artist, musician, venue owner, author, bricklayer, lawyer, athlete, singer…whatever! So, I decided I would someday get you to tell your stories to me and put them up as a podcast.
A group of musical colleagues have agreed to share their stories to help me get started.  Who knows where this will go? Who cares. I find it interesting. I’m hoping you will too.

For the first podcast, Andy Frank of Roots Music Canada suggested he interview me to let some of you know who I am and why I’m doing this.
I grappled with whether this would all sound too pretentious…too self-absorbed. I’m still grappling with it. Regardless, I’ve jumped in and with Andy’s help, we’ve put together the first one hour episode

Here’s the first episode: http://www.spreaker.com/user/7217165/you-tell-me-episode-1-26-03-2014

YOU TELL ME: Jay Aymar and Friends
Episode #1: Andy Frank interviews Jay Aymar
(Live at the Painted Lady in Toronto, ON. March 26, 2014)

 

Rabbits are Sexy

I was in the middle of my great Walden Pond experiment when I looked out the cabin window and saw a rabbit bouncing around in the snow.  I could see my reflection in the frost covered window while the pot belly stove crackled away in the background. My mind wandered into the great unknown areas as it often does. I started thinking about building rabbit snares, making rabbit stew, using a rabbit foot for a key chain and the fur to fashion mittens. These things, of course, I cannot do as I have no knowledge of living this way.  My Jeremiah Johnson experiment was only a week in and I was already jonesing for some concrete jungle activity.  Wine, women, song, neon, noise, art, exhaust, frenzied energy….
My mind burrowed further down the rabbit hole as I watched it hop around on the hard packed snow.
The rabbit. Bugs Bunny so informed my comic timing. My friend drove a Rabbit automobile – the exact same car where I’d first heard Black Oak Arkansas – a group I’m sure would have a history of snaring and preparing rabbits. Then I began thinking about the group of us kids hanging around the incinerator in Poplar Park where we found our first weather beaten Playboy Magazine lying amidst the ashes.  The front cover proudly displaying the insignia of a rabbit’s ears and  naked women dressed up as bunnies. As we huddled around the magazine, just eight year old boys, everyone leafed through those pictures as though they’d discovered PLUTONIUM.  I felt I’d better not look for some deep seeded fear of going blind. Yep. That’s the Catholic church for you. I decided it would be too impure and that it could mean eternal damnation for a glimpse a Betty’s perfectly shaped Oklahoma breasts. Someone blurted out…”You’re a virgin!” Of course, no one knew what that meant but it seemed to sting. For that entire summer I believed a virgin was someone who wouldn’t look at dirty magazines.
By the end of the summer I walked back over to the incinerator where the magazine was perfectly restored and hidden, and leafed through it on my own. I was amazed to find that after three minutes, my vision was perfectly intact and the incinerator did not mysteriously fire up and engulf me in satanic flames. No, I was simply enjoying meeting Betty in all of her perfect beauty. It seems that my southern hemisphere was too! From that day on, the significance of the rabbit has been deep seeded.

So, while watching this furry creature take my imagination on a two minute diversion from reality, I suddenly found myself talking aloud. “Rabbits are sexy!” I said.
The scary part about being in seclusion is when you NOTICE yourself talking out loud. It’s ‘one flew over’ type of stuff.
“Geez Aymar, you just said RABBITS are SEXY out loud to your own image in the frost covered window. It might be time to get out of here.” And so I did. I was moderately happy with my creative output but to be honest, I wouldn’t make a habit of running off to seclusion again. Maybe a nice small apartment above a shop in Chinatown will do the trick. We’ll see.

I arrived back in Toronto to prepare for a trip to Kansas City. Every year we have the International Folk Alliance Conference in which folkies, industry, legends, upstarts, etc…meet and play for each other, find work, give a group hug etc… So it’s shine up your Birkenstocks and pack up the granola we’re heading to the conference to hug a few trees. Well not really. In fact, for group of forward thinking environmentalists  I was shocked to see how many trees we all used to paper the walls of the hotel to aggrandize our ego’s. (Al Gore was on hand to offer up more inconvenient truths about our savagery to this big blue marble – using a large screen and images culled from the internet which he…er….helped usher in).  So, fresh out of isolation mode of the woods, I went directly into a van with my friends and hit the trail for the two day drive to Kansas City. We didn’t sing Kansas City here we come. We didn’t make any OZ references. We certainly didn’t play any TOTO. We did however laugh ourselves silly.

The cast of this travelling caravan included my publicist and friend Richard Flohil. His assistant Melanie (friend and artist), Sarah (new friend – assistant) and Craig (new friend – crazy Scotsman going down to see his banjo playing girlfriend).  As road trips go this assortment of sensibilities created the perfect match of wit, cynicism, intelligence, self-deprecation, eating habits, laid back demeanours etc…

The satellite radio station gave us an nice assortment of playlists as did the random iPhone selections. As we rolled into our first border crossing, we did the quick change, whereby I let Melanie bat her eyelashes at the border patrol and explain that we were simply ‘folkies’ going to a conference in Kansas City. Even the charms of Aphrodite couldn’t melt this guys starred and striped coal of a soul.
We were brought in, questioned and told to sit in the principal’s office for twenty minutes while the swat team descended on the van to unleash Snots the Drug Sniffing Dog to work on ‘The Case of the Missing Roach’. Of course all they could come up with was a case of CD’s of Appalachian banjo ditties – the Scotsman’s pride and joy.  While Richard begged with the stone faced border guard to stamp his newly minted passport (to no avail) we made it back into the van, now covered with muddy dog prints, and drove toward our Red Roof Inn destination in Joliet.

Somehow in the morning as we rolled along toward Kansas City, someone pointed out a restaurant in distance – Steak and Lube!
“Fuck-off! That did not just say that!”
We googled it. It truly existed as a auto body shop prior to becoming a steak house. Only in AMERICA.
” I’ll have the fillet minion, rare, with a side order of mashed potatoes and biscuits with white gravy. Oh and give me a side order of deep fried cheese and a cup of Crisco to wash it down with! And as for the lube..what are we talking about here? KY or an oil change? Is that on a separate menu?” What the fuck!

Finally we rolled into the conference. Picture entering a cruise ship where every passenger looks ats though they are on the Magical Mystery Tour. “Roll up…..roll up to the Mystery Tour!”
The only time I left the compound was to hit the front lobby for some fresh air (and that was usually tarnished by inhaling anything but fresh air. Smokin’ OP’s. Smok’em if you gottem. Don’t Bogart that joint my friend…pass it over to me! – Not me for doobies….paranoia self-destroya!)

Here’s how it went down:
There’s a main lobby where everyone converges. The next level up is where you register. There are gigantic ballrooms which host the large showcases.  The chosen ones play in these large showcase rooms to the buyers, other musicians, radio folks, house concerts hosts, mothers, sons and daughters. There are volunteers stations. Wet bars. People with hats, long coats and striped pants holding fiddles, banjos, guitars, bass’s, flutes, noise makers. There is a constant hum of perpetual crowd noise and bit of music playing the background. Random applauses coming from distant corridors. Its swirls and drifts and people are waving, hugging, stopping to chat, leaving to find another familiar face. Over the four days I had three separate people look at me and burst out into tears. It was a song they heard. It was the overwhelming nature of it all. The limitless talent creating self-doubt. The showcase they ROCKED in. The lack of sleep. The love found and love lost. All crammed into this floating spacecraft for a weekend of folk music. The brightest, most sensitive, creative, caring people on the planet  – here for one reason or another to collectively huddle around this gigantic tribal fire we call Roots music. To say “We believe in social justice, we believe in bringing you a better world through music, we believe in each other.
The group hug shifted smaller tighter rooms upstairs as the night descended.

Three floors of the hotel were used for private showcases. Beds used as stages and seating and creatively designed rooms made to feel  like mini-concert halls. The walls (unfortunately) plastered with random images of artists (mine included) in what looked like a spectacular art installation. Dionysius hovered above the masses as songs poured out of every room and the love train circled throughout the hallways.

On my second night, I found myself in front of the elevator doors with approximately one hundred other artists singing “Oh darling….if you leave me…I’ll never make it alone…believe me when I tell you…I’ll never make it alone!”
Until that point I hadn’t consumed a drop of alcohol since New Year’s Eve.  Suddenly, after thinking about a girl I missed, I loved…I sang the lyrics in unison and reached for a glass of rum. I turned to a new friend (a brilliant writer from OZ – Jordie Lane) and said “I think this is something!”
“Yep…this floats mate!” We laughed and continued to chat.
Winds up I was to do a writers round in a few days with him and Sam Baker from Austin and Del Barber from Canada. It was a great casual meeting.  It was a singular pleasure of the week for me to hear such great songwriters from the same stage. I could tell you about every song but alas there is not enough time.
So Jordie introduced me to his girl and we snuck away from the happening to play each other some newly minted songs. It was a highlight. Two days later I found myself at 3:00a.m. telling them both about the ways of love. Naturally, my drunken verbosity was at its loudest, most fiendish and embarrassing height! It couldn’t have been all that bad as they attempted to have me meet Steve Poltz, another terrific writer I’d met last year at the Halifax Urban Folk Festival we were a part of.  It went on like this for days. Fun, tiredness, catching this artist here and that artist there.
I won’t begin to tell you who I loved and who inspired. The list is too long and the quality was too spectacular.  I will tell you that Chip Taylor (please Google him)  was the pinnacle of all pinnacles. It’s another story entirely. “Fuck all the perfect people!”  Indeed Chip.

So, on occasion I would run into my travelling companions who were running another room and sleeping in another room. I had my own room which was a beautiful break. On the last night, I was just navigating my way back to my room when I ran into a guy I’ve been meaning to meet for a long while. Dave Gunning. An east-coaster who’s a terrific writer. We talked about these crazy things we have in common and then all roads led to his Stompin Tom stories. He was on the road with Stompin for a long time I kept asking questions and he kept delivering.
By the time it was done, I’d learned how to impersonate Stompin Tom via Dave – “Squint one eye, fake a drag off of a cigarette, pretend to pull down your cowboy hat, lean in and speak with a nasally accent and say – YOU AIN’T ONE OF THEM FALSY DOWNSY DRINKERS ARE YA?”
(which by the way is the title of Kev Corbett’s wife’s book which I intend to buy pronto).
So we talked about a million things and somehow we drifted and before you know it I was stumbling down the hallway, a self-proclaimed victim of the rum, Stompin Tom and my alter ego. Somehow I found my  way to bed to sleep it off and prepare for the journey home.

We left the hotel in the distance and our new driver Sarah graciously agreed to  navigate us toward the Paris of the north – Decatur Illinois. Words cannot describe my gratitude for this amazing gesture. My vertigo at an all time high, she was perfect. I fretted when we started hitting enormous potholes in Decatur as I was primarily insured but alas, she pulled through.  I won’t sully the story with the Wasteland that was Decatur.  A soy plant provided the employment for the city. Vast empty fields dotted with torn down factories and billowing smoke and one way streets and rampant nothingness. We settled on a Blob Evans to dine but 9pm on a Sunday found it well closed.  We would find our beer and grease elsewhere. I would have settled for a Steak and Lube by then.

We made it back to the absurdly run down motel. I love the smell of carpet freshener in the morning! (Not to mention that one of the male contingents snuck into the room to destroy the can prior to our arrival – my god – I’ve seen the smell of death). The night finally winding down we flicked on the TV for our last taste of Americana and laughed ourselves to sleep watching the new Jim and Tammy Faye Baker sell their bullshit version of God.

It had something to do with miracle water sold by a guy who looked like he’d fallen asleep in tanning bed for an extra day and had to have some plastic grafted on to his melted chin. His capped teeth beamed as he spoke in that loud whisper (as most TV evangelistic con artists do) suggesting to the poor unemployed soy factory workers from Decatur that they should buy their way into heaven with a ‘simple tithe’ for ‘miracle water’ and the chance to meet Jebus at end times. Now here’s the kicker (you can’t make this shit up) his name?  PETER POPPOFF….I’m just going to leave it at that.

The shenanigans just kept rolling along until we made it back to TO. The music, the happy tired, the new friendships, the craziness of it all.

I found myself on a subway two days later reading a hilarious book of fiction about the music industry.  It was the perfect end to a week that saw me laughing out loud too many times.
I looked up as though I’d just said “Rabbits are sexy!” on the northbound subway to Finch. A woman was smiling at me. I realize what I had done. I had just laughed out loud after reading the first chapter of this book…I believe I startled everyone on that particular car.

She looked at me asked “It must be a good book?”
Resisting the urge to blurt out “Rabbits are sexy!” I quietly whispered, “Oh wow…you have no idea.”

I put down my book and pulled out my pen and paper and wrote:

IN THE MORNING I’M LEAVING RICHMOND
UPON THE NORTHBOUND TRAIN
HEADING TO MY CROSSROADS
WESTBOUND TO JANE

…..I was home.

Sunshine Go Away Today, I Don’t Feel Much Like Dancing

It never ceases to amaze me where we can find time to squeeze in our little creative ramblings. I’m writing to you from my dermatologists waiting room in the heart of Scarborough, ON.  Just to reinforce the Rob Ford stereotypes of our great city, upon arriving at Dr. Adams office I was greeted by six police cars taping off the main entrance into the building. All in a day’s work for the GTA’s finest. This was so far removed from the Pogues song I had blasting on the drive in: “And the boys from the NYPD choir were singing Galway Bay…and the bells were ringing out on Christmas Day.” No, unfortunately the boys were busy sharing a Timmies lunch and directing traffic away from the action. A quick hike up the side door entrance stairwell and into room #310 and voila…I’m visiting the doc.

“Hello I’m Jay Aymar, here to see Dr. Adams.”
“Do you have your health card? What’s your address? Phone number? Year of birth?”
“Do you want my mother’s maiden name too?” I said with a half-cocked smile.
“I beg your pardon? You mother’s maiden name? We don’t need that! Wait time one to two hours! We’re not that busy today.”

The joys of universal healthcare. In Canada time isn’t money. Still, I’m proudly socialist at heart.
I write this as a poster peeks over my shoulder reading “Government cuts put Health Care at RISK!”
I don’t know anymore. Too many messages not enough brain capacity to decipher the truth of it all.

I’m just hoping my second most precious organ (my skin) is going to withstand the three times I’ve suffered heat stroke.  I’m sure I’ll be fine.  The first time was unlike anything you could ever imagine. Let’s a take quick detour shall we? Consider this a PSA on what not to do in the sun – ever! First you’re going to have to sit through the back story. It’s worth it.

— The Year: 1992 — Location: Wheeling West Virginia – Jamboree in the Hills —

That summer I was one year away from finishing my B.A. at Carleton. Let’s just say I took the long way home on that one. My childhood buddy, Andy was finishing his Masters at The University of Toronto in Entymology. His thesis was on the white pine weevil and its effect on jack pine plantations in Northern On. (You know – that old chestnut!)  Specifically, something called an ‘emergence’ study. The weevil would fly around at about six feet and plant its larva into the top node of a young pine tree then fall onto the ground, burrow it’s way under the earth for one full winter. The effect of those larva in the trees would eventually (30+ years down the road) devalue the timber when it came time to harvesting the trees. At the time EB Eddy (match sticks and toilet paper) had purchased the massive amounts of land off of KVP (all north of Sudbury ON and south of Timmins – near HWY 144/560.) EB Eddy had some semi-operational logging camps still going and they contacted the University of Toronto Forestry program to see if they could run a study on this pesky white pine weevil that was devaluing their crops. If some students could come up and find out exactly when the weevil would re-emerge from the frozen tundra then they would know the exact time to aerial spray, killing them dead while they were in their most susceptible state. (That’s my best interpretation of the science behind it all – Bill Nye I ain’t). Andy was naturally selective of who he had to work with for two full summers and convinced his professor that I was a good fit with a science background (Political Science was indeed my minor! lol).

So there we were, building weevil traps, tracking them, dissecting nodes, partying with tree planters, meeting mad-trappers and basically having more fun than two-humans ever should. All the while I was playing songs and writing new ones feverishly.

Of the locals we met, one of them owned the Watershed Restaurant. Jim had bought the truck-stop along with his father-in-law after winning 100K from a dream house lottery ticket he bought at a Legion dinner one night. He and his father-in-law chipped in and as he claims “I was so pissed, I totally forgot I had bought the ticket. Three months later, someone calls me to say they that my name was pulled and I need my half of the ticket to claim the prize. I had one month. I turned my house upside down. I couldn’t find it. Didn’t remember buying it. I gave up. With only two days to spare, I found the ticket behind my dresser in the baseboards! We sold the house and with the money we made bought this truck-stop!”

Jim, noticing my passion for playing the guitar with the old-timers every weekend invited me to a yearly ritual of driving down to Wheeling West Virginia to The Jamboree in the Hills. Essentially a Woodstock for country music fans. Wheeling WV boasting the first country music station, now hosted this four day extravaganza of country music from traditional to modern. The year I went it was everyone from Tanya Tucker, Pam Tillis, Marty Stuart, Callme Twitty, Brooks and Dunn and about forty other artists I despised. (With the exception of Willie Nelson.)

“Jay, you gotta come along to this. We have a friend in Orillia, Gary, who owns a big bus with a gigantic loon painted on the side of it and we pack in about thirty of us and head down as the Crazy Canucks. We stay in a Super 8 near the jamboree. It’s four days of hot sun, hot country girls, great music, tons of party supplies. You have to come!”  Jim looked up only to find a Road Runner cloud where I was standing. I was already on the bus.

As we drove down,  I was seated next to guy named Dale Rolfe. He was the brother-in-law to Gary who owned the bus. Dale was now a plumber living in the Muskokas (originally from Timmins, ON), who’d once played in the NHL for about seven years as an Original 6 defenseman for the Los Angeles Kings then the New York Rangers. He was big man who by his own admission had more penalty minutes than points. (A lot more). In fact, it was the era of these underground hockey fight tapes (long before the internet) and Dale had made a few of the ‘classic fights!’ I said, “Hey Dale I believe I saw you on this fight tape going up against Dave Shultz?  Did you ever see that?”
“Well kid, I saw it once…once was enough!”
What an answer! That’s when I knew this guy was going to be the best road companion an inquisitive songwriter could ever ask for.
Our discussion let to my passion for folk music. Much to my surprise, an old ex-warrior original six  NHL’er shared the same passion. Not only the same love of folk music, but the same artists.
“Aymar, I’m not big on this new country stuff, I’m just going along because my brother-in-law likes it. It’s a great party! I like guys like John Prine.”
“What You Talking Bout Willis? He’s one of my favourites!”
This was right when Prine had released his comeback album The Missing Years and suddenly Dale Rolfe and I could be heard at the back of the bus screaming “Jesus was a good guy, he didn’t need this shit, so he took a pill with some Coca Cola and he swallowed it!” Just one of many classic lines pilfered from the latest Prine collection. We hung together for the rest of the trip.

I learned more about the original six hockey teams over the course of the next four days simply through sitting at the Super 8 drinking weird vodka drinks talking until the wee hours. I’ll put it to you this way – he dedicated his life to making the bigs and he was one of the very fortunate and talented few who actually did! When I met him, he had just retired from being a plumber. You get what I’m saying? These days a kid signs a one year contract and is set for life. He was big on the topic of Eddy Shack going after the pension money. I believe that was finally resolved – hopefully to Dale’s benefit.

We hit the jamboree for three solid days of music in the sun. It would start at noon and go until about 11pm at night. It was literally a bowl shaped grass stadium with people everywhere. At least 30,000 people were there each day. It was crazy. I simply remember staying up till 3:00am every morning partying in the Super 8, completely overrun with revelers coming back from the jamboree. The hotel was encouraging the party. Then, it was up at noon to hit the scorching hot West Virginia heat to listen to the midday sounds of The Oak Ridge Boys cajoling thousands of rednecks into singing “Giddy-up Giddy-up Giddy-up a mow-wow.high-ho Silver away..my heart’s on fire – ELVIRA!” Ouch! Just pretend I’m Old Yeller and bring me behind the barn and pump lead into my hungover carcass. Elvira and hangovers don’t mesh.

Now on the second night, I’d busted out my favourite t-shirt of the summer. A shirt that was given to me for my birthday from my good buddy BO (who tragically passed away last year). It was a play on the Nike advertisement: Just Do It. The shirt read “JUST DO ME” in big block letters.
Well, some random American beauty met me stumbling in the hallways of the Super 8 at 3am, and with a move I’ll never forget she pulled out a bottle of tequila, took a shot, gave me a shot and pointing at my shirt said “OK!”
I woke up the next morning to Dale Rolfe hauling me out her room. He was there to get me on the morning bus to catch DAY 3. A day of musical acts I didn’t care about. I really should have just stayed in bed.

As we did every day at the jamboree site, we slowly made our way off of the bus to the back of the hills atop the bowl. Our area offered great site lines, close to the outdoor speakers. On this particular day, I knew I would find a big shady spot and keep my ball cap on and find a place to sleep off the hangover that had produced a cotton plantation in my mouth and the Sahara in my bones. As we settled in, the heat warning came across the loud speakers: “Get your free  sunscreen and water over at the medic tent! It’s going to be dangerously hot today. Please visit the medic tent for free SUNSCREEN AND WATER!”

I decided to make my way over the tent for the water. It was to be a  long journey for sure, and as I disembarked for my life changing voyage one of the sensible women of our party offered me her umbrella for safety.  I staggered my way through the masses, through the heat, when suddenly I noticed a throng of Harley Davidson’s  blocking off a quadrant of land. Patched bikers had staked their claim in an area not far from the medic tent. They had erected a large sign which read `Show us your hooters for a free beer!’ Well, that’s one way to get a girls attention! WTF? What is this? In my haze of my mid-day heat-induced water run, I found myself defenseless to this carnival sideshow pleasantly unfolding. A long haired grizzly looking redneck biker sitting next to a black coffin (yes a real coffin) filled with ice-cold Budweiser. Fifty or so bikers (men and women) were cheering every country girl  who came by and flashed them for a free beer. It was, for lack of a better term: hillbilly paradise. So ludicrous were these events, I made sure I analyzed them in great detail. The circus only wasted an hour of my limitless time.
Suddenly a woman who resembled a 1985 version of Joan Jett tapped me on the shoulder “Hey man, that’s one fucking great t-shirt! Just Do Me! I’d say that’s worth a free Bud! Hey Rocky, throw this dude a beer!  Hey…nice catch!”
“Absolutely, I’m Canadian. Wouldn’t miss that catch for the world.”
And so the magic of the shirt worked again.
I downed the beer and then Rocky threw me another one. As they laughed at the skinny Canadian kid with the tacky t-shirt shot-gunning beers, I suddenly realized I had somehow infiltrated the inner circle of the biker gang.
Then without warning, the hangover had disappeared and I felt as though I was on top of the world. In the background some low rent country newbie was on stage singing about pickup trucks while country girls were baring their breasts for fun, and there I was… slowly drifting into an alcoholic haze amidst the safety and creepy comfort of a patched biker gang.
Just then, all hell broke loose and two bikers got into a serious tussle. Joan Jett tapped me on the shoulder and said “You should split man!” “You don’t have to tell me twice. Thanks for the beers!”

By now I’d forgotten that my original mission was to hit the medic tent for water. I walked ten minutes back up the hill to the middle of nowhere, stuck my umbrella into the ground and proceeded to pass out amongst the thousands of people obliviously walking around me.

In a scene which would have called for an Ennio Morricone score, I awoke to strange sounds, blurred vision and a young girl with her mother standing over me.
“Hey, wake up. Wake up. You don’t look well. Your face is badly burned. You need medical attention.”
“What? Where am I? Who are you? Whaaaaa?”
I proceeded to wipe the sweat off of my forehead and let go a howl as I wiped off the burnt skin.
“What happened to you? How long have you been here they said?”
“I don’t know. I laid down here with my umbrella for shade at 1pm. Where’s my umbrella and hat?”
“Oh my GOD, it’s 4pm and no one stopped to wake you up? Your umbrella must have blown away!”

So, they walked me to the medic tent, to put gauze on my forehead. They found my concerned friends who’d put out an APB for me and my friend Jim took me to the bus and delivered my burnt noodle back to the Super 8. Here I laid with severe burns and heat stroke until the following day when the bus headed home for Canada. Somehow in all of that, I lost my Billy-Bobs Subs (Home of the Belly-Buster) Trucker hat, my new sandals, an umbrella, my JUST DO ME t-shirt and every ounce of my dignity. I arrived back to the white pine weevil study with quite the story to tell and heaps of new found respect for the sun. That became my first of three heat stroke episodes and soon afterwards my first meeting with the dermatologist Dr. Adams.

—- How was that for a diversion? —-

 The best part of these visits is Dr. Adams himself, who could be the younger brother of Mel Brooks. I imagine if Mel had gone the route of using his brother as a comic foil in the great tradition of brother-comics (i.e. The Smothers Brothers, McLean and McLean, Bob and Doug MacKenzie/Bob and Doug Ford) he would have surely resembled Dr. Adams. His dry, quick witted delivery and intense interest in my mini-show business life always equals a great visit.

“So you married yet  Jay?”
“No not yet!”
“Geez you must be having a lot of fun out there!”
“Oh yeah, it’s BabesRus 24/7. You gotta see the folk trail, it’s insane!” lol
“Well remember, be careful out there. It’s a crazy these day.”
“Roger that. That goes for roger too!”

And these quick interchanges have been going back and forth for many, many years now all in the name of monitoring the scarring and potential damage done by my lackadaisical summer outings. Left untreated, I would certainly go the route of looking even more ruggedly handsome than I currently do. So these visits have become the norm in my life as I fear my weathered skin will soon be resembling a Rawling’s catcher’s mitt in the not too distant future. Here I sit, waiting for my next round of treatments. I thought, what a great place to bring my laptop and write my end-of-year Road Stories blog….and what a year it’s been.

(Dr. Adams told me to stay out of the sun. It’s a contributing factor to my vertigo – a severe loss of balance that I’ve lived with for over ten years. He said, my skin is ok for now. “You need vitamin D? Just stick your hand in the sun for 10 minutes – it’ll pour in through your hand and that’s all you need!” That’s really what he said. A quick tip for all of you sun worshipers out there.)

— I’m home now. Well if you want to call it home. I’m back at my sisters and brother-in-laws house where they’ve been graciously allowing me to hang my hat when not on tour. I don’t even know where to start with that conversation. A million thanks wouldn’t cover it. It’s deeper than that. —-

The Year That Was:

I toured for well over seven months of the year and found myself meeting new friends, artists, fans, luthiers, artistic directors, music industry folks, pot-smoking-crack-head-junkies (unelected officials at least) , white-collared criminals, the criminally insane and the lowest of the low: concert promoters .
I had so many kind letters about my latest creation “OVERTIME”. I put my heart and soul into every word and note on that record. I wonder at times if it was too heavy on the thought provocation and too light on the toe tapping. (Artistic insecurity alert!) The reviews were all stellar. I really was humbled. My closest friends and family reserved their praise. Family will always (rightfully) cut to the bone. “It needs a beat. It sounds too country. You should have rewritten that part. You didn’t take enough time with the cover art or the packaging. Why didn’t you make it sound contemporary?” I find it much more reassuring  when the false praise comes from fellow musicians.

So that’s it. Thanks for reading the ramblings. I love you all. Have a great Festivus with family and friends and I’ll do the same. As for Facebook and social media etc…I will officially be Tuned Out and Turned Off. If you absolutely need to get in touch with me you can  drop me an email  to info@jayaymar.com and I’ll get back to you within the week.

Roger that? You copy?

How you gonna miss me if I won’t go away?   Stay thirsty my friends.

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