Canoe Songs
Credit: Thoneycutt/Dreamstime

It was wise for my mother to suggest an alternative career, in case my dream of playing drums in a rock band didn’t work out.

That’s why I went to college and became a forest technician, spending time cutting and planting trees in a northern Ontario town by the name of “Swastika” (weird, but they’ve yet to change the name of that town).

I played in a band through college. We were titled Crazy Haze and played a lot of Neil Young and Cat Steven songs. We even had one of our original tracks played on the local radio station. That’s about it though. I soon realized that being a drummer wasn’t my true calling in life. I stopped playing in a band soon after college, even left the forestry job soon after. Swastika wasn’t the most exciting place to be.

Who knew that several decades later, my history in percussion would be used to help promote the joys of wilderness paddling? Last year I was given the honour of playing cowbell during one of the Jerry Vandiver’s concerts at Madison’s Canoecopia show. He was promoting his release of True and Deep: Songs for the Heart of the Paddler. Surprisingly, I kept the beat throughout, and even dressed in a cow costume, complete with a somewhat distasteful hanging udder.

After the show I emailed my mother and said that I finally made it big in the world of rock and roll.

This year the dream continues. Jerry has a new album out — Every Scratch Tells a Story — and he’s asked me to play percussion again (bongos) while dressed up as a cute camp critter. You’ll have to come out to Canoecopia to see what animal he’s chosen for me this year. Jerry wants to keep it a surprise — even for me.

By the way, Jerry’s new album is amazing. It’s a great follow-up to his last collection of paddle songs. However, this one isn’t simply “Paddle Songs Volume II.” Every Scratch Tells a Story has a separate feel to it. There’s the fun and witty tunes like Up Hill Both Ways that tells about the displeasures of nasty portages. But there’s also solid tracks My Wilderness Journey and The Light of Crescent Moon that really speaks of the beauty found out there. You can really tell Jerry paddles in wilderness areas a lot and his experiences come out in full form in this latest album. To me, he’s like the John Denver of the canoe world.

I’m truly honoured to help out this talented singer/songwriter from Nashville, Tennessee. The Oak Ridge Boys, Barbara Mandrell, Gene Watson and Tim McGraw have all recorded his songs. How cool is that?! I, once again, get to dress up in a silly animal costume and play percussion with a famous musician. I hope I make my mother proud.

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