I remember seeing Ron Hynes for the first time. I was 13 and had lined up in a mall parking lot with my mom and sister to catch a glimpse of the Wonderful Grand Band as they walked into a bar show I was far too young to attend.
They were the biggest stars in Newfoundland, shining brightly because of their must-watch CBC-TV show. I was completely swept up in the WGBeatlemania they created.
Hynes was smaller physically than he looked on television, but he had the presence of a giant. I was in complete awe. A rock star.
A year or two later, I remember playing my older brother's "Living in a Fog" record over and over and over, pretending to be Ron during "Sonny's Dream" (and Dickie Budgell during "Babylon Mall.")
I remember, a decade or so after that, being fresh out of journalism school and interviewing Ron at the release of "Cryer's Paradise." Excuse my language, but "shit-baked" is the only word that really describes the rattling nerves I felt while questioning a childhood idol.
I also remember the hours spent holed up in my room as an adult learning to play "St. John's Waltz," "Sonny's Dream" and other songs of Hynes' genius. I forget some of the chords, but not the brilliance and layered meanings in the lyrics.
I remember the countless parties, here and away, where people would break into song, and someone, occasionally me, would ignite a choir with just five words - "Sonny lives on a farm."
I remember putting "Face to the Gale" on in the car, and becoming hoarse from singing too loudly, and becoming inspired by his unbelievable storytelling.
I have numerous memories of seeing Ron perform - in bars, in Arts and Culture centres, in packed stadiums, at special events, like when a Viking ship landed in L'Anse aux Meadows in 2000.
I consider "Atlantic Blue" during the official opening of Mile One as one of the most powerful performances I've ever experienced. What colour is the heartache from a love lost at sea? Hopefully I'll never know the answer, but that line brought a tear to my eye that evening, and it's doing it again right now.
And I remember, late on Saturday night, sitting on my back deck, reeling with regret for not going to see Ron with the Wonderful Grand Band at Memorial University's Wicked Variety Show. The regret was sparked by Twitter posts indicating that the show was living up to its name; there were tweets about Ron being joined on stage by Alan Doyle and others, and tweets about things Greg Malone, as Mr. Budgell, said to Hynes.
There is something I'd like to say to Ron as he begins treatment for throat cancer: you've been impacting my life for more than 30 years, and I can only hope in some small way to impact yours by sending positive thoughts and prayers your way.
Godspeed, Ron. Godspeed.
Steve Bartlett would love to hear and share your favourite Ron Hynes stories. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or post them on his blog at thetelegram.com.