Buddy looks back

Shawn
Shawn Hayward
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Newfoundland folk band turns 25

Some say the sign of good music is its ability to generate a reaction, whether it be a laugh or a tear, or just quiet contemplation.

Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellers are masters of that, making audiences roll in the aisles with one song and cry their eyes out the next for a quarter century.

Ray Johnson sits on Kevin Blackmore's knee at the Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellers show in Gander. - Photo by Shawn Hayward/The Gander Beacon

Gander - Some say the sign of good music is its ability to generate a reaction, whether it be a laugh or a tear, or just quiet contemplation.

Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellers are masters of that, making audiences roll in the aisles with one song and cry their eyes out the next for a quarter century.

When the group formed in 1983, they had no intention of playing music together for 25 years, according to frontman Kevin Blackmore.

"We never went into this with any idea we were going at it long term or that it was anything more than something we were doing for the interest and love of playing tunes and having a bit of fun," he said.

"We would meet in the art room of Glovertown Elementary at the time, which is where Ray taught, and we'd get together Tuesday or Wednesday afternoons."

The trio became more involved in the band as time went on. In 1987, Blackmore's bandmates, Wayne Chaulk and Ray Johnson, took sabbaticals from their teaching jobs, while Blackmore put his musical instrument repair business on hold.

Those year-long sabbaticals were extended for another year in 1988, while the band toured and gained popularity. When Johnson and Chaulk were turned down for a third year's leave, being the Other Fellers became full-time, permanent positions.

Now, 25 years later, Blackmore said the three members have learned how to best complement the others' strengths. "We've grown as musicians inside the trio, and we've learned to accept our weaknesses better, because we identified them more, and relied more heavily on our partners' strengths," he said. "That's the true nature of any true successful partnership in a lot of cases. When we put it together it became much better as a sum of the three parts."

Three parts became four in 2000, when Byron Pardy joined the band as a bass player.

"That has added immensely because it was one big hole that needed to be filled," said Blackmore. "The one thing missing on our musical spectrum was our bottom end, the whole frequency range wasn't there."

Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellers songs range from the slow and nostalgic "Saltwater Joys" to the upbeat and comedic "Salt Beef Junkie." Blackmore said they try to balance their act based on audience reaction.

"The whole package ... has been moulded over the years because people appreciate each thing individually and we have people come up to us still and say there's not enough of this or that," he said. "We've been getting banged material because (people think) there's not enough sketch material in this current show, but someone's taste is always different from the next."

The band has toured extensively throughout the mainland and the province. Blackmore said they get a strong reaction from Newfoundlan-ders living away.

"When we travel into places that have a community of Newfoundlanders with a special longing to be home, you could always wrench the tears out of them with 'Saltwater Joys' or 'By The Glow of the Kerosene Lamp,'" he said. "But just as readily they're always willing to laugh uproariously."

The economic and social position of the province has changed dramatically over the past 25 years. Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellers toured and released CDs during the collapse of the fishery, a decade of out-migration, and now, the province's emergence as a leader in the Canadian economy.

"One thing which will go the way of the past, as we become more and more wealthy, is that aspect about having come from little or nothing, and that resourcefulness," said Blackmore, who lives in Glovertown, but grew up in Gander. "We're going to sacrifice that, and people won't want to see that go, but it's inevitable. It's change."

Blackmore added as prosperity changes the way of life in the province, so too will the character of its people, making his band's music a cultural artifact for future generations.

"Our own culture has to change, but you can preserve your heritage and remember it, and that's part of what we've been doing," he said. "It's not that we deliberately want to become historians, but we just feel there's so much delightful stuff that was told, we just want to log it down."

With 17 CDs released, the band has found a niche in a music industry Blackmore said is dominated by the Top 6 record companies.

"When you get outside of that people are looking for stuff that is sort of ground based ... things which are homespun," he said. "It's like wanting an original piece of art on your wall. It's a nice thing to be able to make copies ... but sooner or later you'd love to have an original by somebody who's a little closer to home."

Portions of the band's current tour, known as the "Two Five Tour" will be used for a live CD to be released in the future. Besides touring over the next year, Blackmore said their attitude toward the future is the same as 25 years ago when they practiced in the art room at Glovertown Academy. "We're just going to keep going," he said. "We don't have any plans to stop. We just plan to keeping going at the pace we've been doing for a long time, and hope that's going to work for us."

Organizations: Glovertown Academy

Geographic location: Gander, Newfoundland, Glovertown

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Recent comments

  • Cal
    July 02, 2010 - 13:23

    Congrats on treating your fans to 25 years of great entertainment . I'm sure that if there were a couple of Newfs on the moon , you guys would try to schedule a gig there . All the best in the future .

  • Keith
    July 02, 2010 - 13:22

    My wife and I love these guys and she only seen them once and to do that we had to drive from St John's to Clarenville.

    They only shows here are at the Arts and Culture centre and my wife being in a power wheelchair has to sit way in the back in the disabled section and her eye sight isn't very good in a dimmed atmosphere. We even went to the Arts and Culture centre to speak to management to see if it was possible for her to sit closer to the stage so she could see these guys better but it costs too much to make this happen. (Government for you)

    7 or 8 years ago Buddy and the Fellers played at the Clarenville arena and we drove there to see them perform because it was really accessible for my wife and we sat very close to the front. The trip was well worth it but unfortunatly that was the only time they played there. We look at their website every year to see if they are playing in a place where my can enjoy the show visually because you really need to see the performance.

    Hopefully she will see them again in the coming years.

    Sincerely
    Keith Hillier
    Disability Rights Are Indeed Neglected Inc.

    D.R.A.I.N

  • Carlson
    July 02, 2010 - 13:08

    I have had the pleasure of seeing them on two separate occasions - The Shed Tour, and the 25 Tour. They are truly amazing and very entertaining. Anyone who has not seen them should seize the next opportunity they have to see them. You will not be disappointed.

  • Cal
    July 01, 2010 - 20:07

    Congrats on treating your fans to 25 years of great entertainment . I'm sure that if there were a couple of Newfs on the moon , you guys would try to schedule a gig there . All the best in the future .

  • Keith
    July 01, 2010 - 20:07

    My wife and I love these guys and she only seen them once and to do that we had to drive from St John's to Clarenville.

    They only shows here are at the Arts and Culture centre and my wife being in a power wheelchair has to sit way in the back in the disabled section and her eye sight isn't very good in a dimmed atmosphere. We even went to the Arts and Culture centre to speak to management to see if it was possible for her to sit closer to the stage so she could see these guys better but it costs too much to make this happen. (Government for you)

    7 or 8 years ago Buddy and the Fellers played at the Clarenville arena and we drove there to see them perform because it was really accessible for my wife and we sat very close to the front. The trip was well worth it but unfortunatly that was the only time they played there. We look at their website every year to see if they are playing in a place where my can enjoy the show visually because you really need to see the performance.

    Hopefully she will see them again in the coming years.

    Sincerely
    Keith Hillier
    Disability Rights Are Indeed Neglected Inc.

    D.R.A.I.N

  • Carlson
    July 01, 2010 - 19:43

    I have had the pleasure of seeing them on two separate occasions - The Shed Tour, and the 25 Tour. They are truly amazing and very entertaining. Anyone who has not seen them should seize the next opportunity they have to see them. You will not be disappointed.