Tartan Army members gathered last September at the Canadian Country Music Awards show. — Submitted photo
The last time Judi Barter remembers feeling this way, it was over The Beatles. These days it’s country music star Johnny Reid who’s got her all a flutter, though she admits she’s not about to go squealing or crying over him.
“I’m not that crazy now; I’ve sort of grown up,” Barter, 60, said with a laugh.
Barter and 56 others have been anxiously counting the days until Friday, when Reid performs at Mile One Centre in St. John’s, on tour in support of his latest record, “A Place Called Love.”
“Only three more sleeps,” Barter said Tuesday.
Reid, a native of Lanark, Scotland who moved to Canada as a young teenager, has eight albums — one gone double platinum — under his belt, three Juno awards and numerous Canadian Country Music Awards (CCMAs). He’s nominated for six 2011 CCMAs, which will be handed out in Hamilton, Ont. in September.
Reid’s also got thousands of faithful, mostly female, fans, including his 10,000-member-strong Tartan Army fanclub. The club takes its name from the title given to fans of the Scottish national soccer team.
Barter, the longtime town manager for Old Perlican, joined the Army in 2009, after developing a love of Reid’s music via Facebook.
“I had heard his music and whatnot, but it wasn’t until Facebook sort of came on the scene and I had some friends on the mainland saying, ‘Oh yes, we’ve known about Johnny Reid for years and have been to dozens of shows’ that I wondered how come nobody knew of him in Newfoundland,” she explained. “I met (other Tartan Army members) on Facebook and in forums on Johnny Reid sites.”
The members of Reid’s Tartan Army are from across the country and chat regularly, much the way younger Justin Bieber fans do: they delight in each small Twitter message from Reid and new photos that go up of him online, share stories of meeting him, and discuss his latest singles. Barter has seen Reid in concert five times already; there’s another Army member, she says — Susan Murphy of Saskachewan — who saw him 27 times on his current tour alone.
“She’s one of our die-hard fans. Well, we’re all die-hard, but we all just don’t have the time or money to go to all of his concerts,” Barter said, with a laugh.
Army members are coming from every province to see Reid’s show at Mile One, and they’re all meeting at the Sundance on George Street for supper (having outgrown a previously booked bar) before walking across to a meet-and-greet session with him before the concert.
This will be Barter’s fourth time meeting Reid, and she’s planning to bring a photo she took of him at a concert in Halifax late last year as well as her “A Place Called Love” CD for him to sign. She’s hoping he’ll remember her.
“The first time you meet him, you’re sort of in awe, like, ‘Jeez, am I really meeting him?’ sort of thing, but then afterwards, it’s, ‘Hello, how are you, nice to see you again.’ He remembers people; he’s got a very good memory. He’ll probably say, ‘That idiot is back again!’” Barter said, laughing again.
Cindy Grieve is a Tartan Army member from Winnipeg who’s flying to St. John’s tonight for the get-together and concert. She’s seen Reid in concert about 15 times, having discovered him when he opened for Martina McBride on tour, and says he’s got a special place in her heart that no other musician has ever taken.
Reid has seen her through a lot, she said, including her mother’s death and the adoption of her daughter, Lily, from China. Lily, now 21 months old, recognizes Reid when she hears his music or sees him on TV, Grieve said.
“My mom passed away just days before I saw him for the first time. When I met him I told him about my situation and he said, ‘How are you doing, darling?’ Of course, I just melted,” Grieve said. “He knew about my going to China and us getting our little girl, and I sent him a picture of her (via Twitter) and he said she was beautiful.
“He’s just such a humble person and so easy to talk with. Sometimes you get nervous, but he makes you feel like you’re special.”
The ladies say Army members will be looking for what they call “Johnny Hugs” at the meet-and-greet.
“He’s famous for them,” Barter explained. “He gives lovely Johnny Hugs. That’s just the way he is — he’s a hugger.”
Army members wear plaid scarves to Reid’s concerts, in one of three different tartans, depending on how long they’ve been in the club. They also wave Scottish flags with Tartan Army logos, meant for the soccer team and bought from Scotland through eBay.
There are a few men in the club, although not nearly as many as there are women, Barter said. Her own husband — and two sons, who are around Reid’s age — get a chuckle out of her Reid obsession.
“They think I’m off my head,” she said. “They just shake their head. They think it’s a mother thing, I think.”
Grieve said she’s slowly turning her husband into a Reid fan, although she can’t convince him to join the Army quite yet.
“He’s been to three concerts with me. His musical style is a little different than mine, but he likes his upbeat songs,” she said. “He’s been supportive.”
Both ladies say the Tartan Army is more to them than simply an outlet for chatting about Reid; it’s been a great way to meet friends, some of whom they’ll see in person for the first time Friday evening, but with whom they’ve already become close through Facebook.
“I’m not just going to see Johnny,” Grieve said. “It’s the other fans, too. I’ve made so many great friends. I’ve joined other fan clubs but nothing like Johnny’s. You feel like you’re part of a family.”
The Army members are planning to make a full weekend of their get-together. They’ve booked a hotel downtown and are planning to hit George Street, with the mainland members hoping to get Screeched in.
Reid, with special guests The Stellas, will perform at Mile One Friday at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $62.09 to $84.69 including tax, plus surcharge, and can be purchased at the Mile One Centre box office, by phone at 576-7657, or online at www.admission.com.