The view from here -
He had a face like a friendly leprechaun. It was a face that said, "Come on in! I'm glad to see you!"
It was a face that you took to immediately because it was so open.
His name was Sim Savory and he was unique. You will probably know him better as the Sim in Simani. You will also know that he died recently. I liked him.
I first met Sim at his recording studio in Belleoram. My singing partner ("Pat and Ed") and I had decided to make our next album with him because he came so highly recommended.
Of course, we knew about him and his musical partner, Bud Davidge. Bud and I were school district administrators and frequently met at education conferences. And we were more than familiar with the music of Simani and greatly admired their work.
We didn't know quite what to expect, but before an hour had gone by we knew we were in the right place. Sim's prodigious musical talent was immediately apparent, and his skill at putting people at ease was a gift. Pat and I were far from professional musicians, but he treated us as if we were Great Big Sea. By the time we left, we figured we were somewhere between Ian and Sylvia and Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. He could do that for you.
By the time we had finished our third album with Sim, we were totally under his musical spell. Whatever our best was, he brought it out. It's hard to know in retrospect what we enjoyed most: learning and making music under his tutelage, or simply being with him and that marvelous personality. We also got to know Evelyn, the lovely lady who was his wife.
One would never know from simply meeting him that Sim's struggles in life were many and hard, from tuberculosis to emphysema to the lung cancer that finally killed him. He made no secret of his battle with alcoholism.
I was surprised on our first visit to Belleoram to find a bottle of hard liquor prominently displayed in his office. Knowing how even the presence of alcohol can be disturbing to people who have that terrible disease, I asked him why he had it there and if it bothered him.
"Well," he said with that grin, "many of the musicians who come in here enjoy a little drink, so I have it there for them." Then he turned serious. "It doesn't bother me," he said. "That stuff nearly killed me and almost destroyed my family. I'll never touch it again."
Legend has it that at the beginning of their musical career as a duo, someone asked Bud either who had sung the last song or who would be singing the next one, or something like that. His reply was, "Oh, Sim and I." It took only the removal of a consonant for the name "Simani" to be born. It's also a good indication the egos of neither got in the way of their performing together.
Again, as everyone knows, Bud wrote and did the vocals for such great songs as "The Wreck of the Marion," "Outport People" and "Saltwater Cowboy." As Sim once told me with another little grin, "I can't sing a note!"
Hard to believe of a man who could play any instrument from a sax to a mouth harp.
One autumn day, I was stopped at the Goose Irving Station in Clarenville when Sim and Bud drove up. We chatted for a while and as I was leaving, Sim said, "Hold on, there's something I want you to hear." He handed me one of those little 45 plastic demo discs. "Here, listen to this when you go home and tell us what you think."
I put it in the glove compartment and promptly forgot about it. Several months later, I remembered the disc, dug it out and looked at the title. It was called "The Mummer's Song," and by then it was famous. I felt so chagrined and embarrassed that I never told either of them what had happened.
Daughter No. 3 wrote her Harvard thesis on Newfoundland resettlement. She was so taken with the words of "Outport People" ("... they left without leaving and never arrived") she used the song as an introduction. Her professors were much impressed.
I have been pained over the years to see that the music industry of which they were so important a part took so long to recognize their contribution to the music of this province. I know that lately they received a Lifetime Achievement Award and at least one from the East Coast Music Awards people. Better late than never, I know, but it was a long time in coming.
Awards shows would come and go, year after year, with no mention of Sim and Bud. I once asked them if they were bothered by that, and one of them - I forget which one - said, "No, we don't expect it because we're out here in the boondocks and not in the centre of all the action."
I still don't know if that was meant simply as a statement of fact or intended as a gentle indictment of the process by which the music scene, as well as those who contribute most to it, is judged.
Consequently, I have been moved by the outpouring of sentiment by people from all over, and especially this province, upon the death of the incomparable Sim. There is hardly a household, as someone pointed out, that doesn't have at least one Simani album in it. Their music, the wonderful balance of Bud's words and voice, and Sim's magical music, produced a sound as uniquely Newfoundland as a scuff and a scoff and a kitchen party.
Rest easy, Sim; you did us all proud.
Ed Smith is an author who lives in Springdale. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.