Wayne Rostad travelling a different road

Danette Dooley danette@nl.rogers.com
Published on October 16, 2008
Wayne Rostad is touring the island. Submitted photo

In 1975 an unknown Wayne Rostad left his home in Ontario and headed to Newfoundland.
A serious folk artist at the time, Rostad was searching for something he had yet to find.
"I came looking for my magical cabin, overlooking the sea, right into the face of the wind where I was going to live," Rostad recalls.
During his time in Newfoundland, Rostad says, he discovered himself as well as his sense of humour.
"I was an artist still trying to find out what I wanted to do, where I wanted to take everything. And Newfoundland, as I tell everyone in this country, made me normal."
Rostad never settled in a remote cabin on a bay. Instead, he took a job in radio in Grand Falls-Windsor.
During his time here he formed lifelong friendships, he says.
"For two years I worked in Grand Falls, I lived in Bishop's Fall, I partied in Corner Brook, went from Woody Point to Rocky Harbour right up to Gros Morne National Park where I discovered there, the eighth wonder of the world."
Rostad was born in Ottawa and continues to live in the Ottawa Valley area.
As a child he loved visiting his grandparents in Quebec.
The home's warm atmosphere instilled in him a love of music and a passion for people.
"I used to watch my grandparents in the kitchen (in Quebec). They'd sing songs and tell stories and tap their feet. They'd play spoons, which was the only instrument they had."
Since those days, Rostad has wandered in and out of music all the time.
His career began in radio in 1969 when he took a job as a night disc jockey in Smith Falls, Ontario. He eventually moved to a position as TV news anchor in Kingston, Ontario.
No matter what job he undertook, Rostad says, he kept his music in his back pocket. His goal for many years, he says, was to eventually perform in music theatres across the country.
After clinching four Gemini awards for Best Lifestyle Series, Rostad's "On the Road Again," was dropped by CBC-TV last year.
The show had run for 20 years.
"I thought the show fulfilled the CBC mandate in spades which was bringing the people to the people," Rostad says.
Some of his most memorable television episodes involve his return visits to his province, he says.
"I've always had this love affair with Newfoundland. Even I left in 1976, I went back every year for eight years on my motorcycle to holiday with my friends in Newfoundland. It was my chosen summer destination."
Now that the door to the television show has closed, Rostad is realizing his goal of performing in soft-seat theatres.
His "One the Road ... Again!" Atlantic Canada tour kicks off at the Arts and Culture Centre in Grand Falls/Windsor Friday and includes performances in Corner Brook, Gander and St. John's.
Rostad will bring with him on tour, many of the songs he's written about the places he's visited and the people he's met.
His song "Clarence the Caribou" is dear to Buchaneers as it is to people from many central Newfoundland communities.
It also became one of Rostad's favourite songs and ended up on one of his albums.
The song tells the story of a caribou that wandered into the Town of Buchans several years ago and decided to stay for three years.
"I went in there and Clarence robbed my heart as she did the hearts of so many. By the time I left town there was a song dancing in my heart," he says.
Now that his ties with CBC have been severed, Rostad is looking forward to returning to his first love: his onstage performances.
"I've been entertaining all these years I've been in television but only regionally in my home base in the Ottawa Valley because the television show had me on a very short leash. I had to always be ready for that. So, I couldn't really accept long-term engagements or tours."
While Premier Danny Williams works to bring Newfoundlanders back to this province, Rostad says much good has come from the out-migration.
"Thank God that Newfoundlanders have gone abroad in this country because now the whole country is getting a sense of the humour of Newfoundland. And the other thing Newfoundlanders have done traditionally that I've always admired is that they've always been first at the front line."
Whether you're looking at the war efforts over the years or any other tough job that has to be done, Rostad says, you don't have to look far to find a Newfoundlander.
"If there's the coldest job you can imagine to be done in the North, handling a piece of steel in the middle of winter with your bare hands, it will probably be a Newfoundlander at the end of that steel rod."
Rostad says he'd like those who come out to show to leave feeling that they've just been to a kitchen party.
"Everything that I learned in Newfoundland never left me. I still have this desire to have a communion with people and a good yammer and a laugh. I'll tell a few stories about other parts of this country and about Newfoundland. I can promise them a good time. And I can promise them it won't be dull."