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Garnet Rogers says good bye to open Lethbridge Folk Club season

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The Lethbridge Folk Club begins their season on Sept. 15 with a special performance by folk singer Garnet Rogers, the younger brother of Stan Rogers, who penned “Northwest Passage” among other hits before passing away in 1983  in an accident in an airplane fire at the young age of 33.

“Hopefully we’ll sell some more tickets. We‘ve sold 58, but we‘d like to sell 150,” said Lethbridge Folk Club president Morris Soenen, adding they have a diverse season planned including plenty of local acts, who will all be at the Lethbridge College Cave.

“Garnet’s played here many times, but it has been a few years. And we have Connie Kaldor on Oct 15. She’s also played Lethbridge times.”

Garnet Rogers opens this year’s Lethbridge Folk Club season, Sept. 15 at the Lethbridge College Cave. Photo by Bruce Dienes
Garnet Rogers is enjoying spending time with his wife semi- retirement and is looking at this Western tour  as likely his last.

“It’s a chance to say goodbye and shake hands and apologize to everybody I’ve offended,” said Rogers, running a few errands at home.
“I must have played Lethbridge about 20 times, but it‘s been 10 or 12 years,” he observed.

“ I’ve just been playing around Ontario for the past two or three years,” he said.
 He has been busy, not only playing, but also writing an extensive memoir about touring with his brother Stan.

“Before writing any new music, I embarked on another writing project`— A 700 page book called ‘Night Drive Travels With my Brother’ about  touring with Stan, he said.

“People have  their own ideas if who Stan was. I wanted to write the story of about life touring — encounters with the lunatic fringe, police, bikers. It’s the definitive story, he said.

“Because back then, when we were playing bars, people expected to hear songs they knew. Stan was determined to play original music,” he said, noting that lead to the occasional conflict.

“Stan was a large guy and I was smaller, but we had a lot of fear. That lead to a lot of aggression. But Stan and I always tried to do good,” he said.

Garnet Rogers’ memoir “Night Drive: Travels With my Brother” is a compelling read, even at 735 pages plus a few pages of photos at the end, and while Rogers advises in the introduction that you won’t want to read it all at once, I couldn’t put it down.

 It is a more or less chronological outline of the years Garnet Rogers spent touring with big brother Stan and a variety of bassists from playing “bear pits” and “shit holes” to either non-existent or outright hostile audience, right through finally getting a foothold in the Folk Club scene of the early ’80s. He jumps back and forth a little to focus on specific anecdotes about several folks and clubs.

 So if you ever thought a folk musician was a  sweet, sensitive, nondescript guy sitting on a stool in the corner, strumming an acoustic guitar and wearing his heart on his sleeve than think again.

The story of the Stan Rogers Band includes bar brawls, fights with the audience members due wanting to play original music and their steadfast refusal to play “Feelings” or any John Denver hits, battles with bikers and band members, stories of “secret agents,” tales of trollish music promoters, blizzards, broken down cars, broken down clubs, poverty, sleep-deprivation, plenty of alcohol and much more.

The 2016 book is an amazing portrait of life on the road with Canadian folk musicians in the ’70s and ’80s with a colourful cast of characters humourist / science fiction writer Spider Robinson couldn’t create. The book is a veritable cornucopia of Canadian folk music personalities in the ’70s and ’80s, so there are stories about Willie P Bennett, Valdy, the Good Brothers, Gordon Lightfoot, David Essig, brushes with Bruce Cockburn, Ken Whiteley, children’s performer Raffi, blues legend Odetta, folk icon Pete Seeger, meeting  Leon Redbone and Iron Butterfly’s Doug Ingle in a run down club in rural Pennsylvania, Winnipeg Folk fest founder Mitch Podolak, various CBC personalities and lots more.

It is chock full of wild, drunken stories, self deprecating humour and hilarious stream of consciousness sketches of Canadiana and Americana which wouldn’t be out of place in a Ron James comedy special.
 In some cases names have been changed or forgotten to protect the guilty. Even Lethbridge makes an appearance in the book with the dubious distinction as being the place they decided to cut loose an animal of a bassist called Klag in 1980, who Rogers notes they were tempted to “throw off the train bridge.”

 And of course there are stories of Rogers being on hand while his brother wrote some of his best known songs like “Northwest Passage,” and “Barrett’s Privateers” to name a few.

Rogers noted they found their audience in Western Canadian folk clubs thanks to Calgary Folk Club organizers Anne and Mansel Davies who helped them gain a foothold in a lot of Alberta folk clubs.

 “We started to play folk clubs like the Calgary Folk Club and the Rocky Mountain Folk Club where people were there to listen to us, which was different than playing all of those bars,” he observed.

“We always put on a show instead of people just staring at their feet and playing. I’d rather engage the audience and put myself out there,” he continued.

 He enjoyed writing the book.
“As I was writing it, I was giggling so much,” he said.

Rogers said he is looking forward to returning to Lethbridge, but has no set planned.
“It will just be me. I have no plan. I have 60-70 songs to choose from,” he said.
“I just love to play for people and appreciate when people come out,” he continued.

 He has fond memories of playing with his brother.
“We were a team for five years together,” he said, adding they both drew from different influences, though they listened to the same records growing up together.

“I always felt we were great partners, though Stan liked more east coast folk traditional music,” he said.

“I had to find a different musical path. Our styles were so different,” he said, noting he has released 15 of his own albums since his brother passed away.
He is glad to return to Western Canada.

“The older I get, the harder the trips get. But it is important for me to get out and see people, and see the fans and play for them,” he said.

Morris Soenen is excited about the rest of the Folk Club’s season
 Local jazz/ folk/ rock band the Junkman’s Quire play the Cave, Nov. 25. The Folk Club takes December off, and return with Calgary based rockabilly band, Jan. 13.
“ They play ’50s and ’60s rock and roll that’s pretty good,” Soenen said.

Bluegrass band  the Bix Mix Boys  return to the Folk Club in Feb. 10.

“They played the Wolf’s Den, so it has been six, seven or eight years,” he continued, adding they are still working on shows  for March, but Juno nominated bluesman Ken Whiteley plays on April 14.
 “The first two shows are on Sundays, but the others are on Saturday,” Soenen said, adding Lethbridge Folk Club open mics have started. They are in the Casa community room on the first Friday of every month at 7 p.m.. until around 9:30 p.m.

Tickets for Lethbridge Folk Club  shows are $25  for members, $30 for non-members including a membership for the season, and $15 and $20 for students.

A version of this story appears in the Sept. 13, 2017 edition of the Lethbridge Sun Times/Shopper

— By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor
Last Updated ( Thursday, 14 September 2017 16:20 )  
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