- Ball and Chain
- Ed Bickert
- Kevin Breit
- Brighton Rock
- Junior Brown
- Patrick Cardy
- Roch Carrier
- Joe Carter
- Cheap Trick
- Jean Chrétien
- Alex Colville
- Ry Cooder
- Robert Crumb
- Yaya Diallo
- Ken Dryden
- Wayne Eagles
- Harlan Ellison
- Timothy Findley
- Bill Frisell
- Marc Garneau
- Jerry Granelli
- Grateful Dead
- Hard Rock Cafe – Ottowa
- Stephen Harper
- Hugh Hefner
- Tom Henighan
- Dave Holland
- BB King
- Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers
- Bobby McFerrin
- Kim Mitchell
- Mötley Crüe
- Les Paul
- Hartley and Melia Peavey
- John Prine
- Wade Redden
- “Great” Bob Scott
- Paul Shaffer
- Ricky Skaggs
- Steve Stevens
- Stripper’s Union Local 518
- The B-52’s
- The Barr Brothers
- The Brothers Creeggan
- The Headpins
- The Pursuit of Happiness
- The Resurrection Quartet
- Three Days Grace
- Vieux Farka Touré
- Justin Trudeau
- Stevie Ray Vaughan
- Kurt Walther
- Kamasi Washington
- Adam West
- Dave Winfield
- Wisconsin Johnsins
- Bob Wiseman
Ball and Chain
Michael Ball and Jody Benjamin lead an Ottawa-based old-timey country/bluegrass/Cajun outfit called Ball and Chain. Michael and I both taught at the Ottawa Folklore Centre and I used to see them play live all the time. I always really dug the band and I always really dug the band’s name. Above is my signed copy of their 2001 release Bare Bones.
Sadly, I only saw Canadian jazz guitarist Ed Bickert (1932-2019) perform once, at the After 8 jazz club in Ottawa on October 8th, 1998. After Bickert’s set I bought his CD Trio Sketches and had him sign it. You can read about the concert here.
If you know me then you probably know that I really dig Kevin Breit. I’m a rather prolific concert-counter and I’m pretty sure that I’ve seen Kevin play more times than even I can count. The first bunch of times I saw him was when he and his band Sisters Euclid would play every Monday night at the Orbit Room in Toronto. I bought this copy of their album Sunday Best at one of my early Orbit Room Monday shows and had Kevin sign it for me in the hallway just outside the bathrooms of the tiny club (which, incidentally is co-owned by Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson).
Don’t feel bad if you don’t remember Brighton Rock. They were a hair-metal band from Niagara Falls that peaked at like #87 or something on the Canadian charts back in the mid-’80’s. I saw them opening for Triumph at the Moncton Coliseum on January 17th, 1987 (you can read about the concert here). After the show I ran into a friend who brought me backstage with him where I was excited to meet both bands. During the interaction Brighton Rock’s keyboardist Johnny Rogers signed the scrap of paper you see at left. I have no idea why I didn’t get the whole band to sign it.
I’m not sure who Rogers wanted me to bash or why he wanted me to bash ’em in the first place, but if you’re out there Johnny I want you to know that I’ve always done my besht.
On July 15th, 2006 I went to the Ottawa Bluesfest to see Junior Brown. I knew him mostly from his appearance on the cover of the March 1997 issue of Guitar Player magazine and I’m such a geek I that brought a copy to the show in a plastic holder along with a shiny new Sharpie. You’d think this happened to Mr. Brown all the time; as he signed the cover he was looking over my shoulder watching paint dry.
You can read about the experience here.
Patrick Cardy (1953-2005) was one of my music profs back at Carleton University. He was quite brilliant and a heck of a nice man besides. And not only that, he was also an extremely prolific composer who once told me that he had enough commissions booked to keep him busy for the next dozen years. Unfortunately he wouldn’t have time. Tragically, Professor Cardy died all-too-young in a freak curling accident.
I bought this CD at the premiere of his clarinet concerto Virelai featuring the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra on November 18th, 1994. I got him to sign it after class a few days later, which somehow didn’t improve my theory grade whatsoever.
You can read more about Professor Cardy and the OSO concert by clicking here.
I worked with Canadian author Roch Carrier a few times when he guest-hosted shows I was involved with at the National Arts Centre. Of course Carrier is most famous for his short story The Hockey Sweater, which was immortalized in an NFB animated film that every Canadian becomes endeared with somewhere along the way. Several lines from The Hockey Sweater were included on the reverse of Canada’s 2002 Journey Series five dollar bill, which is quite an honour, really. One of the shows he did with the NAC orchestra was a reading of The Hockey Sweater and Mr. Carrier was gracious enough to sign the fiver pictured above after one of those rehearsals. I was too shy to ask him to Spock Wilf on the other side.
Ironically it was at a completely different show – a musical rendering of Carrier’s story The Flying Canoe – that I asked him to sign an illustrated copy of The Hockey Sweater, pictured below.
I received this Joe Carter signature bat hand-signed by Joe Carter through a Kraft/Blue Jays promotion around 1992. I also got a ball signed by Dave Winfield and a set of trading cards (now lost) in the same promotion. I’ve never really taken care of the bat; I keep it next to my nightstand for security. Note the dings.
If you’ve ever seen Cheap Trick live then you know this: Rick Neilson tosses a lot of guitar picks into the crowd. Like, a lot. I’ve never personally caught one but the first time I saw Cheap Trick (on February 6th, 1989, plectrum picktured at left) I found one on the floor after the show and the last time I saw them (on May 13th, 2022, plectrum picktured to the right) a stranger gave me one at setbreak. I probably would have got one the second time I saw them too (at the 2011 Ottawa Bluesfest) except the stage collapsed onto the band halfway through the concert, which stopped the show dead in its tracks and emptied the venue.
The poster at left was signed by singer Robin Zander, guitarist Rick Neilson, and bassist Tom Petersson of Cheap Trick just an hour or so before the mainstage collapsed on top of the band during their performance at the Ottawa Bluesfest on July 17th, 2011. I did not meet the band; I purchased this poster through the Bluesfest’s charity poster program. You can read about that fateful day here.
Back around 2007 or so I stood in line for hours to meet Jean Chrétien at a book signing at the Chapters in Ottawa’s Rideau Centre. The line would have taken much longer had there not been a rule in place that Mr. Chrétien wasn’t going to personalize anything. No “To Tom…”, “To Dick…”, “To Harry…”; just Jean’s signature on the book you bought that afternoon and nothing more. Well, I’d purchased two copies and little Liberal rebel that I am I asked Chrétien to personalize one for my dad, “To Gary, Jean Chrétien”. It’s in my mom’s basement (my copy is pictured above).
I don’t know why I did that. It’s not like my dad was any big fan of Chrétien or had any real opinion on the man either way, not that I knew of anyway. Maybe I was hoping he’d be impressed that I was hob-nobbing with former Prime Ministers. Either way, I bet you a thousand-million dollars my dad never read it. Neither did I but at least I still have time.
Okay, okay, I promise I’m not going to post every piece of art I have hanging on the walls but c’mon now, Alex Colville is pretty darn famous. And rightfully so too. I bought this signed and numbered print from an old friend of mine who owns an art gallery in Halifax. It hangs over my bed and yes, it helps me sleep at night.
Ry Cooder was kind enough to meet me before his concert at Ottawa’s Centrepointe Theatre on April 14th, 2016 to sign some items for Instruments for Africa. While I was there I got him to sign a couple of records for me as well, his 1979 album Bop Till You Drop and a live recording from 1977 that Mr. Cooder told me must have been a bootleg, as he had never seen or heard of it before. Oops. Ah well, Ry was nice about it and the show that followed was fantastic. You can read about the concert here.
I own plenty of signed and numbered posters that I won’t be listing here but this one is from such a notable pop culture artist that I feel obliged to include it. I actually have a couple of Robert Crumb LE prints framed up and hanging on the wall but this is the only one that is signed. I wanted his Heroes of the Blues poster more, but this is what was available so I grabbed it.
During my first two years studying music at Carleton University I took African drumming lessons from Yaya Diallo every Friday. Though he spoke almost no English whatsoever, the no-nonsense rhythm master quickly became one of my musical heroes. It was stories of his home country that inspired me to visit Mali back in 2008, which stands as the single greatest trip of this busy life of mine.
In addition to being an astounding drummer (and a chemist; his first publication was a book about chemistry), Yaya was also a musical healer, which is the topic of his second book, The Healing Drum: African Wisdom Teachings. Even though I knew Yaya quite well I was honoured to have him sign a copy for me. To Yaya the most important thing in the world is to bring his hand down onto the skin of a well-tuned drum with meaning, passion, respect, and understanding. I respect that so much.
I’ve worked with Montreal Canadiens legend Ken Dryden at least once, maybe twice when he’s hosted concerts at the National Arts Centre. With miles of old sports stories and several years as a Member of Parliament under his belt you’d think he would spin a good yarn. He doesn’t. But he is a friendly man and he was happy to sign this copy of his memoir The Game for me.
I first met Wayne Eagles when he became my guitar instructor in the third year of my music degree. Wayne eventually invited me to play some gigs with him – which was equal parts thrilling and intimidating – and we soon because really good friends. We remain so today.
Now, do I regularly hound my good friends for their autographs? Well, yeah, I suppose I do. But I more especially wanted to get it in writing that Wayne ends the sixth song on this CD (B.C-ing-ya) with a particular voicing of an Amaj7#11 chord that I came up with.
I inherited this signed and numbered edition of the Harlan Ellison novel Slippage from my good friend (and science fiction enthusiast) Bradm.
Years ago a friend of mine worked at Chapters. She called me one day and said there were a bunch of hardcover copies of Timothy Findley’s new novel Headhunter signed by the author in the bargain bin priced at $1 a copy, would I like one? Well, what kind of person passes up a new hardcover book for a buck? Not this kind of person.
I got a copy. I read it. It’s creepy. Would not recommend.
Though I was almost frozen with glee to find myself alone in a room watching Bill Frisell play solo guitar I still managed to click this photo of the great jazz guitarist in action. It was June 24th, 2014 and I was backstage getting Bill to sign some items to raise money for Instruments For Africa, including this very guitar.
Bill seemed genuinely interested in the IFA initiative and when I asked him to sign a caricature his good friend and Far Side cartoonist Gary Larson drew of him he asked if this item was for me personally. When I replied that it was he took a moment to ponder before including what I think is a rather thoughtful, personalized remark. You can read about the encounter here.
On June 24th, 2007 I met Bill Frisell at the merch table after his concert at the National Library Archives in Ottawa. Unfortunately one of the jazz festival’s representatives was standing behind him with wide eyes and a bright smile peppering me with annoying questions like “Have you seen Mr. Frisell before?” and “Have you been a fan of Mr. Frisell’s music for very long?” the whole time. Meanwhile I was busy trying to pepper Mr. Frisell with annoying questions of my own, like “How did you and Far Side cartoonist Gary Larson become friends?” and “Is Gary Larson is very good guitar player?”
It was there that I bought his CD The Intercontinentals (pictured above) and got him to sign it. Ever since then he is known around our house exclusively as “Bill Nill”. You can read about the show here.
I asked Bill to sign my program after his performance with the great Kevin Breit at the Guelph Jazz Festival on September 7th, 2001. Looking at this always makes me cringe a little. You can find out why by reading the postscript in this link.
I’ve had the privilege of working with Canada’s most famous astronaut twice when he hosted concerts featuring the National Arts Centre Orchestra. Of course Also sprach Zarathustra! by Richard Strauss (aka the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey) was part of the program at both shows, and of course on both occasions I asked Mr. Garneau to sign the front page of the orchestral score that I tore from my score binder. The first was damaged in a house fire, the second is pictured here. Note my hand-written camera directions at the top of the page.
Jerry Granelli (1940-2021) was most famous for playing drums on one of the greatest Christmas albums of all time, A Charlie Brown Christmas. I was fortunate to see him perform several times, although the June 27th, 2018 show where I picked up this copy of his album Dance Hall was the only time I saw him not playing xmas music. You can read about that concert here.
The horrible signature on this record is the product of my eagerness. I was first in line at Granelli’s post-show merch table meet-and-greet and after a brief chat he grabbed a marker while I peeled the plastic cover off of my new record. After Granelli signed it he scrunched up his face and held the record at arms length. “Hey,” he said to a nearby jazzfest employee as he handed the album back to me, “Could someone find me a black marker?” Whattya gonna do? It’s a great album.
I wouldn’t say that Benjy Eisen and I were super-close friends or anything, but when he got the gig writing Bill Kreutzmann’s biography he was good enough to set me up with a signed copy of both the book (above) and the bio’s release poster (below). Thanks Benjy, and congratulations, it’s a great read!
Long ago a friend came into possession of several autographed music store posters advertising the release of Bob Weir’s 2004 album Weir Here – The Best of Bob Weir and he gave me one, pictured at left. Sorry the angles seem odd and distorted; I took the poster photos at an angle to cut down on reflection and it made the perspectives come out all Weir-d.
Though I met both Bob Weir and Phil Lesh briefly backstage after their show at the Ottawa Bluesfest on July 7th, 2010 (and I once found myself standing behind Phil Lesh at an all-you-can-eat buffet) I never asked them to sign anything. However I did purchase one of the five Bluesfest posters that Phil and Bobby signed for charity before their set, pictured above.
Hard Rock Cafe – Ottowa
Sure, I’ll concede that this beer glass almost certainly does not at all qualify as “rock memorabilia” but it’s my website and what I say goes. And I say this pint glass with the city’s named spelled incorrectly (it’s supposed to be “OTTAWA”, obviously) is curious enough to warrant a respected spot in my cupboard of oddities and hence an entry here. And the fact that the HRC franchise collectively possesses the world’s largest rock and roll memorabilia collection doesn’t hurt either.
Like, heads must have rolled at least a little bit over this, non?
I’ve never cared for Stephen Harper as a Prime Minister, as a man, or as much of anything really, and I’ve got to admit that it kind of bugs me how cool I think this Stephen Harper Prime Ministerial signature hockey puck is. Because c’mon now, having your own monogrammed hockey puck is pretty damn cool. Harper is actually a big hockey guy; he even wrote a book on the history of the game. The dude is a total doofus, but he sure likes hockey.
If I recall correctly I found this puck in a storage unit I bought. Yep, just like on TV.
Two things: 1) I’ve always admired the life and times of Hugh Hefner (1926-2017), not to mention the supremely high quality of the pioneering magazine he founded, and 2) I really did read Playboy for the interviews…and the comics. Especially the comics, actually. When I was eleven or twelve I used to sneak into my cousin Kenny’s closet and scour through his collection of Playboys sneaking surreptitious glances at all the wonderfully illicit comics. I especially loved the work of guys like Gahan Wilson and Shel Silverstein.
These two points made it very difficult for me to resist purchasing this large coffee table book celebrating fifty years of Playboy cartoons signed by Hef himself when it was released in 2004, so I didn’t.
Tom Henighan was the prof of my English Lit 100 class back in my first year at Carleton University. I don’t recall if he mentioned to the class that he had recently published a novel but I definitely picked up a copy in the campus bookstore when I was buying textbooks. And get this: by sheer coincidence Professor Henighan was directly behind me in line at the cashier when I bought it. And if that wasn’t enough brownie points I even got him to sign it too.
I’ve never read the book, but then I’m not a big fan of fantasy novels. And for the record, even after all these years I am still, in fact, hanging in there.
(The reference is to a brown leather hat that I consistently wore from the beginning of my first year until it succumbed to the ether on a hazy, eventful September’s eve about a year or two after I graduated.)
On April 4th, 2000 my good friend Wayne had booked jazz legend Dave Holland to play in Alumni Theatre at our alma mater, Carleton University (you can read about the show here). I had just gotten my hands on a nice camera so I asked if I could come to Holland’s soundcheck and take some pictures. If I recall correctly I only took three pictures, and this is one of them.
A couple of months later Wayne and I drove to Montreal to see Dave Holland play another show and we met briefly with him before the concert. I’d brought along a copy of one of my Dave Holland pictures to get signed but curses to Wayne: when I realized I had forgotten a Sharpie and tried to run back into my house to get one Wayne insisted we were running late and that we didn’t have time. “Don’t worry, Dave will have a Sharpie…” Wayne suggested as we sped off. In fact, Dave did not have a Sharpie, so somewhere in my attic I have one of these photos signed by the great Dave Holland in a crappy half-dead light blue marker.
For a while I made it a point to treat myself to a signed Bluesfest poster from the festival’s poster archive booth every year, which is where I got this poster signed by the great BB King (1925-2015). Though I did see his Bluesfest set that year (you can read about it here) I never did meet the man. For all I know this was signed by his guitar tech, but I like to believe that it wasn’t.
In late June 1990 my band The Gutterboys opened up for British prog-rockers Marillion at Ottawa’s legendary Barrymore’s Music Hall. I spoke with the band after the soundcheck and snagged these picks from guitarist Steve Rothery and bassist Pete Trewavas.
Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers
I have long been a fan of comedian, actor, musician, and modern Renaissance man Steve Martin and I have been fortunate to see him perform on several occasions. And while I’ve never met the man I have made a couple of wild ‘n crazy already-autographed merch table purchases along the way. I’m pretty sure I bought the CD pictured to the left at the Ottawa show Steve and the Rangers did with Edie Brickell on June 22, 2014. And though it makes sense that I bought the poster pictured below at the same time (given that the artwork is from the liner notes of the same CD), I have an inkling that I didn’t. If that inkling is correct then I probably picked up the poster at another Steve/Edie/SCR show in Minneapolis eleven months earlier. Or versa-vice, permaybe.
I met Bobby McFerrin after his concert at Montreal’s Place des Arts on July 7th, 1993. Out of the blue he started singing Charlie Parker’s Donna Lee as he signed my program (pictured at left). I almost melted. You can read about the experience here. About twenty years later I met McFerrin once again before his concert at the Ottawa Jazz Festival when he agreed to sign some things for Instruments For Africa. Those items were sold at auction.
Based solely on the results of a semi-bogus petition created by some kids I went to high school with, Metallica’s And Justice For All tour made a stop at the Moncton Coliseum on April 1st, 1989 (no foolin’). My friends got some tickets and backstage passes in return for their “initiative” and though I didn’t get to join them I did go to the concert, and one of my friends was nice enough to get guitarist Kirk Hammett and singer James Hetfield to sign the back of this pack of Belvederes for me. You can read a more complete version of the story here.
I know this pick doesn’t look like much, but it was Kim Mitchell’s, honest! I know because I picked it up off the stage myself when I roadied his show at the Fenn Lounge at Carleton University on November 18th, 1989. Whattya think, a down-home all-Canadian boy like Kim Mitchell is gonna order himself a bunch of fancy-shmancy personalized gee-tar plectrums? I don’t think so! Good old everyday Dunlop .73’s will do just fine for Mr. Mitchell, thank-you very much!
It was an epic concert.
Sometime around the summer of 1984 (it could have been ’85 but I doubt it) I spent most of my time hanging out with the buskers who played for pocket change in front of the Eaton’s Centre in Toronto. I had a cheap electric guitar that I never once plugged in and without a teacher or any instruction I was learning to play it by watching the buskers.
One afternoon a crowd started swelling the streets. Ever the curious one I did some investigation and discovered that Mötley Crüe was doing an autograph session in a nearby record store. Their album Shout at the Devil was just starting to break; I had just barely heard of the band but I had heard enough to grab my guitar and join the line.
So many people showed up that the band soon stopped signing autographs and instead tried to just say a quick hello to everyone who filed by. When it was almost my turn there was a kerfuffle just before me in line. Vince Neil whispered something into a girl’s ear and she slapped him across the face in response. He retaliated by spitting on her and calling her lots of loud, nasty names. In the shocked aftermath I managed to snag this pick from guitarist Mick Mars. (You can read a more detailed telling of the story here.)
I also convinced bass player Nikki Sixx to sign my guitar. I still have the signed body though for some reason the neck and wiring are long gone. Unfortunately the shellacked dregs from my misinformed attempt to preserve the signature remain all-too-visible.
On Valentine’s Day 2005 myself and three friends embarked on a 26-hour in-and-out mission to NYC to see the legendary Les Paul (1915-2009) play at the Iridium nightclub. It numbs me to think that I talked my way backstage after the show and found myself sitting on a couch having a one-on-one with the man who invented the electric guitar (and reverb, and multi-track recording), which is where I had him sign this pickguard from a Gibson Les Paul. You can read about the whole adventure here.
Hartley and Melia Peavey
In February 1998 I was privileged to attend Peavey’s Dealer Training Program, a week-long musical equipment indoctrination at Peavey Headquarters in Meridian, Mississippi, where I briefly met Hartley Peavey (owner and sole proprietor of the world’s largest instrument manufacturer) and his wife Melia (1954-1998). They both signed the letter of welcome I received on my first day and the program completion certificate I received on my last. The whole week was a pretty amazing experience, and you can read about it here.
M’lady recently gave me this old 8″x10″ Phish promo pic that I promptly put in a cheap Ikea frame. It’s from Elektra Records and though my internet research tells me the photo was taken by Michael Halsband I can’t find what year it’s from. It’s early though; they look like a bunch of goofy kids. Maybe ’97 or so?
The above photo isn’t “memorabilia” per se, but I don’t often get pictures taken of myself with guitar heroes so I’m letting this one slide. Whilst on our honeymoon m’lady and I met Phish frontman and super-nice dude Trey Anastasio behind the Smith Opera House in Geneva, New York on October 15th, 2019, where he was appearing with his side-project TAB.
When I purchased the poster pictured at left at the Trey Anastasio Band concert in Burlington, VT on October 19th, 2008 (you can read about the show here) I was offered the choice between two different colour variants and each variant offered versions signed by Trey for an added price. I’m pretty sure I got the colour I wanted but I know for certain that I was too cheap to shell out for an autographed one. And then when I got home and took the poster out of its tube lo, it was signed!
There’s a chance that the guy accidentally handed me the wrong tube but looking at it now I’m assuming that they just tossed this one in with the unsigned ones at no extra charge because the signature is fairly illegible due to a fading Sharpie. Either way, lucky me.
I’m pretty sure this CD insert of Mike Gordon’s 2014 solo album Overstep signed by the Phish bassist came included as a bonus with the vinyl copy that I pre-ordered. I don’t remember for sure but I have the record and I don’t have the CD so that’s gotta be it, right?
It may seem strange to have John Prine’s autograph on a poster featuring ZZ Top but Prine did play at the Ottawa Bluesfest that year. As a matter of fact he closed out the entire festival on July 17th, 2005 and he was fantastic. I bought this poster from the Bluesfest’s charity poster sale as a gift for m’lady’s birthday.
If you zoom in really close you will find Prine’s name somewhere at the bottom of the poster. Honest.
This super-nice, very warm, and totally official Ottawa Senators jersey was given to me out-of-the-blue by my good friend Huss. A few years later Wade Redden was making an appearance at Ottawa’s Lansdowne Park – probably for Winterlude of HNIC Hockey Week or something – so I walked down to the park with the jersey and got him to sign it. It must have been sometime around 2004 or 2005 because that’s when I was living just a few houses up from Lansdowne, on Adelaide Street.
Like pretty much all of my sports memorabilia I am not afraid to actually use this jersey for its intended purpose, autograph bedamned. I tend to wear it whenever I go skating in an indoor rink. I’ve even worn it at the Sen’s home rink with my buddy Sparty!
(Note m’lady’s super-cute and very cool Snoopy jersey, which was handed down from a gentleman who played on a seniors hockey team with Charles Schultz.)
I knew I was going to be driving to Toronto on September 17th, 2016 for TURF (the Toronto Urban Roots Festival) but when I got word that Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson were being honoured by the city and would be appearing in-person I left Ottawa early and I stepped on it! My crew and I arrived in Willowdale’s newly renamed Lee Lifeson Art Park just as the two heroes were receiving the keys to the city. After the short ceremony I struggled over, around, and through thousands of other fans armed with a Sharpie and my well-worn copy of Signals and was thrilled to the core when I managed to get both Alex and Geddy to sign it.
I was tingling with anticipation when I met Geddy Lee at a live interview/book signing in Ottawa on May 29th, 2019 and had him sign this copy of his very awesome and comprehensive coffee table book. You can read about it here.
The 8 1/2″x 11″ “poster” at left pretty much says it all: Canadian prog-pop rockers Saga made a promotional appearance at A&A records on the afternoon before their concert at Toronto’s legendary Maple Leaf Gardens on March 2nd. Well, it doesn’t say the year, which was 1984. I saw something about it in the paper that morning and with nothing else to do, I went. I was a pretty big fan of the band but unfortunately I didn’t win the tickets they were giving away and I was definitely much, much too poor to afford to buy one, which probably would have cost about $12, so I didn’t go.
Instead I shook hands with bassist Jim Crichton, singer Michael Sadler, keyboardist Jim Gilmour, drummer Steve Negus, and guitarist Ian Crichton and had them sign every page of the article on them in that month’s free entertainment weekly. There weren’t very many people there so I ended up gushing endlessly at the band like the sixteen-year-old celebrity-struck know-it-all that I was I’m sure they were happy to see me finally walk out the door, ticketless.
“Great” Bob Scott
Back when I was managing a Canadian jam trio called nero my friend Huss gave me a book on the history of Canrock called Have Not Been the Same. The tome is close to 800 pages and I tell you, it’s comprehensive. As I criss-crossed the country bouncing from one music venue to the next I kept my copy on the tour bus thinking I would get it signed by whomever I happened to come across that was mentioned in the book. Surely it would be riddled with autographs in no time! As I pulled it out just now I was sure it must have had at least two, maybe three signatures in it but after a few thorough thumbings I can only find one. And that one is “Great” Bob Scott, who was the drummer for an astoundingly creative and tragically underfamous band called Look People who you might remember as being the house band from a short-lived Canadian late-night talk show called The Mike Bullard Show, but probably don’t.
Anyway, I had invited Bob Wiseman to a nero show at The Rivoli in Toronto (Wiseman played on nero’s third album) where he introduced me to “Great” Bob, who happened to be having a drink at the bar. Look People were mentioned a few times in Have Not Been the Same so I ran out to the bus and grabbed it (I’m astounded that I didn’t get Bob Wiseman to sign the book at the same time…I really should look through it again). The “Magic Ass” comment refers to me talking to Bob about the time I saw Look People play at Zaphod’s in Ottawa on September 17th, 1993, when singer Jaymz Bee pulled a guy out of the crowd who just happened to be on the dancefloor holding two ice cream cones, one chocolate and one vanilla. Now, Look People were a weird band, man. Like, over-the-top. “Great” Bob Scott always appeared onstage dressed in a Clockwork Orange costume and he would often get up from his drum kit and run around the stage midsong, keeping the beat by hitting random things with his drumsticks. Anyway, at one point during the Zaphod’s show Jaymz pulls the plant with the ice cream up onto stage and Bob comes to the front and…okay, you’re not going to believe this, but Bob pulled his pants down and bent over gripping his ankles while the guy meticulously shoved both ice cream cones up “Great” Bob Scott’s butt! Like, on stage, in a bar, in front of a hundred people! It was one of the weirdest things I saw at the entire show.
I snagged this signature the first time I visited New York City when I was seated in the front row at a taping of the old David Letterman show on NBC. After the taping Paul Shaffer surprised me by coming up and personally thanking me for wearing the Paul Shaffer and the World’s Most Dangerous Band t-shirt that I had picked up in the gift shop before the show. He seemed genuinely appreciative and after signing the back of this Hard Rock Cafe menu that I had in my pocket he refused to sign anything for anyone else. The whole trip was quite an adventure and you can read about it here. (In my university days my friends called me “CC”, which is why this isn’t addressed to “Todd”.)
Coincidentally, I’ve always spelled “thanx” with an “x” too.
I had arranged to meet Ry Cooder before his concert at Ottawa’s Centrepointe Theatre on April 14th, 2016 to get some things signed for Instruments For Africa. Ricky Skaggs was opening the show so I brought my mandolin and one of his records along as well just in case I ran into him while I was there. Turns out I didn’t have to feel so lucky as both the opener and headliner did a meet-and-greet at the merch table after the show. You can read about it here.
Spartacat (aka “Sparty”), the t-shirt cannon wielding official mascot of the National Hockey League’s Ottawa Senators is a personal friend of mine. It’s always been an unspoken rule that I don’t tell people that I know him but really, with Sparty everything is unspoken. I’ve already said too much.
Best known for being Billy Idol’s guitarist, on September 21st, 1989 I saw Steve Stevens leading his very own band at Barrymore’s in Ottawa. I don’t recall meeting him or catching this pick mid-flight or anything, but I definitely got it at that show.
Stripper’s Union Local 518
My good buddy Jojo is old family friends with a couple of members of The Tragically Hip, so when guitarist Bobby Baker brought his new side-project Stripper’s Union to Ottawa for a show at Barrymore’s Jojo and I were both there on the floor with our excited chests pressed against the stage. Jojo introduced Bobby and I after the show and I picked up the band’s new CD and had him sign it, along with singer Graig Northey and bassist Doug Elliot (both from The Odds). You can read about the show here.
Though I can’t tell you if I got this pick when I saw Tesla open for Def Leppard in Moncton in 1988 or when I saw them opening for Mötley Crüe in 1990 (though my money is on the latter) and I have no idea whether the pick belonged to guitarist Frank Hannon or other-guitarist Tommy Skeoch, I can assure you that it is indeed a Tesla pick and from the obvious wear I assume that it was show-used.
The very first time I popped into the Ottawa Bluesfest’s brand-new charity silent auction tent I noticed the bidding for a Shure SM58 microphone signed by B-52’s guitarist Keith Strickland opened at just $100 and there were no bids. The SM58 is the industry standard microphone and they cost $160+tax, easy. I put my name down on a $100 bid and got it. I use it mainly as an overhead mic for recording drums.
I figured I would keep coming back and eventually outfit my home studio with a bunch of signed mics but alas, after this the signed microphones always had a starting price of at least $200.
The Barr Brothers
I spent time with Brad and Andrew Barr several times back when they were two-thirds of the Boston-based jamband The Slip. Now they are the title members of a nearly-as-good and much-more-popular Montreal-based ethereal pop band called The Barr Brothers. I’ve seen The Barr Brothers a few times (though not nearly as many times as I saw The Slip) and I picked up this, their first album, at their show at Ottawa’s 4th Stage on March 3rd, 2012 (you can read about the show here). I was surprised that they still remembered me from the The Slip years. I wasn’t surprised to discover that the album is wonderful.
The Brothers Creeggan
The Creeggan brothers are most famous for playing with Barenaked Ladies (keyboardist Andy left the band after the first two albums while his brother Jim is and has always been their bass player) but the pair has also released four CDs as a duo. I own two of them, and they are both great. I had the CD on the left signed at their Ottawa show at Zaphod’s II on October 16th, 1999 and while the CD on the right hardly counts as memorabilia I find this too endearing not to include: When I ordered a copy of their second recording it arrived in the mail along with a hand-written thank-you note signed by N. Creeggan, who I’m guessing is Jim and Andy’s very supportive mother. Awwww…
As the opening act of my first-ever concert (on August 19th, 1983 at the Moncton Coliseum), The Headpins were the first band I ever saw live. I walked out of that concert with an entirely new lease on life, not to mention lead singer Darby Mills’ towel, the setlist torn from her monitor, and a drumstick that I had deftly snatched out of midair at the end of their set. The drumstick and towel were in a suitcase of personal effects that was mysteriously lost in Fredericton several years later but the setlist was in a completely different suitcase that was even more mysteriously found in Fredericton, the same several years later. I still have the setlist, pictured at left.
The Pursuit of Happiness
This one is a bit of a mystery. This pick is obviously from the band The Pursuit of Happiness and it sure looks like it probably belonged to bassist Brad Barker (the only Brad who has ever been in the group). But the thing is wikipedia tells me that Brad only joined the band in 1990 and the only time I’ve ever seen TPOH was at Porter Hall during Frosh Week at Carleton University: September 8th, 1989. It could be that wikipedia is wrong though there is an inkling in my memory of maybe possibly roadie-ing a TPOH show at Carleton in my 2nd or 3rd year, though the internet can’t seem to back me up there either.
The Resurrection Quartet
The Resurrection Quartet was a relatively short-lived jazz group made up of some friends of mine that also happened to be some of Ottawa’s best musicians: saxophonist Petr Cancura, guitarist Chris Bartos, drummer Mike Essoudry (who calls me “velvet”), and bassist Pierre-Yves Martel. This CD that I asked them to sign was their only release, from 2000. I’m happy to report that all four of them are still very active and amazing musicians.
Three Days Grace
This is another question-mark-in-the-shape-of-a-guitar-pick. To the best of my knowledge (and my semi-extensive research) I have never seen Three Days Grace live though the aforementioned semi-extensive research proved that I’ve attended the Ottawa Bluesfest on three different occasions when the band was playing: July 10th, 2008, July 12th, 2011, and July 15th, 2018. And though I’m pretty darn sure that I didn’t see them at any of those shows I must have picked up this pick at one of them. My best guess is it was at the 2008 show. Back then I had a media pass that got me sidestage and in the photo pit and stuff, where it was much more likely that I might find such a thing.
Vieux Farka Touré
I met Saharan blues guitarist Vieux Farka Touré at the merch table after his excellent set at the 27 Club in Ottawa on February 20th, 2018, which is where I picked up this copy of his 2017 album Samba and had him sign it. You can read about the show here.
As I lingered near the stage in a young rock and roll daze after Triumph’s concert at the Moncton Coliseum on January 17th, 1987 I ran into a friend from school who by some miracle happened to have two backstage passes he was looking to share, which is how I met guitarist Rick Emmett, drummer Gil Moore, and bassist Mike Levine of the mighty Triumph and had them sign this little scrap of paper. While we were backstage we met opening act Brighton Rock too. You can read about the concert here.
This was one of a handful of concerts where I snuck in a cheap little 110 camera. I took a bunch of pictures of both bands and they all came out lousy despite my prime spot on the rail directly in front of Rik Emmett. The picture at left (arguably the best shot I got all night) proves both of these points.
In October 2014 I had a ticket for Justin Trudeau’s appearance at the Ottawa International Writer’s Festival (this was before he became Prime Minister). Unfortunately due to an odd snafu my ticket had the incorrect venue printed on it and when I showed up to hear Trudeau read from his new book Common Ground the church was empty and locked up tight. By the time I got home and got it all worked out it was too late for me to get to his actual reading, so I missed it.
When I contacted the festival organizers the next day they were just as confused as I was as to how the mixup had occurred. But they were super-apologetic and in addition to giving me a refund they also gave me a signed copy of Trudeau’s book in a Writer’s Fest tote bag.
Stevie Ray Vaughan
I acquired these items when I met Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble (and opening band The Stray Cats) after their concert at the Moncton Coliseum on August 10th, 1989. I was standing front and centre with my chest pressed against the stage when Stevie accidentally dropped his pick. I stretched forward far enough for my feet to leave the floor and just barely managed to reach it. Notice the astounding amount of wear he put into that pick over the course of the concert thus far, already gouging a deep groove on one side and wearing another edge clean off.
After the show I gave one of the teenaged security/ushers $5 for his backstage pass. This gained me access to a small aftershow meet-and-greet where I was thrilled to speak at length with SRV and get his autograph, along with several others. You can read about the entire experience here.
I hope I’m not stealing his thunder when I tell you that Flem Ucas is a nom de plume for musical mad scientist Kurt Walther. Kurt is one of those babbling, bumbling geniuses one tends to meet when they hang out on the odder side of life like, for example, the teaching studios of the Ottawa Folklore Centre, where Kurt and I both taught for years and years and years. Bringing Up Flem is a bizarre album and one of many Kurt has released or been a part of (I have another of his called Still Life with Frogs that is quite brilliant) and I’m glad I had the guts to ask him to sign it for me.
(For the last decade or so Kurt has turned his attention to abstract painting and I’m pleased to have three of his pieces hanging on my walls.)
I met saxophone phenom and bandleader Kamasi Washington at a meet-and-greet before his pair of concerts at Toronto’s Danforth Theatre on November 16th, 2017 (which you can read about here). The “goodie bag” that came with the VIP package included a really great t-shirt and this print of a painting Kamasi created for his song Truth, which he signed for me.
Sometime in the mid-to-late-’80’s Moncton’s annual car show (which I attended faithfully) included the original Batmobile. Like, the one from the tv show; this was before the franchise was rebooted. I had always been a huge fan of the show so I was thrilled to see the actual car in person. And whattya know, sitting at a little fold-up table next to the Batmobile was the man himself, Adam West (1928-2017)! I’m pretty sure he was wearing his Batcostume and everything (it amazes me that my memory can’t completely make up its mind on this). Even though I had been a huuuuge fan of the tv program I remember feeling too embarrassed to approach him, thinking (for some reason) that he was just there for the little kids. But he was sitting all alone and looking pretty bored when I got there and he was still bored and alone when I finished my long, lingering walk around the Batmobile so I took a deep breath and built up the courage to go up and say hi. I shook his hand and gushed about how much I loved the old show and he asked my name and signed this 8″x10″ for me.
Again, I don’t recall the exact year but it was definitely the era before celebrities figured out that they could charge good money for this sort of experience.
I picked up this copy of Whitehorse’s 2012 record The Fate of the World Depends on This Kiss at the merch table after their show at 4th Stage in Ottawa on June 30th, 2014. Both Melissa McClelland (above right) and her husband Luke Doucet (below right) were very friendly and chatty, and I specifically recall Melissa scrunching up her nose and scrutinizing the cover so she could point out to m’lady and I the exact apartment that the two of them used to live in.
I got this baseball signed by Dave Winfield by sending in a huge pile of UPC codes to a Kraft/Blue Jays promotion. It must have been in 1992 because that’s the only year Winfield played for the Jays. I won’t tell you where I got all the UPC codes – the statute of limitations just ain’t long enough – but I sent in enough to get a bat signed by Joe Carter too, plus a set of Kraft-made Blue Jays trading cards that I haven’t seen in so long I assume they must be lost.
The scuffs are mine; this ball was a brand-new when I got it. I used to use it to play catch. Sometimes I’m a bit of a bonehead.
On September 16th, 1989 I saw a Canadian independent band called Wisconsin Johnsins open up for Kim Mitchell at Carleton University. When I found out that the bass player was from Moncton I was inspired to buy their 45rpm single and get her to sign it.
I’ve done some research and I can find nothing at all on the Wisconsin Johnsins or what Jayne’s surname might be. (You can read about the show here.)
I have not one, but two signed copies of Bob Wiseman’s wonderful book from 2020, Music Lessons. The copy pictured above was sent to me by Bob himself while the signature to the left is from a copy that was very thoughtfully given to me by my good friends Steve and Rosie. I am truly blessed.
You can read my gushing review of Music Lessons here.
As far as this B.U.U. pick goes (get it?), I could have picked it up at any number of Bob Wiseman gigs. I assume it’s from sometime in the ’90’s from a show somewhere in Ottawa but that doesn’t narrow it down much. I must have seen Bob in Ottawa a dozen times back then.
Though the band never gained the international recognition they may have deserved, WITCH was the defining group on the south-central African Zamrock genre of the early 1980’s. Lead vocalist Jagari Chanda is the only surviving member of the band and I had the pleasure of jamming with him a few times in Lusaka. The first time I visited his house I asked him to sign this rather rare LP copy of the complete WITCH box set, and he went on to intricately and extensively sign every single piece in the collection. Which was thoughtful. Wholly unnecessary, but thoughtful.
Ironically, before I knew a vinyl version was available I purchased a copy of the WITCH box set on CD, pictured below. And guess what? Jagari signed that too.