When I was a teenager I knew a woman named Beryl Cohen, she had been to the Winnipeg Folk Festival but I never had. Winnipeg was famous for a few things and in the 70s the Folk Festival was the top of the mountain, maybe that’s why I didn’t go.
Like when I moved to Toronto and Keith Jarrett was actually going to play in the city I was living in, was going to breath air as the air I would be breathing (at the same time relatively) but I didn’t go to the concert because suddenly I felt like I had that Peggy Lee epiphany.
The upstairs activity room at the YMHA on Hargrave at noon had a bunch of young Kuropatwa’s buzzing around doing something or other when Beryl Cohen turned to me “Bobby you’ve never been to the Folk Fest? Really? You should play it. You really should. You should make Mitch a cassette.”
Mitch = Mitch Podolak. He ran the festival at 222 Osbourne. I made a cassette of blues, boogie and a version by ear of Blue Rondo a La Turk. In the morning I went into the office, a secretary asked me what I wanted and I explained myself. Then she said leave the cassette with her and come back at 2pm.
I came back at 2 and there was a businessman sitting in the waiting area. He wore a suit and had a briefcase. I think the finger tapping meant he had a sale on his mind. Mitch opened the door to his office and the suit stood up with an outreached hand, Mitch automatically shook his hand and started to lead him into his office and then noticed I was in the waiting room too. “Waitasec. Come here.” He said and motioned to the business guy to return to his chair while whisking me into his office.
“Sit down” he said pointing at the extra chair as he took his own seat.
He pointed at the cassette and seemed annoyed. “This is you?” he asked.
“Yes it’s me.”
“You don’t play piano very good…You Fucking Play The Piano Man! You live here?.. in Winnipeg?”
He hired me to play a piano workshop along with Lori Conger of the Parachute Club and Adrienne Torf who accompanied Holy Near.
Lori and Adrienne asked me after where I came from and why I lived in Winnipeg. One of them said “You could do what I do.”
Really? I could tour the world playing piano in a band? No way.