RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#402: Meeting Blue Rodeo
On June 14 1991, touring to support their third album Casino, Blue Rodeo came around to headline at the COE – Central Ontario Exhibition – in Kitchener. The opening act was Strange Days featuring Shannon Lyon, a local singer-songwriter whose earlier tunes didn’t appeal to the older ladies in the crowd. The younger folks dug Strange Days, but there was clearly another segment of the audience who thought they were too loud and raucious.
When Blue Rodeo took the stage, it was with the near-legendary Bob Wiseman on keyboards. Wiseman departed Blue Rodeo about a year and a half later, so we were lucky to see this unique individual live in concert. Also present were leaders Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor, bassist Bazil Donovan, and drummer Mark French. French would be gone soon after, too. It was a very short-lived lineup: one album only.
I had just graduated highschool, and we had four tickets to the show; a great way to kick off the last summer holidays before university. My sister and I attended with my friend Bob and a buddy of his. Blue Rodeo played a generous selection from their first three albums: Outskirts, Diamond Mine, and Casino. In addition Bob Wiseman was given the spotlight for a moment to pick up a guitar and sing a brand new solo song called “We Got Time”.
The big surprise of the night was when a few (probably loaded) guys in their mid-20’s decided to go stage diving at a Blue Rodeo show. The band were noticeably surprised themselves by the stage divers. Not something you’re used to seeing at a country rock show where a percentage of the audience was over retirement age.
When Greg announced this song, both Bob and I asked, “What did he say? Is the song called ‘Piranha Poo’??”
After the big encores, the house lights went on. We were all but ready to leave the COE, when Bob noticed Jim Cuddy and the rest of the band exiting through a side door. “I think I just saw the guy from Blue Rodeo go through that door. Let’s follow him!” he said. There didn’t seem to be any reason not to, so we made our way out the door, down the hallway of that old hockey arena, and followed the band right into the dressing room! I was a bit more nervous than my friends, but nobody tried to stop us or even talk to us. My eyes went wide as I scanned the dressing room. It was filled with food and drink, and fans!
We each made the rounds to ask the band to sign stuff for us. The two we didn’t approach were Bob Wiseman and Mark French who appeared too busy so we didn’t bother them. Bazil Donovan quietly smiled and signed our things. Since I didn’t have much in hand, he signed a photo of my guitar that I kept in my wallet! Greg Keelor signed my ticket stub. While doing so, I expressed amazement at the stage diving! “Yeah, it was fun!” said Greg, who probably hadn’t witnessed it too often in his career! Jim Cuddy signed the other side of my ticket stub. Bob had already chucked his ticket and had nothing to get signed, so he handed Jim Cuddy a $5 bill. “Can you sign it, ‘To Bob, the best $5 I ever had?’ said Bob. Jim chuckled and signed it as requested. Unfortunately, Bob being the cheapskate that he is, spent the $5 bill later! Somewhere out there in circulation was a $5 bill that said, “The best $5 I ever had, Jim Cuddy.”*
I already liked the band’s music, but I became a Blue Rodeo fan for life that night. Not only are they a consistently great live act, but nice guys too. I met Jim a few years ago at one of his solo concerts, and he still treats his fans like gold. That’s the kind of band that has earned my undying support.
* In 2012, Blue Rodeo came out with their box set, 1987-1993, containing their first five albums plus three discs of rarities. Having re-bought the albums, I sent my originals over to Aaron! What I forgot was that I had stored my signed stuff with those CDs! Fortunately Aaron found the autographs inside, and sent them back pronto! Thanks man.