STAN ROGERS — A SHORT BIOGRAPHY
A child of Maritime stock on both sides of his family, Stan Rogers was born in Hamilton, Ontario on November 29, 1949. He grew to be a big man — six feet four — built like a fire truck, and posessed of a voice that rumbled from his toes. He could bluff and bellow, yet was at heart a poet and intellect who would, often as not, sneak away from a gathering to curl up with a book. He made friends and enemies easily, gaining the former for life and often, in time, converting the latter.
He became a songwriter too, working as a rock bassist while still a teenager and later embracing the folk idiom. After a few years as a more-or-less conventional folkie songwriter, he discovered his real gift. After some persuasion by his Aunt June in Canso, Nova Scotia, he began to write songs about his familial home … his roots. Those early songs found their way on to Stan's first album, Fogarty's Cove, and he was on his way. From that point forward, Stan's best writing was about the Canadian experience. His songs gave a new voice to ordinary folks who worked the fisheries, mines and farms of this vast country.
Stan was a passionate Canadian partisan, and much of his short creative life was taken up with song cycles that chronicled the East, the Plains, the West and finally the Great Lakes and Ontario. It was a natural progression for a wanderer … to scan a continent and finally return to write of the wonders of home.
He was always on the road, pursuing his dream of establishing a national identity for Canadian songwriting. It was a dream fulfilled; through his constant soaring, dynamic performances, and brilliant songs, he was known throughout most of the English-speaking folk music world. Stan died in a fire on Air Canada flight 797 at Cincinnati, Ohio airport on June 2nd, 1983. He was returning from a folk festival in Kerrville, Texas. Memorials and honours were numerous in the months that followed and in May, 1984 he was posthumously awarded the Diplome d'Honneur by the Canadian Conference of the Arts.
His music continues to amaze, amuse and inspire people from all walks of life. It has appeared in several poetry anthologies, been used in films, plays and musicals, and has been referred to as "one of the touchstones of modern Canadian history."
Emily Friedman & Ariel Rogers
(Emily Friedman was the publisher of "Come For Co Sing" out of Chicago, a magazine for which Stan Rogers was a regular contributor. Ariel Rogers is Stan's widow.)
THE CONCERT …
On March 12th, 1982, at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium in Halifax, Nova Scotia, about 1200 people had gathered for what had become an annual event … the Stan Rogers concert. Stan was a big star in Halifax and had no trouble filling this concert hall to capacity. The people here had come to accept him as one of their own. The six-foot-four kid from Hamilton, Ontario with solid family ties to Nova Scotia and the uncanny ability to capture Maritime life perfectly in the space of a four-minute song had long since won their hearts.
Erik Perth, the director of the Dalhousie Arts Centre (the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium) back then, had become a close friend of Stan's in the six years since he had first created this annual event. His recollections of Stan are vivid:
"Stan and I became good friends over the years and only disagreed on one matter — contracts. He didn't think that two old friends like us needed to sign a piece of paper. My accountant was, however, of a different opinion and it was more than once that I had to plead with Stan to sign a contract months after the concert."
"Stan shared my fondness for single malt scotch whisky and always found a new brand to bring me when he came to perform. The bottle never survived the visit and we spent many happy hours in my office, talking over a glass of the heavenly liquor. I still miss those occasions."
"Stan was very fond of the Cohn Auditorium and its intimacy. We often talked about recording a concert in the hall and discussed it at length after his last Halifax concert in April, 1983 and again prior to his departure for Texas that summer. I am very pleased and happy that the CBC recording of this March, 1982 concert at the Cohn is being released."
Markandrew Cardiff, a CBC Radio producer in Halifax, had put together a special variety show called "Harbours". Featuring some of Nova Scotia's most talented musicians, it was a live radio and T.V. broadcast to be followed by Stan's annual Cohn concert.
Stan, his brother Garnet, bassist Jim Morison and Paul Mills (or Curly Boy Stubbs as he is otherwise known) arrived at the Cohn early Mar. 12, 1982, The stage was bedecked with a ship's mast, wheels, lobster traps and fishing nets — the T.V. designers leaving no doubt as to the origins of this show!
The entire evening was an enormous success. None of us will ever forget the electricity in the air that night. With the pressures of a live broadcast behind him, Stan turned to us and said, "Now we can have some fun". The audience exploded with a cheer as the four-piece band appeared on stage and launched into the first set. The CBC kept the tape recorders rolling to preserve what is one of the best concert hall performances Stan ever delivered.
— Paul Mills
This particular concert sat "in the can" for 9 years before it was released in a shorter, different version 'for radio play only' on CBC and affiliated stations. A limited edition. I am informed that it is now a collector's item. The response to that CD was dramatic. Clearly there were many people who wanted the concert for play in their own living rooms. Following many hours of deliberation and even more hours of hard work by Paul Mills, Ed Marshall and Peter Cook in the remastering process, a seamless concert for cassette and CD was created. I named it "Home in Halifax" because Stan always felt so much at home there. It was a welcome given to a returning son on every visit. It never ceased to amaze, amuse and warm him. And the added bonus on having such an amiable man as Eric Perth to ensure a smooth-running gig (notwithstanding all the tall-story-telling over glasses of single malt) was only icing on the cake.
My special thanks to Markandrew for his foresight and patience, to Philip Coulter for his perseverence in convincing me to allow CBC to release the initial concert recording — it was, for him, as I came to understand, a labour of love; and to all the engineers and technicians who worked on the project in it's various stages.
And, finally to all of you, his fans, his extended family, thank you for your love and support over these long years before and since Stan's untimely death. At the time of release of this concert tape/CD, there is a book going to press. Titled "An Unfinished Conversation" — the Life and Music of Stan Rogers, written by Chris Gudgeon, it will become available early this summer. Penguin Books is the publisher. It will be available in all major bookstores and folklore centres. Over the next year the last of Stan's heretofore unpublished music will be researched, followed by a release of that material and a complete anthology of his work.
This picture of Stan was taken at a studio a few months before his death. It was to be used for publicity purposes with his ever-burgeoning biography. Over the years, we've had many requests for information and a photo of him. Unfortunately it wasn't possible to send these to people as it was simply too expensive. This is a particularly good picture that we wanted to share with you. He had fun at this photographic session and it shows in his face.
Garnet Rogers — SGS 1111 The Outside Track — 1113 Softly in the Dark — 1115 Small Victories — 1117 At a High Window — 1121
These albums are available through Valerie Enterprises R.R. #1.
Hannon, Ontario LOR 1PO Canada
Photo: Wes A. Jagoe
Garnet Rogers, Stan's brother and constant sideman from the early beginnings of the band, has continued a busy career in music. He travels extensively on the North American continent. Playing mainly solo gigs from the small, intimate coffee-house to large concert halls, he occasionally has two or three other performers with him. He has become a well-respected producer of not only his own work but also that of fellow musicians.
Photo: Eric Bundy Photographs
Jim Morison joined Stan's band in 1981. His career in
music began a little while after he began performing in dramas and doing associated stage work. Residing
in Red Deer, Alberta, he plays bass and sings background harmony with Bourne and McLeod. Inquiries about the group can also be directed to Fleming/Tamulevuch.
Paul Mills has worked for the CBC since God was a small boy. Affectionately known in the inner circles of folk music as Curly Boy Stubbs, he picks one of the meanest guitars you'll ever hear. He produced all of Stan's albums with the exception of For The Family. Paul was an added band member lor this particular concert. At present he can be heard playing with Bill Garrett. Having performed with numerous musicians over the years, rumour has it that he is considering releasing his own first album.
Photo: Joel Wortzman