Buddy and the b’ys are back to entertain the masses at the 35th anniversary of the George Street Festival, fresh after being honoured for a lifetime of achievement in the arts
The b’ys are back on George Street! Adding some much needed levity to the biggest little street in North America, the iconic trio of Kevin Blackmore, Ray Johnson and Wayne Chaulk – recently presented with honorary degrees from Memorial University no less – will take to the George Street Festival stage on August 4th as part of the 35th anniversary of the long-running summer music showcase.
Though predominantly known for their extensive island tours in soft-seaters like Arts and Culture Centres, Buddy Wasisname and The Other Fellers are no strangers to the party on George.
Party on George
“The last time we played there was the one I remember most. Somebody told me that was close to six thousand people,” Chaulk recalls in an interview with The Herald. “Wherever your eyes fell there was somebody looking through a window or a rooftop or up on the next street. The place was just absolutely filled. And of course in that atmosphere too, when you play your recognizable stuff, your stuff that has done well for you and people know the words, they’re very ready, a big crowd like that to let loose. Close their eyes, put their hands over their heads and sing along. It’s always good and very interactive. It makes you feel like a really big rock star, which you’re not.”
Coming off of their landmark 35th anniversary in 2018, the beloved comedic group plans on having the afternoon crowd up and clapping with up-tempo favourites and tried-and-true classic cuts that have become Newfoundland staples.
But much like the festival itself, the iconic run of the band who puts the jig in jigs dinner has been a long and fascinating ride. The band has experienced its share of ups and downs, but have remained constant thanks to a life-long brotherhood that goes beyond the confines of art.
Three Musketeers model
“I mean we love each other, we respect and care for each other,” says Chaulk. “There’s always, in every relationship, ups and downs. When we started we were a little bit mature. Kevin was the youngest at 29 when we got together first. And so we all had done a bit of living and were devoted to personal relationships and we knew very quickly if this is really going to work we should have like The Three Musketeers model. So when Kevin is out just singing his heart out or doing a comedic piece I’m there behind him doing whatever I could to make him look and sound good. We kind of trained each other, not to envy the other guy for the spotlight, just make him sound good. And when you do that all around the circle, there’s nothing only goodwill, you know? There were times when we’d falter, each one of us, and then you pull yourself back or somebody else would remind you.’’
“Kevin and I, we got so much in common but we have certain definite characteristics that at times presents a little bit of tension and it is wonderful, because if you get two people in a partnership and you think alike and you do everything alike, one is really unnecessary. You need that differing, a little bit of tension pull to create and make things work really well as far as you can. All of those things were at play and it’s done well for us.”
In assessing the springtime ceremony that saw he, Blackmore and Johnson honoured to recognize extraordinary contributions and artistic achievement, Chaulk – ever the modest and endearing character – thinks back to the early days of the group, where entertaining each other, and the audience, were of paramount importance.
“Kevin, Ray and I jumped into this with everything we had,” he recalls. “And the object of doing so was to create a show so that 8:00 at night you came and 10:30 you left and you had an incredible experience.
“It was a fierce desire to play music and to create music. All three of us had gotten to the point where we were tired of learning other people’s songs. I don’t disrespect anybody who does that. We had our days of that and we kind of had enough of that. When we started we just wanted to create something. We wanted to exercise our own creativity. We had no idea that anybody would enjoy it. That’s why for the first year or year and a bit we’d just meet on Wednesday afternoons and just get on with foolishness and write material. It was for our own enjoyment more than anything else.”
Joking that being called “Dr. Chaulkie” has a fine ring to it, Chaulk reaffirms the band’s consistent belief that, from the moment the first note is played to the closing number of the night, the primary focus is to entertain. It has been 35 years and counting operating under that principle, and the results speak for themselves.
“Our ambition right from the beginning was to not play the nightclubs and not to do pubs. We just wanted the soft seaters. We want lights up on us and we want you for an hour and a half and don’t think any other thoughts, don’t look sideways, just keep your eyes on us. Very early in the game we decided to develop a show where it was completely full of surprises and ups and downs to hold the audience, you know? And that was what got it started and to end up years and years later being patted on the back in this kind of fashion, it’s humbling and very rewarding indeed.”
For more on their August 4th showcase at the George Street Festival and October Arts and Culture Centre tour visit buddywasisname.com