James Gordon January Newsletter

James Gordon January Newsletter

Happy New Year!

I hope you all had a safe and rewarding holiday season. I’m hoping 2015 is a little less eventful than last year, but what a year it was!

The start of a new year is of course a good time to reflect- and since today is also “Throwback Thursday” here’s a pic that looks WAY back.

My first band in High School. The Rockwood Philharmonic Society. This must be 1972. As the newspaper caption says- we were “comical and clever”- qualities I’ve aspired to maintain ever since. We were not quite the usual combo- the late and sorely missed David Brown on Euphonium and piano, Blair Sinclair, (cousin of Alex Sinclair who was in my later band Tamarack,) on bass clarinet, Peter Boarder on bassoon, and yours truly on vocals, trumpet, and in this picture, banjo. We played banquets and special events, and we made tens of dollars just like these days in the showbusiness. My big numbers were “Rubber Duckie” and one of my first originals: “I Was A Teenaged Yogurt Freak”.

OK enough looking back. Leap forward more than 40 years to this month:

THIS SATURDAY Jan 3rd I’m hoping to give a comical and clever performance in Corning New York at Valley Folk– 144 Cedar St, at 7:30 pm.  ticket info at www.valleyfolk.org Haven’t been along that Southern Tier in a while so looking forward to this!

Then it’s back to my new duties with Guelph City Council for awhile.

I’m thrilled that on January 27th at 7:30 in Guelph at the River Run Centre I’ll be hosting a writer’s evening featuring Alan Bradley and my good friend and fellow Guelphite Thomas King, ( who will be reading from his Governor-General- award winning amazing new novel “the Back of the Turtle”. Bradley will read from his latest Flavia novel, As Chimney Sweepers Come To Dust. Tickets are only 10 bucks.. Get them at


AND then, just to prove how disjointed my touring schedule is, I’ll be back in the Eastern U.S. on January 31st. A return visit to Drew Lamm’s house concert in Rowayton Connecticut. This usually sells out- so you’ll want to email Drew at yaydrew [AT] aol.com to reserve.

February I’ll be in Western Canada with Stephen Harper: the Musical. Watch for it! Also I’ll be playing in Michigan, and if you are a michigonian let me know if you’d like  a house concert cuz there are free nights later in the month while I’m down there!

AND finally, I’ve never had a ‘for sale’ dept. before , except for my monthly reminder about buying my albums online fromBorealis Records. ( You’ve got them all, right? )- but here goes.

I’m a bit of a hoarder, so it’s quite reluctantly that I am offering up for sale a real peice of my musical history..It’s my Pete Seeger 1964 Long-Neck Banjo.

I’ve had it since 1977 when I bought her from my friend Blair Sinclair, (who is pictured above as my band-mate! Isn’t this newsletter synchroneous?) It’s been around the world with me, (her case has the stickers to prove it), and it’s heard on every album I’ve ever made. Why would I part with it? Well, you can blame my friend Hugh Hunter. This is an awesome banjo, but a coupla years ago Hugh custom-made me a beautiful hand made resonator banjo that I now play all the time, and the old Vega has been neglected and is feeling forlorn. Fivelorn even. And now that I’m a city councillor I have to be mindful of the “one banjo per household” bylaw. It needs a good home. Hugh, who with his wife Wendy runs the amazing Music In The Wood music shop in, yes, Rockwood Ontario, home of the aforementioned comical and clever band, is selling the banjo on consignment and he lovingly cleaned it up so that it was REALLY hard to part with.

Here’s it’s story… which I guess will be offered as my “story of the month”-

I bought that great banjo when I was but one and twenty, and it became a constant companion for 37 years!

She’s played at all the major folk festivals in Canada,- in stadiums, concert halls and scuzzy bars. Once in such a bar she got knocked over by a tipsy fan and she broke off a tuning peg, ( hence the indentation where a temporary guitar tuning peg dug in for far too long! This Pete Seeger banjo met Pete quite a few times… He’d always sign her for me and it would always rub off since I played her hard.

Once I was playing in New York, ( like I will be this weekend )and staying at the famous Empire Hotel. I was practicing the banjo in my room, ( often a mistake in fancy hotels)  and could tell someone was listening in. I opened the door, and I’ll be darned if the great bluegrass banjo player J.D Crowe and guitar legend Tony Rice weren’t bent over listening through the keyhole! We played and talked banjos for a while, and JD asked politely “what style was that you were playing? “  . “Canadian style, I reckon” , I replied,  since I never did get the hang of playing like anyone else did!

I wrote my most successful song on her. “Mining For Gold” was recorded by lots of artists, including my own band Tamarack, but most famously by the Cowboy Junkies on their huge hit album “the Trinity Sessions”.

For my Video of the Month: Here’s a link to me playing her onstage for, I think, the last time, this year at a Pete Seeger Tribute night at Hugh’s Room in Toronto…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XUEICUSXV7g 

I loved that banjo, but they say if you really love something, set it free! Well, not exactly free, but pretty reasonable I think. 2200 Canadian Dollars.  I hope you’ll love her too, since it’s time for me to move on!

If you’re interested you can contact Hugh directly at hugh_hunter [AT] icloud.com – he’ll send you all the specs and more pictures.


And thanks as always for listening and reading.

See you down the road ….


check me out on the web: www.jamesgordon.ca