Above Alberta

(This is the introduction to my book, written on a plane on the way to our New Years gig at Reds in Edmonton.)


Jully Black closed her eyes and inched her lips toward the microphone. The first two words - the title of the song - seemed torn from a personal reverie ... surrendered unwillingly - as though her thoughts and emotions had boiled over and out of her mouth by accident, by mistake.

"Pretty Lady" she sang, and I let out an involuntary whoop.

"Here I am" she admitted, and other audience members gave it up. Spontaneous.

My nervousness turned to pride. Jully was singing the shit out of a song I wrote 40 years ago with my writing partner Brian Smith - and my wife and son and many of my peers in the music industry were there bearing witness. I grinned across the large round table - first at my family and then at Smitty. Debbie squeezed my leg.

After singing, Jully told the audience that her manager was a huge Trooper fan and had pulled strings to sit at the same table as us ...

"With God" she said.

She went on to describe our band as "honest-to-God Canadian legends". The crowd cheered as she called Smitty and I to the stage to accept our 2005 SOCAN Classic Awards.

Ann Lorie, who wrote "Insensitive" for Jann Arden, was also sitting at our table and had shed a few tears when accepting her award, but Smitty and I were too buzzed for sentimentality. We could feel a palpable connection with the music-biz crowd arrayed before us - many of whom had become friends and compatriots over the years. The evening's awards ceremony played out like a personal celebration of a long and successful career that continues to offer up the elusive rewards of adventure, challenge and straight-up fun.

I was proud to announce from the stage that night that my son Connor and I had just written our first song together. After the show, in Jully Black's dressing room, representatives of an independent record company approached Connor to talk about his music. He smiled and accepted their card appreciatively. Here he was, functioning comfortably in an environment that would have absolutely terrified me at eighteen.

I started singing in a band when I was twelve years old - five years younger than he is now. I recorded my first album 13 years later at the age of 25. I'm 55 years old now and have never had a real job. I've written hundreds of songs, performed thousands of shows and have traveled tens of thousands of miles - most of those back and forth across Canada. Trooper is as viable today as it was in the seventies when songs like "We're Here for a Good Time" and "Raise a Little Hell" were knocking down doors and serving as our invitations to the best party in town. In many ways our status has elevated recently to a place just south of legendary - where, for instance, total strangers embrace us as they would a favourite relative visiting from out of town. The party continues.

Trooper's first web site went online in 1996. Little Timmy Hewitt and I hacked together the html for 'Rev. 1' long before Google, eBay or Amazon.com had registered their now iconic domain names. I started my own personal site - they weren't called blogs then - not long after. I wrote about my life on the road and those things that someone unfamiliar with this kind of life might find interesting. I was surprised and encouraged by the enthusiastic response to that tentative and sporadically updated site, so, by the time Blogger launched their online interface, I had decided to maintain a semi-regular online account of a 53 year-old's rock and roll adventures.

This book represents the first three years of ramcguire.com. It was written in real time as journal entries. It has no beginning and no ending, but surprised me by telling more than a few seemingly complete stories.

It was written in airports and rented vans, on ferries and planes - in billet-rooms in remote high-north villages and luxury hotel suites in the heart of the Big Smoke. Some of it was dashed off quickly at four in the morning. Some of it might be more carefully considered than it needs to be. Often it reveals much more than I'd intended at the time. And sometimes, the story is fleshed-out by that which wasn't written down at all. Each entry came as a complete surprise to me - as did, of course, the unfolding events I was chronicling.

The SOCAN Awards were held in Toronto at the end of November. I'm writing this on a plane on the way to Edmonton Alberta on the last day of 2005. Our New Years Eve show tonight will be at Reds - a very large club in the West Edmonton Mall. It's going to be a total sold-out zoo!