End of Tour Party

In our Nelson, BC dressing room, Randy Bergner joked about falling asleep at the sound board with his arms on the faders, slowly nudging the volume higher as he fell deeper into unconsciousness. He had slept for only two hours since the show at the Delia, Alberta Community Hall the night before. He could barely keep his eyes open. Richard Nott, our new merchandise manager and guitar tech, seemed surprisingly fresh, despite having shared the cab of a five-ton truck with his fellow crew-members for a grueling 760 kilometer, ten hour drive. Our tour manager, Dave Hampshire, his head newly shaven for the April western tour, also seemed impressively unaffected by the hard work and long drives that had characterized the tour.

We had completed a dozen sold out shows in sixteen days, logged eight thousand kilometers on our rented gold Suburban, and crisscrossed the thawing prairies between Vancouver and Winnipeg. We were all tired, but energized by the incomparable buzz of being part of the Trooper touring machine.

Two weeks earlier, at the first band party of the tour - an acoustic jam in a Camrose Alberta hotel room - we realized that with Richard playing bass, Randy playing guitar, and Dave drumming, we could, potentially, have TWO bands on the tour. Part way through our Banff, Alberta show, “Funbucket” took to the stage, busting out a blazing version of Doucette’s “Mama Let Him Play”. They happily returned to the stage many times throughout the tour. The Nelson ‘end-of-tour party’ version of the song, with additional harmonies and percussion from Frankie, Scott, Gogo and I, was the tightest of the tour.

Gogo brought his violin - which he played frequently in small town Tim Hortons parking lots and hotel lobbies - and a ukulele - which eventually lead to a traveling Tiny Tim party. Scott and I worked our way through a collection of songs by “The Big Four” - Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Tony Bennett and Dean Martin. We refined the playlist to a fifteen-song set of classics that Scott rehearsed daily. We downloaded videos of the Dean Martin show and Frank Sinatra concert clips that we watched as we rolled down the highway. Nothing brain-bombs more effectively than songs like “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” and “Ain’t That a Kick In the Head” and I spent most of the tour singing like Frank, Dean or Tony. Scott plans to become a crooner, a perfect fit for his rich baritone voice - and by the end of the tour he was confidently singing those brilliantly constructed songs, performed originally by true vocal masters.

After the final show, the band and crew relaxed in the candle-lit dressing room with some new Nelson friends. An Irish tenor, sitting across the table from me, got everyone singing “Lean on Me”. A surprising number of our guests sang well, dropping in harmonies and soulful licks. Another song followed and voices grew stronger. I smiled around the room at my traveling companions and savoured the moment.