Photo by Ted VanBoort
By Keith Sharp
Canada lost another music legend with the passing of Jerry Doucette April 18th who succumbed to cancer at the Irene Thomas Hospice in Delta B.C at the age of 70.
Known for his 1977 hit single, “Mama Let Him Play” and the debut album of the same name, Doucette was born in Montreal before moving to Hamilton (where he performed with the original Brutus band).
Doucette moved on to Vancouver in 1972 where he became the second signing for Skippy Snair’s Mushroom Records (following Heart) after brief stints with The Seeds Of Time (later to become Prism) and The Rocket Norton Band.
Doucette’s blues-rock self-titled debut racked up over 100,000 sales (platinum) on the strength of that rock-oriented title number but the album also displayed his blues finesse on tracks like “All I Want To Do” and “Down The Road”. A success which won him a 1979 Juno Award for Most Promising New Band.” His second album; `The Douce Is Loose” wasn’t quite as successful but did hit the 50,000 (gold) sales mark on the strength of “Nobody”. Sadly, his label Mushroom went bankrupt in 1979 as he was set to release his third album; `Coming Up Roses’ and Doucette found himself in all sorts of contractual litigation which held up that release until 1981. And, unfortunately, his recording career lost its momentum.
He recorded his last studio album in 1995. “Price Of An Education” and had to wait another four years before dropping a Minnedosa Festival live album. Music Express got to know Doucette in 1977 when this writer interviewed him about that first album. He was a regular performer at Calgary’s Refinery Nightclub and even recorded a live track “Further On Down The Road” at that venue for his second album, “Douce Is Loose”.
He was involved in one crazy stunt with local promoter Dave Horodezky. Understanding that Calgary and Edmonton are only about 40 minutes apart by air, Horodezky planned a special New Year’s Eve concert for 1978 where Doucette played one set in Calgary while Chilliwack played at the same time in Edmonton ( local bands Fosterchild and One Horse Blue filled in the gap). And then both bands sprinted to the airport and switched positions so Doucette brought in the new year in Edmonton and Chilliwack did likewise in Calgary. My business partner Conny Kunz and I envisioned a mid-air collision over Red Deer as both planes flew to their destinations. But fortunately that didn’t happen. When Doucette was informed this writer was compiling a list of my top 10 Canadian songs, and “Mama Let Him Play” was No 1 on my list, he told me the story of how that song evolved.
“I was supposed to be doing my homework, but I’d be in my bedroom playing my guitar (which he had been doing since the age of six!) My dad, who worked at the Stelco steel mill, would come home from his shift, and my mother, wishing to give him some peace and quiet would tell me to stop playing and do my homework. But my dad, knowing how much I loved to play would say ‘Mama, let him play his guitar.’ I remembered that line and when I moved to Vancouver, that was one of the first songs I wrote.”
“So sorry that Jerry’s gone. Beautiful fluid player. Last I saw him we played on the same bill at some casino on the Prairies. Played beautifully but could hardly walk. I hope he felt good about his work and his life when he passed. He and Maggie were a long time together” noted Chilliwack’s Bill Henderson.
Doucette remained popular in Hamilton and learning that he was paying a trip to his former hometown, Music Express was able to arrange for him to perform at the Bay City Music Hall March 10 2016, where a number of top local players gathered to support him on stage in front of some 200 patrons. Sadly, Doucette has been in declining health over the past few years. He retired from playing in 2018 and in passing, leaves behind his wife of 43 years, Maggie plus five children and 10 grandchildren.