By Keith Sharp
At a time when Canadian bands/artists take pride in executing a 20-date domestic tour, one Canadian heritage band managed to condense 18 dates in the province of Ontario into one crazy five week period between October 22nd and November 28th of this year.
From that kick off date at Huntsville’s Deerhust Resort October 22nd to their November 28th tour finale at Owen Sound’s Roxy Theatre, The Stampeders managed to circumnavigate Ontario perfoming to sell-out and near sell-out crowds during a series of theatre dates taking the trio of Rich Dodson (vocals/guitar), Ronnie King (bass) and Kim Berly (drums) throughout North, South and Central provincial dates.
“We called it the three gas-tank tour because we literally executed the entire tour on three tanks of gas,” laughed Dodson, as the band takes a break before heading out to Edmonton’s Century Casino for what has become a regular New Year’s Eve engagement. “It was amazing that we attracted sell out crowds when we were playing dates literally one hour apart. I think the longest trip we had to make was to Owen Sound and that was like four hours.”
Throughout the tour, The Stampeders played their litany of hit songs; “Sweet City Woman”, “Devil You”, “Ramona”, “Minstrel Gypsy”, “Wild Eyes” while squeezing three or four new songs into their set list as they performed to an audience of faithful followers that also includes many new converts.
“We are constantly surprised to find people attending our concerts who had previously not seen us before, it’s great to know that, even after all this time, we are still winning over new fans ,” observed Dodson. “Every year we look at each other and say, let’s give it one more year or may be two years but when we get out on stage, we get that buzz and I know we would miss it if we did stop playing.”
Understanding it has been 24 years since the band reformed at the 1992 Calgary Stampede after Dodson originally left the band in 1977, Dodson is aware that the band has not recorded a studio album since their 1998 “Sure Beats Working” release but says that a specific goal for 2017 will be to record a new release.
“Its a great time to record new product, there’s no record company pressures, we can take our time putting a new record out and with social media, we are constantly asked by our fans when we are going to put a new record out,” Dodson confirmed. “Everybody is writing, Ronnie has some stuff, Kim has some stuff, I have been writing and recording and we have all the songs from our solo releases so there is no shortage of material.”
The Stampeders may be one of those classic Canadian bands that continue to be passed over by CARAS for a Hall of Fame nomination but there’s no doubting the band’s durability and their lasting popularity.
Since their original formation in 1964 as a six-piece outfit called The Rebounds, which included Dodson and Berly, King joined the band in 1965, The Stampeders first hit the spotlight in 1971, when having moved from Calgary to Toronto, and realigned as a trio, they recorded their biggest hit “Sweet City Woman” off their debut `Against The Grain’ album. This record earned them four Junos for Top Single, Top Group, Top Producer (Mel Shaw) and Best Composer (Dodson)
Yet since that point, despite further album and single success, The Stampeders have been virtually ignored by the recording industry with no consideration for Hall of Fame honours.
“I think our name kind of worked against us, we are a Toronto band but everyone seems to associate us with Calgary,” offered Dodson. ” I like winning awards but being inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame isn’t a priority for us. It’s not something I sit around and think about all day long. We’ve never been in the loop so to speak. We’ve always been on indie labels, never been on the EMI’s or other major labels so we probably never achieved the same level of consideration for our achievements.”
Still, The Stampeders continue to be active and will be heading to the States in late January and early February 2017 for a pair of concerts in each of Lakeland Florda, McArthur Texas and Mesa Arizona, “We are going to entertain the Canadian snowbirds”, Dodson cracked.
“So long a we can look at each other and agree that we have the drive and energy to keep playing, then there is no reason to stop,” Dodson concluded. “There’s the usual health problems of aging and Ronnie (King) just recovered from a bout of prostate cancer, but in all, we are all in good shape and ready to go again.”