I got my first professional “gig” in 1968 at the Dardanella Hotel in Wasaga Beach when I wasn’t even old enough to legally be in a bar. Both scary and exciting, it was a great learning experience. There were a lot of other more seasoned performers around that we would race over to see on our breaks. In 1969 a few of us reorganized to become “The Young Ones” and played at the Dorchester on the main street of Collingwood for almost a year. Since our accommodations came with the job, we lived there as well. That led to my meeting a local band called “The Vacant Lot” who wanted to add another “girl” in order to work through the Bud Matten Agency, one of the best agencies in Toronto at that time. We toured all over Ontario and included Buffalo, New York for the next two years. By then I’d had enough of the road and wanted to stay in one place for a while.
I got a temporary day job, to pay the bills and decide what to do, and there I met Ches Senior and Claude Petre who had a country band that just played weekends. I only knew two country songs at the time, but I auditioned and got the job, and there began my lifelong love with country musicians and country loving fans. Eventually, I toured down East with another popular Toronto group called “The Blue Diamonds” and appeared on several Toronto television shows, “Lively Country”, “Stevedore Steve Show”, “All About Toronto”. Diana Leigh, one of Canada’s most well known country singers at the time, would ask me to sing with her band when she needed a break, and I certainly considered that an honour.
In 1972 I married, a drummer who toured with Tommy Hunter and his Show, and we decided in 1974 to put our own group together, called it “Sugarbush & Co.” and later shortened it to “Sugarbush”. We had some wonderful musicians in that group, Joe Howe and Steve Piticco, who both went on to become well known in the country music world and beyond. Keith (Joe) Coppins, who played great bass and harmonica. Clint (Granny) Grantham, our American friend, who returned to Nashville after the band “retired” and still lives and plays with a band there. I know I’ve missed some, and I apologize. During the next four years we played all over Ontario, did two tours of the Maritime provinces, including Johnny Gold’s in Halifax. In 1974 we recorded an album through Heritage Music for which we received some air play. In 1979 I made the charts in Canada with a song called “Lights of Home”, and was a guest on the “Sylvia Tyson Show” through Ron Dann, a wonderful steel player and friend, and the music director on that show.
In 1978 I had a daughter, Jaime Leigh, and in 1981 another daughter Ashlee, and eventually retired from the music business to be a Mom, although I continued to play weekends, at the barn dance in Fowler’s Corners near Peterborough for a few years, and jam whenever I could with my music friends, Stu McCue, Lia and Joe Linge, Bill Johnson & Sweet Country, Ron Dann, the occasional week at the Corral in Oshawa with some great musicians in a group called “Shotgun”, with John Meydam, Roy Penny, Rusty Walker, and with guest artists such as June Eikhart, and Cam Kinglein, to mention a few. One of our great thrills would be when Pat Riccio, Jr., who at that time was Anne Murray’s music director, would bring his piano in and play all week with us. He was so talented and so modest about it.
In 2010, I was fortunate to be able to record another CD, called THEN AND NOW, with two recordings included from the first album made back in 1974. With the impressive talents of Joe Howe and Tom Mark, Steve Smith, Clayton Mark, John Meydam and Bill Johnson, it is something I’m very pleased with and proud of. It also contains three originals including a song called “The Soldier (One Thought Away)” co-written with my deceased husband Bob, when his son Adam, was in Afghanistan. It commemorates all our young people in that conflict. I was also fortunate to be able to sing in Ireland this past Spring, 2010, most notably “Danny Boy”. That was really a thrill for me.
I sincerely thank everyone who has been a part of this wonderful, wacky, journey in music over the years. There simply isn’t enough room to list everyone, but you’re in my memories and I love you all.