What's In Your Fridge?
by Mike Usinger, The Georgia Straight – Vancouver BC
February 9, 2020
What’s in Your Fridge is where the Straight asks interesting Vancouverites about their life-changing concerts, favourite albums, and, most importantly, what’s sitting beside the Heinz ketchup in their custom-made Big Chill Retropolitan 20.6-cubic-foot refrigerators.
Who are you?
Lydia’s sweetheart. Riley’s dad. Singer, guitar player, writer of songs, spinner of platters on the radio (CKUA), obsessive vinyl and shellac record collector. Truly alive when walking the live performance high wire. Currently releasing a new album, Edge of Blue. Ten brand new songs.
Hank Snow at the Vogue Theatre in Dawson Creek, circa the early '60s. I don’t remember who took me. It was like Hank and I were the only ones in the room. In my young dreamer mind, I felt sure that Hank would spot me, pick off my (imagined) supreme musical ability, tap me on the shoulder and put me in that spotlight. Ha, ha.
In the summer of 1968, the Vogue had morphed into the Elks Hall. My band, the Crystal Ship, was competing in a battle of the bands. We didn’t win. The big moment came at the end when all five bands played "Gloria" at the same time. Must have been one hell of a racket. I’m not sure that Hank Snow would have approved.
Neil Young, solo, at the QE Theatre, early 1971. I was well on the road to becoming a singer-songwriter when I saw this Neil performance. (I had only six months of school to ride out before I’d leave Dawson Creek for Vancouver in the summer of ’71). Neil was touring behind his After the Goldrush LP, which spoke volumes to me. Like Neil was speaking directly to my tortured adolescent soul. The concert opener, John Hammond, was fiery and intense. My introduction to live blues. Then Neil came on. He told funny stories. Played a new tune he’d written the night before. Trotted out song after incredible song. He showed me how it could be done, and I set to work, figuring out how to do it. Amazingly, 10 or so months later, I was performing on that same stage, opening for Rita Coolidge. It was my big introduction to Vancouver audiences. Bim had arrived. Today, both Neil and I are still at it.
Honourable mention goes to Bruce Springsteen at the QE in 1978. Bruce put the rock ‘n’ roll back in my soul.
Top three records?
Yesterday, it might have been Blonde on Blonde, Big Pink, and Kind Of Blue. Today? Sam Cooke Night Beat. This album is where I go when I want to be reminded what it is to really sing.
Bill Frisell Guitar in The Space Age. I couldn’t stop playing this record when it came out. Bill and his silver-stringed partner Greg Leisz are like two bodies, one mind. A thing of beauty and something to aspire to as a guitar player.
John Prine, John Prine. My first manager played it for me on a rainy January night back in 1972 after smoking some strong stuff. I was amazed. The folks that John was singing about were people I’d grown up with in Dawson Creek. I could see the wrinkles on their skin, the stains on their boots, feel the pain in their hearts. “Far From Me”, “Angel From Montgomery”, “Sam Stone”, and “Hello In There”. The list goes on and on. Still as strong today as back in ’72 although the smile is legal in Canada now.
All-time favourite video?
Bob Bossin’s “Sulphur Passage” I’ve never really been into music videos. I found that they interfered with the pictures I had in my head. But, if pushed, I’d have to give mention to Bob Bossin’s “Sulphur Passage”, a video that made a difference. Oh, and, I’m in it, part of an all-star cast.
What’s in your fridge?
Beet pickles. When my niece, Tracy, calls me up, saying she has some good news, I get excited, knowing that soon she’ll show up with a couple big jars of beet pickles. They don’t last long at our house. Slice ‘em up, put ‘em in a salad with goat cheese and mixed greens. Pile a few on the plate with your turkey meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Someone in our house even eats beet pickle sandwiches.
Saskatoon jam. A fair-sized jar of Saskatoon jam, made by my pal, Howard, currently has short-term residence in our fridge. Howard and his brother Bill picked the Saskatoons on a warm July morning last summer, just outside of Chetwynd, BC. By three that afternoon, the berries were jam. If I want a taste of the north, all I need is a wee bite of that fine concoction.
At least two pounds of butter. I live with a fabulous baker so it’s essential to keep at least two pounds of butter in the fridge. One never knows when Lydia will take a notion to bake up a storm. I’m especially fond of her scones. They go quite nicely with some of Howard’s Saskatoon jam.