Before the Bedouins
Part One: My Mom and Dad 1925-1964 - The Very Beginning
Many years ago (1964) in a galaxy far far away (Ottawa) I was welcomed to this earth by my adopted parents, two of the most amazing people ANYWHERE: Antoinette and Harold Brownell. My mom (MeeMee) was born in Riga, Latvia, on the shores of the Baltic, and my dad (Pop as I called him) was an Ottawa native from the get go. My parents were born in the mid-1920s and only one year apart in age, so they shared many memories of the events of their generation. However growing up in such separate and distinct cultures, their actual experiences of these times were as different as night and day.
Pop grew up in a very patriarchal WASP type environment while my mom's family was, how shall we put this . . . European, in the best sense of the word. My father's father, a paint salesman, dominated the family home with his conservative views of religion and gender roles, while his wife, working part time as a nurse, did her best to give their son and daughter a happy living environment in which to grow. Unfortunately the religious pressures proved too much for my father's sister, and while my dad was attending college, she took her own life. I never heard much about this tragedy, but I don't know how my father got over most of the hurt he must have experienced by the time I came onto the scene.
My grandfather died before I was born, but I did meet my grandmother when I was very young. Although she was in the advanced stages of Alzheimers disease, my mom assures me that she was a gentle, kindly soul who made her feel completely at home when she moved in after marrying my dad.
My dad shared many of his own father's view on gender, but he was not a religious man in any sense of the term. He had a great sense of humour and often recounted pranks he and his classmates played on each other while attending university at Queens and McGill. Some of these pranks seemed very inventive and QUITE deadly! In one instance an extremely high pressure jet of water was fixed to hit the head of the USER of the TOILET (my father). Said target activated the contraption by sitting down on the loo. Fortunately for my father, he became aware of the sudden silence which immediately followed his entry to the “Wayside Chapel” and ducked before his head could be blown off. Pop returned the favour by slipping a “Tesla Coil” into the bed of his roommate. He then electrocuted his “BUDDY” by plugging it into the wall outlet at the peak of the Rossini overture then playing on the phonograph. Shocking! His off-colour limericks also delighted his friends, co-workers and family, and incidentally helped relieve some of his work-related pressures.
Dickenson V. Alley, photographer, Century Magazine [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Although my father trained for the infantry in 1945, he was fortunately too young to play a part in the Second World War. After returning to school and earning his PhD at McGill University, he was hired to do chemical tests for National Defense. He didn't stay long there and left for Forest Products Labs as he had moral qualms with the work he was assigned in his Defense posting. Pop stayed at Forest Products Laboratory (now Forintek) until he retired, and, up until his last few years there, enjoyed his job immensely. Pop took great pride in his work as a biochemist and as one of the top men in his field worldwide was published many times in prestigious journals (including Scientific American). Although he specialized in wood chemistry he had a naturally inquisitive mind and enjoyed learning about the world around him. I was extremely fortunate in this, as my dad taught me to share his questioning nature from a very early age. As a result I was reading by the age of two, and I was actually studying calculus by the time I turned eight.
When not at work or teaching me, Pop's hobbies were judo and photography. Besides earning a third degree black-belt in judo in the late-1950s, my dad taught the martial art and competed in different cities across Canada. He also carried a Leica camera whenever he traveled and had his own darkroom at home. After I came onto the scene he had less time for these hobbies, and his favourite personal pastime became his daily walk in the Ottawa Arboretum. Whenever I was home we walked together, and I learned the names and characteristics of many types of trees on these excursions. He often made the same rounds with his best friend Moe Debroy, whose cottage we visited during the summer months.
I realize that everyone feels that their parents are special, but I still think I was the luckiest kid anywhere. I don't believe I was born with exceptional abilities, but as a youngster my father was able to get me interested in just about any subject through using hand-puppets. Aware of my natural curiosity and already vivid imagination, my dad's method of teaching the basics of reading and arithmetic by using adventures and stories guaranteed swift and FUN progress. With the characters from Gumby and Pokey and The Fabulous Thunderbirds as protagonists, my father taught me to read by using a series of cue-cards he typed up himself.
Although my dad was widely recognized in his field for his chemistry work on lignin and cellulose, I think everyone would benefit from studying his techniques as a child educator. Even today (after a lot of self-induced brain damage) I still read a book a week, and can solve two digit multiplication problems faster than most people with a pocket calculator. On the downside I have NEVER used my knowledge of Algebra or Calculus except to stupefy audiences or to award CDs as prizes at a gig when my guitarist breaks a string!
My dear Pop was interested in teaching me and helping me with my homework until I turned fourteen and entered my REBELLIOUS stage. At that point I thought I knew more than most of my teachers (I still hold that opinion in some cases!), so I didn't see the point of doing ANY of my assigned work. While we drifted apart for the next six or seven years, we grew closer after that period, and he helped me morally and financially when I began attending Concordia University in 1989. Although his retirement was shadowed by declining health (he suffered many small strokes from the mid-1990s on) he was able to come to Montreal to see me at my two convocations get my B.A (Honours) and my M.A. in History. Just a week before he died (June 26 2000), we went for our last walk together and visited the Museum of Natural History, where he had taken me many times as a child. We touched a dinosaur bone there, and although he was weak and had little of his old energy on our last outing, it gives me great happiness to hold these final loving memories of him.
By RealGrouchy - Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10397087
As I wrote earlier, I have been blessed with the greatest parents anywhere. While my dad held a deep kindness and was incredibly stimulating intellectually, my mom was just as smart, but had her intellectual side balanced by a deep cultural and human awareness. This balance came about primarily because of her own choices in life, but partly because of the environment of her formative years. My mother not only grew up in a country which had an entirely different value system than Canada, but spent her teenage years in the fires of the most horrific conflict in history; the Russo-German War (1941-45). Hostility on this scale brought out the very worst and, on occasion, the very best of humanity, and witnessing this tragedy has given her a perspective on human nature that relatively few Canadians have shared.
If you asked North Americans who lived through the 1920s, 30s and 40s about who they considered to be the great heroes and villains of the 20th Century, most would start their list with Churchill and end it with Hitler. My mom would start with Woodrow Wilson and end with Churchill, Hitler and Stalin in ascending order of EVILNESS. Wilson, in the eyes of many of the Eastern European nationals who remember that far back, was responsible for the Versailles Treaty clause giving statehood to those ethnic and cultural groups living in the former empires of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Russia. While my maternal grandparents were Russian by birth, the Communist takeover of the Tsarist regime made them REAL HAPPY to become Latvian citizens in the early 1920s.
My grandfather fought in the First World War conducting reconnaissance patrols into Romania and managed to survive the war as a successful NCO. After the war he escaped to Latvia, met my grandmother Helena (the picture to the right is of the couple in 1938) and raised four children (Edward, my mom's eldest brother who was killed during World War Two, my mom MeeMee and her two younger siblings Henryk and Emilia).
When the Second World War began the Russians invaded Latvia, and for all who were not Jewish or Communist, the Germans (who attacked in 1941) were the liberators. After the tide turned against the Nazis, MeeMee and her surviving family escaped, first to Prussia and then to Denmark, where they lived from the war's end until 1949. The story of the family from 1892 to 1949, and the details of their Eastern Front escape are covered in my book "Operation Hannibal." More information may be found here.
With the advent of the Cold War, my mom and her family decided to leave Europe. After discussing possible destinations, they settled on Canada. MeeMee and her brother Henryk went first in 1949, where they worked hard as a maid and as a farm labourer respectively to pay for the cost of their passage and to save money for when their parents and Emilia could join them. Eventually the family was reunited in Ottawa, and my mom was able to find a better paying job in the Royal Bank branch on Sparks Street. A few years later my mom met my dad through some mutual friends and they started dating. Now MeeMee was quite in demand at the time (she had her picture in local storefronts modelling clothes), but Pop was determined, and after pursuing her to Florida he was able to win her hand!!! They were married in 1957.
Part Two: Me 1964-1993 - Before the Bedouins
My parents had been together for a few years before they realized that there was something wrong. My dad had had Mumps, and once they figured out they couldn't have children they decided to adopt . . . And that's when I entered the picture!!! I had been born in Ottawa on November 30th, 1964, an official member of Generation X and when my birth parents gave me up, Pop and MeeMee adopted me at two months of age. They loved and cuddled me from the get go, and it was then that I took on the smile that has since become my trademark! Pop and MeeMee encouraged my intellectual growth from an early age, reading me stories as soon as I got home from foster care.
My first memory came from just after that time: I remember looking out from my crib, and feeling safe under the blankets! My second recollection is unfortunately by no means so pleasant: I developed a fever near my first birthday which started at 104 degrees and lasted almost a year, gradually going down in the process. What I chiefly recall was how the cold cloths my parents placed on me to lower my temperature would make me scream as the icy fabric touched my skin. BRRRRR!
On a more positive note, we began traveling right after I was born. Every winter (from age one to fourteen) we would go south. We travelled to Florida where we explored both coasts, but it seems that we always ended up in Daytona Beach. Sometimes we would head to the Gulf Side (see the Busch Gardens picture at right) and at other times we drove further south to Juno Beach, but Daytona was our regular pit stop because of its beautiful sand. The Americans we met were all very friendly and I still have both wonderful memories of these adventures and the itch to travel!!!
Closer to home, we would travel to Moe Debroy’s cottage (he was my Pop’s best friend) near Gracefield Quebec, and swim with other friends on the beautiful lake bordering the property on most weekends through the summer. That's where I first heard the magical call of the Loon, and where I learned to guide the canoe I was in by “fishtailing” properly. In later years, I would especially enjoy leaving early in the morning with Moe’s dog Jason, paddling across the lake to a small island which we would explore together. My first (and only successful) fishing expedition occurred around this time (around the age of eight) when, with a stick for a pole, a few chunks of chicken (or the occasional earthworm) for bait, a short piece of line, and a couple of pieces of lead, I managed to catch twenty-six fish in two days. Three of these came home with me to become my pets, and although two succumbed to overdoses of Arrowroot cookies, the third, “Bigfish” as I called him, lived until a ripe old age of SEVEN!
My piano playing started early too. My mother began teaching me about music when I turned four, right after I watched a movie about the Strauss family (I believe it is called The Great Waltz). In the movie, when everybody started singing along to “The Emperor Waltz,” I was HOOKED! Around that time I was watching Tommy Hunter on the TV, and for a brief period I embraced country music. Over the next few months I would walk around the house with a wooden banjo I had hammered together from a round piece of softwood and a stick (no strings of course) and sing “Baby, baby baby!” Coincidentally, in the same year I discovered music, I began developing my interest in history (and WORLD DOMINATION - more on this later). After seeing the movie Sink the Bismark, I just had to learn more about the Second World War . . . and I was SO impressed by the German uniforms!
My mom sent me off to my official piano lessons at six year of age with Miss Gladys Wale, and I continued until I turned sixteen, finishing every level in The Royal Conservatory of Music up to grade nine conservatory with First Class Honours. I didn’t do quite so well on the theory, but the sister who taught it was also not the most enthusiastic teacher. Like most kids, I liked to PLAY the piano, but only PRACTICED because my parents insisted on it. However once I was able to get attention through my abilities (especially on the Strauss Waltzes that I loved) I began to work seriously without having to be threatened. It seems that I found I loved playing the piano as soon as I realized that girls enjoyed hearing me! It should be mentioned here that I DID NOT listen to ROCK MUSIC or any other form of POPULAR MUSIC at this time, mainly because I was weird, obsessed with military history, and increasingly RIGHT-WING in my politics ... and I was turning EIGHT!
All through this period my father was teaching me about science, math and history. Because he made learning fun through his use of puppets, I soaked up information like a sponge. When I was four I also remember sitting with my Pop watching the moon landings: I can still see the old TV set tuned to this extraordinary event and recollect thinking that if humans can do this, anything is possible! Both MeeMee and Pop would read aloud to me continually, and with this kind of encouragement, I learned to make out words by the time I was two (I was actually reading the Globe and Mail at four) At that time my dad began quizzing me on spelling and teaching me shortcuts in math. With his help, by eight years of age I had memorized the Periodic Table, and had mastered the basic formulas and principles of Algebra and Calculus!
Although I didn’t play a lot with the kids in my neighbourhood, my dad would go out with me every evening and play badminton, Frisbee or soccer with me. We would also go for long walks in the Arboretum near where we lived, a past-time I still enjoy to this day.
While these memories are pleasant ones, my education outside of my home was generally a different, and far less uplifting experience. Although I enjoyed Primary school, and revelled in my high marks and in giving interest talks on weird subjects (like the German light cruiser Emden), I was bullied from kindergarten to grade 9. For many years I rationalized this as something I had brought on myself as a need for attention. Later, I thought it had something to do with my birth-family giving me up. Now I realize that even though I probably liked people paying any kind of consideration to me, some children were just mean because they were having a rough time going through their own issues. I even remember seeing one of the people who bullied me the most have a bicycle thrown at his head by someone higher up the food chain. This happened when I was in Grade 5 at Mutchmor!!!
Does anyone else remember Watergate, Kent State, Patty Hearst and the Symbionese Liberation Army? Nothing else seemed to be in the news as I came to the end of elementary school. On the other hand, and for once despite the bullying, grade six was a very happy time for me. I was knocking my grades out of the park and it was not until my later years at university that I was able to reach the same scholastic heights I scaled as the teacher’s pet in the enriched class at the highest grade in school! Well, as they say, nowhere to go but down!
Glashan, my junior high was socially more troubled than Mutchmor, and as I was bored in my classes, my grades began slipping. My music teacher at school was a pedophile, and most of my other teachers were not very good . . . Mr. Fraser being a most pleasant exception.
Throughout this time I was continuing to read history books and steadily becoming even more right wing in my political ideals. My schoolmates never seemed to take these things as more than a phase, and for that I am eternally grateful.
Lord of the Rings, Dungeons and Dragons, and wearing togas at school made up for my lack of scholastic inspiration. With the realization that I knew more than the teachers were teaching, I spent more and more time on these pursuits than my homework, and as I started to slack off my high grades began to slip. I left junior high under a cloud, and while that experience had been a come-down after my Mutchmor elementary years, what was to follow was even worse!
I began going to Glebe High School, and whoever tries to tell you that “these were the best years of your life” NEVER went to Glebe. In fact, if anybody wonders why Alanis Morisette sounds so pissed off on her early albums, remember . . . SHE WENT THERE! Our administration was moronic and mean, our teachers were generally sub-standard (although I loved Mr. Perry, Mr. Dubinski and Mr. Eady) and I was a JERK myself (at parent-teacher interviews Mr. Eady said I had views to the right of Attila the Hun) . . . Is it any wonder the school administration and I didn’t get along? Even the yearbook Lux Glebana would show pictures of comatose youngsters sleeping in Cecil Stymist's math class ("and here are his exhilarated students"), and I still remember the utter incompetence of Mr. Bangs my grade 11 history teacher.
However while my cravings for attention continued (remember the toga), my bullying finally came to an end. At the beginning of my first high-school year I decided it had to stop and to that purpose, when the harassment began, I decided to fight back for the first time. I exchanged about five minutes of punches with the late David Burke and while no-one was declared the winner, the bout (and violently standing up for myself for once) meant that I was no longer going to be regularly beat up at school.
On an even more positive note, over the last three years of the 70s, my parents took me to Europe each summer. This began another pattern in my life’s journey as I fell in love with the culture of the old world. The paintings, the buildings and the atmosphere (not to mention the unclothed sights on the beaches of the French Riviera) completely enchanted me, and even today I return to Paris EVERY chance I get!
However the biggest eye-opener for me was our trip through Spain to Morocco in 1979. Walking through the kasbahs of Fez and Marrakech was a revelation (especially having to jump in a doorway so as not to get crushed by a pony pulled cart) and I was truly blown away by the experience of hearing the call to prayer for the first time. The sights, sounds and smells of Africa left me with a feeling I will never forget, and the “sharpness” of life there will always have a real attraction for me.
Meanwhile, back at home, my school experience was going from bad to worse, and each year my grades slipped lower and lower. Although a few teachers did their best and stood out from the pack, most simply could not be bothered making their classes interesting. The administration was even worse. Uninformed and brutally strict, these miscreants thoughtlessly harassed and damaged the generation under their care. While starting grade thirteen in the enriched program (and after being elected to students’ council for a second term), I realized that my days at Glebe were numbered. In fact, before the first month of school was finished, four of the twelve members of the council (including yours truly) had dropped out!
Aaaaah Ronald Reagan ... Does anyone else remember just how awful this banal incubus (thank you Mr. Bill Hicks) really was? I actually don’t remember that well, as certain events (which seemed harmless enough at the time but shall remain unmentioned to protect the innocent) intervened. Suffice it to say that I had a little too much fun in the summer of 1980, and that I abandoned my misguided ambitions to take over the world in favour of a career as a drop-out.
This decision allowed me the time I needed in order to enter other dimensions while listening to the music of Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Hendrix and Frank Zappa. At this point family problems began to arise as I became a REAL JERK in the process. Puberty had caught up with a vengeance, and I spent the next three years adrift in a bit of a haze on a quest of self-discovery. But this was actually exactly what I needed in life. Just to put things in perspective, I still believe that I would have done a LOT OF TERRIBLE THINGS AS AN ADULT had I not messed up and worried my poor parents by choosing this particular (lack of) direction as a teenager.
Dropping out of school became the final breaking point for my mom and dad, and I got kicked out of the family house permanently (OK it was only a few years but it seemed permanent at the time!) For the next 18 months, nothing much fazed me; I was a delinquent, I was having fun, I was living with my first girlfriend in her parents house (and they liked me!), I was working at Hino’s Japanese Restaurant as a dishwasher . . . and I was generally wasting time. However deep down I was slowly coming to realize that I wanted more out of life, and after a horrendous academic failure at Woodroffe High School (passing one class out of six!) I decided on a more serious change.
In 1983 I went to the west coast with a good friend in order to "find" myself. And that is exactly what happened. We hitchhiked through Canada, and after MANY misadventures (including an experience in Calgary and Bow River which I will not soon forget), stopped in Vancouver. After living on the streets for a while, we found an apartment and established a den of iniquity near Burnaby by the “Joyce Loop.” We were next to a poolhall run by members of the Fijian mafia (of all people) and we spent our days listened to the music of Jimi Hendrix, and the Grateful Dead. I remember hearing the “Cry of Love” six times in a row, trying to find the “real” meaning of the songs Hendrix was singing. We partied, we misbehaved, but most importantly we tried our hands at songwriting. Over bottomless cups of coffee (at a small coffee shop called Bici up the street from where we lived) we wrote and wrote and wrote about our experiences, and especially about the street people we had met. It was then that I realized that I wanted to tell their stories and thus began, at least in my own mind, to establish my credentials as a songwriter.
Living in British Columbia was fun AND really mind-expanding, but it was not easy by a long shot. I still remember how many of the street people, members of the aboriginal community and even some working girls would come to our apartment because it was a place of safety and tranquility. There, we had many books from the local library, and they could find a little place of tranquility where they could relax, read, and recover from the abuse they suffered at school and at their foster homes. Although it felt good to share our home with others, some of the stories we heard were heartbreaking, and after a nine month stay we decided we had had enough.
Coming back from Vancouver in early 1984, I made up with my parents, and began to turn my energies into fronting a rock and roll band. Although my first experience as a lead singer was exciting and left me wanting more (my Crooked Sky experience at Hillcrest was mind-boggling: I pointed at a girl during one of my songs and a brief wave of "Edwin-mania" swept through her friends around her), I came to the conclusion that my voice was not all it could be, and that all those years of piano lessons were going to come in handy! Upon my return from the west coast I had met some hippie types (through my friend Karen), and when we all serendipitously went to see the Toronto concert of The Band and the Grateful Dead in the summer of 1984, it turned out to be a life-changing event for EVERYONE.
Although I didn't realize it at the time, attending this show meant that I would spend the next five years in a Jerry Garcia tribute band fronted by guitarist Dave Muir (bottom right). Glenn McIntosh, Scott Towaje, Joe Burns and David Bissessar on sound board, rhythm guitar, bass and drums completed the lineup, and Dave, Scott and I shared the vocal duties. The free-form music we played forced me to learn to improvise, and with the blessing of the wonderfully generous audience we attracted, we achieved levels in communication FAR BEYOND what our limited abilities would have naturally allowed us to reach as musicians. Our first show was played on Glenno’s property at an event that continued in various forms for the next four year, but which will ALWAYS live on in the minds of the people who attended: the EARTHBALL!
With Longbottom headlining, various bands would get together every summer to party, either in Glenno's huge backyard or at a farm outside of Ottawa. It was so much fun that even today the hippies of Ottawa carry on the tradition in Sue Clark's WABAFEST. It is hard to describe the feeling that would arise, but suffice it to say that in a beautiful caring way we would really get crazy, and make all sorts of insanely beautiful sounds. I still remember meteor showers over our heads, while four hundred people danced the night away to our music!
Our house parties also became legendary, as we would jam (sometimes for over 48 hours without sleeping) each weekend, with literally hundreds of people moving through our home. At the time of the first Earthballs we lived at 1006/1008 Fisher Avenue (oddly enough that residence was turned into a drug-rehab place after we moved out) and later on, in our party palaces at 227 Booth Street and at 41 and 1/2 Third Avenue.
Ahhhh, the amazed and astonished looks of the employees of the “Beer” Store as we would bring in over fifty dollars worth of empties on each of three consecutive days! Despite the heavy drinking, it was at these parties that I learned to play. We would get many fellow musicians to come by and jam, and it was through their example and encouragement that I was able to climb the ladder to professionalism. I still almost remember our first “official” pub show at the Chateau Lafayette. We were paid in beer, and between eight of us, two hundred and forty (!) seven ounce draft were consumed! I believe I still can recall one audience member (most of whom were doing their best to rival our levels of intoxication) saying: “You guysh are better than Yesh . . . HIC!"
At this point we decided to start playing for money, as we figured there was no way we would survive otherwise. I did most of the bookings for the group, and my ability to attract a following meant that we played to packed houses each and every weekend. Even though we couldn't play as well as most of the other bar bands in the city, we were by far the most "in" group, and I remember that, towards the end of our run, I was able to ask for and get 100% of the door and 35% of the bar sales for the band on account of our popularity.
With my friend, the über-talented guitarist Chris Swain, the rhythm section backed up Greg Odynski and cut our first recording in the process. Through jamming with Rob Bowkett, Eric Frank, Shawn Gaffney and others in our circle of friends, a Longbottom spinoff called Goldnugget Express came into being. There I learned much of the Southern Rock repertoire and developed a love of the genre that continues to this day.
However the hippie paradise we had created was not to last forever. Personal tensions between the members of Longbottom took their toll, and in 1989, after many memorable concerts including more immortal house parties, the fabulous Earth Balls and some crazy New Years' celebrations at Manoir des Rapides, the journey came to both an end and a new beginning. As they say, when one door closes, another opens, and not a month after the demise of Longbottom, I turned my talents towards writing original music with the band Straight No Chaser (pictured below).
This group had started off as the best cover bar band in Ottawa (one that I had followed religiously), and after its breakup, the bassist Paul Manly recruited me to join an all-original version of the group featuring John Macias, Terry Owen, Lorenzo Cotroneo, Stone Soul Picnic bandleader Chris Swain and Public Enema (later Bullfrog) bandleader Mark Robertson. While I had been a pretty crummy musician throughout the Longbottom period (as my talents in the classical repertoire translated poorly to the world of ROCK) I was now improving musically by leaps and bounds. Longbottom had always had a huge audience because I had always been REALLY GOOD at bringing people together, and these all came with me to Straight No Chaser. My fellow band-mates were happy with my playing and my songwriting and were always grateful at my ability to boost their audience potential (which, of course, improved their abilities to both make a living and achieve assisted orgasm!), so things looked quite rosy for us.
In fact, the two years I spent with this original band were the beginning of my serious career as an artist. The musicians in this group were generally much better than those I had played with before (the exception being Joe Burns), and I had to seriously practice to keep up. As I mentioned, Longbottom’s audience followed us without missing a beat, and as we became tighter, we wrote and played more effectively. Paul was our social conscience as well as our leader, and I must say that although I have had some serious disagreements with him, I also have great respect for the ideals of justice he has stayed true to throughout his entire life.
We had many great and unforgettable shows together. I especially remember three of these: The first was our tenth (or so) concert at Barrymore’s. We didn't have time to get any new songs together so I decided to make a few tweaks in our stage show. Right after we had a laser show during my classical piano solo, our lighting director Ewan Cameron came out singing “Born to be Mild.” All through this time, when I was not wearing Viking armour I was dressed as a BELLY DANCER! The second memorable performance was on the occasion of our first weekend at Station 10 . . . the band was unstoppable, I was wearing LINGERIE, and it was the night Nelson Mandala was freed, so what do you expect? The third was our final show at the Pterodactyl Peace Fest . . . the northern lights FILLED the sky, I was in JEANS, and Paul Manly was singing “Just say no to THUGS!”
They say all good things must come to an end, and indeed it seemed that we were partying too hard for it to last. Along with Chris and Mark (the two guitarists of the group), I decided to focus on improving my technical abilities by going to music school at Concordia University. The travel time put an impossible load on the band, and after my first year of classes, the group fell apart with some final memorable concerts at Station 10, the Gluepot (where IS that video?), the Pterodactyl Peace Fest and at the Astrolab.
However our legacy was established in the bands that grew out of Straight No Chaser. Besides Edwin and the Bedouins, the bands Stone Soul Picnic, Bullfrog, Public Enema, Robertson, Queen Bee and the Blue Hornet Band and several other groups rose from the ashes to become serious successes in their own right. Paul Manly is now a critically acclaimed independent film-maker and Green Party candidate, and I hope that one day some of the classic cuts we wrote in our time together with the band will become more widely known.
Over the second year of my studies I focused on school, doing only a few shows in Ottawa and Montreal with my then girlfriend Nathalie Michel. However one day in the summer of 1991, I met guitarist Rob MacDonald at a house party. We had been invited by a mutual friend and hit it off both musically and personally. Married to singer-extraordinaire Angel Forrest (the next photo), he was (and still is) one of the hottest musicians anywhere. Even more fortunately for me, he was looking to change his group's direction as his wife was pregnant. Bringing on Southern Rock singer Rob Brennan, drummer Eric Lange, bassist Doug Kennedy and myself, we reformed as Black and Blue and began to dominate the Montreal club scene.
This changed my life's direction as Rob's extraordinary talents as a guitarist and band-leader made me re-evaluate myself as a musician, and forced me into some SERIOUS wood-shedding. Although I still see myself as someone whose primary duty on this planet is to bring people together, I also realize that there are NO short cuts to that goal. Simply put, a career in music demands the utmost dedication to the art.
Over the next two years, Black and Blue and its varying incarnations worked every weekend and some weekdays. At Deja Vu we would perform to a packed house with people crammed onto the dance floor, sitting, staring and listening as Rob and I traded solos, each trying to outdo the other. It was a tremendous experience to go all out each night, and I am quite proud of the heights we attained on the basis of our musicianship. Towards the end of our run we ended up performing 24 nights in one month at two clubs on Bishop Street . . . PLUS a West Island weekend gig . . . And WAIT . . . We were even offered work at a neighbouring Bishop Street club through that same stretch on our break times . . . which we sadly declined for reasons of health!!! However all we were playing were cover songs and despite this new-found emphasis on musical “chops,” there was still something missing. I was a songwriter as well as a performer and sadly knew I had to eventually part with Rob in order to be completely fulfilled.
To really begin the story of Edwin & the Bedouins we have to go back in time just a little ways to my initial arrival in Quebec in 1990. Having been a professional musician for seven years by the time I moved to Montreal, I had some experience of the pleasures of writing and producing original music. Bearing in mind my true and undying love of good food, and understanding the LIMITED EARNING POTENTIAL of ALL-ORIGINAL BANDS, I decided to form a group which could allow me access to both of these pleasure centers. This didn't happen right away. The first group, Zara and the Raging Hormones, was formed to fulfill a Straight No Chaser commitment to play a gig at the Astrolabe near Parliament Hill. The gig was GREAT, and although the band never played again, good tapes survive of this session, and I was bitten by the bug to do it again!
The next band I formed was called OHM (I figure the spiritual sense of the name was a good start, and we could also use upside down - backwards WHO posters to promote the band). We did a few gigs with members of Bokomaru (Montreal’s Grateful Dead cover band) before Rob MacDonald hired me to join Black and Blue. However, even while working with Rob, I still wanted to play songs that I had written, SO, after two strikes, my third ORIGINAL-ORIENTED group, Magick, was formed in 1992 to play a mix of cover tunes and my own material as a part of a master plan to take over the world (Aaaah remember this IMPORTANT THEME in Edwin's life).
Part Three: Edwin & the Bedouins Arrive 1993-2003
With the addition of vocalists Nathalie Michel (my girlfriend at the time) and Melinda "Mindy" Polet and the replacement of the old rhythm section by drummer Mike Dennis, percussionist Silvio Orvieta and bassist Tim Walsh, we booked our first gig at J.D.'s Roadhouse. This April 1993 performance was made under the name Edwin & The Bedouins (one of Nathalie's NICER inspirations) and it was great! Musically, this version of the band was especially exciting as the interplay of Nathalie's and Melinda's vocals contributed greatly to our FUN POTENTIAL. As a side-note, Chuck Dacoulis, one of our future lead-guitarists, guested as second guitar at the debut performance of the band.
Over the next year and a half the band thrived as we found steady work in clubs and at special events throughout the Ottawa-Montreal region. The band had terrific energy, a wacky sense of humour (does anyone remember Mike’s “TIED TO THE WHIPPING POST” while shamelessly channeling Ethel Merman?) and it seemed that the sky was the limit Plans were being made for recording when my relationship with Nathalie ended (CUE CHEESY STRING SOUNDS). This was a terrible blow, but as we had begun work on our first CD by this time, we finished the pre-production and even started laying the bed tracks down to keep our momentum going.
Between gigs and schoolwork, we actually spent the next two and a half years (from 1994 to late-1996) at Piranha Studios, with the very talented (and EXTREMELY PATIENT) Rod Shearer and Greg Smith engineering. However I'm jumping ahead. When Nathalie left, we hired Tim's brother Brendan (far right) as second guitar, and with Isabel Kavranian and Melinda handling the main vocals the band continued for the better part of a year.
This more rock-oriented line-up (Who can ever forget Isabel's stunning conclusion to Long Train Running?) changed again around December 1994 as Melinda left the group. Tim's girlfriend Tanya Das Neves (above on left) took her spot in the lineup, but the front line was further shaken with the departure of Isabel (on left at centre). Wanting to focus on covers she left soon after Mindy.
After an exhaustive audition process (If you've watched "The Commitments" that about covers it!), I hired singer Sara Latendresse to take over Isabel's spot in early 1996. Unfortunately Sara's health precluded her taking regular club work (An allergy to SMOKE has gotta hurt!). Without a dependable lead vocalist, the band-members grew restless in the face of external pressures (FOOD AGAIN . . . THIS TIME ITS FOR THE KIDS).
We soldiered on for a while, did some memorable gigs, and slowly worked on our album, but over time it appeared that everyone's heart was no longer in the project. When Mike Padra left in the early fall of '96, the band began to split completely and irrevocably. Oh NOOOOO!!! IS THIS THE END?!?
Apparently not! Being a persistent sort, I hired Sharon Blauer and Jenny Wright to fill the empty vocal slots. With guitarist Chuck Dacoulis and drummer Dave Neil on board, we completed the CD in August 1996, and even scheduled a Christmas release. This latest line-up (with Marco Vizza sometimes substituting for Dave) was the best since the band's inception, and we played on with a renewed dash and derring-doo. However, as the entire group was getting sick of my studio demands (CMON GUYS, YOU CAN DO IT. JUST ONE MORE TAKE!), and several were finding faults in MY SOAP OPERA LIFE (Happens to EVERYBODY), tensions continued to rise despite the FUN COEFFICIENT. One day the entire band burned me in Effigy (a small town in New York). Just kidding, I got that from a "MAD" magazine.
However in REAL-LIFE, the group imploded soon after Jenny (being so damn talented!) was hired by the Shaw Festival at a wage I couldn't even approach. The original members who had stayed the course split to do their own thing, and I was left with nothing more than a band-name and our finally finished CD. (KEY CHEESY VIOLINS AGAIN!)
Over the next couple of years, new versions of the band gigged occasionally, but I put most of my energy into being a sideman with groups like Crawdaddy, Angel and the Bad Boys, and the Bobby Lee Silcott Band. Claire Simone fronted the band for a brief period but, more often than not, when Edwin & The Bedouins did work, we did covers of the Allman Brothers, Santana and the Grateful Dead, more suited to my limited vocal range. This version of the band (which included R.D. Harris on drums, Stu Patterson on bass and Kelly Watling on guitar) played Jailhouse every Sunday for about two months and was also a lot of FUN. Unfortunately, as the people who go to Jailhouse tend not to make wages commensurate to those of say, a BANK PRESIDENT, I also lost money paying the musicians. As the FOOD situation was getting critical, our work became more infrequent until . . . The band was reformed AGAIN . . . This time with Galit Malka on lead vocals, and Richard Fallis (one of my main musical mentors) and Snooky Alston on bass and drums. We worked for about six months before the band-members' other commitments precluded a more permanent association. SNIFF.
Still plugging away (to Ewan and Mike singing "How Sweet It Is To Be An Idiot"), I started seriously re-booking the band in early 1999, with Francine Aubrey on vocals, Guy Short on guitar, Chris Swain on bass or guitar, Jayme Tartaglia on bass and Snooky or Dave Neil on the drums. We started work on the Bedouins' second CD, Pour Toi J'ai Traversee Le Detroit Du Bering for my girlfriend Annie Belanger's theatre company in record time, and things seemed to be back on track.
The great Bobby Lee Silcott started guesting with the Bedouins as we began doing regular Ottawa gigs (for the first time in seven years) in addition to the Montreal club circuit. Unfortunately, it being around ALLERGY SEASON, Guy had a skiing accident at the same time that Francine had had to take a break to attend to her family. This put them both out of the picture for a while, and forced me to rethink the future of the group again.
While Guy and Francine recovered, the band continued working (BIG SURPRISE) with the welcome addition of Joel Sacks, Rob Couture and Alan Springer on bass, percussion and guitar respectively. Just to show I had not lost touch with my SOAP-OPERA FOUNDATIONS, I had started dating Annie "Manyani" Belanger just after the January 1998 ICE STORM ended my previous relationship. Within a year she was the lead singer for, you guessed it . . . Edwin & the Bedouins. To provide some form of continuity Melinda occasionally sat in with us as well and with a memorable New Years show at Cafe Boomers we ushered in 1999.
My friend and fellow Sagittarian Carol Schumph joined us on vocals soon after this and we did a number of excellent shows with her and Annie sharing the front line. Snooky, Rob, Joel and Kelly completed the ensemble, though for one memorable gig, Roger Walls and his horn section also joined us. Carol left after all too short a time as my pal Kevin Jordan hired her for his touring group Tangoluna (more on this band later).
1999 was also the year we began doing JAM-NIGHTS at Avanti Rest-Bar. For more than a decade I had been doing jam-nights as a sideman (with Rob Mac at The Beez Bar, Roadhouse, Clyde's and Deja Vu, and with various other groups at Beaux Esprit, Bistro a Jojo and Nuit Magique) but this was the first time I could call the shots and I intended to make the most of it. To keep the standards high I rehearsed with the singers who I knew would come down that week, and to keep the audience happy we made sure the house band had at least three new songs down every jam night. TOM, the owner of Avanti was the most supportive and understanding bar-owner I had ever met, and with the addition of singer Jessica Duff and guitarist James Gyde, I felt that new possibilities were opening for the group.
Around this time, drummer Jerry Mercer (of April Wine and Roy Buchanan fame) and guitarist Kelly Watling (Big City) started joining us on a regular basis, beginning a relationship that is still going strong nearly two decades later! In addition to these adventures, and to try and keep the basic lineup fully booked while we continued to perform covers and originals as Edwin & The Bedouins, (shooting a promotional video in our spare hours) we did even more tributes to Santana and the Allman Brothers in some of the bigger clubs in Ottawa and Montreal.
It was also in 1999 that I made a serious return to my classical roots playing church services at the Griffith McConnell seniors home with my pal the Reverend Jan Jorgensen (The HIPPEST MINISTER ANY-WHERE). I had been playing some classical music for the ballet classes of Miss Elaine Aidelbaum since 1996, but working for the seniors I discovered a level of appreciation I had never experienced in the clubs. In fact I enjoyed playing for the residents SOOOOO much that when one of them (The beautiful and talented Sara) moved to Maimonides Geriatric Centre, I followed her there!
Even today, I must say that out of all the places I chose to ply my trade, Maimonides has continued to provide the most satisfying work environment. The administration, the staff, and the residents of the centre have all been wonderful to me, and what made my move to Maimonides the SMARTEST MOVE EVER was my good fortune in playing for a very VERY attractive nurse. This person would save my life, become my friend and then become my SOULMATE . . . the most amazingly gorgeous, kind, sexy and wise person in the world, Nechama Surik.
BUT HEY that's jumping WAY ahead of the story!!! In 1999 I wasn't even married to Annie yet! In that auspicious year Edwin & the Bedouins and Theatre du Siege (Annie's theatre company) finished work on the album “Pour Toi J'ai Traverse Le Detroit du Bering,” I got engaged, and with Annie, Joel and many of the aforementioned drummers and guitarists we began a series of six concerts to raise money for the Keith Lowther Memorial Fellowship.
Over the next four years, with the help of the Graduate History Students Association of Concordia (and specifically the aid of Professor Rosemarie Schade, fellow student Melanie Fishbane, Tom the owner of Avanti, the musicians and of course Keith's Parents) we succeeded in raising over $10,000 for this worthy cause. This remains one of the proudest endeavours of my life, as each year a deserving student (high marks and a record of community service are requirements) receives a substantial fellowship.
Just doing it was fun too, because at the last of these shows, the great Jerry Mercer (of April Wine, Mashamakan and The Buzz Band) took over as our regular drummer. Doing fundraisers made everyone feel good, and with almost every past band member joining us for the celebration of our TENTH ANNIVERSARY at Bar Mecs (picture below), it seemed that the FUN-COEFFICIENT was on the upswing again!
Although Jessica and James had to leave the line-up, we began doing ANOTHER jam-night at Bar Mecs, and the band was still full of optimism for the future. Unfortunately this happy state of affairs just couldn't last (CUE CHEESY STRING SOUNDS YET AGAIN!!!) and my soap-opera life took another dramatic turn. I woke up one June morning in 2003 to the welcome sounds of a club-owner in Africa offering my group tour dates in Morocco. SOUNDS FABULOUS EH? Unfortunately my wife Annie (Who married me in 2000) was not in bed with me! As I hung up the phone I discovered that she had left me the previous night, and while we decided that I should take the gig to allow her time to reflect on the situation when we spoke the next day, in retrospect this WAS NOT THE BEST MOVE. With Joel on bass, Melinda back on vocals, and new additions Robert Kraft and Tony Paradis on drums and guitar we were ready to go . . . NOT!
HAHAHAHAHAHA! As you might have guessed, Melinda's psychic healer intervened, and Tony, still living at home, was grounded by his mother. Never daunted by seemingly insurmountable odds, I replaced Melinda and Tony with Tanya Eletto and the fully recovered Guy Short. Finally we were off to Tangier Morocco!
After five FUN-FILLED days of glory under African skies, my diabetes got out of control and I was hospitalized for five AGONY-FILLED days of torture. (The best-paid nurses in Tangier make significantly less that $1 an hour, and the quality of their service depends on their tips!) Guy visited me on the THIRD day and against doctor's orders I BROKE OUT soon after (That rash was something else!) When I returned to work I quickly found out that the group dynamics had changed . . . I went from band-leader in Edwin & the Bedouins to the role of sideman in the Robert Kraft Experience faster than you can say HOSPITALIZATION!
However we worked through the rest of our contract with a minimum of fuss and, in this regard, the kindness of my Moroccan friends Alek and Mohammed (both of whom I had met while playing in Tangiers in 1998) was a great help, keeping up my spirits with the best traditional Moroccan hospitality.
Guy also acted pretty decently, especially when I had to experience the Moroccan medicare system for a second time. He kept me in control as I struggled through a low-blood-sugar-crisis, and for that I will always be grateful. He even came with me to Asilah for FUN (Never thought I'd use that word again) both on the beach and in the Kasbah.
Just before we left Morocco our entire group was invited by my buddy Kevin Jordan to stay with his band Tangoluna in Casablanca as his honored guests. He and all the members of his band treated us with love, decency and respect, and we left the country feeling a bit better about the over-all experience as a result.
To be fair to all members of the group, the Moroccan experience gave everyone more than their systems could handle. Someone was murdered on our street-corner the first week we were there, and the very next night someone lost an ear to a machete blade right under our balcony. To my understanding these tragedies did NOT reflect the basic qualities of the Moroccan people, but were all too common side-effects of the desperate conditions under which they try to survive. The rest of the band didn't see this, and felt personally threatened as a result. The reality is that Morocco is a very tough place which is kept in poverty because the governments of Europe and North America see support for its corrupt and autocratic rulers as a strategic necessity.
That being said, mutiny is mutiny, and while I realize that my own subconscious struggles led me to what ultimately happened in Tangier, the actions of my band showed me that it was not worth my time or effort trying to keep rock musicians employed on a full-time basis. Furthermore, after talking to Shane Murphy, Angel Forrest, Chris Swain and Mark Robertson about their experiences leading bands burdened by Rob Kraft, my opinion remains that while he a decent drummer, his skills are certainly NOT worth the chance of damage to mental health that may result from his employment . . . Buyer BEWARE!
On a last note about Morocco, when my friend and co-worker Nechama discovered I was sick, she called and sent e-mails every day. This simple act of friendship coupled with the genuine kindness of the Moroccan people were responsible for raising my spirits when they were at their lowest. In my heart I know that these acts of genuine humanity were what really what gave me the strength I needed to go on living.
Part Four: Edwin & the Bedouins SEMI-Retire 2003-Present
After my Moroccan fiasco, I had no immediate desire to gig with Edwin & the Bedouins or any other groups again, so I booked more gigs for the seniors, took on additional piano students and continued playing for ballet classes. In a certain sense I was lucky to leave “THE SCENE” when I did because within a few months said “SCENE” practically disappeared! (How can you call a bar a ROCK CLUB when all you've got for entertainment is a full-time D-Jay?!?!?) Getting all the appreciation I needed from the ballerinas and the seniors, I didn't miss the smoky bars I used to play in one bit. I must say that at that time, I didn't really miss playing in a band either.
To make things even better, it was at this time that the friendship that Nechama and I shared blossomed into TRUE LOVE, and we have continued our kissing and cuddling ever since June 2004. With her love and support, and that of my mother and the rest of my extended family, I found the strength to start a new chapter in my life and began work on two classical albums "Edwin Orion Brownell Plays Selections for the Ballet" and "Maimonides Pops: Edwin Orion Brownell Rocks the Classics." I launched these in 2005 with my first concert at Place des Arts and another sold-out show at the Oscar Peterson Hall, this time with my music choreographed by the dancers of the Dalal Saikali Dance Project (picture below).
Once in a while I sat in with guitarist Steve Rowe, but it was only in 2006 that I decided to look at some of the recordings I had made from live concerts as well as the French album I had never mastered or officially released. The result was “Bering and Beyond,” which began with eight songs from a live concert the Bedouins had done at Bourbon Street West in 2000. Kelly, Annie, Joel, Dave and the great Jerry Mercer did a fantastic job on these cuts, and the seven re-mastered studio tracks from the locally released “Pour Toi” album which closed the CD were also outstanding. I was extremely happy with the new disc, but even happier that I was able to bring the band together again (this time with Rob Couture on percussion and Amélia Ann Landreville on violin) to do a last hurrah at Avanti.
Always the ambitious sort, I wanted to use the launch to record . . . A NEW ALBUM! So we went ahead and put down thirteen new songs, three of which came out on the third Bedouin album “One for All” (more on this CD later), while the rest will hopefully show up on a 2020 (or so) release. The experience was great and there now seemed to be a future for the Bedouins, but the launch and the recording had cost a lot of money and despite the new songs I was looking at this release as a kind of tying up of loose ends. Besides, I had a solo concert coming up and wanted to continue focusing on my neo-classical compositions and on my career as a concert pianist.
Over the next three years I worked hard on my classical career, releasing the double CD “Journey of the Spirit” in 2007, and the CD / DVD “SMILE” in 2009. These records were recorded by Chris Leon and mastered by Jim Rabchuck and I am extremely proud of both and continue to perform and promote them wherever I play. Soon after “SMILE” came out I got a gig doing pipe organ work at St. Andrew's, a old little Scottish United Church in Lachine. After that closed I did a short stint at St. Paul's, an Anglican Church a few streets away.
Around the same time, I started doing the occasional gig with the amazing John McGale, (the leader and lead-guitarist of Offenbach). Besides playing the Forum and the Bell Centre to sold out crowds, he would bring me and other local musicians to his regular club dates. For the first time in a long time, aside from the one-off Bedouin show, I really enjoyed the experience of playing with another rock musician.
John’s generous nature and his awesome musicianship inspired me to return to my roots. As I was broke (having taken my wife Nechama to Israel on her birthday in 2010) but still feeling creative, I decided to mine the Bedouin archives one more time to see if I could make an album on the cheap. My habit of recording almost every show we did paid off again!!! Going through all the cassette tapes I had recorded since the band initially formed, I was astounded at the quantity of good music at my fingertips. I had at least one FULL good album of new originals, and perhaps SIX (!) albums of high quality cover tunes we had done over the years in the vaults!!! Well, needless to say, the mixing and the mastering cost more than I expected, but while it wasn’t that cheap, I was able to finish and press the new original album “One for All” in the summer of 2011.
“One for All” has fourteen original songs (including ten tunes never previously recorded) written by me and other band members, with the three cuts from the 2006 Avanti show as bookends. John McGale does a wonderful solo on one of these (“Heaven is in Your Mind,” the closing tune), and Jerry Mercer is on that cut and all over the rest of the album. Richard Fallis does one of the best bass solos EVER on track eight "Party," and the whole album is a FUN listen.
With the new CD in hand I contacted John, Jerry and their colleague from the Buzz Band, bass player and vocalist Breen LeBoeuf (Offenbach, Celine Dion, April Wine). As soon as everyone gave their OK, we booked two big concerts in the spring of 2012. The first was at the Rockland R&B Fest (where longtime friend bassist Alec McElcheran had to substitute at the last minute for Breen) and the second was at Calistoga Grill; and BOTH were rousing successes!!! The venues were packed, they playing was hot, CTV News came to do a story on me, and it looked like the Bedouins were BACK!!!
Over the next few years, while I focused on classical composition (and began writing chamber music for my string quartet the Zara Strings), I continued to book the Bedouins at benefit concerts. With the help of members past and present, we performed once or twice a year and raised a significant amount of money for good causes. At our 20th Anniversary show in 2013, we headlined a lineup (including newcomers to the group like Jim Zeller, Ria Reece, Dindo Miras and Levy Lumabao alongside Sharon Blauer, Breen LeBoeuf, Rob MacDonald, Jerry Mercer, Paul Lifshitz, Snooky Alston, Stephen Rudinsky, Kelly Watling and Dave Devine of the old guard) that raised over $3500 to bring fresh water for the victims of those who suffered from the ravages of the Filipino typhoon (see below).
Edwin & the Bedouins next benefit concert was done to raise money through Oxfam for the Syrian refugees. With most of the same previous lineup but adding Angel Forrest, Paul Harwood (Mahogany Rush), Gary Moffet (April Wine) and John McGale (Offenbach) with folk singer Rob Lutes opening the proceedings, we were able to raise $2000 with funds matched by the Canadian Federal Government. The next year I performed with many of the same musicians when Jerry celebrated his 75th birthday in 2014, and was very proud to perform with Jim Zeller and most of the members of April Wine at that star-studded event (see picture below).
At that show I met an April Wine alumni with whom I developed a deep personal and musical bond; guitarist / vocalist Carl Dixon. This gentleman is extraordinary in every sense of the word. After he made his name singing and playing with his group Coney Hatch in the 1980s, he performed with April Wine for four years and fronted the Canadian rock icons The Guess Who for the better part of a decade. However his time with The Guess Who ended when he was torn apart in 2008 in a horrific car accident. After 37 hours on the operating table and subsequent years of dedicated rehab, he made a complete recovery.
Today, whether doing solo shows, motivational speaking engagements or singing for The Hatch or the Guess Who, he is one of the best performers ANYWHERE. Although he lives just outside of Toronto, we stayed in touch after Jerry's birthday party, and when I turned 50 later that year, I was overjoyed to hear that both he and Jerry had accepted my invitation to join Stu Patterson, Tim Walsh (one of the original Bedouins), Stephen Rudinsky and myself at an Edwin & the Bedouins club date in downtown Montreal. We came, we rocked and took no prisoners . . . To put it mildly: That was one hell of a party!!!
Over the next few years the Bedouins continued to perform once or twice a year at benefit concerts. We had a couple of outdoor shows in 2017 where the great Gary Moffet joined us again to make some more beautiful musical memories and thrill a new generation of fans!!!
I started doing more solo rock / classical / blues shows at that time, and was honoured to appear at two benefit concerts at the Rialto Theatre that Sheldon Kagan put on for the Cummings Centre and for the Shield of Athena. Other performers included dancers of the Bolshoi Theatre, classic big bands and Montreal singing legends Matt Mardini, Pierre Perpal and Nancy Martinez.
What does the future bring for the Bedouins? Well while there are no booked dates at this time, the album recorded at Avanti in 2006 has yet to be mixed and mastered and there are ten brand new originals waiting there. I still love to play live for good causes, so I know it's only a matter of time before I bring the band back together for that.
MEANWHILE I love spending time with my beautiful wife, my amazing MeeMee and my three wonderful grandchildren. I have two in Israel, Amit (my eldest) Ofir (my youngest) who I miss terribly, and one in Montreal: AidenWaiden (who is not only spoiled rotten for living close to Papa and Savta, but get some serious stage time too)!
I have a lot in the planning stage for 2019: I want to reform the Bedouins to launch the "Before" album sometime in the Spring, and in the fall I plan on launching my next classical album "Edwin Orion Brownell Goes Baroque." I still hit the occasional jam night, and if there are any Bedouins about you never know what will happen once we are all onstage. Whenever and wherever we do get together, I promise it will be a treat . . . See you soon, keep your dancing shoes close by and be ready to ROCK!!!