You could be forgiven for not knowing who Buddy Wasisname and The Other Fellers are. Despite being an enduring and uniquely Canadian touring musical comedy troupe, their career has never been flashy or front page news. Instead, they have steadfastly brought joy, traditional music and belly laughs to thousands and thousands of Canadians for 35 years.
“In the beginning we were an oddity, a curiosity and it took a while for people to clue into our style,” says Wayne Chaulk, one of the Other Fellers. “After all those years, thousands of shows, 20 recordings, television appearances and five concert DVDs we now find that people are right with us.”
You read that right: 20 albums, thousands of shows and five concert DVDs. It’s a career that most musicians will only dream of. That they built it town by town, relying on word of mouth is even more impressive.
“When we began this touring back in the 80s we relied upon the (Newfoundland) ex-pat audience to support our shows,” explains Kevin Blackmore, Buddy himself. “At the time there were enough Newfoundland associations and clubs to actually ensure the tickets were sold, especially in Ontario, Alberta and B.C.”
It was their show, a mixture of infectious songs and raucous laughter, that had people coming back year after year.
“The material comes from the rural Newfoundland experience and has given us a reputation as ambassadors for the province,” says Blackmore. “The humour, whether it’s monologues, sketches or novelty music is character based and the serious song material beautiful lyrical portraiture.”
“Diversity is our speciality,” adds Chaulk. “You will hear songs about shinny on the ice, the delights of chocolate, the appeal of yodelling and there’s even a down in the dirt blues piece.”
That eclectic recipe of traditional and original music; some novelty some serious, mixed with musical and sketch comedy is certainly a feast of entertainment for audiences. It wasn’t long before word spread.
“The group became increasingly known and appreciated by people other than those who had a connection to Newfoundland,” says Blackmore. “The audiences now are almost a balance, perhaps even more weighted with those ‘others’.”
Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellers take the stage at Barrie’s Georgian Theatre on March 9. The show is billed as the “Best of Tour” but it’s starting to seem more like their last, meaning final, tour.
“It’s been a long career in theatres and we’re immensely grateful for it,” says Blackmore. “But we’re aging whether we like it or not.”
“We are not retiring and will do occasional shows but mostly on the island of Newfoundland,” adds Chaulk with a grin. “The time has come for Canada to come to us.”
As a rule, each Buddy Wasisname show is an original creation. There’s new material written for every tour and also new jokes and energy each night. When considering a final tour, putting the show together was a little different.
“We sat around with a list of all recorded pieces that we’ve done over the years and selected the 30 that we felt were our most popular,” says Chaulk.
“We started with a long list from people’s requests over the years and promptly reduced it to the two hours of material we’re now doing,” adds Blackmore. “We could actually repeat that process and not repeat a single piece in the show.”
For all of their revelry and even silliness onstage, the band takes what it’s doing, on this tour especially, very seriously.
“It’s common to hear audience members say that for two hours they have been taken away from all the cares and trouble of normal living,” explains Chaulk. “The show consists of two sets and we like to structure them so that at the beginning of each we come on highly energetic with lots of comedy.”
“It may well be the last time we’ll come through Barrie, they’ve been kind to support us,” says Blackmore. “We hope that in return they’ve enjoyed at least a small part of what we did and that we’ve spread understanding and mirth as we’ve attempted to bring you a picture of our beloved Newfoundland.”
Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellers play the Georgian Theatre March 9. Tickets are available through the Talk is Free Theatre website www.tift.ca.