We invite everyone to join us this Saturday, Sept.15 for the first of this season’s monthly Coffee House gatherings. We are starting the season with a musical reunion of Chris Palmer and Dave Gallant.
Chris Palmer was born and grew up in Leicester, England, where he started a band with some friends in ‘64.
“I was singing and playing percussion. We had a harmonica player, and he was a big part of our sound; two weeks before a big festival gig, he came down with a horrid infection. As the only member of the band not doing anything really useful, I was designated to learn harmonica in two weeks! That’s how it all started.
“I was an aspiring poet during my teen years, and had some modest success with it.”
In ‘68, he went to a concert featuring Michael Chapman. He was blown away.
“I decided, more or less on the spot, that I wanted to write songs and play guitar like him, and bought my first guitar the next day. I loved the sound of the 12-string, and have had no reason to change my mind since… so I taught myself to play it after a fashion. I still can’t play a six-string.”
At Art College in Chesterfield, he was in the habit of performing every Wednesday at an open stage at the Velvet Underground. The house band was led by Joe Cocker, which led eventually to me joining his band, said Palmer. As a result, he was fortunate to meet a majority of the significant musicians in England.
”In those days, it was a fairly closely-knit community, and there were no barriers of genre to interfere with that. There really was no such thing at that time in England as a ‘rock’ or ‘blues’ or ‘folk’ musician… we were simply musicians, and played whatever struck our fancy. I suspect that was the strength of the English music scene, and what appealed to foreign fans.”
Palmer went on to play harmonica with many of England’s most influential musicians, including George Harrison and Eric Clapton.
Palmer moved to Canada in ‘75 and until 2000 lived in the Ottawa area. While fairly active musically, he established a career in social services, working in residential treatment programs.
“I had a number of musical partners over the years, and was probably somewhat spoiled by the quality of their musicianship. I was bemused by my discovery of the genre separation, and worked actively to erode it. Most of the projects I was involved in incorporated an eclectic mix of blues, folk, jazz, and rock.”
In 2000 Palmer moved to Sooke. He fell in love with the Island, made a lot of good friends and played a lot of music. Palmer and Gallant began playing together regularly almost immediately after meeting.
“Dave’s eclectic repertoire worked well for my harmonica-playing, and allowed me to escape the expectations of playing blues. I think the harmonica carries a little magic — it’s such a simple instrument, yet lends itself to playing almost anything. The more variety I play, the happier I am… and I especially enjoy performing songs that are far outside the usual harmonica repertoire,” said Palmer.
Gallant spent his teenage years growing up in Montreal during the late 50’ and early 60’s where he first learned to play Ventures tunes. Soon he was turned on to the rock and roll sounds of Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and the Everley Brothers. Then, along came the Beatles and that changed everything. During his last year of high school, Dave discovered Bob Dylan and soon he was performing in some of the coffee houses around Montreal, most notably the New Penelope where he frequently opened for such notable folk artists as Richie Havens, Eric Anderson and Tim Buckley.
A brief stint in the army brought Gallant to Canada’s west coast. He has been playing in bands and as a solo artist on Vancouver Island since moving here in 1970. He was an original member of Victoria’s popular Nightshift band. He has also played with the late and much loved Tommy “Johnny Cash” Craycroft and the Black Mountain Band and Mr. Puffy, featuring Joyce “the Voice” Allenson. He also spent time touring Ontario with the popular club act, Footloose.
Gallant has lived in Sooke for the past 30 years and is still performing as a solo artist or with the Blue Moon Band, and is finally getting around to recording a CD of his original tunes. He is hoping to release it within the next few months.
Palmer moved to Winnipeg a number years ago and he’s glad to be back on the Island for a visit and to make some music with old friends. So, please come out and join us this Saturday at Holy Trinity Anglican Church, 1962 Murray Road. Doors open at 7 p.m. with open stage at 7:30 and our feature at 9.
Contributed by Dave Gallant