Bluewhale #2 -Stan Rogers

Backdrop at the Bluewhale

These posts related to the Bluewhale Coffeehouse got started because it was time to get rid of the old records. We don’t have a record player even though Curt thinks we do. No one seems to knows where it is hidden and I doubt it would work if we found it, probably would need a needle (hey kids, do you know what that is?)

Anyway, there sat the box of albums. We had rock, soundtracks and folk. We used to listen to a lot of folk on Wisconsin Public Radio’s “Simply Folk” or hear it live on Friday nights at The Bluewhale Coffeehouse.  Curt’s first year at the university was ’78-’79 but I don’t think we discovered the Bluewhale till 1980.

So the albums in the box brought back fond memories of the many performers we enjoyed from the soft seats of the Bluewhale; Bill Staines, Scott Alarik, Claudia Schmidt, Greg Brown, Stan Rogers….ah yes, Stan Rogers!

How I loved Stan Rogers. He was a Canadian musician and songwriter. The first time we saw him at the Bluewhale he had just played Madison because his between songs chat made reference to Madtown and John Nolan Drive.

Stan performed with his brother, Garnet (vocals, fiddle, 12-string guitar and flute) and Jim Morison (bass). Stan played 6-string and 12-string guitars and a long-necked mandolin. He was a big man, 6’4″ and when he and his band took the stage they commanded the space and his baritone voice filled the room. Stan wrote traditional-sounding songs which were frequently inspired by Canadian history and the daily lives of working people, especially those from the fishing villages of the Maritime Provinces and, later, the farms of the Canadian prairies and the Great Lakes. They were earthy, powerful and sentimental songs. I think we saw him twice but I played his recordings at home so much I may be imagining that second performance after all these years. One of my favorites is White Squall (Good YouTube rendition of Stan performing the song but with somewhat misleading visuals given that the song is likely set on a modern ore boat).  I love the storytelling in his songs.

Stan Rogers albums

On June 2, 1983 Stan, without the other band members, was flying back to Canada on Air Canada Flight 797, when an in-flight fire started in the restroom. It spread between the outer skin and inner cabin panels, filling the plane with smoke. The pilot made an emergency landing at Cincinnati Airport. Emergency exits opened and some passengers escaped but the fresh oxygen created flashover conditions and the plane filled with flames killing 23 passengers including Stan Rogers. ( I remember in one of the reports of the fire, a survivor remembers a large man helping others to the exit. Apocryphal? Maybe?) He was only 33 (so was I).  His death hit me hard. I remember crying, not something I do for entertainers, but I think it was because I had personally seen him in a small musical venue. And because his music struck a cord deep inside me.  I am surprised, how after all these years, I still get emotional.

But this post about Stan Rogers was not written as an obituary but rather a celebration. There will be no new songs but recordings preserve the beauty and the power that was written and that will remain.

When we put our records out in the garage sale, we had one man who grabbed a lot of them. He was our age and still actually used his record player. Many of the albums he bought from us filled in the holes he had in his Bill Staines and David Bromberg collection. Glad we could help.  I asked him if he knew Stan Rogers, he didn’t, but I couldn’t get him to take even one album. However his excitement and joy in the other artists made me confident the records were going to a good home where they would be appreciated. Once he left, I decided those albums by Stan were going back in the house, record player or not. I have nothing to play them on but they serve as a link to wonderful memories.

So, here’s your assignment: go to iTunes, search Stan Rogers, listen to a few cuts. Pretty soon you won’t be able to get those tunes out of your head. Go ahead download your favorites and enjoy.

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4 thoughts on “Bluewhale #2 -Stan Rogers

  1. I never saw Stan Rogers in person; only heard him on Simply Folk. Even without the personal concert connection I remember his death. Today, I have a CD with “Northwest Passage” on it. I can listen to that song endless times in a row.

    I wrote about Rogers, roses and Canadian explorers in this post a couple of years ago that you might enjoy: http://eachlittleworld.typepad.com/each_little_world/2009/01/cold-climate-roses.html

    And we have two functioning record players. How else can I listen to Dick Pinney and Betsy Kaske and Piper Road and all the great Wisconsin musicians of the 1970s and 80s?

    • He was quite something in person. So glad to connect with another Stan fan. And yes, there were a lot of great musicians from that era. Now I am sounding old.

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