Just back from two weeks in "Old Cape Cod" - only to hear the news of Long
John Baldry's passing. I knew he was in bad shape. Butch Coulter, who plays
harp with me on occasion was Baldry's harp man for 20 years and was
supposed to be touring with him in September. That tour was cancelled
months ago when John couldn't even breathe without a breathing machine.
Ironically, at the end he was able to breathe on his own for a couple of
days, and friends expected him to rally, but then the infection came back
and it was game over. Farewell, Long John.
I had met John and his crew socially a few times when they came through
Toronto. I remember this wild lady called Tova who was his unofficial
Toronto reception committee and hosted a continuous party at her place on
Davenport Road. One time I had to give Long John a lift from a gig in North
York down to Tova's place. It was just a ride straight down Bathurst
Street, and I coasted through a couple of yellow lights on the way. Well,
John was not amused - he gasped each time and his knees pulled up even
closer to his chin than they already were in the passenger seat of my
Toyota Tercel. I gather he was even more nervous in aeroplanes, and was
probably just as uncomfortable with the limited leg room.
A couple of years ago, Butch called me at the last minute to sub on guitar
with him and Baldry at a club date outside of Toronto. I'm no jobber, and
had no idea of the repertoire but Butch said Long John would be playing
guitar and I could just "play along...add to the groove". I took the gig
against my better judgement but we had a lot of fun. I'll always treasure
those words he spoke to me after the first tune...with that authoritative
tone and formal accent he leaned over and said, "I'm afraid you'll have to
turn down that guitar, son..." I also remember that he was quite
meticulous with all the paperwork, getting me to sign a receipt with
copies in triplicate... and then he paid me more than agreed upon - I don't
think that ever happened to me before.