Public Energy has been uploading some videos to their vault of late and I happened across the one called The CeeDees Live. And who should their front man be but Peterborough’s insanely versatile and overly modest Curtis Driedger. The band’s name derives from his initials. Now I have seen Curtis conduct the Peterborough Community Choir and Mandolin Society, perform in the local zydeco band Bobcajun, but I didn’t know he was also a new wave rocker on Toronto’s Queen West strip, playing with the likes of Billy Bryans and backing up Alan Ginsberg on his Toronto tour.
“By 1983, Driedger, already a fixture on the Toronto Queen Street circuit had written well over 100 songs and still needed an outlet for his wry, often twisted songs about Eskimos and prairie life. He administered the assistance of Rough Trade’s rhythm section and often rotated many other members over the years based on the hectic schedules of its alumni.”
The next time I see Curtis performing around town, I’ll have more appreciation of what a rare bird he is.
The other thing that is so interesting about this is Driedger’s connection with a group called The Society for the Preservation of Wild Culture , which spawned a journal, whose publisher Whitney Smith went on to found the grassroots Toronto Island theatre company Shadowland, and a Café of Wild Culture which featured famed chefs Michael Stadtlander and Jamie Kennedy who were early proponents of the organic and wild food movements.
I have heard about this period in the late 70’s / early 80’s in Peterborough, when Artspace was in its heyday and the legendary David Bierk was still around (he designed the poster for the concert featured above), a time when art, music, literature, ecology, food and activism were the mashup of the day, and I have to say I wish I’d been there. I have a feeling this could be a fascinating collection of stories from many perspectives, so I’m going to keep digging and if you’ve got one of those stories to share, you can do it here.
It’s always good to know where you’ve come from when you’re trying to see where you want to go.