Deviating from my usual rants, I will tell you cats about a friend of mine. Cool cat, good friend , gentleman guitar picker Paul Pigat aka Cousin Harley.
I found out about guitar virtuosity in rockabilly long ago. I saw Danny Gatton play with Robert Gordon in 1979 and Stray Cats in 1983 and understood that the combination of rockabilly and stellar guitar playing was possible, even essential.
I also saw Brian Setzer Orchestra at the Montreal Jazz Festival in '92 and a 17 piece big band led by a sizzlin' Gretsch guitar just blew me away. My love of stellar rockabilly guitar picking was set in stone.
Fast forward to 2001. Heeding the advice of old friend, Ray Condo, I did indeed , go west. My first week in Vancouver, I discovered the legendary Marine Club, where I somehow ended up on stage with Big Sandy's band. (WTF!?) Ashley Kingman is a superb guitar player in his own right, I was pretty intimidated. (that's Jimmy Roy in that picture, a great pedal steel player).
Ray Condo was playing honky tonk Fridays at the Marine Club. A year before that we had booked them at a swank Montreal club where I was spinning krazy swing nights. The swing kids were scared of Ray, some kinda crazy hillbilly music. I befriended Ray's new bass player, king of the triple slap, Pete Turland. I met up with Pete when I arrived in Vancouver.
I met Paul at the Marine, but got to talking with him at the Yale at a Pete Turland Band show. Yeah, that's when they still actually had good shows at the Yale.
I ended up on stage at the Marine Club with Paul and Pete one day soon after that and that was also intimidating. Pete swore he would kick my ass if I ever did "Drinkin' Wine Spo-dee-odee" again.
I ended up being the doorman at the Marine Club and saw Cousin Harley there many times. To say that the man has paid his dues is an under-statement. I had the unenviable task of paying the band at the end of the night and won't go into any more details about that.
January 31, 2001. The Wise Hall, East Vancouver. New Year's double bill, Ray Condo and Cousin Harley. It doesn't get much better than that. My mom was in town that night and Paul gained a life long fan.
Numerous gigs at the Marine Club , Railway, and the Wise Hall, cemented my admiration of Paul's playing style. Sunday night acoustic blues at Bukowski's ( where Charles Bukowski would never have set foot) were a staple of my weekend. Those rare nights when he would team up with Paul Rigby were always a treat. Django Reinhardt gone krazy, it was truly something to behold.
Paul even did a few be-bop gigs there and his scope and range proved to be even broader than anyone knew. Spectacular.
There was a time where I was a bum. No job, no dough. I would spend endless days with Paul at Cafe Roma, discussing old music and guitars. Even in winter, in true die hard Canadian spirit, we would stubbornly refuse to sit indoors.
January 31, 2005 . The Wise Hall. Cousin Harley New Year's and I got to DJ between sets. It was great. The crowd was eclectic, and not being bound by the narrow constraints of a Rockabilly night, I played Country until I was blue in the face. ( oh wait, maybe that was the whiskey).
Time moves on, the rockabilly nights moved to the Fairview after the venerable Marine Club shut down. Cousin Harley has played there a few times. He even opened for a Fireball Productions presentation of Lee Rocker.
The hardest working man in Rockabilly, I make it a point to attend all the shows. Cousin Harley's bass player, Keith and manager, Kathy, have often asked me why I seem to be in every Cousin Harley publicity shot. I'm the guy near the stage, shouting and clutching two beers. Slightly embarrassing , but funny nontheless, it's become a running joke.
Early 2009. During one of coffee sessions , Paul asked my opinion about playing Viva Las Vegas. I had previously attended and encouraged Paul to play there. I knew that this was a huge amount of exposure at, what has become, the world's premiere Rockabilly festival.
Myself, and a handful of hometown cats, had the privilege of being in attendance at the Viva Las Vegas gig. This proved to be a seminal event in Paul's career. The cats from the Gretsch appreciation society had got wind of this gig. Gretsch had a booth in the main ballroom at The Orleans. During rehearsal, he blew those guys away and they lent him a Gretsch guitar. The rest , as they say, is history ( see accompanying article).
Paul In Vegas
That's my take on it, and as it has been said for the last 60 years. Go, kat, go!
Friday June 5, 2009 - Gretsch could not possibly be more excited about welcoming Canadian guitar ace Paul Pigat as the newest Gretsch artist, clinician and family member.
Pigat wowed Gretsch fans at the four-day April 2009 Viva Las Vegas rockabilly event, and did so once again when he stopped by Gretsch guitars headquarters in Scottsdale, Ariz., on Thursday, June 4, to play a dazzlingly virtuoso lunchtime set that left listeners' jaws somewhere around their ankles.
Toronto native Pigat took up guitar at age 11 and was gigging steadily by age 12. Over a lifetime dedication to live performance, recording and study, he has become a superb guitarist, vocalist and songwriter with an astoundingly versatile sonic palette. Indeed, even a brief listen to Pigat (who doesn't consider himself a rockabilly purist) reveals doses of jazz, delta blues, western swing, Travis picking, rock 'n' roll, Chet Atkins and, hell, even a little '80s shred.
He has talent informed by a sterling music education—Pigat attended the Claude Watson School of the Arts and graduated from the University of Toronto in 1992 with a bachelor's degree in music theory and composition. He then taught at the Eli Kassner Guitar Academy in Toronto while continuing to explore live performance work with various bands. He moved to Vancouver, B.C., in 1994, where he continued to hone his reputation as an extremely talented and versatile guitarist.
Pigat heads four different Vancouver bands, including rocking hillbilly trio Cousin Harley, considered western Canada's premier rockabilly and roots band. He has recorded, performed and toured with artists including Neko Case, Michael Kaeshammer, Carolyn Mark, Taj Mahal, Mae Moore, Lee Aaron, the Blind Boys of Alabama, Joshua Redman, Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys, Aaron Neville, Jim Byrnes, Zubot & Dawson and others.