MAY – INTERVIEW with legendary 5-time CCMA Steel Guitarist of The Year – Ed Ringwald.
I had the pleasure to have attended the fantastic 7 piece Western Swing Authority showcase at Hugh’s Room Live back in February. This stellar display, lead me to honourably interview internationally acclaimed, composer, arranger, master of the pedal steel/lap steel/dobro guitar, Canadian 10-time CCMA nominee turned 5-time CCMA winner and CCMA Canadian Country Music Association’s Musician Hall of Honour recipient, Ed Ringwald. Also, A FUN FACT on Ed. Did you know that Ed’s nickname is “Pee Wee” due to his slender build and he incorporates it in his name just before his middle name – Ed ‘Pee Wee’ Charles Ringwald.
What an outstanding musical resume you possess Ed! Wow, being in the spotlight professionally at the age of 20, spending 4 years playing in The Great Speckled Bird band on The Ian Tyson show on CTV also known as Nashville North. This opportunity allowing you to back many of the top Nashville artists from 1972 thru 75 like Anne Murray, Conway Twitty, Van Morrison, Stompin’ Tom Connors, Murray McLauchlan, and The Good Brothers, just to name but a few. Leaning forward into 16 years of traveling the world with the legendary Gordon Lightfoot, performing locations stars of today could only dream off like Carnegie Hall, Royal Albert Theatre, Hollywood Bowl and the list is lengthy, touring also with George Canyon, is mind-blowing! DEB: How does it feel to have your name represented amongst these trailblazers? ED: “I consider myself a pretty lucky guy & am forever grateful to have shared the stage with so many talented artists. Ian Tyson gave me my break after returning from studying music for 7 months in Dallas, with one of the greats, Reece Anderson, starting his TV Show a week later. Then I spent 16 years with Gordon Lightfoot. They both taught me so much about the music business and musically, with Gordon, I was introduced to playing the steel guitar in a non-traditional way, to compliment Gords style. So to be represented along with all these amazing artists, I am proud & honored.”
DEB: Did you ever get nervous and how did you handle that on stage? ED: “There is always that pre-show nervousness before the show, even to this day. Performing with Gordon in his prime, we were playing such amazing arenas & concert halls all over the world, Milwaukee Fest where I remember over 60,000 people, Saturday Night Live, Midnight Special, Olympics and so many more. I remember that feeling of anxiety, but once you hit that first note, it pretty much went away…until the next solo and the spotlight was on you with 30,000 eyes focused on you, lol.”
To truly capture Ed ‘Pee-Wee Charles’ Ringwald’ s talent is like capturing an infinite measure, both a creative workbook and an authoritative musical reference as his steel guitar presence is proudly moving & a pertinent one. DEB: What would you say was the best advice you were given back in 1972 as your career took flight? ED: “My first steel guitar teacher gave me advice I will always remember. The steel guitar is a very complex instrument to play, practice lots & make it your only instrument. Don’t try to get good at playing lots of instruments, focus on being the best you can, on the steel guitar.”
DEB: You have traveled the globe many times over, at some of the world’s largest venues with some of the world’s largest icons this planet has to offer, in front of 10’s of thousands of fans, yet you feel right at home in an intimate up close and personal setting like Hugh’s Room Live with 200 guests. Which setting do you actually prefer most? and why? ED: “I’ve been a pretty lucky guy to experience the thrill of Royal Albert Hall in London, Greek Theatre, Hollywood Bowl, LA Amphitheatre, Carnegie Hall in New York, Saturday Night, Midnight Special, MGM Grand in Las Vegas, every musician’s dream. I just like to get up and make music for the fans, whether there’s 60,000 or 200….you get out there and give it you’re all. That’s what we musicians are put on this planet to do, to entertain and take people to a special happy place, to forget about things for a couple of hours. As for what I prefer, I love both. I must admit, sometimes when people are so close to you, like Hugh’s Room, I might be a bit more nervous than a huge coliseum.”
DEB: What went through your mind during those life-changing moments when you were hired to perform as part of the regular 1/2 hour spot as a member of The Great Speckled Bird band, upon CTV’s international Ian Tyson Show-Nashville Now? Also, what was your feeling when the call came in from Gordon Lightfoot hiring you into his historical crew, as well, having to turn down the Eagles when they called as you were traveling with Gordon Lightfoot? ED: “I was playing bars at an early age & woke up one day and said, do I really want to do this circuit anymore? I had bigger plans. I decided to go to Dallas & study with one of the great steel guitar players, Reece Anderson, saved my money up, enough to rent an apartment and drove myself to Dallas. When I returned a day later, Ian Tyson called. I remember my Mom answered the phone. I answered, Hello, Mr. Tyson. He said, call me Ian, then he asked me to join the Great Speckled Bird Band on his National TV Show, no auditions…I started a week later. I was totally off the wall, as I use to watch the Ian Tyson Show as Buddy Cage was in the band back then, big shoes to fill for a young guy. Then Gordon asked me to play on his new Record. The first single released in 1975 was Rainy Day People, then a few months after he asked if I’d like to join his band. He flew me out to Seattle first-class, they were performing at Big University. I remember going to a gig and there were like 20,000 people, this young kid was blown away…lol. I did have a hard time making the decision to leave Ian Tyson’s TV Show & The Great Speckled Bird, but after lots of thought, I took the gig & was with Gordon touring the world and recording on all his records. My time with Gord, I got called by the Eagles to fly to New York to do sessions. I had just started with Gordon & had 10 sold-out days of shows at Massey Hall in Toronto and couldn’t do the session. FYI, The Ian Tyson TV Show was canceled that year…. so I guess I made the right move!”
DEB: Have you seen or felt a major shift in music today compared to 1972? ED: “The music industry has changed so much since I began, I can’t even begin to express my feelings on all the changes. I’m the old school era & it was such a wonderful era of music with Gordon Lightfoot, Dylan, James Taylor, Harry Chapin, George Strait, Carly Simon, George Jones, Ray Price, where we all actually would go in the studio & record live to tape, it had such a magic to it. FYI The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald, Gordon wrote the night before and we all went into Eastern Sound in Toronto where he played a bit for the band, they rolled the tapes. We tried recording it better so many times….the record you hear on the radio was the 1St take, recorded live off the floor with us all in the same room. It was meant to be an album filler and became one of Gord’s biggest hits with over 2 million sold. The way we record records these days has changed so much. Yes, digital production & distribution technology has provided powerful opportunities for creators and performers of musical works to reach a
DEB: Is there a specific artist, album or song that you like playing the most and why? ED: “I like playing all forms of music, from my early classic country years, learning the instrument, country rock with the infamous Great Speckled Bird, backing all the Nashville artists on the TV Show. Classic Gordon Lightfoot allowed me to experiment & come up with a nontraditional sound to compliment Gordon’s beautiful music, to my movie scores & jingles which were a departure again from the traditional steel guitar. The Western Swing Authority has a mixture of jazz, big band swing, and country where we recreate the sound of the classic 1920’s big band era with some Bob Wills, and Spade Cooley. I am so happy with all the artists I’ve been asked to play with and I must say The Wreck of The Edmund Fitzgerald will forever be special to me…it was a magical night at Eastern Sound with Gord, Rick Haynes, the late Terry Clements, Barry Keane & myself. As well, the most recent album, Big Deal, with The Western Swing Authority is at the top, is such an amazing album filled with such great music, featuring so many special guests…and my WSA family are all amazing players.”
DEB: Now performing with Canada’s most recognized and awarded authentic western swing group, The Western Swing Authority which is made up of a collection of the country’s finest touring and studio musicians. What would you say are some of your most memorable moments on the road with this energetic 7 piece act? ED: “Every moment is special with WSA. I love this band so much…amazing players and Stacey’s voice is so beautiful, it doesn’t get much better. Amazing moments on the road…well, we were asked to play at Garth Brooks road manger’s Birthday party in Nashville….of all the bands….we got called. I remember playing & seeing Garth & Trisha Yearwood right in front of the stage with Steve Wariner and many more…got the thumbs up & a big smile…pretty cool. Also, WSA traveling together in a van down to Memphis, Ameripolitan Awards…we were on the showcase and nominated…fun times with fun people.”
DEB: You hear a recording that you performed on or better yet, you see a video of you performing live, what do you feel at that moment, were you fulfilled? ED: “It’s a wonderful feeling hearing yourself on the radio or seeing a video for the first time. It’s all the hours of practicing, hard work you spent crafting & learning your instrument that you finally see in action. I remember hearing, Gordon Lightfoot’s Rainy Day People on the radio for the first time…I was so excited…..& the Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald on heavy rotation worldwide and WSA’s really
DEB: With numerous nominations, true honors, accolades, jingles, awards, touring, recording and career highs, how do you stay humble and so down to earth? ED: “I am so blessed to have had such a wonderful music career, met so many wonderful fans in my world travels, played with some amazing musicians & the most important thing in my life is family. I have an amazing wife of 44 years, Kathy, who has been by my side from the beginning, supporting me through ups & downs. We have 2 beautiful kids, Jess & Pamela, that have given us the joy of 7 grandbabies. It’s pretty easy to staygrounded around my beautiful family…that’s all that really matters.”
DEB: 48 years ago, did you ever dream that your talents and contributions to the music industry would have made such an impact as it has? ED: “When my Dad took me to a country concert at the Kitchener Auditorium many years ago, Ray Price & Connie Smith were on the show and I saw this instrument on stage where I had never seen one before with pedals and the sound, I knew right then & there that is what I wanted to learn to play. I followed that dream…never really thought about the impact it has made. What’s cool about it all, is that the music we create & perform on as musicians will be in the archives forever. Pretty cool to know a part of you, lives on forever musically. FYI, I almost joined the ROTP training in the Air Force, wanted to be a fighter pilot, but the music bug got me….guess I could have played in the Air Force country band..lol”
DEB: What would you say is the highlight of your career? As well, what is your secret to longevity? ED: “My gosh, that’s a hard one Deb. I’ve had so many highlights. Performing at the 1976 Montreal Olympics for the athletes was pretty cool or playing Saturday Night Live in 1976 with John Belushi, Akroyd & Chevy Chase on the show. I was asked if I could play with the Saturday Night Live Band on a skit for the show, “Del Staters Toad Farm Ranch,” was cool playing with those New York cats. Winning my 5th CCMA Steel Guitar Player of the Year & being inducted into the 2016 CCMA Hall of Honor topped off all the hours of practicing…quite an honor that I will cherish forever. The secret to longevity? Longevity is not something you can take for granted…smile, laugh lots, take care of yourself, and eat
DEB: With your ever-growing Western Swing Authority fans, tell the newest fans what they can expect at a future WSA performance? ED: “I’m not sure what we’ll be performing at the CMAO performance but, we’ll keep you all surprised. It will definitely be a WSA ride back in time to some fun music that will put a smile on your face. You’re gonna want to get up and dance in the aisles…we’ll definitely be ‘Bringin It On Down To Your House’ & some new music for sure.”
Thanks so much for your time today Ed.
Stay tuned with Ed at Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ed.ringwald or http://www.myspace.com/peeweecharles and enjoy the info on Western Swing Authority’s future performances by swinging on over to https://thewesternswingauthority.com
Due to the circumstances surrounding the worldwide COVID-19 unknown, The Western Swing Authority 7 piece got together from a distance to create a real treat for y’all. Ed Ringwald says, ”Social Recording Distancing”..who would have ever thought? here’s a little WSA …..Hope you enjoy a different take
As well, the 8th Annual 2020 CMAO Awards and Western Swing Authority’s performance that was on May 31st is now moved to Sunday, October 4th, at 7 pm till 930 pm inside The Centennial Hall in London, Ontario. Here is where you can purchase tickets! https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/2020-cmaontario-awards-tickets-74304148709
Additional MUSIC NEWS:
I am including this next star into my columns April thru July because she means the world to me and I am super proud of her accomplishments. We went to high school together in the 80s, we were in the Rock n Roll Review and we graduated together from Bracebridge Muskoka Lakes Secondary School (BMLSS).
She has accomplished her dreams of becoming a successful award-winning songwriter and phenomenal performer. I am pleased to share with you, the inside world of the multi-award-winning Victoria Banks (Vicky Doddington Banks as I fondly knew her as back in the day). “This is an artist you absolutely need to pay attention to. Recommended without reservation.” – Robert Oermann, MusicRow. “A powerful singer…a very impressive songwriter…definitely a name to look out for.” – Maverick Magazine (UK)
Bouncing back from a series of large tornadoes that touched down in West and Middle Tennessee on the night of March 2nd into the morning of March 3rd, 2020, including one that hit downtown Nashville, then right into the onset of COVID-19 that has closed venues and postponed music events and placed herself and the world in lockdown.
“Life is painful and impossible and breathtaking and beautiful. I have to write what I feel.” That’s where Victoria Banks’ 4th album, Indigo, comes from. “These songs aren’t written to fit a genre, or to meet an expectation of a sound,” she says. “They’re built from bare-bones midnight recording sessions in my attic. They’re things that I need to say. And these are the songs that people ask for at my shows, so they’re things that people need to hear too,” shares Victoria. Her list of accolades as an artist is long. Her self-produced, self-penned records When You Can Fly and Never Be the Same made her 2009’s most nominated female artist in Canadian country music, which earned her the 2010 CCMA Female Artist of the Year award, and sent her out on tour with superstars Reba McEntire, Wynonna Judd, Lonestar, Randy Travis, and Johnny Reid. But songwriting is her first love. “I tried to take a different path, I studied Zoology at the University of Toronto, but I just wrote song lyrics across the corners of my exam pages,” Victoria shared. Music was a lifeline in the solitude of the wood-heated cabin in rural Ontario where Victoria grew up. “When winter storms whistled through the keyholes and shut the power off, I played the piano, listened to cylinder records on my dad’s antique phonographs, and sang Bach in 4-part harmony around the dinner table with my family. It’s in my veins. I can’t ignore that,” stated Banks. After graduation, Victoria worked an array of jobs from waiting tables to painting houses to save up enough money to get to Nashville, Tennessee. There she spent 10 years climbing the music industry ladder as a songwriter before ever releasing a record of her own. “People perceive the music business as glamourous. It’s not. It’s 80-hour weeks of busting your ass and living on nothing most of the time, then saving up like crazy when the money does come in because you never know if it’s going to happen again,” said Victoria. “My music keeps evolving because I evolve,” she says. “You’re the sum of your scars and the product of your experiences. Songwriting is about turning a magnifying glass on your own life to help find the metaphor and meaning in everyone else’s,” Victoria expressed.
Now a staff songwriter at Nashville’s RareSpark Media Group, Victoria has penned ASCAP, SOCAN, CCMA, and Covenant-award-winning songs for over 50 artists. Notable cuts include Jessica Simpson’s Billboard record-breaking single Come on Over, Sara Evans’ hit Saints & Angels & duet Can’t Stop Loving You (with Isaac Slade of the band The Fray), X Factor winner Tate Steven’s Ordinary Angels, One More Girl’s breakout BCCMA-winning hit When It Ain’t Raining, Doc Walker’s chart-topping I’m Gonna Make You Love Me and Johnny Reid’s smash Dance With Me, for which Victoria was named 2010 CCMA Songwriter of the Year.
Victoria has earned a place as one of the most respected artists in the Canadian music industry, the admiration of Nashville’s music elite, and the label of “one of the best songwriters in the business” by Nashville’s Music Row Magazine. In a world where authenticity often takes a backseat to marketability, Victoria’s music is a unique breath of fresh air. She has been nominated for 11 Canadian Country Music Association (CCMA) Awards taking home the awards for 2010 Canadian Country Music Association Female Artist of the Year; 2010 Canadian Country Music Association Songwriter of the Year; 2014 Covenant Award: Songwriter of the Year; ASCAP Award: “Come on Over” as well, ASCAP Award: “Saints & Angels” and a SOCAN International Achievement Award!
In addition to releasing 4 studio albums: You Don’t Know Me; When You Can Fly; Never Be The Same; and 2014 most current album INDIGO, Victoria, also hails from Port Carling, ON in the heart of Muskoka, Canada.” She has had cuts by over 100 artists including Carly Pearce, Lauren Alaina, Terri Clark, Cassadee Pope, Mickey Guyton, The Shires, Isaac Slade (of The Fray), and has had songs featured in TV and movies like Breakthrough, Nashville, American Idol, and Dancing With the Stars. As well, back in 2016, Banks performed with the Nashville Ballet as part of their Attitude program, for which several of her songs were choreographed including the program’s title, City of Dreams.
Victoria appears as a performer on Season 2 of SONGLAND, a competition for songwriters that
Thanks, Victoria for showing us that dreams can come true!!! Congrats on your hard-earned successes thus far kiddo, continue making magic and never ever stop ceasing to amaze! Your #1 fan, Deb.
Tune in to http://www.victoriabanks.net or https://www.facebook.com/vbanks catch-all her online live performances! Due to the viral threat of COVID-19 and the extension of borders being closed between the USA and Canada, Victoria had this message to share with her fans in her hometown up in Muskoka, “Yesterday Trudeau announced that the US/Canada border (currently closed until June 30th) is likely to remain closed for a “significant amount of time”. That means that even if distancing restrictions begin to lift this summer, I won’t be able to travel home to perform my album release show in Port Carling on July 4th, so I’m going to go ahead and refund your tickets.”