Glenn Parfitt – Dedicated to the enjoyment of others.

Glenn Parfitt has music in his genes.

His three great uncles came to Victoria in 1889 from England with a steamer trunk, two violins and a cello and they became very instrumental in starting some of Victoria’s earliest choirs at orchestras.

As a young child, Glenn was expected to be able to carry a tune and play an instrument, and he began taking violin lessons with a teacher through Oakland’s Elementary School. After a few months of having the teacher’s bow rapped over his fingers for making mistakes, he decided he couldn’t take it anymore, and started hiding his violin in the bushes on the way to school.

Growing up, my mother had the AM radio on, and I was always listening to country music and real early rock and roll. The first real bands I saw were at the Oak Bay Junior High dance. There was band called ‘Blues Union’ and I thought they were just fantastic. From that point on, any time there was a band playing and I had an opportunity to see them, I would go and enjoy the music, but not standing in the back and trying to run around chasing girls, I was the big, tall guy in the front row, literally in the front of the stage.

In about 1977, a friend of Glenn’s was playing with a band that was looking to get a light show. They came to him to ask if he would like to invest some money in the band, and without knowing much about music at that point, he decided they were pretty good, and he would support them.

“The manager took great offence to it and said he would just buy the light show. They said, “Okay you buy the light show and you be the light man, and we’ll make Glenn the manager.” Then I just started finding them work. In those days, disco music was just starting to get hot and all the venues in town were turning into discos because they didn’t have to pay a band, they just had to make a one-time investment and buy some albums. It was a tough sled trying to find jobs.” 

My genes and my family background tell me that if you can’t figure it, out make it, so I started renting halls, and I got liquor permits, and I made posters up and started hanging them all over the place, and just started being a promoter.

“We started putting on hall dances and it got really, really popular. Popular to the point where I started getting approached by other bands asking if I could do same thing for them, and before I knew it the whole thing just steamrolled.  Because my family was so entrenched in Victoria, I had a real network that I could work from, no internet in those days obviously, so it was a lot of word of mouth, but if there was a party and there was fun happening, the word got out quickly and everybody got the location and knew where to show up.”

Suddenly, I’m a booking agency with about a dozen bands and I’m putting on dances all over town. I’d never done this before; I had no formal training, and I was doing it by the hip.

In 1979, Glenn was formed a partnership with Ron Wright. Earlier, Ron had been grinding him about packing dances all over town with his clientele, but being an entrepreneur and having previously owned an agency, he saw an opportunity.  Before they knew it, they were really busy. Live music was starting to turn around and come back, and they had a whole bunch of bands in their roster.

“Ron also had a side business called “High Rollers”, which was a roller rink on Yates St, and at the same time, he was running a nightclub. We would finish up at nightclub and then at two o’clock in the morning, all the bands, some of the select staff, and people that we liked, all went up to the roller rink, cracked open a few cases of beer, and started to roller skate around listening to music. This was fine except as people got a little more loaded, they started thinking that they were in a roller derby and all of a sudden, the bands are breaking fingers, breaking arms and elbows. We got a phone call from Bruce Allen’s office in Vancouver saying, “No more roller skating! You’re killing our roster because everybody’s coming back damaged from all these events!” We also used the rink to set up our own stage and lighting and to put on our own events. We had our own venue, used our own bands, did everything in house, and it just kept growing and growing.”

From there, Glenn and Ron opened an agency in a retail building downtown on the 500 block of Johnson St. It had rooms where they could have meetings, and bands would come in and hang out on the couch, wanting to be part of the scene and hoping while they were there a gig might get called in and they could pick it up before anybody else did.

“We had a real sort of a scene going for quite a while. I remember one day looking up and there was a bunch of guys walking in the front door with funny hats on. They went into the meeting room with my partner and when he came out, I asked, “What’s with these guys with the hats?” He said, “Don’t worry, this is going to make us a bunch of money. It’s a blues band.” I was a hard rock freak at that point and all the bands I was dealing with were top 40 rock and roll. Blues was just right over my head, not realizing that in fact what I was listening to was jacked up blues music when I was listening to Zeppelin. They went into the studio and recorded a 45 which was released on their own label, and they were getting some mild success and some minimal airplay from it. Then they went back into the studio to record another album, this time with Tom Lavin from the Powder Blues producing it. They recorded in his studio in Vancouver, and then they went and shopped it, and sure enough if they didn’t get a record deal with RCA.”

Out of nowhere, I’m representing a recording act, “Uncle Wiggly’s Hot Shoes Blues Band.” They are still all good friends of mine to this day. Wonderful cats. They still take the band out, knock the dust off, and take it around for a cruise once in a while every few years. They are just a wonderful genuine group of guys.

When Glenn was starting out, he was not representing the best-known bands, so he got the chance to watch a lot of musicians develop throughout their careers.

“That’s probably one of the best things I enjoy today. Now I can see them 40 years later, still playing and they’re so much better, so much smoother, so much more alert than when I first saw them. At the beginning, I was recognizing potential. Because I didn’t have access to the mainstream bands that were working the circuit, I was getting in at the beginning of all these musicians careers a lot of them went on to be in recording acts to which is kind of neat.”

Glenn was being asked to represent so many young bands. They didn’t have gigs and he wasn’t willing to stick his neck out on a paid gig, so wanting to see them in advance he went out to rehearsal spaces- people’s parents houses and basements.

“The most fun one I got was when I went to this house out in Central Saanich. I walked in and there were three teenage girls there with all the equipment set up and everything else ready to go. They were sort of a punk band. I immediately lit up because I knew that punk was around, and I knew it was starting to happen. I had sort of a taste of it but wasn’t really immersed in it at that point. These girls got out and played a set for me and at the end of it I thought, “You girls are wilder and a bag of wet cats! You are just amazing! You’ve got a lot of energy and you guys should really be doing something with this.” I thought it was unique, so I’d take a chance.  My band, Telstar, had a rehearsal studio and because it was a fairly large place, we set up a pub night with a bar. We brought the girls to play the first set. Everybody turned around and looked at me and went, “What the hell was that?” I said, “That’s the future!” and they said, “If that’s the future, I’m out of the business!” Of course, we’re all laughing and joking about it and then later they said, “Don’t ever bring another band like that in here ever again!” So that was my beginning in the punk rock scene and that band of course would later go on become nationally and internationally known as “Dee Dee and the Dishrags”, later shortened to “The Dishrags.” They were essentially Canada’s first all-female punk band.”

By 1979, Glenn’s agency was starting to become known was starting to expand with the opening of three offices- one in Victoria, one in the Okanagan and one in Calgary.  All of a sudden other agencies on the West Coast started to take notice.  

“Everybody wondered, “Who are these guys, what are they doing, and what right do they have to be in the music business? They’re not even musicians and they don’t know anything!” We were sort of up against the wall right from the beginning, but we just kept going at it and it did pretty well.  I got thrown into it and learned as I went.”

I really wanted to go to Vancouver because I was told that if you want to have a career and be in the big time, they don’t bring you from Victoria, you’ve got to be living in Vancouver so that they know you’ve made the commitment.  By my third month there, I got a phone call from Sam Feldman’s saying, “We’ve had a change and we’d like to invite you to come and work for us.” I thought they were kidding, and I hung up the phone.  I got a phone call back from one of the guys I knew that worked there and he said, “Man, he just offered you a job! It’s really happening!”.  Boom! I’ve hit the big time.  I’m working for the largest agency in the country booking bands! 

When Glenn got married and started having children, he felt his life needed a change.

“I found myself in a situation where I was working for businesspeople, but I was very sympathetic to the artists.  I got to the point where I woke up in the morning go to work, looked in the mirror and didn’t like myself anymore.  If had to be one of those guys that had the reputation of what agents and promoters are really like, I just couldn’t do it anymore.  They told me I’d never work in the business again and I just walked away.”

When Glenn’s father passed away, he planned to move back to Victoria to help support his mother, and to take some of the load from his brother.  A friend suggested that since he was no longer working in promotion, since he already knew everyone, he should try becoming a salesman for “The Q” radio station.

“I phoned “The Q” and they were interested and had heard about me, so I had an interview the sales manager.  He wanted me to be a true suit-sell it at all costs, friend or foe, get the dough- the kind of guy that just cleans everybody out and then moves on to the next guy, which again was not my style, but I had a family I had to support so I thought I could probably “b.s.” my way through it.  He phoned me back said they decided they were not going hire me.  I offered to make them a deal where, without a client list, I would work for straight commission and would give them a list of all the businesspeople that I knew in town.  I faxed over the list and within about an hour, I got the phone call saying I was hired, because of course all these were guys my family had worked with in business for years.”   

That was about the same time the Rocktoria series started, so there I am right in the middle, even though I didn’t really want to be in the music business again.  It was kind of neat being around the musicians again and watching the process of all the young ones coming in and trying to get trying to get a record, and then rehearsing, and showcasing, and getting picked as one of the contestants going into the studio.

Glenn’s life changed again when, as he put it, “a newfangled invention” came out, called “the internet”.

“I left “The Q” when I got a call from a guy who had just invested a whole bunch of money and needed a sales and marketing manager.  He gave me a big cash signing bonus, and of course I blew it in one night down at a bar with all my friends from the radio station.  A lot of people were getting dial up at that time through BC Tel, but nobody was using the huge backbone that Westel had that was actually built for the British Columbia Railway communication system all through the province.  It was high-speed, huge trunk, lots of bandwidth, and I got the deal to get a chunk of that.  So, the promoter in me went to Western Speedway and said I would build them a website no charge.  They’d heard about websites but didn’t really know about what we were doing but they said OK.  It turns out they were the fourth racetrack in North America to have a website.  Hardly anybody had done it at that point.  I went and did the same thing with “The Shamrocks” and they were the first senior men’s lacrosse team in the country to have a website.  I was breaking ground once again all over the place.”     

After a few years, Glenn went back to promoting, and with all the side hustling he was doing, decided he needed a website for himself.  He had been doing some work someone with an internet company back East that, long before tools like WordPress existed, was trying to release a new product with self-authoring software so that you didn’t have to run code.  They needed an example of what it could do, so Glenn decided to use it to build a website of music history,

“I put a bunch of bands on it, and they used the website that I created to show people what they could do.  They ended up doing quite well by it.  I separated the relationship I had with the guys back East because all of a sudden it had a lot of content, was a lot of work, and was costing them money to maintain, so they needed me to find some money.  They were just paying me to promote, not sell it, so we parted.”  

Glenn went and found somebody else who owned a computer store that had a server in the back, and he ran the website for a few years from there before deciding to work with a young graduate from Spectrum who was taking Computer Science at UVic.

“He had started up a thing called “Live Victoria” and from 2000 on, they were taking care of all the bands, the history of the bands and promoting them.  Having the website gave bands a place to get on the net just by putting in all their information, and then they would post it on their website.  We sort of decided we should work together, so I was helping increase the database which in that time was still pretty small, but it was starting to grow obviously because internet was taking off and bands knew they had to be part of it.  If you were a band in the 2000’s, you signed up with “Live Victoria”, so you’d have a listing and a way to promote yourself.  What he didn’t have was anything before 2000 which I had the keys to.  It got bigger and bigger and bigger. 

In January 2022, we relaunched the fifth version of the website and our database is shared with “Live Victoria”, “Live Vancouver”, and more.  I’m not paying for it per se, other than my time and effort of keeping my part of it updated and increasing it. 

“When I started it, I thought would do bands from the 1950s to 1980s because I could sort of figure all that out.  Now the website goes from the 1800s to 1999. I’ve got 1150 bands and 180 venues on there and I get between 15,000 and 20,000 unique visitors a day and it holds over 80,000 images.”

Then Glenn had a stroke.

“It’s harder for me now to get going. After the stroke it took me almost a year to be able to get functioning. I could not speak or end sentences. I could not write my own name or form an entire sentence. I was just struggling, and the website saved me because I put my brain into it. I thought if I could get the website going again, it would help me write again, it would help me finish sentences and it would help me get my voice back, so as well as helping all these musicians along the way, it brought my life back from looking like a vegetable to where I am today. I can still tell stories. I’ve lost the sight in my right eye, and I move a lot slower, but I can still talk, I got most of my brain back and I’m still supporting music wherever I can.”

Around 2019, after Glenn suffered a heart attack and had a second pacemaker put in, he realized that he should have a succession plan.  His old friend, Ron Wright, went up to the university and asked for a meeting with the dean to let them know that the history of music in Victoria was essentially sitting in one man’s hands and that they needed to help find a place for it.  Glenn had posters, pictures, records, and documentaries that he didn’t know what to do with.

The next day I got a phone call from the archive department at the University of Victoria saying that they would like to have a meeting with me to see if I would like to donate my collection. 

“We had a meeting, and I got the first batch up there.  I had a second batch that originally was earmarked to go to the BC archives but that’s when I had a triple bypass.  That put everything on hold for quite a while and by the time I got back to the BC archives, everything had changed.  The interest had gone, so I still have a little bit of it left.  I’ve got a collection of signed guitars, and all these other memorabilia that people just kept giving me.  All the videos are all out of my possession.  It’s all gone to UVic and they’ve got it in their archives.  You can go up and look it up. 

One of the proudest pieces I had in the collection was a newspaper that ran for 1966 and 67 called Offbeat Magazine.  This was a music newspaper that came out and predated the Georgia Straight and Rolling Stone.  This guy was producing the newspaper out of his parent’s basement, and it got so popular that it was being distributed out to Toronto.  I got pictures of guys like Roy Orbison reading their copy of Offbeat Magazine.  This was cutting edge! It was the original, way before everybody else.  I ended up donating an entire collection of every volume of it to UVic. 

To this day, when media want music history, I’m more or less the go-to guy.”   

After all these years, we were curious what was Glenn’s favourite part about being a promoter.

“A full house!  Yeah, my birthday parties are amazing!

For my 50th birthday party, I had 500 people at the Langford Legion.  It only held 400, and the only reason I didn’t get busted by the cops is because at any given time, 50 to 100 people were outside smoking.

For my 60th birthday, I was at the Red Lion and it held 300 people.  I sold tickets for 400.  The cops did a walk through, but everybody was all dressed up because we’re older now, we all had nice clothes on, there wasn’t a bunch of rowdies and there were lots of people outside, so they didn’t bother doing a head count, they just walked away.  I love a full house because it shows that I can get people together to have fun and enjoy themselves in kind of a safe non-confrontational environment.  Over 100 musicians played on my 60th birthday.” 

I brought the whole community back together in one place for the whole day and everybody had fun.

Royal City Music Project”:

Author: Christina Morrison
Photographer: AL Smith

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Christina MorrisonGlenn Parfitt – Dedicated to the enjoyment of others.
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Dave Harris – An Ardent Devotion to Music

If you have ever walked around downtown Victoria, this man’s music has likely made you smile. You probably know him as the one-man band on the lower causeway, but did you know that for the past 45 years, Dave Harris has made his living as a busker, sometimes playing as much as 10 hours per day?

Dave grew up in Toronto, and got his musical start playing violin in the school music program but he didn’t really like playing classical music.

I didn’t have a television in the house when I was a kid. My parents loved classical music and it was on the stereo a lot. When you hear how glorious it is when it’s done right, it’s pretty daunting when you pick up your fiddle and go scratch scratch scratch, and it doesn’t sound right, so I didn’t get inspired by that.

It wasn’t until he started playing guitar at age 17 that he started thinking about a career in music and when he told his dad he was going to be a musician, he was laughed at.

It was like a light bulb moment for me. I just knew I was going to be a musician and that was all I was going to do, and I set out to do it.

“I said to my dad, ‘I’m going to be a musician,’ and he laughed at me because I froze at a piano recital when I was about eight or nine. I just sat there and blanked right out, couldn’t remember my piece, just totally blanked looking out at the church full of parents and other students all sitting out there. They got me back up at the end and the same thing happened, so my parents said, ‘well he’s not going to be a performer…’ I’m still quite a nervous person. I get stage fright every time I start but it goes away after a minute or two. I care a lot what other people think, probably too much, which is can be a real downfall sometimes you know.

Dave moved to Victoria when he was 20, knowing that he wanted to make music full time, but without really a plan of how to make that work.  He had one year of unemployment insurance to try to make it work.

“I wasn’t really ready.  I went busking in the summer of 1977 with a friend and thought, ‘Wow! This is pretty fun!’ We didn’t make a lot of money but it kind of wet my appetite and so in the winter of 77 when my unemployment insurance ran out, I started busking full-time. I would go down in front of the Eaton’s building, and I’d play there on Government St every day from maybe 10:30 in the morning until 4:30 in the afternoon.”

A good day was like $15, but the room I was renting only cost $70 a month, so I was able to live fairly easily really. It didn’t seem that hard, but I mean I couldn’t buy guitars or things like that.

“One day, I was playing my fiddle and it was near Christmas time, and an elderly lady came by and dropped a five dollar bill in my case. A five dollar bill at that time was a big tip, so I said thank you. I’m sawing away on my fiddle and she walks over to the entrance of the building. I can see her out of the corner of my eye, and she’s standing there watching me. Then she comes running back, she turns her change purse over and dumps it into my case, and this big roll of bills with an elastic around it falls in my case. I couldn’t stop, I was so awestruck. I guess I was kind of in shock, and I just kept playing and playing. I thought- “ I’ve got to pick that up. I’ve got to take it out of the case. I can’t leave that. Someone might come and grab it.” 

It was brown on the outside and I’d never seen a hundred dollar bill before. It was 562 dollars! Wow! The next day, I went to Vancouver and bought myself a better violin. That was my biggest tip ever!

“One of the things about busking that’s difficult is that there’s a quite a large segment of the population that think you’re just a beggar. You’re basically just asking for a handout but you’re not. They don’t recognize that you’re giving something back in exchange.  It’s an exchange of energy.  Their energy is in the form of cash or appreciation and my energy is in the form of the music.

My dad was proud of me after he saw that I was really serious about it. I know I told you he laughed at first, but you know my parents were proud of me, so that that was nice.

Over the years, Dave’s playing has gone in a whole bunch of different directions. From blues harmonica, to Irish fiddle, to electric guitar in a country rock band and bluegrass, Dave has played a bit of it all.

“By the 80s started a I band called “Blue Sky” which didn’t last that long. It seemed like a long time, and I went through a lot of membership. It lasted about seven or eight years. We played a lot of dances at the Fernwood Community Center, some gigs around the island, a couple of festivals and things like that but we never really made it very far.” 

We started writing our own songs and we had kind of classic rock flavor, but I don’t know, nothing’s ever really quite taken off for me. I’ve always just sort of gone along under the radar.

Dave’s transformation into a one-man band stemmed partly from inspiration on a roadtrip around 1990, when he was out touring the prairies as part of a country band.

We weren’t really a country band but we learned the appropriate material. We’d always try and slip blues tunes in and the management would come over and go, ‘You can’t play that in here!’, to Caledonia or something like that. We thought, well it’s pretty close, but it wasn’t close enough to Garth Brooks and whatever was on the radio at the time.

In the hotel room, we wanted to practice. The drummer had not played a lot of country and he wasn’t too sure of some of the beats, so we were trying to rehearse him, and we didn’t want to set up a whole drum kit in the hotel room. We had a suitcase, and we got the idea to put the suitcase up against the couch and just put the base pedal on that, and then use the hi-hat and the snare, and you know you’ve got a basic little practice kit. I thought, ‘Hey! What a great idea!’

When I came back to town, I thought since I was busking by myself a lot of the time anyway, I thought I could probably add drums to my setup. I got a suitcase and a high hat from Charles Gates, a fabulous drummer here in town. It was it was a fold-up hi-hat, so I could put it in the suitcase so that everything was self-contained. It was heavy but it all fit. I started bringing the fiddle, and I’d play fiddle and harmonica and drums and maybe sing and bang on the wood block.”

One of my big innovations I feel as a musician, is playing fiddle and harmonica together. I’ve never seen anybody else do it. I know I’m not the only person in the world that does it, but it’s not common at all. It was harder than it sounds actually, but I’ve played so much harmonica that it is kind of muscle memory, so combining it with the fiddle, it was harder trying to figure out where the fiddle went with the harmonica rather than the other way around.

“I guess around 2000, I had a friend build me a foot operated bass where piano hammers would hit the strings. I used that for maybe 10- 12 years or something like that. I it was funky, it kind of broke down a lot, and it wasn’t real loud, but the bass was fun. I really enjoyed it. It was really challenging trying to play fiddle and change notes with your feet. I gave up on it after a while when I felt like people weren’t really noticing it and it wasn’t grabbing the attention that I was hoping it would.

I got pretty big crowds for a while on the causeway in the in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Bravo Television had a documentary about me. I that was probably the peak of my career in some ways, I hate to say that but it probably. I’ve written maybe 150 songs or something like that over the years, Not all of them are good. I was doing an album every year and selling it on the causeway.”

At the height of my one-man band show, I had the foot operated bass, my foot drums, two fiddles with different tunings, a viola, a mandolin, a banjo, at least two guitars- sometimes three. I mean it filled the back of our station wagon. My ex-wife would drive me to work all the time. I don’t drive, I ride a bicycle. I couldn’t haul all that on a bicycle, hence that’s why I’ve scaled it back to carry a couple of instruments, a suitcase and hi-hat but not much more.

Dave was fascinated with one-man bands and when he started researching them, he discovered that there wasn’t much written. He embarked on a passion project, and spent three years writing, “Head, Hands, and Feet: A Book of One Man Bands.”

“My mom always said I’d be a writer. She was surprised when I went into music. I loved creative writing when I was in my teens. I was familiar with a fair number of blues one-man bands and so I started looking around and there wasn’t really anything much written. There had been a magazine about it in the 90s that I had nobody had really tried to bring the whole thing together into a book.” 

I felt passionate about it and so I started writing. I would busk all day and I’d come home and I’d do research at night and then in the winter months I wrote it. It took me three years.

“After I finished, I discovered there’s way more one-man bands and since I wrote it there’s been even more. I probably could have written a second book. I’m not going to. Part one didn’t sell well enough. I’m not good at marketing. I’m not good at knocking on doors and saying can you give me a gig, or do you want to buy my book. I’m just not good at that kind of stuff, so I self-published the book and there’s still 500 or something copies in in the garage at my ex-wife’s house. Every so often, I’ll do a little promo and I’ll sell another 20 copies or something but I just want to move them. I don’t want them to end up in the landfill. I tried putting them in the book boxes around town too for a while. I put a little thing in the front saying if you want to donate, you could and gave them the option of e-transfer. That worked a little bit . I mean a lot of them went away for free, but that’s okay. It’s better that they go into somebody’s house than into the landfill for sure.”

Dave is clearly passionate about all things music- playing, song writing (he has written over 150 songs!), researching, educating (he wrote a piece about Busking Etiquette you can read here), learning and listening. We found out that over the years, he has curated a collection of over 12,000 LPs and we needed to know more.

My ex- wife used to say, ‘It’s just music- music- music! He’s always music- music- music!’ I have about 12,000 LPs. I’ve just collected records my whole life. If it’s not playing music, it’s listening to music. I don’t know what it is, it’s just a passion. You understand I’m sure. It just takes hold of you.

“I went out on a few tours, mostly in country bands and in all the different places, there’s always be a record store. I would go through the whole record store and I would find every single record, especially blues, that I didn’t have and I’d just take them up to the front, they’d give me a deal, you know $400 or something like that. There goes that week’s pay. I come back with no money two feet of vinyl and my ex-wife was fine with it. She understood. We weren’t broke, and I’d go right back to work busking again as soon as I got home. I used to order from catalogs and from a couple of places in England and even in Australia and all over the U.S.

Right now, I’ve got records where I live and records at my ex-wife’s house. It’s too much to put them all where I live, so she’s allowed me to keep a room there. I’ve got between four and five thousand blues LPs. My real focus was the blues but then you know I’d buy collections from people too and they’d mostly be rock or country, so I’ve got a very large rock collection as well, probably three or four thousand, as well as probably a thousand country albums. It just all adds up. We all have passions, it’s just some people are more passionate than others I guess. I’m a pretty passionate person and I wear my heart on my sleeve. It gets me in trouble sometimes.”

Having spent 45 years in the scene, we were curious what has changed since Dave got his start.

“I’m sure everyone here is aware that there’s no work for musicians these days.  It’s like there’s almost nothing.  Clubs are folding and becoming other things or not having live music anymore.  In the 90’s, I was working three nights a week at Swan’s Hotel.  I played with Al Pease, Clark Brendon and Charles Gates in Barrelhouse every Monday night.  Wednesday night I was there with the Chance Brothers which was a Bluegrass band.  Sunday was Little Marty playing straight up Chicago Blues.” 

There was seven nights a week live music and now there’s zero nights a week at Swans, Steamers folded up, Hermann’s is still going but they’re struggling, Logan’s closed.  I mean the music scene here has just gone down the tubes.  I don’t think it’s just here either, I think it’s probably a lot of places.  

“Everybody’s got their phone in their hands.  There’s so much available online and so many ways of enjoying entertainment at home that you don’t have to go out, and of course it’s expensive to go out.  It’s also hard to get people to focus on something actually happening.  It used to be that on the lower causeway, people would come sit down on the steps and they’d be paying attention.  We’d be talking in between the songs and I’d be putting on a show.  I’ve watched that change so that now, they sit down on the steps and they grab their phone and they might film you but they’re not really present in the same way. They still tip when they leave but there’s a more demeaning element to it than there used to be and I stopped talking between songs because what’s the point if nobody’s paying any attention.  I lost that drive to try and grab people’s attention I guess. Maybe I just felt like I couldn’t anymore.

I feel lucky to even have a gig really to be honest because there’s so few available, so busking has become almost more important for me now with even less of work available.”

I went busking a lot during the pandemic and people were surprisingly much more generous. Nice local people stepped up and were very supportive.  I’ve never gotten so many 20 bills as I’ve gotten since the pandemic.  People have really stepped up. I have got to hand it to the citizens of Victoria. They’ve been absolutely wonderful and super supportive.

It takes a lot of heart and a lot of energy to do what Dave has done for so many years and we wondered if given the chance, he would do things differently or would do it all again.

“Well, as I said before, t was like a eureka light bulb moment for me.  I just knew I was going to be a musician and that was all I was going to do, and I set out to do it. Some of it was out of necessity because I didn’t want to go out and get another job and really I have no real other skills. I mean I didn’t go to university, I didn’t get a degree of any sort and I didn’t really take any training courses or learn how to do other things. I mean I have learned how to do other things obviously but they’ve mostly been music related, like I did my own recording studio for a while and recorded other people. You have to have lots of revenue streams to make a living as a musician and so my main one was busking so it was a kind of a necessity.  I loved it and I still do but you know it was also necessary.

Maybe I wouldn’t recommend people going into a career in music anymore. I hate to say that that, it seems so negative, but I just don’t recommend it. Have a back-up plan if you’re a young person that’s driven to do music. Have a back-up plan.  I didn’t have a back-up plan and I’m lucky I came along when I came. If I came along now, it’d be a lot harder.

I turned 65 this past year, so I’m starting to think about slowing down a little bit.  My hands are paying for it now.  I’ve got problems with my fingers folding in on me, they just naturally want to go like that all the time.  It’s a little disconcerting and I’m trying to adapt and learn to play through it.”

Things have gotten tough at times and I have kept going. You just have to dig deep in yourself.  I guess you just have to have enough belief that what you’re doing is the right thing for you. Follow your passion and do what makes you happy. Happiness is worth more than money.  

Dave is currently playing every Tuesday night at the Loft and he would love to invite you to come down and hear him play.  If you get the chance to go and see Dave or any other live music in the coming months, spread the word, bring friends, support the musicians by paying cover and tipping, buy something to eat or drink to help support the venue. The only way our arts community can survive is with your support.

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Author: Christina Morrison
Photographer: AL Smith

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Christina MorrisonDave Harris – An Ardent Devotion to Music
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