An email from Caroline informs me that Willie Dunn’s getting a Lifetime Achievement Award tomorrow at the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards. Willie and I were buddies in Montréal in the sixties. We had some great times, let me tell ya. Partying and whatnot. I recall him telling me, among other things, that as a Native Canadian Indian he could cross the border freely so we cooked up this plan to bring peyote up to Canada and go to his uncle’s place in Restigouche I think it was and stay high for months on end communing with our respective ancestors. Like many cockeyed youthful notions it never quite materialized but figuring it out was fun enough.
Willie sang folksongs around town and would bring his guitar by my place and sing his tunes for hours on end while we polished off wine by the gallon. I’m not kidding. I was heavily into a local vintage, St Jacques Red Yesterday, that cost 4.50 a gallon. It was pure poison and put you in a state that would scare acid freaks and crack heads today. I went through so much of this shit I had the guys in the liquor store worried sick. Are you drinking all this yourself, they asked me. Anyway, I eventually left town and ran into Willie a couple of times over the next few years – and that was that – never saw him again.
I was driving one day in 1991 when Kashtin came on the radio singing one of Willie’s songs, “Son of the Sun”. I just about drove off the road. I had almost forgotten about Willie the songwriter. What a great song!!! I bought the Kashtin album that day. I hadn’t thought about Willie much and had no idea that he’d been still writing and performing through all these years. He’s had a pretty low profile in his home country but is big in Europe, especially Germany, I learned.
A couple of years later my friend Gary Cristall had been working for the Canada Council music section in Ottawa. He’d been kind of a big shot in folk music before that – started the Vancouver Folk Festival, for one thing. I called him up and asked if he knew the whereabouts of Dunn. He gave me an Ottawa phone number and I called Willie. We talked for about an hour but I don’t believe that even after all that he really remembered who I was, to my great disappointment. It was fun to reminisce, anyway.