When the Backwoods Blues Festival comes to Horsethief Hideout, a massive line-up of incredible blues musicians will take the stage during the three-day event, which starts Friday (May 18).
One of those acts happens to be Blake “Kelly Jay’” Fordham, who just last year was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame for his 1971 number one hit “Oh, What A Feeling” as a member of popular 70s rock band Crowbar.
“I often say I’ve been in this business for 50 years, and I’ve made hundreds and hundreds of dollars,” Fordham said in an interview with The Valley Echo on Saturday (May 12). “I started off with nothing, and I’ve got most of it left.”
Fordham says that his musical journey began when he grew up listening to the sounds of Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Elvis Presley during his childhood in Ontario. At the time, he says he always wanted to be like rockabilly singer Ronnie Hawkins.
“I could never understand bigotism and intolerance when my heroes were black,” Fordham says. “I always just wanted to be a stand-up guy.”
Fordham got his big break as a member of what was known at the time as And Many Others, formed in the summer of 1969 as a backup band for Hawkins. However, in early 1970, Hawkins fired the band, telling them that they were so crazy they could mess up a crowbar in three seconds. Crowbar was born.
Their first album came later that year, entitled Official Music. The band was known as King Biscuit Boy and Crowbar but, following a successful year of touring, King Biscuit Boy left the band to pursue other projects. Crowbar then released their debut album Bad Manors to widespread critical acclaim. Crowbar was the first act to launch a record following legislation forcing radio stations to play 30 per cent Canadian content, and led with their breakout hit “Oh, What A Feeling” as their first single, which was eventually inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.
“I like the idea that songwriter and poet are in my resume,” Fordham says. “It’s a great honour.”
Crowbar disbanded in 1975, but is still known to this day as one of Canada’s most popular touring bands of the early 1970s. Fast forward some 40 years later, and these days Fordham says he mostly plays with fellow musician Amos Garrett along with a number of solo performances. For his performance at the Backwoods Blues Festival, Fordham is especially complimentary of his fellow acts that will take the stage throughout the May long weekend.
“I believe this festival is being built on musicianship, and not on popularity,” Fordham says. “These guys that are running the Backwoods Blues Festival are extremely knowledgeable in their music, simply because of the people they have hired. To bring all these musicians together in an area where the natural beauty is unparalleled, I think is a very gutsy thing to do.”
Fordham doesn’t perform as much as he used to, but still makes a point of playing Canada Day in Canmore each year, where he estimates they’ve raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the local food bank over the years. Fordham, now a resident of Calgary, says he still has plans to continue performing in the future, but would also like some time to take it easy and play with his grandkids, and for now still makes regular appearances at various Calgary venues.
“Even Justin Bieber eventually will end up going to play the Stratford Arms Hotel jam session on a Saturday afternoon,” Fordham joked. “Everyone eventually ends up on the scrapheap — it’s about how shiny you are when you’re on that scrapheap.”
The Backwoods Blues Festival takes place from Friday (May18) through to Sunday (May 20) at the Horsethief Hideout located at 8250 Westside Road in Invermere. Tickets can be purchased either online or at the gate. To buy tickets online and for more information on the festival, visit www.horsethiefhideout.ca.