Doug Edwards The Humblest of the Greats

by • February 9, 2017 • Articles, BC Music History, BC Musician News, BC Musicians, Current Issue, Front Page, Read OnlineComments (0)883

by Valley Hennel

BC lost another beloved pioneer member November 11 when Doug Edwards died peacefully at his home in Vancouver after a prolonged illness at age 70. Since 1996 Doug was bass player for classic rock group Chilliwack, who were named to the WCMA Hall of Fame in 2011. He is survived by his daughter Jennifer, sister Carol and wife Mary Garnett Edwards.

Doug was a vital force in the BC music scene before it was an industry -a brilliant soft-spoken player, arranger, composer and producer who moved effortlessly between guitar and bass.

Doug began his career in Victoria in the 60s, playing clubs and dances with The Twisters The Cavaliers, The Wayword Trio and The Strangers, who in 1964 won a deal with RCA in the Battle of the Bands and released one single, Walkin Away, by singer Bobby Faulds.

In 2007 The Strangers were inducted in Victoria Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as Best Band 1960-65. In 2008, Doug was inducted again as Most Influential Musician 1960-65.

David Foster says, “I wanted to be Doug Edwards when I grew up. He was a true world class talent before we even knew what that meant. There is no instrument he couldn’t play, no chord he couldn’t access with ease, no musician he couldn’t make immediately comfortable and sound better than they were — no musical situation around the globe that he didn’t belong in — to say that I admired him would be an understatement — to say that I always wanted to be as good a musician as him is completely true and was never accomplished.”

In 1966 Doug moved to Vancouver to play in the house band at Oil Can Harrys and on the CBC weekly TV show Let’s Go.

Bill Henderson says, “Doug Edwards is the Groove-master and friend to many many musicians in Vancouver for almost 60 years. I remember first meeting him at Oil Can Harrys about 1968 then being on the same bill when he backed up Tom Northcott on guitar at the Cave. His time, sense of groove, pitch and harmonic awareness was supreme. We have lost a major contributor to music and a beautiful soul. Actually, his soul is a part of all of us who knew him and anyone who heard his music.”

In 1967, based on a single audition, Doug was hired to play bass with the 5th Dimension, and a week later at age 21 was making the first of three appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show in New York.  Over the next two years he toured the US and Europe with 5D, including playing Caesar’s Palace as opening act for Frank Sinatra with the Harry James Orchestra.

Doug returned to Vancouver in 1969, just in time to become part of Vancouver’s emerging studio scene, playing on countless jingles, recordings and TV shows for Tom Jones, Paul Anka and Wolfman Jack.

In 1971 he signed on as guitarist for David Foster and BJ Cook’s band Skylark and wrote his first song, Wildflower, putting melody to a poem written by young Saanich policeman Dave Richardson. At Capitol Records in LA, basic tracks were recorded in one take with Doug on guitar, Steve Pugsley on bass and Duris Maxwell on drums.

Skylark singer BJ Cook says, “Doug is the pole that holds up the tent. He set the bar, he was the guy everyone wanted to play as well as. I can close my eyes and I’m on stage with him, solid as a rock, the person you knew had your back one hundred per cent, the guy who was listening to you and taking care of you.”

Wildflower went on to become a soul standard and one of the most performed songs in the history of Canadian pop music, recorded by 75+ artists including Hank Crawford, Johnny Mathis, The O’Jays, The New Birth, The Neville Brothers, Color Me Badd, Lisa Fischer, Blake Shelton and Sandy Lam.

It’s been sampled by Kanye West, Eminem, Jaimie Foxx, Tupac Shakur, Drake and Estelle and translated into French, Spanish and Cantonese. It’s been honoured with SOCAN Classic, Crystal and BMI Millionaire’s Awards and in 2011 was inducted into the Canadian Song Writers Hall of Fame. A full list of recordings is at www.wildflowersong.com.

Over six decades Doug performed and recorded with a multitude of BC artists and groups including Lynn Brooks and The Friendly Cactus, Hans Stamer, Paul Horn, Valdy, Rick Scott, Pied Pumkin, Skylark, The Hometown Band, Wildroot Orchestra, Roy Forbes, Terry Jacks, the Poppy Family and Chilliwack.

He played on countless hit songs, including Olivia Newton John’s Don’t Cry For Me Argentina, Glass Tiger’s Don’t Forget Me When I’m Gone, and The Poppy Family’s Which Way You Goin’ Billy?

With Tom Hazlitt and Robbie King he formed a trio whose dramatic interpretations and symphonic arrangements propelled emerging singer Ann Mortifee to international acclaim.

I met Doug in 1973 and we forged a friendship that endures to this day. I taught him to sail and he taught me to produce records–he played on almost every recording I’ve ever made. Back in the 70s Doug signed away the Wildflower copyright and I spent a decade getting it back. I’ve represented the song and its writers ever since.

In 1975 Doug and I accompanied Ann Mortifee to Abbey Road studios in London to record her first album, Baptism, produced by the legendary Norman Newall.

Doug was a seminal player in Robbie King’s Celebration series. For five years he toured with Paul Horn. In 1990-91 he took a year out to attend the Grove School of Music in LA. Since 1996 he has toured as bass player for the classic Canadian rock band Chilliwack.

On November 27 on Granville Island a huge crowd of musicians, family and friends gathered to pay tribute to Doug on a stage graced by his motorcycle, touring bass and the guitar on which he played Wildflower.

It was a memorable evening, with performances by Joani Taylor, Valdy, Rick Scott, Al Foreman, Jane Mortifee, Shari Ulrich, Ann Mortifee and Chilliwack. Doug’s long-time friend Lee Morin sang Wildflower backed by a who’s-who of BC players pouring their hearts into every note.

When he wasn’t on the road with Chilliwack or playing A list sessions, Doug liked to spend his Saturday nights playing as a duo with Lee Morin at the local Legion. The humblest of the great, he was an incomparable friend and colleague whose shoes we will never fill. Play on, Doug!

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