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Fjellgaard and Valdy are happy to fall back
Cowboy crooner Gary Fjellgaard will never forget the night he shared the stage with a salad.
On his annual tour of the Okanagan with folk legend Valdy, the night in question happened when The Contenders, as they are known due to the two albums they have recorded under that moniker, were getting ready to play their annual Halloween show at Lorenzo’s Café.
The Ashton Creek venue was decked out for the occasion, and Fjellgaard was dressed in his usual costume.
“I was dressed as a cowboy like normal,” he deadpans.
“Valdy didn’t have anything to wear, so he went off to a local shop and came back with one of those tin foil roasting pans and added some lettuce and celery to it. He then put it on his head.”
After finding out that his friend was going to be wearing his original creation during the show that night, Fjellgaard had to speak up.
“I told Valdy, ‘How can I sing a serious love song when you have a salad on your head?’”
Fjellgaard can’t wait to see what his fellow troubadour comes up with this Halloween when the boys return to Lorenzo’s Thursday.
They are also playing other venues in the area, including in Armstrong and Vernon, and Fjellgaard is looking forward to reuniting with his longtime friend and colleague.
This year marks their 13th annual tour of the Okanagan-Interior, which is organized by local presenter Ken Smedley.
“We have a beautiful time together. It never gets old,” said Fjellgaard, who just turned 76 and is wrapping up touring through the Prairies.
On the road with him is his wife of 57 years, Lynne, and their dogs as they drive their motorhome west to B.C. to meet up with Valdy.
“It’s a way of life. I’ve been touring over 40 years and Valdy has been doing over that,” said Fjellgaard. “There’s a century on the road between us... It’s nothing new. That’s what’s good about it. It’s the tradition of the troubadour. We’re travelling minstrels and the proof is in the pudding that we can sustain a living on what we do.”
What works between the two musicians, who met in the ‘70s and between them have numerous, awards, albums and accolades, is they choose not to follow trends or adhere to what’s being played on the radio, said Fjellgaard.
“We still bring music to a quiet audience,” he said. “We both have lots of good songs in obscure albums. And there’s the ones that have done well. It’s all worth the effort. We don’t let our egos get stuck because of one thing.”
Besides playing newer material, the duo is always happy to dredge up some of those older songs, however, Fjellgaard admits he sometimes has to reach into his memory banks to remember some of them, and that includes where he’s been.
“I was in Redvers (a town in southeastern Saskatchewan) the other night and was doing a sound check in this old movie theatre. It looked vaguely familiar. I told the audience that night, ‘I think I’ve been here before.’ Turns out I’d played there at least three or four times before,” he laughed.
Then there are the things you never forget such as when Fjellgaard played his song I Apologize at the Pacific Coliseum for thousands of First Nations people during the B.C. Truth and Reconciliation Week in September.
“There was so much power in the room. It was absolutely awesome,” Fjellgaard told the Penticton Western News recently. “It was so humbling to be invited to play. Moments like that are the ones you treasure.”
Fjellgaard feels the same way about those “salad days” with his fellow Contender Valdy.
Fjellgaard and Valdy are in Armstrong Wednesday, Oct. 30 with a show at the Zion United Church Hall at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are at Chocoliro. Call 250-546-2886.
They are at Lorenzo’s Café Thursday, Oct. 31 with dinner at 6 p.m. and the show to follow. Call 250-838-6700 to reserve a seat.
The Vernon performance is Friday, Nov. 1 at the Okanagan College campus theatre at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are at The BookNook. Call 250-558-0668.