Goodness, gracious opening night of FIRE!

Last night we opened FIRE to a standing ovation!  The role of Cale Blackwell – a character inspired by Jerry Lee Lewis has been my greatest challenge as an actor to date.  Just getting my fingers in shape to handle the songs in the show would’ve have been enough to focus on in three weeks.  But the acting challenge presented in FIRE takes an equal amount of commitment, demanding a journey from a 17 year old preacher’s son to a celebrity at the height of the rock and roll era to a 42 year old washed-up, alcoholic on the verge of collapse.

Zachary Stevenson as Cale Blackwell in Fire
Jacob Richmond as Herchel

 

“The multi-talented Zachary Stevenson rose to the role of rocker Cale Blackwell bravely and with limitless energy […] alternating between furiously pounding the keyboard, then sliding down it and even stretching a leg atop it and jumping aboard, in Lewis’s signature style.”

– Amy Smart, Times Colonist, Victoria, BC

FIRE runs until August 14th at the McPherson Theatre in downtown Victoria.

Tickets can be purchased individually or as part of a subscription package by calling (250)-386-6121 or visiting the McPherson Box Office at #3 Centennial Square in Victoria.
OR click to order online

For more visit the Blue Bridge Theatre website.

SMASHED HITS!

It’s finally here!  After performing in the Buddy Holly Story and Hank Williams: The Show He Never Gave and soon to perform in FIRE – based of the life of Jerry Lee Lews – I am pleased to announce the release of my new record titled “Smashed Hits”!

The demand for such record became too much to ignore.  Thanks to the musicianship of Jeremy Holmes, Scott Smith, Todd Biffard, Ben Kunder and the mix-mastership and production of Ried Hendry we’ve managed to stay true to the essence of those classic 50s recordings while putting our own unique stamp on it.  I’m very proud of this recording.

You can order it through CD Baby HERE

Or on iTunes HERE

Remembering the Day the Music Died

This past summer, my sister and I took a very memorable trip south of the border…

Today this story made the cover of the Toronto Star‘s travel section:

In America, remembering the Day the Music Died

by Reb Stevenson

CLEAR LAKE, IOWA—On an autumn afternoon, a young man enters a dense cornfield. He’s tall, slender and wears horn-rimmed black glasses.

It’s not just any field: on Feb. 3, 1959, a plane crashed here, killing rock n’ roll stars Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper.

He stops at a guitar-shaped monument. Apart from the strong breeze that rustles the crispy stalks, it’s eerily silent.

Under normal circumstances, this creepy scene would prompt me to dial the ghostbusters. But I have some mitigating information: the man isn’t Buddy Holly’s spectre but my own brother, Zachary Stevenson.

Zach, a musician and actor, has played the optically challenged legend five times, including the lead in last summer’s sold-out Vancouver production of “The Buddy Holly Story.” With 260 shows down, he decided a three-state research trip was overdue.

So here we are, standing where it ended for Holly, who was just 23 years old on “the day the music died.”

Where it all began, however, is a whole 1,000 miles south.

Holly was born in Lubbock, Texas, in 1936, forming the band The Crickets in his teens.

Zach and I made the rounds: we drove past Lubbock High, stopped in at a radio station where Holly hosted a show and Zach laid a guitar pick on Holly’s grave.

But, honestly, none of that stuff gave me a true understanding of why this short-lived musician is considered a rock ’n’ roll luminary.

The answer came in the guitar-shaped gallery of The Buddy Holly Center: I learned that both The Beatles and The Rolling Stones revered Holly in their infancy.

“Buddy still appeals to people of all ages on many different levels,” says curator Jacqueline Bober.

Plenty of memorabilia resides there, including his bedroom furniture, his last Fender guitar and — most heartbreaking of all — the signature glasses that were plucked from the cornfield.

Lubbock had its limitations, and so The Crickets found a recording studio 100 miles away in Clovis, N.M. Since that state is an hour behind Texas, the boys would gun it to see if they could pull in at the same time they’d left.

When we joined a guided tour at Nor Va Jak studios in Clovis, Zach and I exchanged a wide-eyed look that silently communicated the delicate sentiment: “Holy crap, this place is freaking awesome!”

Most impressive: A living piece of Buddy Holly history on hand. His name is David Bigham and he sang backup on four tracks, including “It’s So Easy.”

Bigham quit two weeks after Holly died, returning to the studio as a volunteer 31 years later.

“The moment I walked through that door, it was like I had left the night before. Everything was the same,” says Bigham, now 73.

Indeed, Nor Va Jak is a time capsule. Given the original equipment, the Baldwin piano and the celesta you hear in “Everyday,” you’d think Buddy had just popped out for a pee break.

If you’ve listened to “That’ll Be The Day,” “Peggy Sue,” or “Maybe Baby,” then you’ve already heard this space. A dozen Buddy Holly hits came out of Clovis, where producer Norman Petty added his own unique flair to the songs.

One day, Holly’s drummer, Jerry Allison, was absent-mindedly slapping a rhythm on his knee.

Petty’s response: “Let me put a mic on that.”

The midwest was a far cry from the heat of New Mexico and Texas, particularly in February, 1959. The tour bus for the Winter Dance Party kept breaking down and one musician even got frostbite because the heating system was kaput.

Holly snapped, booking a charter flight directly following the show at Clear Lake’s Surf Ballroom.

As for the outcome of that decision — well, a sad pall still hangs over Clear Lake. In a shop on the main street, we find framed photos of the wreckage for sale, bodies and all. I’m happy to report that Zach isn’t enough of a crazed fan to buy one.

He is, however, keen to see the Surf Ballroom. On that fateful night, parents got in free and hovered at the back, keeping a watchful eye on the 1,100 youngsters in attendance (who knew how this new rock ’n’ roll stuff might corrupt innocent little Bobby or Susie?).

We can envision the scene perfectly because the ballroom has practically been embalmed. The South Seas theme, the booths, a machine that projects clouds on the navy blue ceiling — it has all endured.

“It’s a bucket list item for a lot of people,” says spokesperson Laurie Lietz. “Especially for people who were teenagers in that era — the crash was a real turning point for them. It’s not uncommon to see a tear shed here.”

Despite its tragic association, The Surf is an active music venue. On a lark, we see former Guns n’ Roses guitarist Slash play there (now there’s someone for Bobby and Susie’s parents to fret about).

But before that, Zach asks if he can jump onstage with his guitar and play a few Buddy Holly tunes.

“Of course!” says Lietz.

You’d think that, for someone who has performed for thousands, playing in an empty ballroom would be no biggie. But today’s rendition of “That’ll Be The Day” is more emotionally charged than most. Because, in his heart, Zach is playing to one very significant spectator — and I don’t mean me.

Reb Stevenson is a Toronto-based writer. Read her blog at www.rebstevenson.com. Her trip was partially subsidized by Texas Tourism. For a video of Reb’s trip, go to www.thestar.com/travel

JUST THE FACTS

SLEEPING: In Lubbock, stay in the 1950’s room at The Woodrow House B&B (2629 19th Street; 806-793-3330; www.woodrowhouse.com; $99-139 per night). In Clear Lake and Clovis, you’re looking at chain motels. The upshot: you can buy more rare Buddy Holly memorabilia on eBay with the money you save.

THE MUSEUM: The Buddy Holly Center in Lubbock, Texas is open Tuesday to Sunday (806-775-3560; www.buddyhollycenter.org; admission $5).

THE STUDIO: Nor Va Jak Studio in Clovis, New Mexico is open Monday to Saturday by appointment only (contact Kenneth Broad (ksbroad@yucca.net or 575-760-2157; admission by donation).

THE VENUE: The Surf Ballroom and Museum in Clear Lake, Iowa is open year-round Monday to Friday ( www.surfballroom.com or call 641-357-6151; admission by donation).

THE CRASH SITE: Free maps to the crash site are available at The Surf Ballroom.

Buddy is Brought Back to Life

Via the Cowichan Valley Citizen

Buddy is brought back to life

  • By Lexi Bainas, The Citizen May 25, 2011

His face is well known to a Cowichan Valley crowd but music lovers might not know his name right away.

He’s Zachary Stevenson and he’s been honing his ability to mimic well known performers for several years, often using Valley venues such as the Mercury Theatre and Ryder’s Roadhouse to polish his acts.

He appeared some years back in The Ballad of Phil Ochs and only a few years ago started to work on the astonishing tribute to Buddy Holly that has led to important gigs in Vancouver and a packed house at the Cowichan Theatre May 10 when he headlined in Duncan with the Legends of Rock & Roll showcase.

Stevenson is working hard at presenting the whole Buddy Holly, taking the famous performer far beyond the writer of iconic ’50s hits that were beloved by such later groups as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones but bringing out the part of his work that underpinned the rock music we know today.

Stevenson has actually visited Holly’s old studio and stood behind the microphone the pop idol used to record his hits and this extra work is paying off in additional reality.

The show in Duncan May 10 also featured Bill Culp as the Big Bopper and Ben Kunder as Ritchie Valens respectively, creating a concert line-up similar to the famous “Winter Dance Party” tour that ended in tragedy in 1959 when they were all killed in a plane crash.

And the music lived on…

It was a rep team of sorts.  Playing a 7 game series.  We brought Buddy in Concert to theatres in Ladner, Surrey, Maple Ridge, Sidney, Duncan, Terrace and Rupert.  If I could afford it, I’d award the team with gold medals.

Thank you to Johnny Ferrera (sax and keys), Jeff Gladstone (bass), Ben Kunder (Ritchie Valens), Todd Biffard (drums), Darren Savard (lead guitar), Marty Kramer (tour manager) and Bill Culp (Big Bopper) for a very fun and successful tour.   We played football in the parking lot, we jamed with the house band and partied at the Northern Motor Inn and, of course, kept the music of Buddy Holly alive by bringing crowds to their feet every night.

The Buddy Holly Concert!

Yes, Buddy Holly is back in my life yet again!  “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story” was so popular last year at the Arts Club Theatre, the producers of Legends of Rock n’ Roll teamed up with me to produced a tribute concert for those who just couldn’t get enough Buddy Holly or for those who couldn’t make it to the theatrical production.

I’ve assembled two other fantastic performers- Bill Culp and Ben Kunder to feature as the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens, respectively, creating a concert line-up similar to the infamous Winter Dance Party tour that ended in tragedy in 1959.

Join us, to prove Don McLean wrong that music never did die on that fateful day while we Rave On into the night with fantastic music performances of many of your favorites!

Watch the video on the right about my journey into Iowa, New Mexico and Texas, tracing Buddy Holly’s history —–>

Me as Buddy in the Arts Club's production of Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story (2010) . Shot by Tim Matheson

THE BUDDY HOLLY CONCERT dates:

May 7 – Genesis Theatre
Ladner, BC
Tickets at (604) 507-6355
Or On-Line at  www.bellperformingartscentre.com

May 9 – Mary Windspear Centre
Sidney, BC
Tickets at (250) 656-0275
Or On-Line at  www.marywinspear.ca

May 10 – Cowichan Theatre
Duncan, BC
Tickets at (250) 748-7529
Or On-Line at  www.cowichantheatre.bc.ca

May 11 – Bell Performing Arts Centre
Surrey, BC
Tickets at (604) 507-6355
Or On-Line at  www.bellperformingartscentre.com

May 13 – REM Lee Theatre
Terrace, BC
Tickets at (250) 638-8522

May 14 – Lester Centre for Perf. Arts
Prince Rupert, BC
Tickets at  (250) 627-8888

May 15 – The Act Theatre
Maple Ridge, BC
Tickets (604) 476-2787
Or On-Line at  www.theactmapleridge.org

June 24 – Century Casino
Edmonton, AB

June 25 – Memorial Centre
Red Deer, AB
Tickets (403) 347-0800
Or On-Line at www.ticketcentraloutlet.ca

June 26 – Centennial Centre
Bonnyville, AB
Tickets (780) 812-3400

 

Continue reading “The Buddy Holly Concert!”

Vinyl Heart

It’s no April fool’s joke, The Human Statues have finally released a new single called “Vinyl Heart”.  It’s the sentiment of an analogue man in a digital world, grappling with the tough decision to depart with a dearly held record collection.

Released- April 1st, 2011

You can buy it at CD Baby by clicking HERE.  And will soon be available on iTunes.

Long live the Kings

The reviews are in for Burnin’ Love:

“Quirky and whimsical […] a definite crowd-pleaser”

“Zachary Stevenson is pitch-perfect swagger as the “real” Elvis”

-Joff Schmidt, CBC Radio

“Riotous laughs — everybody in the whole cellblock is along for the ride”

“Stevenson brings a lovely voice and guitar work and a laconic dignity to his young, silver-suited King […]  In flashbacks he also plays Wade… a sexy colt who lights up the stage with frisky energy”

-Alison Mayes, Winnipeg Free Press

“Also all right mama was Stevenson’s singing. The young guitar man has played Buddy Holly and Hank Williams in previous productions and is a pitch-perfect Presley”

-Jared Story, Uptown Magazine

Full CBC review here

Free Press Review

Uptown Magazine

Burnin’ Love Opens!

Tonight is the world premiere of Sharon Bajer’s new play: Burnin’ Love.  It’s been a great challenge taking on the role of “pseudo Elvis” but the cast (Ric Waugh, Chelsea Rankin and Miriam Smith) has made it delightful.  Looking forward to tonight!

Read more about it in the Winnipeg Free Press:

Also, an article came out in La Liberte, Winnipeg’s french newspaper.

And the Sandbox Blog

Jailhouse Rock

It’s 30 degrees below; it’s starting to snow; where else could I go but to the Prairie Theatre Exchange to set the dance floor on fire and create a little warmth with “Burnin’ Love”.

Yes, I’m here in Winnipeg, one of Canada’s most notoriously chilly cities, fittingly rehearsing for a show with a reference to fire in it.  Winnipeg playwright, Sharon Bajer, has written a heartwarming and hilarious piece about love, death and Elvis and I’m providing the Elvis.

As if Phil Ochs, Buddy Holly and Hank Williams wasn’t enough, I feel like I’ve finally arrived doing my first “Elvis” impersonation.  This is not the path I imagined for myself, but it sure is interesting.  There has been no better way for me to learn about the roots of pop music than to really explore the lives of those who have made such an impact.

The show opens in two weeks, March 3-20th.  More info here: www.pte.mb.ca

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...