By Woodard, Dale on August 20, 2020.
The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the volume down on local live shows.
So Tom Price and his band have plugged in and brought live entertainment to his driveway.
Every Saturday night for the past two months, Price and his trio of bassist Roy Bartz and drummer Matt Lepinski have made Price’s home on the westside at 6 Notre Dame Road West the go-to venue for a two-hour marathon of hits from yesteryear.
“We’ve been hosting these since June,” said Price, a fixture on the local music scene for nearly 50 years. “I started off just doing it myself and then the guys said ‘Well, you know. We’re not playing. So we might as well just do it and jam.’ Because you forget. You forget things and when you’re playing a couple of times a week, it’s not so bad.”
On a warm and sunny Saturday night, Price, Bartz and Lepinski worked their way through a repertoire of blasts from the past, including an Elvis Presley medley and a tribute to The Day The Music Died – Feb. 3, 1959 – with a selection of songs from Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens.
When the trio weren’t laying down some Johnny Cash and other classic country tunes, they busted out Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline – complete with the Bah! Bah! Bah! call-and-response – as Price and Bartz traded off lead vocals complete with two-part harmonies and Lepinski held down the beat, needing just a single snare drum, bass drum, high hat and a pair of brushes to do so.
Meanwhile, Price’s lawn turned into an impromptu dance floor, while his neighbours’ three daughters provided the refreshments with a lemonade and popcorn stand.
Everyone else from the crowd of roughly 50 – the largest in the last two months thanks to Price’s wife, Arlene, advertising the show in the Lethbridge Herald’s community calendar – brought a lawn chair, staked out a spot on either side of the driveway and tapped their toes to the tunes.
“We’ve been doing this a long time,” said Price. “When I first started out it was Tom and Curt (Stuckert). We started in 1973 and we played right up until a couple of years ago when Curt retired.
“I played quite a bit with Matt and when Curt retired Roy was a godsend and everyone really clicked. We just about lost him last year. He had a major heart attack and was in a coma. So that’s why we’re very thankful we have Roy and he’s back.”
But like all local bands, Price and his bandmates have been feeling the effects of the pandemic.
“From last year the amount of gigs I have played is down about 70 per cent,” said Price. “We would play a couple of times a month as a band.”
Saturday night’s two-hour set barely scratched the surface of the trio’s catalogue of songs.
“We did probably one-third of our songs tonight,” said Price. “We have a lot of songs. We have more Beatles. We have Herman’s Hermits, Ricky Nelson and a lot of country, too, Merle Haggard, George Strait, a lot of that old country.”
Audience requests can usually be accommodated as well, and they were Saturday night.
“We can fake a lot of stuff,” said Price. “If someone asks if we can play the Tennessee Waltz we play the Tennessee Waltz or we play Anne Murray. Roy and I do a duo sometimes. He plays an upright bass and we always see if people can stump us and there are nights where people come up and say ‘How can you remember all those songs?’ It’s very fortunate. You see a lot of guys using monitors, they’re using iPads and they have the words. But it’s hard to read words and have the same spontaneity. But I hope we can keep doing it, not just for COVID, but a lifestyle. I’ve been playing 45 years, it’s a long time.”
As for the Saturday night shows in his driveway – 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. – Price expected to keep going as long as the weather co-operates.
“I don’t see why we can’t do it until probably mid-September or the end of September. Sometimes we get good weather even into October and if it pans out we’ll do it.”
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