Three years ago, Wendell Ferguson kicked off the Creston Valley Blossom Festival with a musical tour de force that had the audience stomping its feet, howling with laughter and calling for more.
On May 18, he makes a return engagement and he said he can’t wait to get back to play for an appreciative audience and enjoy the hospitality that left him with such a good impression that he isn’t coming alone this time.
“I had such a great time there last time,” he said from Ontario last week. “Wonderfully warm and receptive audience and I had fun seeing the sights Creston has to offer. I met some really nice people that I’ve kept in touch with. This time I’m bringing my wife along as she loves the mountains and has heard me rave about Creston. I tell her it won’t be some Blah Festival, it’ll be the Blossom Festival.”
Ferguson is in huge demand as a guitarist and is a masterful solo and group performer as well. He was named the Canadian Country Music Association’s (CCMA) guitar player of the year a ridiculous six consecutive years (1995-2000). After his seventh guitar award, the CCMA “retired” him and made him ineligible to win more. He’s recorded with Gordon Lightfoot, Robbie Robertson and the Arrogant Worms, and performed alongside the likes of Shania Twain, the Dixie Chicks and George Fox.
The guy is good. Make that great. And he’s got a wicked sense of humour, too. His 2006 album, The $#!T Hits The Fans, was nominated as album of year by the CCMA.
So what has Ferguson been up to lately?
“Well, in January I was in Rochester, N.Y., for my sixth consecutive appearance at Heartland Concerts. They seem to think I take away their January doldrums. I would think I’m a ‘carrier’!
“Next I did a 10-day tour around northern Alberta, stopping in Grande Prairie, Calgary, Whitecourt, St. Albert, Athabasca and ending with a festival in Edmonton. Then I flew home and left the next day to attend CRS (Country Radio Seminar) Week in Nashville. I then proceeded to Memphis, where my wife joined me as I performed four showcases for Folk Alliance International. It’s sort of a conference where buyers and artistic directors go to hear talent.
“Since then I’ve been busy around Ontario with a week long tour of northern Ontario and some gigs around southern Ontario, too. I cover Canada like the snow (but we haven’t had much of that this year), but I am heading west several more times this year.”
Obviously, he isn’t coming to Creston out of boredom.
After headlining at the Blossom Festival he returns home to Toronto and then comes back to B.C.
“I think they route me with a map of Canada and a dart. But the map’s behind them when they throw it!”
His DVD, Wendell’s Cranky Christmas, won two film awards — the platinum Remi Award for best special music video production at the Houston International Film Festival — “and that’s Houston, Texas, not Houston, B.C.,” he said — and the best international musical short at the New York International Independent Film Festival.
“Plus my latest CD, the all-instrumental Menage A Moi won the 2010 Canadian Folk Music award for instrumental album of the year.”
Ferguson’s performance was thanks to the efforts of his old friend, Creston’s Michael Farnsworth. The original plan was to produce a life webcast.
“Well the funding for the webcasting didn’t pan out,” Ferguson laughed. “But Michael had already arranged the cameras and operators so that just kinda fell into place. (Well from my perspective anyway, I’m sure him and his guys have put a lot of work, thought and hours into it already).
“Also, I have to give a shout out to John Huscroft for getting me back out here, too. He’s been instrumental in having me return and showing me so much hospitality already.”
Tickets for the 2012 Blossom Festival opening ceremonies, including announcement of the Citizen of the Year and Ferguson’s concert — he will follow local musicians Velle Weitman and her trio — are available at Black Bear Books and the Creston Valley Chamber of Commerce.