Sam,Dave and me - 25 years later and still "groovy"

It's New Years Day and the world at my house is peaceful. No rehearsals, no guitars to tune; nothing to worry about. But its still early and maybe this afternoon when the shadows get long and freaky, I will begin to mull over the things from last year that need to be filed away before they fill my 2014 dance card. 

Until that happens, if it happens, everything remains groovy here at Don central,  beginning with musing about a recent performance with my pals Sam and Dave, when we played for the 25th Anniversary of the Vancouver Adapted Music Society. Yes, the real deal and the smoothest guys in rock and roll - Sam Sullivan and Dave Symington. 

I first met them in an empty parking lot, years and years ago. Both were living with quadriplegia having experienced life changing accidents, making it hard just to get out of bed in the morning, let alone, light the world on fire. But they did. Both were into making music as kids and wanted to continue after their accidents.  How does anyone get in the way of that ambition?

There in the parking lot, we had what must have been a meeting of some kind, maybe it was a pre-band meeting to discuss a master plan.  Sam and Dave wanted to create a society to help people with disabilities, collaborate with engineers and programmers in creating devices to assist them in making their musical ideas come to life. And oh yeah, they wanted to start a band called Spinal Chord to prove the big idea would work. 

I could see that train coming, so naturally I jumped onboard ever before asking if either could sing or what kind of music they wanted to play.  Fortunately, we would not become an Elvis Tribute Band, so the rest was easy, well almost easy. Dave wanted to play drums and Sam, keyboards and vocals. A tallish order for guys in chairs who could barely move their arms. But they knew the secret formula every successful band must have - courage, passion and trust. 

The Adapted devices created and with the help of the society and its call on engineers and programmers, made Sam and Dave's dream come true.  I know because, I was in the band. I played alongside them. They pushed me musically but not quite into Elvis. I pushed them too, but could not get either into Freddie Mercury and Queen. 

Knowing what it takes physically and emotionally to sing and to play reminded me then and still, how much work it was for Dave to find and hold that all important beat on his drums and for Sam to transform his voice into an instrument and use it, while he played the keyboards. 


They just never gave up, I suppose being ingenious helped because that too only made them sound better.  The music society they established has helped hundreds, maybe thousands of people create and share music. Being a part of that is the biggest hit any musician can imagine. 

I had the privilege of being the guitarist in that the band for many years. We had so much fun and recorded a record or CD called "Why Be Normal. We performed for The Prime Minister when Kim Campbell had the job and in every way, were honoured to see and feel the impact music had in the lives of others.  

Once at a workshop for Children's Variety, I met a young Geoffrey Fox, Michael J Fox 's nephew. The boy wanted so much to play the guitar like his uncle. He and I spent an afternoon making music together, both of us believing some part of that dream could happen.

What a thrill that day and all those before and since have been in the service of sharing my passion for music with Sam and Dave. What a long, winding and wonderful road it has been as friends and musicians sharing our talents.  

And to think it all began in the 80's where as this video demonstrates, being 'groovy' (actually, corny) was such a big part of the fun. Come to think of it, maybe we should have been a Elvis cover band after all? Sam would have looked great in the sunglasses, silk and sequins,  Dave would have rocked wearing an Elvis cape and I could killed with that big hair and the boots. 

Happy New Year.