CAPE RAY – It seems like Paul Taverner has played music with everyone along the Southwest coast of Newfoundland. Photos of his former bandmates – and he’s been in over a dozen bands – line the walls of the studio basement in the home he shares with his wife, Ivy and their rescue cat, Wyatt.
As a member of Souls he’s played with Harold Crewe, Jerome Pearce, Max Piercey and Clayton Pierce. He’s played with Lorne Pierce, Don Crew, Dave Osmond, Albert Osmond, Bruce LeRiche, Lloyd Strickland, Junior Bragg, Ray Spencer and Wallace Gale. As a member of the Gateway Group he played with Christine Buffett right up until she passed away.
Paul remembers everyone fondly, praising each musician in turn. He’s a bass guitarist himself, but he can play some jigs and waltzes on one of his accordions, and long ago he used to play the drums, but bass is his favourite instrument.
Paul has been playing music since 1967. His brother, David, was a drummer up until he passed about three years ago. One of his other brothers, Lloyd, also likes to play music.
“My Dad was a good singer but he couldn’t play any instruments,” remembers Paul.
Most of the Souls band members weren’t yet old enough to drink when they began performing at clubs and other establishments. In fact, three of them were still in high school.
“If we wanted to play the Legion, we had to get a written file from the RCMP to play in there,” says Paul. “The only one who was old enough was Jerome. He was a bit older.”
One club he played in was called the Wreckhouse. It used to be located in the Grand Bay Mall, but it only lasted a couple of years before too much competition and high overhead forced it to close.
“Gary Thompson was the manager there. He used to be manager of the Port Club,” says Paul. “We were the house band so when the club hired other bands we played elsewhere.”
Paul remembers that time fondly, jamming with other bands that rolled through from other parts of the island or mainland Nova Scotia and Ontario. After the Wreckhouse closed, the musicians went their separate ways, came back together in other bands and moved around again.
“The Wreckhouse band was truly a popular and very tight band,” says Paul, who calls Clayton Pierce one of the best singers in the region. “We mostly played rock and a bit of country.”
Paul is especially partial to the Beatles, but covers included the Rolling Stones, the Dave Clark Five, the Eagles and the Hollies. Then there’s the Newfoundland music, of course.
Just learning the songs back then was time consuming. There were no smart phones or internet to research.
“We had to listen to a tape recorder. We had to write off the words. A lot of times you couldn’t understand what they were saying,” laughs Paul. “We had to figure out the chords ourselves.”
They spent a considerable amount of time with the tape recorder, but that worked well enough to impress Jim Crewe of the Ducats who wandered in to tell them they sounded just like The Hollies. He had been downstairs having a beer during one of the band’s rehearsals.
“We put a band together for the Cape Ray Come Home Year. That was in 2007. We were called the Cape Ray Sandhoppers,” grins Paul. “They used to call us sandhoppers one time up here. In Port aux Basques, when you went to school, that’s what they’d call us – sandhoppers. It’s a little shrimp-like thing that hops on the beach.”
At one point Paul and his bandmates were invited to Toronto to play in the Caribou Club where Harry Hibbs used to play, but they still had two band members in high school and the other three were working. They kept playing around the region, and sometimes a bit beyond.
They met more high profile entertainers, including April Wine in Halifax, and were going to get together with them, but the famous band had to move on before they could meet up. They turned down bookings for St. John’s too, but they did manage to play in Corner Brook and Stephenville.
“I’m surprised my wife stayed with me cause I was out all hours. You didn’t get home until three or four o’clock, and I had to get up the next morning to go to work.”
Like most entertainers, Paul misses playing in front of a live audience full of his fans. These days Paul plays for St. James the Evangelist. He’ll play at other churches too and before COVID-19 he would appear at Shark Cove. He and Lloyd recently shot a video with their friend, Wayne Osmond, which actually came as a bit of a surprise.
“I didn’t know it was on there (YouTube) until somebody told me,” he shrugs. Perhaps they’ll shoot more videos, as time and opportunity permit. “This COVID came up and fooled us all up.”