Little did CBC Radio host Holger Petersen know that his idea of documenting the music and memories of an under-appreciated bluesman would lead to the founding of Canada's finest roots music label and a basement full of Crowcuss 8-tracks.
After 25 years, Petersen's feisty Edmonton-based Stony Plain operation continues to thrive independently, consistently releasing meaningful music built to last.
That's exactly what you'll find on the two-disc retrospective Stony Plain Records 25 Years (Stony Plain) -- quality songcraft by career musicians like Ian Tyson, Amos Garrett, Doug Sahm, Lowell Fulson, Steve Earle, Bobby Charles, Duke Robillard, Rosco Gordon, Long John Baldry, Emmylou Harris, the Holmes Brothers and others.
There may not be any blockbuster chart hits, but neither is there any egregious crap, and that's something to boast about. Not that the personable Petersen is the sort to brag -- it's a wonder such a genuinely nice chap ever got mixed up in this dirty business in the first place. It all began with Walter "Shakey" Horton and a bottle of booze.
"From the blues books and magazines I'd read, I knew that Walter was a major blues figure -- though under-recorded -- who had an amazing harmonica tone like no one else before or since. He also had a reputation for being very distrustful of record people.
"When he came to Edmonton with Willie Dixon in 72, I made my way to his hotel room with some scotch and we started talking. Eventually, I got up the courage to ask him about recording, he agreed and off we went. That was the first record I produced, and the first song we cut, Joe Chicago, is still the theme song for my Saturday Night Blues show on CBC."
During the session, the novice producer also had the presence of mind to keep the tape rolling while Horton reminisced about his past exploits. Today, the artist monologue tacked onto the end of Stony Plain releases has become a label hallmark.
"So many of these musicians are really colourful characters with lots of amazing stories. Hearing someone like Jay McShann talk about Charlie Parker or, say, Professor Longhair discuss his influences adds so much to our understanding of these great artists and helps bring a human quality to the legend."