Folks in Osborne Village who buy their favourite libations at the Liquor Mart at River and Osborne are no doubt familiar with Eric Pyle.
He is the slim, handsome, dark fellow in the ball cap who serenades people in and out the doors with popular songs by Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline and compositions of his own.
Music aficionados show their appreciation for the former frontman of local ’80s band The Ludwigs by dropping loonies and toonies into Eric’s guitar case. That helps Eric get by, but it isn’t about the money, he says.
"It’s all about God! Not the Moses and Jesus idea," he maintains. "It’s that which you can’t see. The Truth. The Great Mystery."
Eric has been bumped from his usual location on this day by some travelling minstrels but he claims that "God will provide," even better at his transplanted spot up the street on Osborne.
No matter where he sets up, he’s been strumming and swinging and singing in the Village for almost a decade.
"It takes care of the musical thing and then it just went from there. The Lord’s work," he says.
Not that Eric spends much time proselytizing. He simply enjoys meeting people and making friends and there are lots of opportunities for that because the area in front of the MLCC is a popular meeting place with benches and a hot dog stand and, of course, music. Come winter, those food stands will disappear, but, "Eric the Great" lives up to his self-proclaimed moniker by grinding it out year-round.
Eric, backed up by the band Quagmire, will be playing a set at the Pyramid Cabaret on Aug. 24. He won’t be playing Carnegie Hall any time soon and the big venues are out of reach (Eric has done festivals with crowds of over 20,000 in the past), but his main pastime makes him part of a solid history.
Busking used to be the primary source of income for many entertainers before recordings became widespread and popular. And some of today’s most popular entertainers busked in their beginning, including Bon Jovi, Paul McCartney, Tom Jones and even Ben Franklin, who is more well-known for flying kites and running countries.
Hey, Loreena McKennitt busked to raise money for her first recording, Jones has done it for charity and even superstars like Bruce Springsteen have busked simply for fun and to try out new material. Eric is just getting by but he takes his music seriously as an artist, and then there’s that prophet motive.
Street performers are an entertaining and colourful addition to our life in the Village and every so often we’ve been blessed with talents who perform mime, do card tricks, juggling, sword swallowing and fire-breathing tricks. Eric soothes the soul and that’s a lot less dangerous than snake charming or putting one’s head in some predator animal’s mouth, as other street performers have been wont to do. For his music and his message, it’s not so bad an impulse to lay out a toonie for a tune the next time you pass by Eric Pyle on the corner of River and Osborne.
Don Marks is a community correspondent for Osborne Village. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org