Son of Dave is back in Winnipeg and has found old habits are hard to break.

Son of Dave is back in Winnipeg and has found old habits are hard to break.

Benjamin Darvill, his name away from the music stage, returned to the city last summer after spending the past 24 years in London and has spent the wintry spring of 2022 shovelling snow away from the foundation of his house in Wolseley to prevent his basement from flooding.

Rocking for Ukrainian refugees

Set aside all those COVID-19-related eulogies for the Manitoba social.

The province’s unique tradition is back — for all the right reasons — April 29 when the Rock Benefit Social for Ukraine takes over the Metropolitan Entertainment Centre to raise money to help Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion resettle in Manitoba.

The social’s organizers, Winnipeg North Events Group, are aiming for 1,000 people to attend the event.

Set aside all those COVID-19-related eulogies for the Manitoba social.

The province’s unique tradition is back — for all the right reasons — April 29 when the Rock Benefit Social for Ukraine takes over the Metropolitan Entertainment Centre to raise money to help Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion resettle in Manitoba.

The social’s organizers, Winnipeg North Events Group, are aiming for 1,000 people to attend the event.

The group has held smaller fundraisers for the CancerCare Manitoba Foundation in the past, each raising around $10,000.

This time around, the group hopes to raise around $160,000 for the Canadian Ukrainian Fund through the Manitoba chapter of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.

“We asked them we would like (the funds raised to) go specifically to Ukrainians resettling in Manitoba,” Carson says.

Tickets cost $68.32, including fees and taxes, and are on sale at universe.com. Organizers are also selling support tickets for those who wish to contribute to the cause but cannot attend. Those sell for $23.17, including fees and taxes.

The evening will include Zrada, the Incredibly Hip, members of Streetheart, Doc Walker and Jenerator as well as a perfomrance from Winnipeg's Rusalka Ukrainian Dance Ensemble. 

“We felt very confident now we can really make a difference because what we want to do is get people out of there as soon as possible,” says Joe Potenza, another member of the Winnipeg North Events Group.

Doors open at 7:30 p.m.

Jenerator, a band led by Winnipeg singer Jennifer Hanson that turns back the musical clock to the 1980s, is hosting its own fundraiser for Ukrainian relief efforts Saturday at Mirrors Pub at the Assiniboine Gordon Hotel, 1975 Portage Ave.

Tickets cost $25, available at Radiance Gifts, 875 Corydon Ave., and doors open at 7 p.m.

"It’s freakin’ awesome. I always miss my freaks back home," he says of being back in Manitoba. "Despite my international playboy image, I’m quite the family man."

As Son of Dave, a maverick of the blues harmonica, he has also been back to the Royal Albert Arms, an old haunt of his that reopened late last year. It brought back old memories and new gigs.

"Back when I was young in Winnipeg, I was playing in rhythm-and-blues bands, and the Detonators was my first claim to blues fame," he recalls. "(One night) we packed the Royal Albert Arms — blessed it’s open now and as vibrant as ever — and we broke the beer-sales record that night. ‘Congratulations boys, you sold more beer than anybody has ever done. Here’s a two-four for you.’

"We were the talk of the town for five minutes."

Times have changed but the goal of revving up the crowd remains when Son of Dave plays the Good Will Social Club tonight and the Times Change(d) on April 30 with the Honeysliders.

So has recording. Son of Dave’s 10th album, Call Me King, came out April 8 and has the gritty feel of harmonica blues albums of the past along with beat-boxing, a percussive vocal style favoured by rap artists.

Describing it makes the combination appear odd, but the sound created by Son of Dave is a natural fit on Call Me King, driving tracks such as Kick Your Butt and Wild Wild You.

That unique sound has caught the attention of television series seeking different music to accompany tense scenes, including 2010’s Shake a Bone, which cooks in the background while Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) manufacture meth during an episode of the acclaimed series Breaking Bad.

Other series such as True Blood, Gossip Girl and Preacher have added Son of Dave’s songs to the mix.

Son of Dave’s style comes from far humbler beginnings though.

Darvill, 55, was part of the Crash Test Dummies, the Winnipeg group that were one of Canada’s most popular bands of the 1990s, thanks to hits such as The Superman Song and and Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm, which was a hit in the United States.

He left the band in 2000 and launched a solo career that began at the bottom rungs of the music ladder.

"I was busking in London and as soon as I started going boom-a-cacka-cacka-boom-boom, mixing in with the harmonica and the singing, the pound coins started going in the case," he says. "I was just trying to entertain people in the way I used to do it here. I’d just stand outside and piecing together tunes and see which ones worked.

"I was starting from scratch really, because at the time, making recordings and taking them to record companies was a loser’s game. They weren’t signing anybody and they sure weren’t signing anybody that plays anything remotely close to blues music."

His unique musical style earned him some small cabaret gigs in London but persistence — more than 1,400 concerts around the world during his time based in London — led to appearances at European music events such as Glastonbury and the Montreux Jazz Festival.

He also got a show on Radio Soho, a London and New York online broadcaster, where he played songs from his collection of 45s. Son of Dave’s Filthy 45s, which ran for nine years until 2021.

"I guess I have a few thousand singles. Nothing very valuable or rare exactly, but they’d mostly be rare to find here," he says. "Calypso instrumentals, Jamaican rock steady, blues and bluegrass, jive, African and a box of punk. But also got to have All Night Long by Lionel Richie and Wild Thing by the Troggs, you know, stuff that makes everyone go stupid."

Folks also go stupid for the harmonica, an instrument that has been synonymous with the blues thanks to legends such as Little Walter, Sonny Terry and James Cotton, and rockers such as Neil Young, Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger.

When rockers pull out the harp for a solo — even Alice Cooper let loose with one during his concert at Canada Life Centre earlier this month — the moment usually sends fans into a frenzy, no matter how well the instrument is played.

Son of Dave has his own harmonica theory.

"We know it just has pure sexual power," he says with a laugh. "All that huffing and puffing and the use of the lips."

Alan.Small@winnipegfreepress.com

Twitter: @AlanDSmall

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Alan Small

Alan Small
Reporter

Alan Small has been a journalist at the Free Press for more than 22 years in a variety of roles, the latest being a reporter in the Arts and Life section.