Big Sedan Publishing

Stories for sale


I found myself gliding effortlessly just above the ground through the golden, rolling hills of southwestern Alberta. It was the realization of a lifelong dream. The machine I was gliding in was a 1962 Chrysler Imperial Crown Southampton. It still had a brochure in its glovebox referring to it as "America’s Most Carefully Built Car." Every detail of this amazing spaceship I was flying proved these words to be true. 

The Chrysler’s powerful tube radio, with its towering automatic electric antenna, picked up radio stations bouncing off the ionosphere and rolling across the prairies from as far away as Memphis, Tennessee; Miami, Florida; and Cuba. The old radio was also receiving the sounds of songs I’d written and recorded on the airwaves of the province-wide public radio station CKUA. They were playing the hell out of my record. After decades of toil, struggle, and pain, it was the best radio I’d ever heard. I was getting noticed in the papers too. The Edmonton Journal newspaper had declared me “a superb guitarist, singer, and song-writer.” It was the type of accolade I’d spent decades hoping to earn. 

As I rolled across Alberta, the big sedan’s massive engine never broke a sweat or made a sound, at least not the kind of sound that was perceivable as an engine. Whatever could be heard was muted by the sensuous flow of air that caressed and surrounded my comfortable cocoon of glass and steel. Riding in it felt like floating on a pillow through space and time. The controls for steering, braking, and acceleration were so delicately nuanced that it took almost no effort to operate the giant land yacht. In the brochure from The Imperial Division of Chrysler Corporation, it states the truth quite clearly, “No discussion of our unique torsion bar suspension can describe how comfortably an Imperial rides and handles.”         

I was forty-one years young and had just finished recording and packaging an album of original songs called Smoke Rings. My dream of being a professional musician on tour and promoting an album of my own music was finally coming true. This car was my promotional flagship as I set out on The Mid-life Chrysler Tour ’99, an odyssey named for the most popular song on my album. Prophetically, the glove compartment brochure added a key phrase, “We think your Imperial tour will be revealing …and exciting.” 

One of my bandmates on this adventure was a charming and slightly older chap of fifty-five named Jack Velcker. He was a well-seasoned veteran of western Canada’s music scene. Jack played the same Hammond B3 organ that he’d bought when he was eighteen, thirty-seven years earlier, which made it the exact same age as the car. Jack’s virtuosity gave our band a level of melodic credibility and stylistic polish that assured the delight of every audience we encountered. With the soulful backbone of a great rhythm section and a combined age of almost two hundred, we were just a four-piece lookin’ for luck. I called my guys “The Vultures of Soul,” and they lifted my original songs to a height where they caught the wind and took flight. 

The story of my songs began decades earlier though and traced a winding path across vast distances to and from Alberta, Canada. Come with me on this journey, at least part of the way—off the main road and back into a time where my survival was far from certain, when I was continually branded an outsider, and lofty notions of artistic creativity stood a snowball’s chance in hell.

Jack Velcker and I