There is life after the Pig’s Ear for beloved Blues Jam event

Monthly Peterborough Musicians' Benevolent Association fundraiser is Dr. J's bound after one last hurrah on April 15

The Deluxe Blues Jam, held on the third Saturday afternoon of each month at The Pig's Ear in downtown Peterborough, is the legacy of the late Phil "Mr. Deluxe" Marshall, founder of the Peterborough Musicians' Benevolent Association, shown here performing in 2010. One final Deluxe Blues Jam will be held at The Piggy on April 15, before the beloved tavern closes its doors for good, after which the monthly fundraiser will move to Dr. J's. (Photo: SLAB Productions)
The Deluxe Blues Jam, held on the third Saturday afternoon of each month at The Pig's Ear in downtown Peterborough, is the legacy of the late Phil "Mr. Deluxe" Marshall, founder of the Peterborough Musicians' Benevolent Association, shown here performing in 2010. One final Deluxe Blues Jam will be held at The Piggy on April 15, before the beloved tavern closes its doors for good, after which the monthly fundraiser will move to Dr. J's. (Photo: SLAB Productions)

For all the history that will be forever lost when The Pig’s Ear Tavern closes its doors for the last time on April 22, one revered made-in-Peterborough music tradition will emerge unscathed.

The monthly Blues Jam, which benefits the ongoing fundraising efforts of the Peterborough Musicians’ Benevolent Association (PMBA), will call Dr. J’s BBQ & Brews — the former Montreal House at King and Aylmer streets — its new home moving forward. But first things first, and that means one final Blues Jam at the iconic 152-year-old Brock Street pub owned by John and Lylie Punter.

“I expect it will be totally out of control,” predicts longtime bass player JP Hovercraft who, with his Rezonator bandmates, will host the final Pig’s Ear Blues Jam on Saturday, April 15th from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m.

“The previous one (March 18) was wall-to-wall people. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many bass players in one room.”

VIDEO: The penultimate Deluxe Blues Jam at The Pig’s Ear on March 18, 2017

Rob Foreman and Clayton Yates of The Quickshifters with special guests Alan Black and Jonny Wong. Video by Sean Daniels / Do More Stuff.

According to Don McBride, who along with Al Black, Norm Kastner and John Punter, organizes Blues Jam events as well as administer the proceeds of which assist musicians in need of a hand-up during tough stretches, the last eight months have seen it take on “event” status.

“It’s really caught on like wildfire,” assesses McBride, noting, since its formal inception in January 2014, 26 musicians have been helped to the tune of just more than $10,000.

“Like everyone else, musicians are proud and won’t ask for help. We haven’t had a musician come to us on his own behalf. But this is a tight community. Somebody will come up and say ‘I heard so-and-so is in trouble’ and then we go from there. It’s something we love to do. It makes us feel really good and part of the community.”

Well-known local musicians like Bobby Watson and Al Black, shown here in 2011, have been regular performers at the Blues Jams (photo: SLAB Productions)
Well-known local musicians like Bobby Watson and Al Black, shown here in 2011, have been regular performers at the Blues Jams (photo: SLAB Productions)

McBride notes the move to Dr. J’s was finalized early this week after a lengthy process which saw several venues investigated with the capacity of each a factor.

“We looked at The Spill. Too small. We looked at Hot Belly Mama’s. We love the ambience but, again, too small. We looked at the Gordon Best Theatre. We love the room, but accessibility is bad with that steep set of stairs. We chose Dr. J’s for many reasons. Number one, it’s licensed for 201 people and it’s fully accessible. Dr. J’s has really bent over backwards accommodating us. Tony Best has been amazing. We’re looking forward to this relationship and where it takes us.”

The first Blues Jam at Dr. J’s will be staged Saturday, May 20th, 2 to 5 p.m., hosted by Black. Like all Blues Jam events, there’s no cover charge but donations are greatly encouraged and collected for the PMBA.

“We’re never going to replicate the ambience and atmosphere we have here (at the Pig’s Ear),” says McBride, adding, “This was Phil’s favourite bar” — a reference to the late Phil “Mr. Deluxe” Marshall’s role in the PMBA’s founding.

VIDEO: What is the Peterborough Musicians Benevolent Association?

More than 20 years ago, Marshall, a singer and keyboardist, quietly started gifting his share of the proceeds from local gigs to those in need and causes important to him. A bigger-than-life personality that oozed charisma and magnetism, Marshall died suddenly in December 2013, prompting McBride et al, upon being approached by Marshall’s partner, to keep his benevolent spirit alive.

“This (the Blues Jam) is Phil’s legacy,” says McBride.

“He started it informally five years ago. He loved The Piggy and he loved coming here. If he knew someone was in trouble, he would just put out a jar (for donations).

“One of the things that Phil was adamant about — I remember him saying this way back when — is musicians are always so good at showing up for this benefit or that cause. At the end of the day, everyone working at the venue got paid, the venue made lots of money with beer sales and everything else, but the musicians got nothing. In Phil’s mind, we needed something for musicians.”

Phil Marshall performing at a blues jam at The Piggy in 2012 (photo: SLAB Productions)
Phil Marshall performing at a blues jam at The Piggy in 2012 (photo: SLAB Productions)

At the Blues Jam’s last hurrah at the Pig’s Ear, The Victory Boys will perform four of Marshall’s original songs as a tribute.

Since its inception, the Blues Jam has attracted a who’s who of local live music: Bobby Watson, Buzz Thompson, Pat Temple, Rob Foreman, Sean Daniels, Rick and Gailie, Greg Weichel and The Rocket Revue come to mind. The list is long and impressive.

When Jon Wong, the sax player for The 24th Street Wailers, hopped onstage at the last event, he continued a long tradition of guest artists jumping into the fray.

Rob Foreman, Alan Black, Jimmy Wong, and Clayton Yates jamming for a good cause this year at the Deluxe Blues Jam at The Pig's Ear (photo: SLAB Productions)
Rob Foreman, Alan Black, Jimmy Wong, and Clayton Yates jamming for a good cause this year at the Deluxe Blues Jam at The Pig’s Ear (photo: SLAB Productions)

“The names that have come through there (the Pig’s Ear) are wonderful,” says Hovercraft, certainly no stranger to Blues Jam events — as a performer and as the recipient of the first PMBA donation.

“Three years ago, I took a header off my porch,” recalls Hovercraft.

“It happened so bloody fast. One moment I’m heading out to buy groceries and the next moment I’m lying in a heap in the backyard yelling for help. I tore the tendons off a kneecap and had to have them re-attached. I’ve got screws in my ankle and grommets in my kneecap with some space-age material holding it all together. I’m not doing a lot of running now but then again, I never did.”

Rick Fines and JP Hovercraft performing at the January 2016 Deluxe Blues Jam.  JP will be celebrating his 65th birthday at the final Pig's Ear Deluxe Blues Jam on April 15. (Photo: SLAB Productions)
Rick Fines and JP Hovercraft performing at the January 2016 Deluxe Blues Jam. JP will be celebrating his 65th birthday at the final Pig’s Ear Deluxe Blues Jam on April 15. (Photo: SLAB Productions)

Besides lending his talents to the proceedings April 15, Hovercraft will hoist a pint or two in celebration of his 65th birthday.

“The music community here is so incredibly tight-knit and supportive of its constituents,” says Hovercraft.

“My jaw would have been in my lap if it (the Blues Jam) hadn’t found a home somewhere. The steadfastness with which the community is carrying on Phil Marshall’s vision is just so inspiring.”

Back in January, the three-storey building and property which is home to The Pig’s Ear Tavern was purchased by Parkview Homes. While Parkview has remained mum on its plans for the property, the building hasn’t been historically designated and, as such, doesn’t have the protection such designation offers.

Opened in 1865 as the St. Maurice Saloon, the pub was purchased in 2000 by Punter and his wife Lylie. Besides the Blues Jam, it’s been home to signature pub events such as Karaoinke, Vinyl Night, and Pingo.

The Punters are now eyeing retirement with plans to travel and indulge their passion of diving.

Pat Temple performing at the January 2015 Deluxe Blues Jam at The Pig's Ear (photo: SLAB Productions)
Pat Temple performing at the January 2015 Deluxe Blues Jam at The Pig’s Ear (photo: SLAB Productions)
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Paul Rellinger
Paul Rellinger a.k.a Relly is an award-winning journalist and longtime former newspaper editor still searching for the perfect lead. When he's not putting pen to paper, Paul is on a sincere but woefully futile quest to own every postage stamp ever issued. A rabid reader of history, Paul claims to know who killed JFK but can't say out of fear for the safety of his oh so supportive wife Mary, his three wonderful kids and his three spirited grandchildren. Paul counts among his passions Peterborough's rich live music scene, the Toronto Maple Leafs, slopitch and retrieving golf balls from the woods. You can follow Paul on Twitter at @rellywrites.

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