We lost a great one. Stuart Jolliffe passed away. I got the news Wednesday eve from my pal Mike Campbell who phoned me from Halifax Nova Scotia.
He was only 56. Way too young. Here he is with his lovely wife Nancy. She’s an amazing lady. Hugs.
Man, I just got back to Nashville from Sydney and this news greets me.
A few memories.
Mike Campbell introduced me to Stuart in 2008. I was headed up to Canso Nova Scotia to play Stanfest. Cambo told me Stuart would drive me out the festival from Halifax. It was like a blind date. We’d never met. I got in his car and at first it was kind of awkward. He was playing music that I didn’t know and we were making small talk. But then, everything clicked. We realized we both had a mutual love of the music of Joel Plaskett. We ate burgers and laughed like idiots. It took me about 15 minutes to realize that Stuart had the same goofy sense of humor as I did. He could make me laugh till I cried. It’s hard to explain but sometimes you meet someone that can go off on a tangent in the same stupid direction that you’re going. About anything. Stuart was whip-smart and just got it. I could say “I think I’m gonna gonna go on stage wearing lederhosen and he’d immediately start speaking in a German accent like he was my manager yelling at me to play Goodnight Irene while swinging naked from a chandelier for my encore. In fact, we ended up writing about 15 extra verses for Goodnight Irene and each verse got weirder than the last. We were laughing so hard that Stuart actually had to pull the car over so he wouldn’t crash.
By the time we got to Stanfest we were like old pals. Thick as thieves. He knew everybody. I mean everybody. He introduced me to Ron Hines and Thom Swift and every single Canadian musician that walked by. Festivals have this cool energy where everyone is buzzing with energy and Stanfest is no different. By the end of the festival I felt like I knew everyone and I was asked to do a tweener on the main stage. A tweener is when you play 2 or 3 songs between the headline acts as the band gets set up. You’re usually pushed off to the side of the stage and you have about 10 minutes to make an impact. Well, this was the final day of the festival and by now all the campers were unshaven and unkempt and buzzed and hungover and sunburned at the same time. I guess I’d call it Festival glow. So by now Stuart had become my life coach and advisor and convinced me that I should play my song “Cold German” for my tweener set. Well, this is an old school folk festival and off color language isn’t really encouraged. So by the time I get to line that says “she’s colder than the pink thing from the dick of a dog” let’s just say that not everyone was laughing in the audience. In retrospect it probably wasn’t the best choice of song for a first timer to play at this venerable folk fest.
On the long drive home Stuart had me read him the line about the pink thing from the dick of a dog again only this time he had me read it in slow motion. This really got us laughing even harder than on the drive OUT to the festival.
Stuart just got it. I was always so excited to see him and talk music and comedy. He did good deeds for musicians traveling across Canada. He got us good rates. Friends and family rates! He worked for Delta Hotels for years and when you went into the lobby of the hotel you’d hear songs playing by all his favorite artists. He curated the soundtrack at the hotel. Of course he told me he deleted my song Cold German from the playlist! I said “oh it’s good enough for a tweener at Stanfest but not good enough for Delta Hotels?” He said “yeah exactly. I’m not gonna ruin MY career because of your filthy lyrics.” 🙂
He would get his musician pals good rates on hotel rooms. He’d make sure we were set up. There’d be a cheese plate sent up to the room with a note and a bottle of your favorite beverage.
I even played a show at his house in Bedford Nova Scotia. He built a stage in his backyard for me. He’d invite me sailing. He grew a beard and I came up with this idea that the beard turned him into the meanest man in the world. He didn’t miss a beat. He immediately started ordering me around and yelling at me.
Stuart was generous beyond belief. Everyone loved him. He moved to Toronto from Halifax a couple years ago and he never missed a show when I’d play The Dakota. He made my shows better. I repeat- he made my shows better. See, here’s the thing- if I knew Stuart was in the audience I’d up my game. I knew he’d seen me play countless times so I’d always try to top myself. I’d let the crowd know that Stu was in the room and I’d make him stand up and take a bow. He always complied. I’d tell the audience that Stu was a legend and that I loved him. I meant every single word.
I love you Stu. You’re a gem.
And Mike Campbell— I love you too. I would’ve never met Stuart if if weren’t for you setting up that blind date drive out to Stanfest way back in 2008.
Oh yeah- all those extra verses for Goodnight Irene? We sang em together at The Carleton. Someone somewhere probably filmed it. We sang it two nights in a row. The first night it killed. People were laughing hysterically. It destroyed. The second night it didn’t work at all. 🙂 it bombed. Different crowd different energy. Stuart looked at me afterwards and said “I guess we pushed our luck pal”. Then we went into another laughing fit. Sometimes when things don’t work they’re even funnier in the aftermath.
Well, goodnight Irene. And goodnight Stuart Jolliffe. Thanks for all the good work you did for Raise A Little Help for Habitat For Humanity Halifax. I had fun playing that benefit. It was a black tie event event and before I went on stage Stu pulled me aside and said “hey pal, you probably shouldn’t play Cold German for this crowd.”
Of course I played it. I like to push my luck. It destroyed. I just wanted to prove to Stu that it would still work.
We meet these angels in our lives. They crash into us when we least expect it. They’re everywhere. Keep your grapes peeled and be on the lookout. These angels are sending us clues. Stuart Jolliffe is now one of them. Maybe he always was. God bless you Stuart. I’ll be thinking of you as I play my next shows and traverse this crazy planet. You are love. I’ll miss you. You’ll be missed by many. See you on the other side old pal.