It was on a road trip to California with friends that Jim Cuddy first discovered an appreciation for country music. The Juno award-winning guitarist and vocalist for Blue Rodeo shares a few favourite songs from the journey that started in Toronto and ended in California. He is currently on tour for the band's latest CD, The Things We Left Behind.
My favourite vehicle, and the one that I have now, is a white 1964 Ford F150 pickup truck, which I drive up at our farm north of Toronto. It's one of the cool icons of country living; the old truck that you own, got your stuff in, and it reminds me of a lot of trucks I used to drive on my grandfather's farm in Prince Edward County."
His most memorable drives:
"A long time ago Greg Keelor [his songwriting partner]and I had a big old orange school bus that slept six or eight people that we converted into a mobile home. We were just out of high school. And we spent the winter in Lake Louise in Banff and then we took that bus with about 20 people and a dog to Whistler, and by the time we reached Whistler, we were down to three and no more dog because of personal dramas, and three of us took that bus all the way down to the beaches of California."
"It didn't work very well, steering was extremely precarious, so when you're going down 101, down that California highway, you gotta make those hairpin turns and we were going off the road a little bit trying to pull the thing around. It was such a teenage thrill: the whole thing, the music discovery, the Americana discovery and that feeling of being able to go where ever you wanted."
Another memorable drive for Jim Cuddy was in India as a passenger.
"That was four years ago when we [my wife and I]turned 50. She has a twin so, it was [her]twin, my wife and myself. Driving in India is incredible because they drive with very small cars with no side view mirrors, so they can fit between narrow places. Everything is done with the horn. Everyone goes forward, you never look back, and you never hesitate for anybody, so you're zipping in and out. And the streets are filled with elephants in the wedding season, cows, dogs, monkeys, people, carts, bicycles and auto rickshaws a three-wheeled motorcycle with two seats in the back and you're trying to navigate with your driver through this.
"One night in Jaipur, we got a guy who was a little bit drunk, and as we were in the rickshaw, he was driving pretty erratically and he started to turn around and look at us and sing while he was driving (laughs). I thought it was funny because it was apparent he had been drinking; he was very jolly. But the twins were horrified; they thought we were going to die on this 15-minute ride with a fairly intoxicated, carousing rickshaw driver."
On a cross-Canada trip that started from Toronto, Jim Cuddy listened to these song during the leg of the route from Lake Louise to Whistler and California, on a road trip destined for Las Vegas.
Late for the Sky
"I knew who Jackson Browne was, but he was pretty new then, this was in the mid 70s, but I heard that song the first time going across the Golden Gate Bridge. It's a pretty amazing experience; it's a beautiful, beautiful, bridge and you're entering what is one of the greatest cities in the whole world, San Francisco. And I remember hearing that song. It's all this melancholy and pain, and you're just singing the chorus out so loud, 'How long have I been sleeping?' And that stuck with me for a long. Jackson Browne is still one of my favourite artists, and certainly one of the ones who's influenced me the most."
"The Rolling Stone's Exile on Main Street was a big record for us, listening to it on that bus."
"Jerry Jeff Walker had a huge band with him that had sort of a country heart to it, but was a rock band with a blazing Les Paul guitar player, and that is like a travelling anthem. It's about getting the hell out of the city, and most of the car trips I like the most have been going to rural places, leaving cities, that sense of incredible exhilaration of the freedom that you have in front of you."
Heart of Saturday Night
"Tom Waits' song is about working hard all week and then cruising the main strip up and down with a case of beer between your legs and knowing you only have one day."
He Stopped Loving Her Today
"And on that trip also I remember picking up a George Jones tape, just because, well, George Jones is country and we had this bus driving through the country and it seem like a cool thing to do, so that was on the way from L.A. to Vegas. All of these [sights]were such huge images we had never seen and we slapped in that George Jones tape and it's - still one of my favourite country songs."