Day 109 - Roland (1st person I approached)
April 19, 2014 - Roland was born in Sydney, Nova Scotia. HIs parents had immigrated from Barbados, some years before he was born. He is the oldest of seven children. He tells me he wasn’t particularly close with his father.
“My grandmother and my aunt raised me. By the age of ten, they had both passed away, and from about that age, I learned to be pretty independent,” Roland said.
After about five minutes of talking Roland politely told me that he was "done" chatting about his childhood, saying
“time is up. I don’t really want to talk about my life or my childhood. Now music, if you want to talk about music, that’s my life and I’m happy to talk about that.”
Roland spent three years in the army, based in Ontario.
“I learned to play the saxophone just by practising. I used to drive the guys in the barracks crazy. But that’s how I learned. And I played in a regimental band,” he says with a great big grin.
“Back in the day, I would play around local clubs here in Vancouver. Fats Domino came to town and I got a gig playing with him at a club in Gastown. Two weeks. Man could those boys play. I was okay, but they were incredible. They could play!” Shortly after, Roland got a call inviting him to play with Fats Domino again for two weeks on the East Coast, in Thunder Bay.
Roland shows me a picture of him with three other musicians, from the early 1960's. There is Roland, with bleached blonde hair, and the other three, who appear to be natural blondes. They are wearing matching red velvet jackets, white shirts and short red velvet trousers. They were called “The Bounty Boys.” Roland affectionately tells me a little bit about each of his former band mates.
I remark that he looks a little bit like Little Richard. Roland then tells me about the time he met and played for, Little Richard here in Vancouver.
“I was asked to play a few numbers with him at a club called Izzy’s. Then he invited me to have tea with him the next day. I arrived at his hotel, and while I was waiting for him, this huge bodyguard comes out and announces “The King is ready for you.” I spent hours with him talking all about music and sharing stories. He told me that if things didn’t work out for me, to give him a call. He gave me his personal number and told me I’d always have a job if I needed it!” says Roland.
Roland is packing away his much loved, well used saxophone. He rolls up his mat that he stands on while performing. It’s like any worker finishing up his shift.
“Look at me now. I’m busking. I love playing for people. I do parties and weddings. I just played for a wedding in Whistler this past weekend. People come by and they hear me, and if they like what they hear, they come again the next day,” he says.
The most requested song, he tells me is ‘What A Wonderful World,’ the classic Louis Armstrong number. (*Fact Check - see link below.) Roland spends his days writing music.
“I only play two hours at a time. Most of the others, they’ll do a few hours in one spot and then move to another location. Not me. After two hours, I’m done. I play three times a week. I had to audition for the permit. You have to have a permit to play inside the Skytrain Stations. I’m usually playing at the Granville Street Skytrain Station. I can play anywhere I want to. Anywhere I want.” #notastranger