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Lightfoot Band celebrates Canadian music icon

When drummer Barry Keane first agreed to record and tour with Gordon Lightfoot, neither one of them was all that optimistic it would work out.

“Back then, Gord wasn’t sure he really wanted a drummer and I wasn’t sure I really wanted to tour because I’d never done that. I’d only done studio work,” Keane said in an interview from his home in Unionville.

Lightfoot’s earliest work didn’t require percussion, but as his career developed, he increasingly wrote songs such as The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald that needed a drummer. Still, he was reluctant to bring one on tour.

“So we made a handshake agreement, which meant neither one of us was committed to each other,” said Keane. “And that’s the way it stood for 47 years.”

He and the rest of The Lightfoot Band members will perform in Sarnia April 27 at the Imperial Theatre. The lineup includes Rick Hayes, Mike Heffernan, Keane, Carter Lancaster and newcomer Andy Mauck.

The band made a decision to tour following Lightfoot’s death last May, a choice that didn’t come easily but was cemented after Florida-based singer and guitar player Andy Mauck was recruited in November.

“Everyone grieved in their own way for several months,” said Keane. “Then we got together for a coffee and talked about what a privilege it was to be part of Gordon’s creative process.”

Going on the road to play Lightfoot’s songs “the way he wanted them played” felt fitting. “He was never shy about letting us know how he wanted his songs played,” Keane laughed.

There are several Gordon Lightfoot tribute bands around but Keane says the musicians who played with him offer something different.

“We toured with him all those years and each one of us has a lot of stories that we share with the fans,” he said. “We’re not telling tales out of school. We’re talking about a lot of fun times.”

In January, The Lightfoot Band tour kicked off in Toronto to a sold out house at the El Mocambo.

The first show proved to be very emotional, but also very exciting, Keane said. “So far the reaction’s been wonderful.”

Lightfoot was known for his love of touring. Even when he died at age 84, he had shows booked. He was also a prolific songwriter, penning at least 200 songs in his lifetime. 

Each of the band’s shows has a slightly different set list but fans can expect about 23 songs, many being played in full for the first time in years, Keane said.

Quintessential Lightfoot like Sundown, If you Could Read My Mind, Carefree Highway, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, Summer Side of Life, The Canadian Railroad Trilogy, Early Morning, Rainy Day People are standards, along with many more from Lightfoot’s 21 albums.

Keane explained the band’s choice to hire Mauck for lead vocals. 

“Andy was a solo bar performer who played Gord’s songs for years and was such a fan,” he said. “Of course, he sounds a little bit like Gordon, but we are not trying to replace Gordon Lightfoot.  Andy is Andy and has his own sound.

“He brings a certain energy. He’s very grateful for this opportunity and brings a real joy to the table.”

And how did the relationship between Lightfoot and Keane pan out once Keane joined the tour all those years ago?

“We became friends and bonded, no question about it,” he said. “I was Gordon’s first and only touring drummer.”


WHAT: The Lightfoot Band featuring members who toured with Gordon Lightfoot for decades, followed by a meet and greet in the lobby.

WHERE: The Imperial Theatre, 168 N. Christina St.

WHEN: Saturday, April 27 at 8 p.m. 

TICKETS: $65 ($95 VIP). Call 519 344-7469 (SHOW) or visit www.imperialtheatre. net.